Hakhel Newsletter January 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities,

This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, is the scene of many incredible miracles that have captured the imagination of countless generations: the splitting of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Egypt; the manna that rained down from Heaven to provide them with sustenance in the desert, with a double portion on Friday in preparation for Shabbat; the water that emanated from the stone. Through all of these miracles, we feel the immense, special love and protection of G-d. In your lifetime, have you experienced any acts that seemed divine? What about your community, in what ways has it received love and protection that allowed it to grow and flourish?

This Sunday, we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees. This is a wonderful holiday to celebrate with your community, as it comes with a unique Seder that is an interactive, sensory experience through the eating of specific fruits and nuts and the drinking of wine. It also carries with it powerful messages from Kabbalah and about our connection to and stewardship of the Earth. Regardless of how you choose to mark the day personally, we hope you will join Hazon in a special virtual celebration which will feature Hakhel leading the Briyah section of the Seder (details below). 

May we watch over the Earth with love and care, just as G-d watched over us as we escaped Egypt and wandered through the desert! 

Deborah Fishman

Hakhel Network Manager



A message from Gabe Axler, Hakhel’s director of Israel programs:

To Hakhel members,

We at Hakhel are monitoring the current entry requirements to Israel and are excited about the recent changes for entry to Israel for tourists. All visiting tourists who are vaccinated will be eligible to come to Israel without a prolonged isolation.

After many Hakhel trips to Israel, we understand the power that they have to deepen one’s commitment to community building and to gain inspiration from Israeli intentional communities and from other community leaders on the trip.

Therefore we are moving forward with our plans to run our trip this February. As long as the entry requirements permit tourists, we feel comfortable in our ability to run a safe and meaningful trip. We will take all of the necessary precautions and ensure that the group is testing consistently and in the case of a positive test result we will cover all costs related to isolation.

If not now, when? Please join us for this incredible opportunity to experience intentional communities in Israel.

For more info and registration please click here.


Community in the Spotlight: JewSalsa

Deborah Fishman Shelby sat down with Anouck Germon (in Paris!) and interviewed her about JewSalsa, a community where she is a leader and participant in musical programming. JewSalsa is based in Paris, France and has satellite communities in Marseilles, Lyon, Brussels, and a new group focused on JewSalsa Kids. In all these places, the groups follow the JewSalsa ethos of, as Anouck describes it, “connecting and developing our Judaism through culture, music, and food for the soul.”

  1. Tell us a bit about your community.

JewSalsa is an inclusive and non-judgmental community that focuses on culture and artistic expression of those 18-35 years old. We have a new, huge studio in the Paris area!! We do everything there: Jam sessions, Klezmer, musical live shows, music lessons for kids (let them play on their first instruments!), Shabbos, gospel lessons, musical events for Jewish holidays, afterworks, small private events (invite your friends and let them connect with a piano, bass, guitar and drums), and more. We are a community of hundreds of people meeting on a weekly basis. For us JewSalsa has become an absolute constant in our lives. It allows us to connect and develop our Judaism through some of the most important things there is: culture, music, and food for the soul.

  1. What does being part of the JewSalsa community mean to you personally?

JewSalsa is a fabulous community I discovered a few years ago. It really appealed to me, because it felt like a safe space where I can be Jewish while doing what I love, which is being involved with Jewish events with people my own age. Now I have lots of Jewish friends, and I didn’t have any before that. It allowed me to connect, to be Jewish, and to meet other Jews without feeling like I wasn’t “Jewish enough” to be part of a community. 

JewSalsa is an organization that can unite the whole spectrum of Jewish people. We focus on unaffiliated Jews who don’t have another place they feel they can go, who wouldn’t do anything else Jewish if it weren’t for us. I discovered Havdalah through JewSalsa – I didn’t know what it was before.

  1. What is the Jewish character of JewSalsa?

It may seem that we are just doing parties and having fun, but we always try to integrate Jewish components into our events. For example, if we do a jam session, we perform Klezmer music, focusing on Jewish music. We’ve had Yiddish shows and Yiddish music lessons. Just yesterday, we studied Gemara without realizing it! It’s about doing Jewish without realizing it, and at the end, you realize you did a Jewish thing. For instance, it’s celebrating Shabbat with young people, and young parents with their kids. We also do events for important Jewish holidays, such as Chanukah, Sukkot, Tu B’shvat, etc. We try to make it a special day while incorporating our own DNA of music and culture into it.

  1. What does being part of a community mean to you?

Being part of a community is about seeking out the same circle on a regular basis. When you go, you know you’re never going to be alone, that you will always know people. For the organizer, it’s about being a constant in people’s eyes. I feel like I’m part of the JewSalsa community because any time I want to organize a Jewish event, I want to do it with JewSalsa, because I don’t see it fitting anywhere else. I also want to bring my friends to JewSalsa. JewSalsa is not only in Paris, it’s also in other cities in France, so you can always touch base with someone from the same community as you when you travel.

  1. What advice would you give to others seeking to organize Jewish communities?

If you want to make a new Jewish community, you should focus on something you love to do and build a community around that. Transform your huge hobby into something that’s serious and could peak other people’s interest, and you’ll find a new way to channel your Judaism with your own unique twist!

Hakhel News

Tu B’Shvat Activities

Join Hazon for a virtual Tu B’Shvat Seder, Sunday, January 16 at 8pmET. Learn from Hazon and Pearlstone educators and leaders across the country – including global leaders from Hakhel’s network! We will be leading the Briyah section of the Seder. Register here! 

If you live east of the British Isles and would like to join a Tu B’Shvat Seder in European/Israeli/Asian time zone(s), we recommend you join the Seder held by our partners at Livnot. Sunday, January 16 at 8:30pm Israel time. For details and registration, click here.

Starting this month: Course for Jewish Cultural Leaders in Israeli Communities across the U.S. and Canada 

The first course for training Jewish cultural leaders in Israeli communities across the U.S. and Canada is launching in January 2022. It aims to enhance the knowledge and skills necessary for initiating and performing meaningful community events and ceremonies in the field of Jewish identity and culture from a secular perspective – including training on how to (a) lead meaningful activities on their communities’ Jewish holiday celebrations, in an up-to-date, innovative and secular spirit, (b) host and moderate Jewish learning sessions in their communities, as well as discussion groups, “Judaism in the living room” sessions and “Zikaron Basalon” gatherings, and (c) conduct life cycle events – birth, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, marriage, and mourning – in ways that are most suitable for their community members. 

The course will take place online, with 15 live group sessions throughout the year 2022. It is a joint initiative of Machon Kehilot and Tarbut-US, in the framework of Hakhel – a collaboration between Hazon and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, and in cooperation with Tmura – Israeli Judaism, with a variety of guest speakers. This course follows the recent success of a similar program of Machon Kehilot for leaders from various communities in Europe.

It is organized by Guy Regev (Tarbut-US) and Nir Geva (Machon Kehilot), who envision the formation of a North-American network of Jewish Cultural Leaders who will share with each other knowledge and resources. 

If interested, you can apply here.

Hakhel Subnetworks

Did you know that your community can join a Hakhel subnetwork, the “homeroom” of Hakhel? A subnetwork is a smaller group of communities that have something thematic about their community’s mission in common – for some examples, Spiritual Homes, or Agriculture & Ecology. In your subnetwork, there are communities that you can network with, learn with and from, and work with to advance this mission within Hakhel and in the wider Jewish world. (There is some funding behind the subnetworks’ work to enable members to meet and work collaboratively.) If you are not sure which subnetwork your community is in but might be interested in joining one, please email Deborah, Hakhel’s Network Manager, at deborah.fishman@hazon.org, and she will set you up. 

SAVE THE DATE: Hakhel’s Israel Summit

After two years of Covid, we plan to gather together as a network in Hakhel’s Israel Summit!!!

The dates are May 9th-16th (including Israel trips before the Summit, and immersive professional workshops afterwards). Registration will open next month, so stay tuned!

And, if you want to be in the know, and make decisions, join the Summit’s steering committee! Just drop a line to Gabe Axler for more details (gabe.axler@hazon.org)

Sharing Resources

Hazon’s Tu B’Shvat Haggadah

The 2021 Tu B’Shvat haggadah offers thoughts and ideas to help you celebrate the new year for trees in your home or community. Our new Haggadah features the outline for a full seder including blessings over wine and symbolic foods, as well as a variety of thematic activities and discussion topics. The 2021 Haggadah uniquely focuses on the crises we have faced over the last 12 months including racial injustice and the climate crisis.

Available here in English.  

And here in Spanish.  

Hazon Shmita Sourcebook

The Hazon Shmita Sourcebook presents a guided exploration of the history, concepts, and practices of Shmita, from debt forgiveness to agricultural rest, economic adjustment to charitable giving. The updated sourcebook explores texts and commentaries that build the framework of Shmita within the biblical and rabbinic tradition, as well as contemporary voices that speak to Shmita as it relates to our modern world.

This comprehensive, accessible sourcebook is well-suited for individual, partnered, and group study, with guiding text and discussion questions to enhance your learning, regardless of educational background. The Hazon Shmita Sourcebook offers a holistic understanding of Shmita, from the depth of Jewish tradition to the most pressing issues of our time.

Download here.  

Iyun’s Bekiyut

Bekiyut — a project of Iyun — is a small group meeting to connect with one another and to process the complexities of life while exploring ideas, texts, and wisdom from Jewish tradition. Bekiyut is structured as a 3-part series, for an hour each, with a consistent group over Zoom, led by a facilitator (that’s you). Iyun is offering $500 to anyone who can start up a group with at least 12 participants by the end of January 2022.

Learn more here.

Monthly Quote

“A leader is a planter – a planter of ideas, seeds of change, and a vision for justice.” ~ Artika Tyner