Hazon in the Bay Area…

I’m writing to Hazon stakeholders in the Bay Area to thank you for your support in the past and to let you know about the next evolution of our work here.

Our work here began when I was in San Francisco in September 2001, hoping to launch Hazon events in the Bay Area. My meeting with key leaders in the Jewish community was scheduled for 10am… on the day of 9/11. That meeting became a footnote to a very different sort of day than the one we were expecting. But the determination to build what came to be known as Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Education (JOFEE, for short) remained with me and with Hazon.

In 2008, backed by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, we started our first regional office in the Bay Area. Our goal was to start to renew Jewish life, and to create a more sustainable world for all. We started off by moving the multi-day Hazon Food Conference from Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT to Northern California. In total, more than 1,500 people came to the Food Conference over the next three years. It laid the groundwork for the last seven years of our work in the Bay Area including the CA Ride, food justice programming, speaking, teaching, and a range of programs throughout the bay. We have played, we believe, a modest but significant role in helping to shift the nature of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century – and in so doing have helped create a more sustainable world for all.

Nationally, the last seven years have seen tremendous growth at Hazon and in the JOFEE world. The Jewish Food Movement has become a significant part of American Jewish life. Hazon has grown, and new JOFEE-focused organizations have been founded – Eden Village Camp, Ramah Outdoor Adventure, the Leichtag Ranch, and, here in the Bay Area, Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah. These are outstanding organizations led by old and close friends.

Hazon, Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah enjoy a strong working relationship, and we have plans to work even more closely together in the future. If those two organizations existed in 2008 as they do today, Hazon would not have sought to create an office in the Bay Area; we would have worked with and through them. But precisely because they do exist – and because other local Jewish organizations, including several JCCs, take JOFEE work increasingly seriously – we believe that it makes sense for us to step back and focus resources in regions and communities where JOFEE work is not (yet) as prevalent. The Bay Area will be well-served by having two such strong dedicated JOFEE organizations based in the area.

So later this fall, we’ll no longer have a regional office in the Bay area – a resolution that in some ways is sad, and in other ways is clearly a strong choice. I express this sentiment thinking about my background in the private sector and the constant emphasis there to streamline and to identify efficiencies. That in mind, the sometimes helter-skelter multiplicity of Jewish organizational life does not always make total sense. In my view, we have an obligation to steward well the resources of our stakeholders and to collaborate as effectively as we can with other organizations.

Though we’ll be transitioning away from a regional office model here, we are well positioned for continued Bay Area impact and involvement. We’re planning to recruit, train and deploy two full-time JOFEE Fellows (funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation) in the area by late spring 2016. We expect one Fellow will be based at Urban Adamah and one at Wilderness Torah. We’re talking with one or two local organizations about partnering with us on the CA Ride in the future.

Similarly, we’ve been encouraging the Jewish community to have a positive impact regarding food insecurity. A steering committee is leading the San Francisco Food Security Initiative which will continue to develop with new leadership. Plans are also well under way for the Jewish Food Festival at the Oshman Family JCC (OFJCC) in Palo Alto in October. We hope to see many of you there.

Finally, our Home for Dinner curriculum, which was developed over a three year period in the Bay Area with tremendous support from the education community and with funding from the Covenant Foundation will continue to be available as a resource for family education programs.

I’ve loved meeting many of you and I expect to continue to come to the Bay Area in the future. Hazon’s work is growing, and the Bay Area remains at the forefront of much that is good and much that is important in Jewish life and in the wider world. I’m immensely grateful to all of the people and institutions who have supported our work over this last seven-year shmita cycle.

I want to extend particular thanks to the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, which have been significant funders over the last seven years. I want to thank the Jim Joseph Foundation, which has jointly funded Hazon, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah (and Pearlstone, based in Baltimore) to work more closely together over the next four years.

I want to express my strong appreciation to everyone who has worked for Hazon in the Bay area – past and present – and all of you who have made our work possible: our riders, funders, participants, teachers, donators, lay leaders and planning team members. Many of you have become real friends in the time I’ve been coming out here, and I hope that I’ll get to see you when I’m in the Bay area or when you’re in NYC.

I’m especially grateful to Drisana Davis and Nia Taylor, who currently lead our work in the Bay Area and will be working through until at least the end of October, after the Food Festival. We hope to continue to work with Drisana, who will be consulting in the Bay Area, and Nia, who will continue her work as a Jewish educator in the South Peninsula.

Thank you for being part of our Hazon Bay Area family. We hope that you will remain engaged by attending our upcoming Food Festival, downloading and using our educational resources, attending another one of our many multi-day experiences, and in general staying in touch with us. Please be sure to stay tuned as well for more news about the JOFEE Fellowship that we will announce later in the summer.