If Not Now, Pete Seeger, Fountains, and Challahs

It was fitting that we opened our 3rd annual “If Not Now” event in Brooklyn this week with a video of Pete Seeger (z’l) that we had recorded at Pete’s home for our inaugural “If Not Now” event.

I had the privilege of speaking with and visiting Pete many times over the past several years, and, of the many lessons he taught me, Pete had explained that, when he recorded a song that he borrowed from another culture – be it “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” or “Abiyoyo” – and that recording made money, he didn’t keep that money for himself, but instead contributed the proceeds to a charity that benefited that culture.

Pete understood that he was the fountain, but that the musical wisdom, creativity, and joy he was collecting and sharing came from many different sources; and he always respected and honored that.

In the same way, we see Hazon – and especially the new Hazon of 2014 – as a fountain that pulls together many different sources. We have now given that fountain a name: JOFEE (Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education). That fountain, made stronger by our recent merger, is allowing us to touch many more individuals, families, congregations, organizations, and communities, while never losing sight of the sources of wisdom, creativity, and joy that we have to share – from streams called Adamah, Elat Chayyim, Hazon Bike Rides, Isabella Freedman, Teva, and much more.

It’s an interesting flip on the motto of “All Streams, One Source” that our Director of Transformative Experiences, Adam Segulah Sher, has championed for our annual Sukkahfest Retreat. And it’s just as true.

This week we inducted honorees into our “If Not Now” Society representing many of those sources:

  • Rabbi David Ingber, who was inspired by his experiences at Elat Chayyim and Isabella Freedman
  • The Margulies Family, who have – among them – found connection and inspiration through Teva, Adamah, the Hazon Food Conference, and the New York Ride
  • Margot Seigle, whose social activism became more grounded in her Jewish roots through her Adamah experience
  • Barbara Ribakove Gordon, whose heroic leadership in the Ethiopian exodus to Israel has been a central story in our annual Ethiopian Jewish Experience Shabbatons

(Click on the names of any of our honorees above to watch powerful videos about each of them.)

If you’ll pardon me for switching metaphors, at a recent Isabella Freedman week that featured several different gatherings – with our space being shared and integrated among Talmud Circle Institute participants, New York Ride Leadership Team Members, Kohenet Hebrew Priestesses, and Ethiopian Jewish Experience attendees, Adam Segulah Sher welcomed attendees by suggesting that, while each of the gatherings represented a different piece of Hazon, each is in the center of what Hazon is about.

I went up to Adam later and suggested that what he was describing were the braids of a challah. While one might start out with separate rolls of dough, in braiding them together, each is again and again woven into the middle; and when one slices the challah, one ends up with a delicious bite that brings all of the braids together.

That, to me, is the taste of JOFEE. It’s the fountain of Hazon. It’s the way that we all join together to answer the question “If not now, when?” It’s how we create healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.

Best Always,

David Weisberg, CEO