Seven Years

My Bobbie, as we called her in Manchester when I was a kid, (my father’s mother, z”l) was born on this day – in 1892. How crazy is that? That’s as far distant from today as the year 2138 – a number that seems more like the 4–digit combination for a bike lock than an actual calendar year. 12 days from now I’m going to the New York dinner for the 500th anniversary of my high school. It was founded in 1515 by Hugh Oldham, 94 years before Henry Hudson sailed up the river that now bears his name. Will MGS be around to celebrate the next 500, in the year 2515?

And so I wonder: what are the cycles of time that make sense to us, and why? This coming Sunday is the last day in a 7–year cycle of Jewish life that began the evening of Monday September 29th, 2008. Sunday night – Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year – starts a new cycle that ends on the last day of the next shmita year, which will be September 25th, 2022.

Thus more so than most years, now is a time for looking back and looking forwards. For Hazon these last seven years have been rather remarkable. Our intent has been to touch people’s lives directly, in multiple ways, to strengthen communities, to provide resources and opportunities and fresh ideas to leaders, and – ultimately – to shift, however slightly, the nature of being Jewish in the 21st century, so that the process of renewing Jewish life and creating a more sustainable world for all is inextricably linked.

We are a million miles from sanguine; the world has far too many problems for that. But these have been seven impactful years for us. We have grown strongly throughout the period. We’ve played a significant role in catalyzing the Jewish Food Movement. We responded to the acronym shortage in the Jewish world by creating a new one – JOFEE, short for the burgeoning world of Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Education. We helped to create the Jewish Working Group on the Farm Bill. We’ve published a wide range of curricula, plus our first book. We helped to put shmita on the agenda of the Jewish community.

In human terms: more than 200 young adults have participated in Adamah; some of the most intense, inspiring, talented, challenging, fascinating young adults I’ve had the immense privilege to interact with. They’re fanning out now in leadership role across and beyond the Jewish world. (There was a very lovely and timely PBS segment about Adamah and Hazon that was broadcast last week. It’s rather fun – click here to see it.) At a time of immense strain in Israel–diaspora relations, we’ve taken over 1200 people to Israel in the last 7 years, in some of the most fascinating and hope–provoking journeys that our participants have ever been part of. At Teva we’ve educated more than 10,000 children, in a program that many of them remember – and cite as an influence – for a long time after. And overall, we think we’ve delivered something like 150,000 person–days of multi–day immersive experiences at our various retreats and programs – people who’ve learned new skills, or made new friends, or shifted life directions, or met their partners, or deepened their Jewish journeys; and 101 other things.

If you just scroll through this email – the links on the left, the sections below – you’ll get a random just–this–week snapshot of the range of things that we’re engaged in doing. There is satisfaction to be derived from this, honestly earned, the consequence of the hard work and inspiration of staff members and volunteers and the financial support of many of you who are reading this.

So I simply want to thank each one of you: for reading this, for being part of Hazon, for being a staff member or a former staff member, a board member or former board member, a volunteer, a prayer leader, a rider, a donor; for being an introducer, an ambassador, an encourager.

The future is unknowable. The prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remind us of that. May we enter this new year, and this new 7–year cycle, with hope and determination – determination to challenge ourselves with honesty and compassion and thus to be our best selves; and hope that transformation is possible for we ourselves, for our families and communities, and ultimately for this beautiful world and all its people.

Shana tova u’metukah – may you and me and all of us be inscribed for a year of health, happiness and peace.