Thank You – a Great End to the Year

This is a personal note, amidst the blizzard of year-end emails, to thank you for supporting Hazon in 2010. This was our 10th year, and it’s been a fairly remarkable one. Our new tagline says “Jewish inspiration. Sustainable communities.” That’s as succinct as we can get it – that’s what we’re about.

In practice, we effect change in three ways: through transformational experiences; thought-leadership and capacity-building. This has been quite a year for all three.

Transformational experiences: A rabbinical student who came to our Food Conference in 2009 and decided to make this work the focus of her rabbinate; a family who came to our Food Conference and then our New York Ride and decided to launch an organic farm in Geneva, IL, which now has over 120 members; a guy who came to our 2008 Israel Ride and then our 2010 Food Conference and headed back to Pittsburgh inspired to host a Tu B’Shvat seder and launch a CSA. I just got back from our West Coast Food Conference, and one of my highlights was a woman named Karyn Moskowitz who came out of our 2008 and 2009 Food Conferences and went back to Louisville, KY and set up a CSA partnering people in local Baptist churches with an Amish farmer, whom she persuaded to go organic, for good measure.

Thought-leadership: We were proud to receive a shout-out from Michelle Obama for our food work, and proud too of the chapter in Sue Fishkoff’s Kosher Nation that so strongly captures our work and that of our partners. The Jewish Food Movement is growing sharply; gardens and farms are sprouting across the country. We have no monopoly on truth, but for ten years we’ve argued strongly for serious Jewish learning, allied to equally serious engagement with the world around us, and the momentum behind this kind of learning and activism is as strong now as it has ever been.

Capacity-building: Several years ago we gave the first-ever mini-grant to Jewish Farm School from our NY Ride. This has been a break-out year for JFS, and for Wilderness Torah, the two organizations we’re fiscal sponsor to. By this time next year we expect they’ll be fully independent – and by this time next year, also, Adam Berman’s new Urban Adamah should be up and running; we’ll try to help the birthing of Urban Adamah as strongly as we can. Mini-grants from our US Rides now exceed $600,000, and net proceeds to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, from our Israel Rides, are well over $1.5m. This year we launched Makom Hadash, and by year’s end we’re delighted that Limmud NY, Nehirim and Moving Traditions have all moved in.

We end the year with real momentum for 2011. We now have three staff in the San Francisco Bay Area, led by Deb Newbrun. Backed originally by the foundation of the late Rhoda & Richard Goldman, and with support from the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and others, we aim to play a serious role in the renewal of Jewish life and in strengthening health and sustainability in the Bay Area over the next few years; just as we hope to in Boulder and Denver where three foundations have backed us there in putting two new staff on the ground to support this work going forward. In 2011 we’ll launch Siach, to bring together Israeli, European and American environmental and social justice leaders, and we’ll announce details of our Cross-USA Ride, which will take place – b’ezrat hashem, G!d willing – in the summer of 2012.

This has been a good and strong year, but it is hardly without challenge and sadness. In the wider world, people are coping with the after-effects of living unsustainably in many ways. The economic vicissitudes we’re dealing with are the delayed response to living beyond our means, simply as people upon this planet. Working out how to get back to balance is the work of our lifetime, and getting from A to B is messy, to put it mildly. This Shabbat is the one in which we read the story of how the wheat and spelt harvest are not touched by the plagues, but the flax and barley harvests are struck, because they ripen earlier. 2010 is the year in which the surge in the gold price made headlines around the world, but it’s the surge in grain prices that may be more noteworthy, more significant and more alarming. And, closer to home, one of our riders was badly injured in our Israel Ride, and is still in rehab, six weeks later. We live as if we are not vulnerable, until we are reminded that, in fact, we all are. Hazon has had a good year, but we enter the coming year not knowing how life will unfold.

Still: I want to end with gratitude. All of our work is about creating a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a better world for all. Our programs enable and encourage Jewish people to engage with the physical world that supports us and, in the process, renews Jewish life in powerful and unique ways. In aggregate you and the others I’m sending this email to have enabled this to be so.

For your encouragement, support and involvement in 2010, I thank you very much indeed. The number of people who have now been to a Hazon Ride, or to one of our Food Conferences, or joined a Hazon CSA, or sponsored someone in one of our Rides, or come to one of our other events, now exceeds 30,000. In early 2011 we’ll update our website to acknowledge our donors and supporters during this year. If amidst your last year-end gifts you’d like to support us, follow this link, or send a check to our office in New York. Between now and March 31st we have a 1:1 match for new or increased gifts, and happily much of the matching money has now been matched, but over $10,000 still remains.

I want to end by thanking, especially, Hazon’s staff, lead volunteers and board members, each of whom gives extraordinary time, passion and commitment to the organization and to the work we do.

I wish you Shabbat shalom, and a happy, healthy and sustainable new year,