Hazon deals with Contemporary Food Issues, Judaism, Sustainability and much more regarding the Environment and Food Issues. Last year annual conference filled up in November.
I have been involved with Hazon for a few years now and have found to be a wonderful organization, consisting of a terrific community and promoting an important message. I have participated in Hazon's NY Jewish Environmental Bike Ride for the past two years, and a number of other local rides and events. These combinations of physical challenges, community building and meaningful dialogue have become important parts of my life.
Just about a year ago I was planning to attend the 2008 Hazon Food Conference. This was the first I had heard of Hazon and here I was propelled into the heart of the Jewish food movement with the help of a scholarship from Birthright Israel NEXT. As a student of naturopathic medicine and a new resident of Toronto, I was looking for a way to bring what I was learning about health and nutrition together with an underlying interest in sustainability, while continuing to grow spiritually and be connected to a like-minded community. The Food Conference became a grounds for all of this! I learned practical food skills and environmental practices, built my knowledge of herbs and food issues, and began to connect intentionally with Jewish spiritual traditions around food and environment. I was inspired enough that just participating would have made me a Hazonik. Here is an organization stringing together healthy communities and creating experiences for people that awaken them to their connection with and potential to better the world around them. There are big messages about sustainability, individual and planetary health and responsibility, but what's unique about Hazon is the way it puts the building blocks for these ideals into participants hands. As much as theories and long-term projects, there are do-it-yourself sessions, engaging and practical foundations that are set from which I walked away with the intention and the ability to make changes that would be fit me healthily into the food system. This has something to do with why I joined the executive committee for the 2009 Hazon Food Conference. This was a community I could grow from and wanted to contribute to. Right now I'm helping plan and especially promote this December's Food Conference. In excellent Hazon fashion, the staff and committee have gotten me personally connected, given me tools and support to contribute in whatever way I can, and been receptive to ideas and suggestions. I could go on for a long time about the specific initiatives through which Hazon is making a difference, but I think one of the best things it does is in the way it does it: amplifying actions and attitudes that will save the world by getting people moving, involved and active.
No other organization is as inclusive, expansive and joyful about the environment while enriching the Jewish, Israeli and secular communities.
Hazon is a wonderful organization that had the vision to consider the importance of sustainable food in the Jewish world way before eating organic, local, free-range, etc. was in vogue in the Jewish community and beyond. They are spirited, organized, motivated and imaginative, and they have been a wonderful educational and community-building resource for our congregation and beyond.
Hazon has taught me so much about building community and relating to Judaism with relevance for today and respect for our history. I am lucky enough to co chair a Tuv Ha'Aretz Community supported agriculture program and be able to involve 106 local families across our entire community in this worthwhile program.The resources available to run our programs has been tremendous and I am so thankful to be able to participate in such a meaningful and well run group. Having been involved in many organizations before I can say that what impresses me most is that nor only is the staff completely professional yet they continue to support and encourage grass root efforts. That is truly a well balanced group.
I have been involved with Hazon for the past five years. I admit at first I got involved because I was looking for a good bike ride. But as I came to know Hazon I realized that the work of Hazon is most impressive. Recognizing that young American Jews need to feel that Judaism is relevant for the 21st century Hazon focuses on important contemporary issues. Hazon makes Judaism accessible and relevant for many who would not otherwise connect with the greater Jewish community.
I first became involved with Hazon when I attended its first Jewish food conference in 2006. I was changing careers going from the Jewish community to becoming a personal chef, and was thrilled to find a conference that would meld my previous and new careers. I met such interesting people and had such a great time, that when I was asked to help plan the 2008 conference, it was a no-brainer. Hazon is one of the only places (I believe) in the Jewish world where people of all denominations, from the most Orthodox to the most secular, can peacefully coexist. That is no small thing. It also attracts people who are interested in the same things I am (Judaism, but with an environmental bent). The issue of a sustainable food system is not addressed by most mainstream Jewish organizations, and given our rules about food, and the way food is such an important part of Jewish culture, it's upsetting that Hazon is the only one. But at least it exists.
For the past three years, my family have been members of a community supported agriculture program supported by Hazon. (As CSA members, we purchase shares in the harvest of our partner farm.) More recently, I've taken on more responsibility at the CSA and have discovered the support that Hazon provides to these programs. Hazon organizes conference calls, where volunteers from CSAs across North America can share experiences and new ideas. Hazon also provides helpful support documents and advice on the conference calls to help those who are first establishing a CSA. Our CSA has made a huge impact on my familie's lives. We visit the produce pickup site at our shul every week; there we meet some of the farmers who grow, harvest, and market the food that we eat. We have an opportunity to work alongside these farmers, running the produce pickup site. And we have opportunities to visit the farm and harvest straight from its fields. Both my wife and I have learned a lot about growing seasons, planting methods and the work that involved in allowing food to finally reach our house. We've also come to have much more connection to the food that we eat. But our CSA has made its greatest impact on our children (4 and 8). They've both come to love helping out at the pickup site. They both enjoy the farm visits; they roam about with their friends, visit the animals and harvest their lunch. Understanding more about our food has given us much to talk to the kids about. We discuss the relation of food to the holidays and often discuss food issues as part of our Shabbat dinner conversation. While many of these benefits come directly from our relation to the partner farm, our connection to the farm is entirely a result of Hazon's support for CSAs like ours.
I LOVE HAZON... Started in 2007 when i went to Israel for the first time on a Hazon Israel ride that took me 300 miles from Jerusalem to Eilat. That trip impacted my life in so many ways moving me beyond description and learning new ways to make a difference in the world. I rode again with Hazon in 2008 and deepened my involvement by joining the new jewish food movement and Co- chairing the Hazon Food Conference in December 08. So inspired by the contempory conversations, the ethics of working with the Hazon staff, and my new fascination with Jewish life, I then continued my journey with Hazon by starting a Tuv Ha'aretz ( a Jewish CSA) at my shul bringing the power of over 75 families together behind local, sustainable and organic farmers and their produce. I love HAZON, and I am forever grateful to Nigel Savage for sharing his vision with me and to our community at large. Changing lives and changing the lens in which we view the world.