Thanks to Hannah Davis for this article in the March 2022 Washtenaw Jewish News. Congratulations to Idelle Hammond-Sass on winning the Shmita Prize in the ritual object category.
by Rena Basch, from her dvar on Rosh Hashana
Often people hear a distinct, sharp call to action. Something happens; something shocking or traumatic happens to you, your family, your community, or your nation. We hear these calls to action. They’re often loud and clear. Yet, we struggle with what actions to take. We hear the call. But then what?
There are also softer, more subtle calls to action. You’ve heard something over and over again, but then one day, the same words sound different. Something crystallizes in your head. “Aha,” you say. You hear the call.
For me, current events of 5777 provided an unrelenting cacophony. Deafening calls to action. I sifted through the noise, adjusted priorities, and chose a path for tikkun olam. I’m fortunate and grateful for being able to do this: hear the call–consider, contemplate, plan–then act. I have learned how to do this from all of you. Our community sounded the shofar, then taught me how to hear it. You’ve showed me how I can be useful, can help change the world.
Here are just a few examples:
A pair of our founders, my friends Aura and Aaron Ahuvia, extend an invitation to me–a call to an unaffiliated, uninvolved Jew: Come to our Reconstructionist Havurah. I’m like, “What’s a Reconstructionist Havurah? Sounds like a cult.” They took the time to explain, and Aha! I’m in. This is Judaism to me.
Over the years, these subtle calls to action continued from our community members. A very young Sarah Kurz–I will always remember her empathy. Back when the Hav was still meeting in the basement of a church near the law quad. A special aunt of mine had died. I’m crying during services and Sarah comforts me. I hear the call: I need to do that too – comfort those in need. Stop being afraid to reach out.
Again, a few years ago – Marcy Epstein says “let’s plan Shmita. Let’s plan Shmita for the Jewish community of Ann Arbor and southeast MI.” And I say, “Huh? What’s Shmita? Never heard of it.” Then, “that’s too devout, that’s too spiritual, that’s too big an endeavor. I can’t.”
“Of course you can,” she said. “Food! Land! Justice! Shmita!” Aha, I hear the call. She and Carol, and Idelle and many others made me see how I was needed to help us study and celebrate Shmita.
Last year, Rabbi Alana spoke at the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice 50th Anniversary dinner. Here’s what I heard her say–more or less: “You old activists need to listen to the young activists to understand today’s issues, to understand today’s methods. And you young activists need to learn from the old how to build infrastructure.” Aha! A clear call to action. I can help with that. I can learn from different generations. I can help build bridges.
Again, this past year, right now really–the cacophony. Bells are ringing loud and clear. The shofar blowing every morning in the form of daily news. Fresh assaults on our values nearly every day. The antithesis of tikkun olam. I heard, I hear this shofar. Most of us here today hear the call to action. And our community, like usual, we’re hearing that call–we’re listening, processing–the are wheels turning, and we’re helping each other find our way to action.
I decided in November to become “An Activist.” (Because I need yet another career path, another to-do list, right?) I’ve been listening to my mother saying over and over again–“gerrymandering is tearing apart our nation.” Aha! The light bulb goes on, the idea crystallizes, I hear the call. I can act to fix that.
I look around our congregation and see role models everywhere, activists of all sorts, hearing the call, living their values, giving their skills and time, acting to make the world a better place in a myriad of different ways. I tell Rebecca Kanner I’m going to work on redistricting reform. I ask her to teach me how to be an activist. She says “you already are.” What? Huh? ……Aha! thank you. Thank you for giving me the confidence to say, yes. Yes, I am an Activist.
So thank you, my Ann Arbor Reconstructionist community for giving me the support, the role models, the opportunities and the confidence to truly heed the shofar. We all hear the call. We are all acting.
Sept 27th, 2015, 11:45am-3:30pm
Join us for a vegetarian catered lunch.
Please bring a side dish or something from your harvest to share!
Following lunch we will celebrate the season with:
- Readings and reflection on the end of this shmita cycle
- Mindful walking in the garden
- Art and exercises for expression and play
- Yoga / Movement practice
There is no charge and the community is invited, but space is limited. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Directions will be provided.
This event is hosted by AARC and the Jewish Alliance for Food, Land and Justice, and is funded in part by a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor!
Is there a new Jewish back to the land movement? Let’s talk about it together on June 14th when we gather at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the Farm Education and Sustainability Food Fest and take a tour of Green Things Farm. Certainly Nate Lada, who with his wife Jill Sweetman are the owners and operators of Green Things Farm, sees a connection between his Hebrew Day School education and his commitment to sustainable agriculture. When he was a guest speaker at a UM Hillel Tu B’Shvat seder in 2012, Nate talked about the importance of agriculture and respecting the Earth as central to the Jewish tradition. Twentysomething graduates of the UM where they both studied Environmental Science, Nate and Jill have taken advantage of several opportunities created by longtime Ann Arbor environmental activists such as the Ann Arbor greenbelt program, a thirty year investment voted on in 2003. With the goal of starting a family farm, Nate and Jill spent two years (2011-2012) as part of the first cohort at Jeff McCabe and colleagues’ Tilian Farm Incubator Program. There Nate and Jill learned many of the basics of the business of farming while taking advantage of the program’s land, equipment, farming mentors, and community support. The land they bought to start their own farm, on Nixon near Warren about 5 miles north of downtown, was also part of the greenbelt program, in which the city of Ann Arbor bought development rights on the properties, making the land affordable for farming. [Read more…] about Is there a new Jewish back to the land movement?
Here are the five articles from the Washtenaw Jewish News about our Food, Land, & Justice activities in 2014/2015, the Shmita year.
On Sunday April 12 you can join a group of Jewish social justice activists who will visit the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in Detroit to learn about the often invisible problems of restaurant workers. Many of those workers—often with children—qualify for food stamps and live a paycheck away from homelessness. Discrimination, wage theft, and abusive working conditions are common. The deadline to register for this event is April 6, see the bottom of this post for more details.
Founded in 2008, ROC-Michigan is dedicated to winning improved working conditions and opportunities for advancement for Southeast Michigan’s 134,000 restaurant workers. ROC-Michigan is an independent affiliate of ROC United, a national organization of over 10,000 restaurant workers. ROC was originally founded in New York City by a group of restaurant workers who had formerly worked at the World Trade Center and were displaced by the 9-11 tragedy.
In her 2013 book Behind the Kitchen Door, ROC co-founder Saru Jayaraman writes, “Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don’t want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It’s one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it.”
This program will feature a vegetarian, kosher-style Cajun/ Soul fusion lunch at ROC’s COLORS Restaurant. Following the meal we will learn about issues faced by restaurant workers from a panel including COLORS staff. Cost of the meal is $18 per person. Any additional donations are tax-deductible and go to support ROC. To reserve a spot, make a check out to “ROC-MI,” indicate # of attendees, and mail to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, 1457 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226. Deadline is April 6th. Reconstructionist Congregation is co-sponsoring this joint social justice program along with six other area Jewish groups. Carpooling is encouraged! For questions or more information contact Steve Merritt at email@example.com.
AARC members Idelle Hammond-Sass, Rena Basch and Carole Caplan are leading lights of our community’s Jewish Alliance for Food, Land and Justice. The Alliance’s program for 2015, Preserving Shmita, is in competition for support in the Ann Arbor Federation’s Jewish Community Impact Fund vote. The proposal is a request for $8,000 to continue programming for the entire community on sustainable, healthy, fair food and food systems and earth stewardship. You can read about last year’s Shmita programming here and here.
This year’s proposal includes many creative ideas for deepening existing connections to Jewish ethics and values such as a Farm-to-Shabbat Table initiative, envisioned as a community-wide event occurring every season with Shabbat dinners sourced from locally sustainably grown food with farmers present; training and networking for Jewish event planners in support of sustainable food initiatives between farms and food service providers; and creation and dissemination of farm-based Jewish curriculum for religious school within each congregation, supported by a Food Festival day of education/experiences at a local farm.
Voting on the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor’s Impact Fund proposals is open until February 27th. You are welcome to vote if you have donated a minimum of $18 to the Federation in 2014 or 2015. As part of AARC’s efforts at Tikkun Olan, we offer our members a Flexible Giving Option, in which you can make choices about how your donation to the Federation will be used. You can read more about Flexible Giving and find a donation form on our website’s Tikkun Olam page.
Our local involvement with Food, Land and Justice connects us to a dynamic worldwide movement of Jews. Soul Fire Farm, a CSA family farm in New York, is honoring Shmita– giving the land a Sabbath–and also publicizing their restorative justice program. Another good connection to Shmita and sustainability is the Hazon Shmita Project.
Don’t forget to vote!
Sunday, February 1, 2015, 1 pm – 3 pm, at the JCC
Join us in honor of Shmita and Tu B’shevat
Think beyond grocery stores, farmers markets, and CSAs – what if healthy foods were right outside your kitchen door?
Local plant guru Erica Kempter from Nature and Nurture Seeds will educate us on soils, seeds, and trees needed to create edible landscapes at home.
Dialogue, text study, hands-on learning, and refreshments.
Admission is free, but please pre-register!
Event is at the JCC, 2935 Birch Hollow Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
Organized by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, Pardes Hannah and the Jewish Alliance for Food, Land, and Justice.
This event made possible in part with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor.
By AARC Member Carole Caplan, for the Washtenaw Jewish News
On December 7, 2014, the community is invited to gather at St. Joe’s Hospital to explore how the Jewish teachings of Shmita are coming to life through the impact of regional institutions and their commitments to local, healthy food.
Meet at St. Joe’s Women’s Health Center, 5320 Elliot Dr, Ypsilanti.
For information, contact Carole Caplan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Idelle Hammond- Sass at Hammond_sass@msn.com
For the year’s Shmita activities, see this page.
The event is a continuation of an exciting year-long exploration of the teachings of Shmita, funded by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor late last winter. “For me, the commandments of shmita can be seen as a built-in seventh year wake-up call,” said AARC member Carole Caplan, who is co-chairing the event with fellow congregant Idelle Hammond-Sass. Caplan explains that “Shmita, which means ‘release’, is the opportunity to become conscious of our relationships with each other, with the environment, and with our understanding of true health, nourishment, and ‘enough-ness’. Just as Shabbat is an opportunity to re-set our ideas about production and consumption on a personal level, Shmita provides us with a unique and important opportunity to re-imagine and reset our practices regarding food production and consumption in and beyond our own homes out into our communities.”
AARC member and owner of Locavorious, Rena Basch, agrees. “Modern philosophy on how to celebrate and honor the Shmita years recommends we take the time to re-imagine society, re-lease the land and re-think farming”. Basch, who began working in the local sustainable food movement in 2006, founded Locavorious, a locally grown frozen fruit and vegetable CSA here in Ann Arbor. “Do you wonder how we, and our community, our congregations, our schools, and our institutions can support the values and intentions of this Shmita tradition?” Basch questioned. “This event will introduce us [Read more…] about More on Shmita: December 7 Event
By Idelle Hammond-Sass
Drake Meadow took some of us on an illuminating permaculture walk at the Fall Sukkot Retreat. It was especially relevant in this year where we are cultivating a new ‘Shmita mentality‘.
We learned to find edible and healing plants in our own yards and how those things that many people sacrifice to have a typical American lawn are actually better to embrace, cultivate and use in tinctures and teas. Drake’s knowledge and ability to notice plants reminded me of how little we know about the land around us.
Shmita reminds us to recognize that even when the land is fallow and wild, it can provide nourishment and even healing herbs for us. Allowing the land to rest can bring a different type of harvest as well, as local and native plants regain their footing and provide habitat and food for animals as well as perennial and edible plants for us.
In an article shared recently by Sarah Chandler, (Director of Earth Based Spiritual Practice at Adamah Farm at the Isabella Freedman Center) she demonstrates how to cultivate elderberry plants and make a tincture from it with the Jewish Greening Fellows. (The article is not available online but here are photos of the process.) This dovetailed with some of the knowledge Drake shared with us at the retreat. Drake mentioned making tinctures from other plants we found including goldenrod.
One piece of knowledge passed on by Drake came in handy recently as we toured conservation efforts in Washtenaw County with Legacy Land Trust. [Read more…] about Cultivating Shmita: Re-Wilding Our Ecosystem, Our Diet, Our Medicine