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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on culture change.


Blogs

L’Shanah Tova and a thank you to our Earth Etudes for Elul Contributors

Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. Many of these earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism–Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We would like to thank Rabbi Katy Z. Allen for bringing together these awe-inspiring contributors, whose essays, poems and thoughts help us understand the meaning of our lives and how we can repair our world. And our Earth Etudes can be helpful throughout the year. So you can read them here: Earth Etude for Elul 1: Rabbi ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 29 –Waking up to the Climate Crisis

by Rabbi David Jaffe ~ My guess is that many readers of the Elul Etudes are fully awakened to the climate crisis and read these blogs with the hope of gaining perspective and spiritual resilience to keep facing the crisis without panicking and burning out. This blog post is for a difference audience – those, like me, who intellectually understand the crisis but don’t feel the urgency.  Despite reading articles and watching videos about the famines, flooding and other impacts of rising temperatures on people in the Global South and here in parts of the United ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 27 — A Vegetarian Journey

by Susan Levine ~ When I think about Elul, I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but wouldn’t touch the food. My mom didn’t see the point of being kosher if her mother-in-law still wouldn’t eat in her home. Instead she went full treif. As a child I pretty much ate ...

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Forbidden Fruit, Rosh HaShanah, and Our Climate Crisis

According to Hasidic traditions, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, worked in a deeper way than we usually think about it. It’s not just that after the eating of the fruit we humans could distinguish between good and evil. The test of “to eat or not to eat” kind of assumed that we had that ability already. What kind of a test would it have been if we couldn’t distinguish between good and bad? No, the real problem that came from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that we might ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 24 –If Not Here, Where

by Maggid David Arfa ~ For Reb Bob in honor of his ordination Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? If not here, where?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14+ The High Ledges Audubon Sanctuary, Shelburne, MA Ok, he didn’t say that last part. He didn’t have to. Back in the ancient world it was not so easy to get lost in the global view. Today it is different. The daily news causes international heartache on every page. We witness environmental degradation, rise of authoritarian ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 21 — A Little Omer on the Prairie

by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein ~ I live on the prairie. In the Prairie State of Illinois. On a summer’s day with large clouds towering over the cornfields, it is spectacular. Awe-inspiring. I remember to be grateful. For several decades, I have followed the practice of Rabbi Everett Gendler of planting winter wheat, rye or barley at Sukkot and harvesting it during the counting of the Omer, the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot. I have done this with generations of Hebrew School students and their parents. It roots the Jewish year in the agricultural cycle. ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 18 — What I Hope to Be

by Joan Rachlin ~The temperatures, sun, moon, breezes, trees, grasses, plants, and flowers all signal that change is in the air. We’re moving into a new season and a new month, Elul, with its promise of transformation and its possibility of renewal. Elul is when we can hit the reset button and begin again. Sounds easy, but we cannot appeal to the “better angels of our nature” without engaging in Teshuvah, or “return.” There are many interpretations of what “return” means in this context but, in the end, each of us must choose our own ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 14 –Inner and Outer Climate Change

by Rabbi Robin Damsky A local toad finds a home in the pot of a rooting African violet (yes, the leaf got displaced). ~It’s been a year of change. Not just a move, but a move to a new climate zone and a very new culture. I moved from outside Chicago to Durham, NC, the South. The trees here are glorious – pines everywhere, wisteria in April blooming in the wild, crepe myrtle in vivid fuchsia and pale pastels just now. It’s hot. Average days are in the 90s and one can almost swim in the humidity. A long growing season brought daffodils in February, while I just ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 16 — Prayer for the Two-Leggeds

by Daniel Kieval To listen or join in prayer: This is the time for us to finally come home This is the time to know that we are not alone To find our selves in a deep ancient web This is the time to be embraced by the land Kissed by oceans, taken by the hand Rooted down into this deep ancient web Receive us now Retrieve us now Redeem us now This is the way that we awake from a dream Wander out into life's ever-flowing stream Listen now to the deep ancient web This is the place that gave birth to us in love We are the children that Earth is dreaming ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 15 — T’shuvah is an answer.

by Andy Oram ~ At High Holidays we speak intently and repeatedly of T’shuvah (תשובה), by which we mean repentance or returning to God. T'shuvah does mean "return", but it also means "answer." We have to answer both God's and a world that is dying before our eyes. How can we answer? How can we approach the High Holidays with the urgency demanded us of from the modern world? In these times of imminent destruction, we also seek an answer to our plea for deliverance. And when seeking answers, Jews turn back to the riches of Torah. The word t'shuvah derives ...

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Earth Etude for for Elul 11– Return to Our Values

by Deborah Nam-Krane ~ In 2017, I heard LaDonna Redmond, founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now, speak at the Annual Gardener’s Gathering in Boston. An organizer working at the crossroads of food justice and racial equality, she laid out a familiar story: her child was allergic and/or sensitive to many foods, but to provide him with the food he needed, Redmond had to step out of her neighborhood because fresh fruits and vegetables weren’t available there. She started a community garden and cooperative, and each step in helping her family and community be ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 9 — Elul: A Time to Start Shifting Our Imperiled Planet onto a Sustainable Path

by Richard H Schwartz As the world spirals toward a climate catastrophe, the current Hebrew month of Elul again provides time for heightened introspection, a chance to do t’shuvah (repentance), to improve our lives and our involvements, before the “Days of Awe,” the days of judgment, the “High Holidays” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  How should we respond to Elul today? How should we respond to the current reports of dire warnings and other environmental threats to humanity, including: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organis...

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Earth Etude for Elul 8 –A Year of Travel, A Year of Wonder

by Susie Davidson Photos (from top left clockwise): Louisiana Bayou from Amtrak; Maine foliage; Hills of Mexico, Del Rio Texas; Susie Davidson at El Paso Crossing; Banyan tree, Miami, FL. ~ Over the past year, I've had many unforgettable experiences in different countries and regions, within amazing, varied landscapes. There is nothing like discovering and living in a new environment. The languages, cultures, geography, and people are so different. However, it is within these strange surroundings that I have conversely noticed what is similar. There are common ...

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Re-Turning, Turning Around, Turning Toward: What Does it Take?

by Rabbi Katy Allen ~ The Jewish month of Elul is almost here. It's meant as a beginning of our process of turning and re-turning and returning to G!d as we prepare for the most holy day of the year, Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. It is a time to turn away from that which is not good for us, others, and the world, and to turn toward healing, wisdom, blessing, and all that is good for us, others, and the world. Common wisdom reminds us that it requires 21 days - three weeks - of doing something in order to change. Elul has 29 days. And then there are 10 more days ...

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Purim: The Anti Addiction Holiday

My kids have only seen me get drunk in one situation: at the Purim meal. Because that is basically the only time I do get really drunk. I’ll have a drink or two when friends come over for Shabbat or just for a get together, and I’ll sometimes take a beer out of the refrigerator to watch a ball game or occasionally have a glass of wine as I’m relaxing on a quiet evening. But pretty much I only get drunk on Purim. I do it because it is a mitzvah on Purim to drink “ad delo yada” —until you can’t tell the difference between “cursed is Haman and ...

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People as Letters, Israel as Torah

In our up-coming Organic Torah webinar class “The Royal Road to Relational Spirituality” we’ll be looking at an amazing commentary by the Piazetzner Rebbe in which he talks about getting our spirituality into our whole beings. Though his commentary starts on the story of Noach, it includes a very interesting observation on this week’s Torah reading which tells of the Receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, on the verse “and the whole people saw the voices…” [Exodus 20 :14]. This “synesthesia” or mixing of the senses, is remarkable enough, and gives a ...

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Eco-Zionism, Diaspora politics and Israel’s shadow government: how you can make a difference

Speaker: David Krantz Discover the shadow government that most Israelis don’t even know about. And learn how you can have an impact in Israel beyond donations and advocacy. Herzl’s vision for Israel may be different than you think. The Limmud Festival 2018 (December 22 - 27 in Birmingham, UK) is one of the biggest celebrations of Jewish learning and culture in the world. David Krantz leads Aytzim (Jewcology, Green Zionist Alliance, EcoJews, and Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth) and serves on the boards of the American Zionist Movement and Interfaith ...

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Crisis or Opportunity

Part One: A World in Crisis In the winter time we yearn for more light, and in challenging times like this we also wish to see the light of justice, health and understanding increase. But we first need to look squarely at the darkness: Climate change may be the worst disaster humanity has ever faced; politically, democracy isn’t spreading anymore, but instead it is in retreat across the globe; we have an addiction crisis and record levels of related ailments such as depression, loneliness, and loss of as sense of meaning. Jewishly, we, like all other religions and ...

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Fancy Words and Feelings of Connection on Thanksgiving

When you heat up a pot of water it will boil when it gets to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But which of the H²O molecules will be the first to transform into gas form and start to bubble up? That we can’t know. In scientific lingo it’s called a stochastic process: it follows a statistically predictable pattern, but the individual events can’t be precisely predicted. In recent months my friend, Fordham law professor and political blogger Jed Shugerman, has been writing and tweeting about “stochastic terrorism” (#stochasticterrorism). He defines it as “the public ...

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Chanukkah Chesed Challenge: Acts of Kindness

The evening of November 8 was the first of the month of Kislev, which means Chanukkah (there are many English spellings!) isn't far away - it begins on the 25th of Kislev and ends on the 2nd of the month of Tevet. During these days, from today until the end of Chanukkah, I invite you to be part of the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge. Chesed means "kindness," and the idea of the Chanukkah Chesed Challenge is to work consciously, every day, to do one act of chesed, or kindness, to someone you encounter throughout the day. This act should be something that does not ...

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