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Eating green at the JCC

Hazon founder Nigel Savage to make his case for Jewish environmentalism

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Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon.

Being Jewish means having at least two ways to engage with the world, says Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon. Whether engaging with the world through Jewish tradition or through the Jewish people, however, “food is a huge issue,” he said.

Indeed, said Savage, “One of the great successes of Jewish life in last 10 years — to some extent under the radar of the organized Jewish community — is Jewish communal engagement with the land in general and food in particular.”

According to the Hazon founder, who launched his faith-based environmental organization in 1990, “Now’s a really exciting moment to eat Jewishly, and without driving ourselves crazy or banging other people over the head. We can connect Jewish tradition to food and land and contemporary issues, and do it in both a serious and generous way.”

By doing this, he said, we not only can renew Jewish life, but also create stronger communities.

On April 30, Savage will speak at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, “looking backwards and forwards at all of this and reflecting on what we have learned about Jews, food, and planet Earth.”

Explaining that his group tries to inspire Jewish communities to go beyond questions of kashrut and ask such additional questions as “where did my food come from, how was the land treated, and how were the workers treated?,” the social activist said his organization has helped foster a network of nearly 60 community-supported agriculture programs (CSA’s) throughout the country — including one at the Tenafly JCC.

“We’re now the largest faith-based CSA in the country,” said Savage.

“The beauty of community supported agriculture is that it represents a committed partnership between a farm and a community of supporters that provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food,” said JCC Judaic Director Rabbi Steve Golden, who helps oversee the local program.

“Members buy shares in a local farm in advance of the growing season, thus helping the farm pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment, maintenance, labor, etc., and in return, the farm provides its members with a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce, to the best of its ability, throughout the harvest. This encourages a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it.”

For the second year, the JCC is partnering with Free Bird Farm in Palatine Bridge, N.Y. The season runs from June 12 through November 6, and shares include locally grown, certified organic produce, delivered weekly to the JCC. Membership is open to the public.

Savage pointed out that the next shmittah year (sabbatical year for the land) starts in September 2014.

“What’s our vision for then?” he asked. “What can the JCC, or a family, look like? Will we be eating local food? Do we grow any of it? Compost it?”

Jews, who are required to say b’rachot (blessings) before eating, already have a tradition of “mindfulness,” he said, explaining that Jewish environmentalism is a logical extension of that concept.

“Jewish tradition leads to doing,” said Savage, who was inspired to pursue the cause of environmentalism after taking a “sea to sea” hike in Israel.

“It was the first time I hiked, carried a pack, and camped out,” he said. “It made me conscious of how we relate to the physical world.”

Originally from Manchester, England, Savage — formerly a professional fund manager — launched his group by organizing and riding in a 3,000-mile “Cross-USA Jewish Environmental Bike Ride,” in which participants cycled from Seattle to Washington, D.C., teaching and speaking along the way. The trip ended at the White House, where the riders received a national award from the Environmental Protection Agency. Since that time, Hazon has sponsored regular bike rides throughout the country and in Israel to raise environmental awareness.

The Hazon founder, who has a master’s degree in history from Georgetown University, also serves on the board of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, is a founder of Limmud NY, and sits on the advisory boards of Ramah Outdoor Adventure and the Jewish Greening Fellowship.

Who: Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon

What: A new vision for going green: is Jewish
environmentalism changing the world?

When: Monday, April 30, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

Where: The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades

For more information about the JCC program or
to purchase a CSA share, call Rabbi Steve Golden at
(201) 408-1426. To learn more about Hazon and CSA, visit

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