[Newsletter] Change Is in the Air

Dear Siach Community,

This past weekend, our American friends celebrated Thanksgiving, but all of us here at Siach have a lot to be grateful for! We’ve been excited by the social change movement sweeping Israel, Europe, and the US as summer has turned to autumn. Change is indeed in the air, and that’s the focus of this newsletter.

[IMG Siaching]In addition to all of the new Siach partnerships that we’re excited to announce, the Siach leadership itself is announcing some structural changes. The Heschel Center in Tel Aviv is becoming the Israeli partnering organization for Siach, led by Jeremy Benstein. We believe that Heschel’s expansive focus on the environment as well as social justice, and the inspiration they derive from Jewish values, makes it a perfect fit for Siach. Bema’aglei Tzedek of Jerusalem will continue to be actively involved as a founding partner, helping to set the vision and future course for the Siach network.

Speaking of Siach’s future course, registration for the second annual SIACH Conference is now open. It will take place in Ohalo Manor on the Kinneret from June 14th to 17th. We are making registration available to the network before publicly announcing registration. We hope to find a balance of returning participants and new partners. Space is limited so we strongly encourage you to take advantage of the early registration opportunity.

We’ve really enjoyed hearing about all of your projects. Keep letting us know about new collaborations, and keep up the good work!

Kol hakavod and Happy Thanksgiving,

Siach Team – Judith Belasco, David Brown, and Limor Friedman

Getting to Know You

A few words from our new Israeli partner, Jeremy Benstein

As the representative of the Heschel Center, the new Israeli lead partner for Siach, I’m excited to be writing my first contribution to the newsletter. While known as an “environmental” organization, our mission is to formulate and promote a vision of sustainability for Israel, meaning a just society with a robust democratic economy and a healthy environment, now and for future generations.

Is that also a Jewish vision? Well, the late scholar, theologian, and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel thought it was – and that’s one of the reasons why our Center is named for him and the unique example that he set, combining wonder, activism and what he termed “spiritual audacity” in his active life and in his vibrant and inspiring teachings. While many of us struggle to find the right integration of social and environmental agendas – the deeper meanings of sustainability – for Heschel there was no distinction. Here are some of his teachings to inform and inspire us as we continue our work:

Morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. It also became clear to me that in regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible… Fellowship depends on appreciation, while manipulation is the cause of alienation: objects and I apart, things stand dead, and I am alone. To appreciate appreciation seems to be the fundamental prerequisite for survival. Mankind will not die for lack of information; it may perish for lack of appreciation… Our concern with environment cannot be reduced to what can be used, to what can be grasped. I am an end as well as a means, and so is the world: an end as well as a means. My view of the world and my understanding of the self determine each other. The complete manipulation of the world results in the complete instrumentalization of the self… Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. Planted in us is the seed of eternal life. The world to come is not only a hereafter, but also a herenow. This is the meaning of existence: to reconcile liberty with service, the passing with the lasting, to weave the threads of temporality into the fabric of eternity.

With wishes for success in our work in creating a more just and sustainable world,

Dr. Jeremy Benstein

Deputy director, The Heschel Center


[IMG Partners]Thank you for continuing to share your latest partnerships and collaborations with us. We are so excited to see the continued fruits of the Siach 2011 conference! Check them out and be inspired.

  • Bema’aglei Tzedek and Teva Ivri are embarking on their second year of partnership with their program, “Food for Thought: Food and Ethics in Judaism,” a series of lectures on the connection between food and ethics in Jewish thought. This partnership originally formed between members of the Steering Committee as Siach itself was forming!
  • René Cassin is working closely with ATZUM and several other Israeli NGOs that have expertise in the area of prevention of slavery and human trafficking, to formulate a “the Voice of Freedom Project” that empowers former slaves by giving them a camera, photography lessons and therapy so that they may document life after slavery.
  • The Society for the Protection Nature of Israel (SPNI) and Shatil are launching a joint course on the connection between Social Justice and the Environmental Justice.
  • Teva Ivri collaborated with several other Israeli organizations on a pre – Shabbat Parshat Noach event.
  • Two of the leading Siach partners, Hazon and The Heschel Center, continued partnering to lead their Second Israel Sustainable Food Tour.

View the updated list of partnerships

Featured Partnership

When Simone Abel of René Cassin and Rabbi Sid Schwartz of CLAL first ran into each other at Limmud, they had the sense that they might enjoy working together. But it wasn’t until the Siach Conference that they found the time to meet, get to know each other, sit down, and start seriously discussion ideas for trans-Atlantic collaboration. The idea for the René Cassin Fellows Program (RCFP) was born out of that conversation.

RCFP will be a unique educational experience for Jews in their 20s and 30s from North America, Israel, Europe and the U.K. with an interest in social justice. The program will offer participants a year-long course on human rights, social justice and international relations which will be presented by experts in these fields. The program will culminate in a two-week educational trip to visit courts, legal systems and human rights organizations in Strasbourg, the Hague, New York, Washington DC and Jerusalem, where participants will have the opportunity to meet their cohorts from other regions of the world and to visit key international social justice and Jewish institutions.

Continue reading about the René Cassin Fellows Program

Reflection on the Israeli Siach Reunion

by Ofer Namimi

[IMG Panim]The Israeli Siach reunion that took place a month ago in Jerusalem was a golden opportunity for the Siach members to share and engage with the very special and unprecedented social protest movement that took place in Israel over this past summer. Since the majority of the Siach members were able to unite in Jerusalem, it allowed us to renew the conversation in the same spirit that it had started at the US Siach conference last spring. The meeting provided the opportunity for all of us to re-examine our own standing as individuals and organizations in relation to the movement and to focus on the conditions that catalyzed the protests and changed the discourse and the public socio-economic agenda.

The timing of the gathering provided the ideal amount of distance, since it gave the participants an opportunity to reflect on these events after the momentum had subsided somewhat. All of our participants are activists and heads of organizations who feel the obligation to help the protest movement transition from tents and rallies to sustainable, lasting social change. These factors made for a very deep conversation at the reunion!

Continue reading “Reflection on the Israeli Siach Reunion.”

Read the original Hebrew version.

Occupy Wall Street – an Insider’s Perspective

by Mik Moore

November 16, 2011

This week Occupy Wall Street enters its third month. What began as a protest against the financial industry’s ongoing role in creating vast disparities of wealth and exerting undue influence on the government has grown to include similar occupations in hundreds of cities in the United States and around the world.

Jews have been involved in Occupy Wall Street as individual participants since day one. Occupy Judaism, a movement inspired by and in support of Occupy Wall Street, was birthed out of the desire by thousands of Jews across the United States to engage in Jewish ritual services and celebrations at Occupy sites. The most well attended Occupy Judaism gatherings occurred during Kol Nidre service for Yom Kippur and the following week during Sukkot. Several Jewish organizations and synagogues have lent their support to these efforts, including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Labor Committee, and Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice.

Continue reading “Occupy Wall Street – an Insider’s Perspective.”

Statement Regarding the Israel Trip Planned by Pursue

Hazon, J-HUB and The Heschel Center, the lead partners in the Siach Network have issued the following statement regarding the Israel trip planned by Pursue. We invite you to share with others and to respond

Siach applauds the decision of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Pursue: Action for a Just World, and the bodies served by Pursue, alumni of Avodah and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), to offer an educational service tour to Israel for its members. As Jewish social justice activists, we warmly encourage these organizations to explore and embrace the range of all social and environmental issues that the Israeli public in general, and their colleagues and allies, the social-environmental activists of Israel, are dealing with in their work to make Israel a more democratic, just and inclusive society, inspired and informed by prophetic Jewish values.

Continue reading the statement.

SIACH Freecycle

This section is for you to post offers and requests.

Tor HaMidbar: (tor.midbar@gmail.com)

  • Is launching a new mentorship initiative to help emerging social action non-profits define their profile and raise funds. Israeli organizations, particularly those based in the Negev, should be directly in touch with them for details.
  • Is offering a conference space for up to 20 people and a accommodations for a couple or individual when you’re in the Negev!

NIF : (ariella@nif.org)

  • Can often offer office space for people visiting New York (conference room which has a computer and a phone). They don’t have a spare office so it needs to be with prior coordination to make sure they can offer the space. Their DC office can do the same.

Mirele Goldsmith: (Mirele@att.net)

  • Is an expert in program evaluation. She will be in Israel December 18th through January 9th and would be happy to meet with colleagues who would like consultation on this topic or give a workshop. (Please note: Mirele speaks Hebrew well enough to give individual consultation in Hebrew, but probably not well enough to give a full workshop in Hebrew.)
  • While is Israel, Mirele would love to be in touch with Israeli environmentalists, to consult about hew new initiative to mobilize Jews Against Hydrofracking. If you are interested, please let her know.

Stay in Touch

We hope that you find this newsletter as meaningful and inspirational as we did, and we would love to hear from you.

  • Have updates about your social justice and environmental work?
  • Want to be the next newsletter’s featured partnership?
  • Do you have a mazal tov announcement that you would like to share with the rest of the Siach community?
  • Would you like to contribute an article to the next edition of the newsletter?

Please email us at Siach@heschel.org.il to share!

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