Archive for : Shavuot

Shavuot: The Holiday of New Beginnings

Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that starts on Tuesday night, is a holiday of bellyaches. For a group of people known for our, ahem, “issues with lactose,” it seems almost cruel that one of the Jewish calendar’s major holidays would come along with the tradition of eating cheesecake, cheese-filled blintzes, gooey lasagna and other dairy-licious foods. (Bring on the Lactaid!)

But Shavuot is fortunately about other things too. It commemorates the day that God gave the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, which is arguably the single most important day in Jewish history. Receiving the Torah marked the beginning of an entirely new and exciting chapter for the Israelites – one that opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Shavuot is also connected to the ancient grain harvest in Israel, specifically the end of barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. During the festival, people would bring the bikkurim (“first fruits”) from their fields to the Temple in Jerusalem as thanks. Harvests mark the culmination of a season’s worth of toil, and the final bounty that comes after weeks of patience and preparation. But with every ending comes – you guessed it! A new beginning, and a new opportunity to envision the future we want to live in.

As we enter Shavuot, how can we make the most of this season of new beginnings, of newness and possibility? One way is to begin to plant seeds – both literal and metaphorical – that, with time, can bring the change we hope to see in the world. On a personal level, try making a list of three goals, hopes, or dreams you have for the coming months (or years). Ask yourself: what steps can I take now, at the beginning, to get on a path towards something great?

On a global level, support people who are following their own dreams. Here are several awesome micro-lending organizations and other orgs that let you support small farmers and business people who are making the world a better place:

  • KIVA – Support artisans, farmers, and small businesses with loans that they repay (so you can lend again and again!)
  • Slow Money – Help farmers support and finance sustainable agriculture across the country.
  • Women Advancing Microfinance – Support women in reaching their education, career and leadership goals.

How will you celebrate Shavuot’s season of new beginnings? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @repairtheworld #shavuot.

6 Ways to Support Education for All on Shavuot

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot starts this weekend. As far as holidays go, it’s pretty big one: the anniversary of the day the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai and also one of the Jewish calendar’s three pilgrimage festivals, which celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel.

One of the ways people celebrate Shavuot is to stay up all night studying – a practice that dates back at least 400 years. Friends gather together and fortify themselves with big cups of coffee, lots of cheese blintzes (it’s also a custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot) and a stack of Jewish texts – both ancient ones, like the Book of Ruth, and also modern ones. (For some great Shavuot learning opportunities, check out AJWS’ Jewish social justice text database, On 1 Foot.)

For those of us who pull all-nighters for school (or who remember doing that), staying up all night studying may not seem like a lot of fun. But when you think about it, the opportunity to devote a night to education, and having the resources to do it, is not a privilege shared by everyone. That’s why Shavuot, with its focus on learning, is the perfect holiday to think about education for all. How can we make Shavuot our inspiration to promote access to education, literacy and strong classrooms for students throughout the country and world?

Here are a few places to start. Check out the six organizations below, all of which are working to make education more accessible, then click through their sites to find out how you can support their work and make a difference:

  • Global Education Fund: An organization that works to improve the lives of children living in poverty through education.
  • 826 National: An organization that promotes creative and expository writing skills in elementary and high school students in fun and creative ways. (Read Repair the World’s interview with 826 volunteer, Michelle Snyder.)
  • Machshava Tova: An Israeli organization working to close the digital and educational gaps within Israel’s students. (Check out Repair the World’s feature story on Machshava Tova.)
  • Raising a Reader: A national organization that promotes childhood literacy by helping families establish reading routines at home.
  • Class Wish: An organization that empowers parents, teachers and communities to make a difference in kids’ classrooms, by providing them with the school supplies they need to thrive.
  • Edible Schoolyard: Founded by famous foodie, Alice Waters, this organization promotes an “edible education” by building hands-on, sustainable food curriculums for schools.

How will you stand up for education this Shavuot? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld.

Up All Night: Studying Service and Social Justice on Shavuot

Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish calendar’s most learning-focused holiday. Traditionally, people stay up all night studying Jewish texts, fueled by coffee, cheesecake and curiosity.

Last week we posted about the relaunch of On1Foot – an online database founded by AJWS that houses more than one thousand service and social justice-themed Jewish texts and study guides. Today, in honor of the holiday, here’s On1Foot’s Shavuot guide called “From Charity and Dependency to Dignity and Sustainability.” And below, you’ll find a round up of several other online text resources and Shavuot tikkuns (classes) around the country, where you can find inspiring information and insights to help keep the discussion going until sunrise this Shavuot. Dig in!

  • The Religious Action Center (RAC) offers their “Standing Together: Social Justice Guide for Shavuot,” focusing on economic justice, the environment, world Jewry and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues and advocacy.
  • The New Israel Fund is sponsoring 35 learning sessions in Israel focused on Jewish tradition, social justice, tolerance and pluralism. Click here to find a session to attend, or to download their study materials.
  • IKAR in Los Angeles is organizing a Shavuot gathering called “It’s The End of the World As We Know It: Revolution, Climate Change, Culture War, Communal Paradigm Shift – How Does Judaism Respond to the Chaos and Unpredictability of a Changing World?
  • Jews United for Justice in Washington DC is co-hosting a night of learning about Torah, food and just communities with Etz Chayim
  • The Moishe Kavod House in partnership with many other organizations in Boston are hosting an all night Tikkun covering everything from food justice to domestic violence, climate and The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
  • The University of San Francisco is co-hosting their third-annual Social Justice Shavuot Program, beginning with a vegetarian dinner.

Know about other service and/or social justice-related resources for Shavuot? Leave them below in the comments.