Hazon, the burgeoning Jewish environmental nonprofit, has planted roots in the Bay Area, just ahead of the organization’s highly anticipated food conference.
Last year more than 500 people flocked to the third annual Jewish food conference in Monterey. Yet the conference’s New York–based organizing agency, Hazon, had no paid staff in the Bay Area.
That changed in September when Hazon hired Lom Friedman, an outdoor educator, naturalist and former longtime Camp Tawonga staff member, to serve as the Bay Area director, and Renna Khuner-Haber, a Berkeley native, as Bay Area food programs associate. Hazon celebrated the official launch of the local office on Dec. 5 at the Jewish Theatre San Francisco.
“The Bay Area is an important Jewish community, and it’s one of the most progressive communities in the United States,” said Nigel Savage, founding director of Hazon, which is supported by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Covenant Foundation, the UJA Federation of New York and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, among others.
Because the Bay Area is “the epicenter of the new food movement,” Savage added, it’s a fitting place to have a satellite office — the agency’s first. Hazon is looking to Denver, Philadelphia and Washington as possible sites for more expansion.
Hazon, which means “vision” in Hebrew, was started in New York 10 years ago and began by coordinating Jewish bike rides. Hazon has grown gradually but consistently, and now organizes the annual food conference; sponsors bike rides in Israel, New York and next year in Northern California; and spearheads the Jewish Climate Change Campaign.
The Bay Area office, located in downtown San Francisco, will focus primarily on partnering with individuals and institutions to promote more environmental education and provide resources for existing programs and initiatives.
Already, Friedman is working with JCCs, synagogues and educational programs, such as Midrasha in the East Bay. He is also connecting with local Hillel chapters to encourage students to get involved in the Jewish Climate Change Campaign.
“We came here because the area is primed and ready to make a contribution that will spread out from here,” Friedman said. “We want to partner with the community and challenge the community.”
In his first few months as Bay Area director, Friedman’s been gearing up for the food conference in Monterey, which will feature panels, lectures, hands-on workshops and film screenings about contemporary issues such as farming, sustainability, food justice, Jewish food culture, nutrition, cooking, Israeli agriculture and fasting, among others.
This year more than 600 participants of all observance levels and ages are expected to attend. It will be held at the Asilomar Conference and Retreat Center Dec. 24-27. Registration is still open at www.hazon.org.
Friedman also is planning Hazon’s first California bike ride May 7-10. Riders will participate in a two-day Shabbaton and then ride from Occidental to San Francisco.
“We want to make people feel comfortable, so the ride is completely supported,” Friedman said. That means frequent rest stops, shade, water and food; mechanics and medics on the route will provide help as needed.
Friedman completed his first Hazon ride in New York in October. He found that participants could “push themselves more than they normally would” because of the support and camaraderie of the ride.
“We want to expose people to new ideas so they can make lifestyle changes without feeling alone,” Friedman said. “There is a movement, and we want people to be a part of it.”
Friedman is a Cleveland native who unexpectedly landed in the Bay Area in 1995. He and his friends planned to crisscross the country the summer after college and eventually end up in New York. Friedman, however, “got caught up in the gravity of Northern California and I never left.”
He spent the following summer working at Camp Tawonga, an experience he
describes as transformative because of how it galvanized his connection to Judaism and nature. He spent the next 12 years working for Tawonga, eight of those year-round, as the camp’s director of wilderness programs.
Friedman also has led American Jewish World Service trips to Central America for college students and young adults, and most recently worked as the interim operations director at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley.
Friedman “is a great educator, an environmentalist and a serious bike rider,” Savage said. “We’re excited that he’s working for us … and we’re very psyched now to be able to launch this in San Francisco.”
For more information about the food conference and the California bike ride, contact Lom Friedman at (415) 990-0644 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.