Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam translates from Hebrew to English as “repair the world.” And that’s just what Amit Weitzer, with Hazon is trying to do. Hazon, a Jewish Lab for Sustainability, is connecting to others, and the Earth and Weitzer’s faith and work are helping pave the way.
Weitzer says her current position “really feels like the culmination of a lot of work in the environmental education and youth development and Jewish education world. I feel very lucky to be able to be doing this work with Hazon.”
She adds, “I grew up in the metro Detroit area. I had early, really activating and energizing experiences in the woods, through camping with my family, summer camp, and you know, feeling connected to my culture, spirituality, the Jewish community, and in a more significant way – kind of having an earth-based Jewish experience, I think that’s probably the beginning of the journey.”
Gaining steam in the conversation, Weitzer continues, “From there, I created a career around youth development, often youth development that was amplified or supported by immersive outdoor experiences. Whether it was involved with youth employment in Detroit, supporting young people taking ownership over their neighborhood green spaces and city parks, and learning about the environment and green jobs. Through those experiences, they develop their own leadership, communication, and community building skills.”
It was at this point that Weitzer became involved in Jewish camps as a counselor and supervisor, and most recently as the director of a residential Jewish summer camp for almost six years, where she saw, “Many people feel most connected to their sense of culture, faith, spirituality – when having meaningful experiences outside with other people and feel connected to the earth and feel connected to one another. And I love that Hazon sort of takes that to the next level.”
Upon hearing this story, it was easy to understand why Weitzer joined the team at Hazon.
According to its mission statement, Hazon is “leading a transformative movement weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable world for all” to build “vibrant, sustainable Jewish communities, enriched by Jewish wisdom, authentic nature connection, and environmental responsibility, working with our partners to create a better world for all.”
Weitzer shared, “We want to create opportunities for people to feel connected to the Earth. And so we’re going back to Earth and the natural world to get closer to one another. Developing a Judaism that reflects what people feel is very important – especially these days. Judaism that’s reflecting the urgency and importance of environmental and climate stewardship, and activating people to work with their families, their friends, their communities, on environmental endeavors – whether individual behavior change, working at an institution to become a more sustainable institution, or, you know, broader activism related to the climate.”
Weitzer believes the Jewish identity is tied to the idea of environmental activism. While the charge to “repair the world” seems daunting, Amit Weitzer explains that other teaching states that “you are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
“It may feel too big, and you can’t do it all. (But) you need to, and you’re responsible for playing your part. And I think that environmental work, in particular, can feel so overwhelming just because of the sheer scale of the challenge. And, so I think leaning on that kind of idea has been helpful for me and helpful for many inspired people to make changes individually, but also to do that together with friends, family and with cultural and spiritual and religious institutions.”
Learn more about the work Amit Weitzer and Hazon are involved with at www.Hazon.org.