Fall Letter from Commonweal

Commonweal Labyrinth in Fog. Photo: Peter Cunningham.

Dear Commonweal Friends,

I hope this letter finds each of you as well as you can be in these tumultuous times.

Oren Slozberg: A Leader for Commonweal

In September, I turned over the helm at Commonweal to my beloved friend and partner Oren Slozberg. Oren has worked with us at Commonweal for nine years. He has led Commonweal as executive director for five years. His extraordinary wisdom, kindness, and commitment to Commonweal are known to all. We could not ask for a more inspired leader for Commonweal’s future.

The time was right. This is a long-planned and carefully executed next step in what Oren rightly calls “intergenerational leadership” at Commonweal. As far as our community is concerned, little has changed. I am able to focus far more intensively on the work I was put here to do.

Commonweal is in a new phase. Oren is meeting the challenge of doing all that we can in a time of global tumult, tragedy, and opportunities for us to be of service. I could not be more grateful for the work we are now doing. And for Oren’s leadership.

Our Founding Vision: Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth

Forty-seven years ago, I walked on Poplar Road in Bolinas. Poplar is a long, straight, dirt road filled with ruts that slow cars to a walking pace. It was a windswept cloudy morning with wisps of low fog swept in from the ocean.

Halfway to the end of Poplar, I paused to look out at the old RCA Antenna Farm—a mile or two north across waving fields of grass and a deep cleft of forest. My eyes quite naturally lit on the old white RCA office building nestled in a grove of trees.

Without any warning, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and low-scudding fog. The shaft of light illuminated the building with a glowing radiance.

I received, in that moment, an astonishing and unbidden vision. I foresaw that we would build a center for healing ourselves and healing the earth on that land—long sacred to Native Americans—where radio communications across the Pacific began.

Forty-seven years later—46 since Commonweal was incorporated—we are near the half century mark of a journey that stretches far into the future before us.

Ten Ways to Serve

I am not leaving Commonweal. I remain Board president. I’m focused on the projects that need me in different ways.

They include the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, CancerChoices, Healing Circles Global, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, Omega, The New School, the Jenifer Altman Foundation, and Mosaic—The Founder Archive Project.

Here’s where I’m most directly engaged.

Arlene Allsman is now director of the Cancer Help Program. We’ve completed 215 week-long retreats over 36 years. Arlene also leads our retreats for Bay Area Young Survivors (BAYS) and our online Sanctuary program. I am forever grateful for our partnership.

Miki Scheidel, Nancy Hepp, and Laura Pole guide CancerChoices—our beautiful new integrative cancer care website.

Our Omega polycrisis resilience projects have a strong leadership team including Stanley Wu, Mark Valentine, Andrea Frey, and Susan Grelock Yusem.

Kyra Epstein beautifully leads our work at The New School.

Ann Blake is executive director of the Jenifer Altman Foundation, which continues to play a significant role in environmental health and justice globally. We were co-founders of the Health and Environmental Funders Network and work in strategic partnerships.

Mosaic—Telling the Stories of Commonweal—is new. Erin O’Reilly and Susan Grelock Yusem are my partners. We are weaving together the stories of Commonweal from past to present to future.


Four other projects remain especially close to my heart.

I co-founded Healing Circles Langley and Healing Circles Global with Diana and Kelly Lindsay. Diana and Oren and a wonderful team sustain this brilliant global work.

I co-founded the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, also global in reach, now celebrating 20 years of work and beautifully led by Kristin Schafer.

The Migrant Support Project supports Gift of Love in Tijuana, a church sanctuary housing more than 1,200 migrants and asylum seekers. Founded by Angela Oh and Ming Tu through their Gift of Compassion project at Commonweal, this is heart work for me.

The Commonweal Garden and Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine, led by Anna O’Malley, MD, with James Stark’s strong support in the garden, is a source of enduring regenerative power and beauty.


Other Commonweal projects too numerous to name are close to my heart. They are a testament to Oren’s extraordinary leadership.

Seven More Partners

Seven other long-time partners must be named. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, co-founder of the Cancer Help Program. Waz Thomas, past Commonweal General Manager and also co-founder of the Cancer Help Program. Jenepher Stowell, director of the Retreat Center. Burr Heneman, who co-founded Commonweal with me. Steve Heilig, a longtime partner with The New School, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, and other projects. Neil Gendel, a remarkable friend of many decades. Above all, Sharyle Patton, my life partner and director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. They have walked with me for decades. Forgive me for all those I cannot name.

Commonweal: the Next 50 Years

How is Commonweal doing? Beautifully. Oren has long guided our community with his able Stewardship Council and with the strong support of COO Arlene Allsman and CFO Vanessa Marcotte. We have an extraordinary and committed Board of Directors.

Our work is only beginning. We have the vision, wisdom, compassion, and dedication to service to carry our work forward for the next 50 years.

How am I? Infinitely grateful for the work that lies ahead and the companionship of the whole Commonweal community. It is pure grace to be here to participate in this work of healing and service.

Please Support Commonweal

Once again, I ask you with all my heart to continue to support our work at Commonweal. We welcome your support for the programs and projects of your choice. We also deeply welcome your support for all our work—for Commonweal as a whole.

You can send us a check to us at the address below, or donate online at commonweal.org. We’re profoundly grateful for one-time donations and also for monthly donations on your credit card. You’d be surprised how an affordable monthly donation adds up.

Also, if you’d like to include our work in your estate planning, or have things of value you’d like to contribute—from real estate to cars to anything else—please reach out to Oren, to Arlene Allsman, or to me. We’d love to hear from you.

Stay with our beloved community. We are in troubled times. We all built Commonweal together—and will keep building it together.

With love and prayers,
Michael Lerner, President

Make a one-time or recurring monthly online donation using your credit card, bank account or PayPal on our website.

Check donations can be mailed to: Commonweal PO Box 316 Bolinas, CA 94924
If you would like to support a specific program, please indicate the program name on the check.

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