Around the country, a number of synagogues, JCCs, day schools, and other Jewish institutions are doing inspiring work to integrate the physical spaces of gardens and farms into their core work of transmitting Jewish ideas and values. Last month, I highlighted the increased popularity of school and community gardens and pointed out some of the necessary measures needed to maintain them properly and maximize their impact. Innovative Jewish institutions from synagogues to JCC’s and educational farms around the country are also taking broad steps to engage members, students and teachers in Jewish garden programming.
One of the great successes of the new food movement is that planting gardens has become hugely popular in schools and other communal institutions. In the Jewish community, day schools and camps are increasingly jumping on the green bandwagon to install everything from small herb and flower container gardens to large-scale vegetable gardens.
I have a confession. I pretty much hate Jewish Food. Not all Jewish food, of course, but the ubiquitous beige and brown kugels and meat-heavy holiday tables I grew up with never really did it for me. Passover in particular, with hidden matzo meal and farfel at every turn was never something I looked forward to. But at the same time the experience of Passover as a whole always had a strong impact on my understanding of Jewish values, history and biblical narrative.
Earlier this month I hosted a Tu B’shvat gathering for our havurah focused on the shivat haminim — a seven species — “deconstructed” seder. With 25 kids, we opted for heavy on the deconstructed, light on the seder and decided to have a potluck where each family brought a dish incorporating one or more species of Israel. Ideas, recipes and questions about the ingredients flew back and forth on Twitter and Facebook prior to the gathering. For many, this was a new concept and people wanted to know: What are these items? Where does the Torah make reference to them? Which of these are locally grown here in Georgia? What in the world is date honey, and did they even cultivate bees in Ancient Israel?