Archive for : Elder Care

Repair Interview: Sabrina Malach on Shoresh

Over the last two decades, the Jewish environmental movement has grown from a fringe afterthought, to an important aspect of the mainstream Jewish community. Organizations like Hazon and programs like the Jewish Farm School, Teva, and Adamah have made a big impact in the States. Now, an awesome organization called Shoresh, founded in 2009 in Toronto, is helping to expand this awareness to the Canadian Jewish community. Repair the World recently spoke with Director of Community Outreach, Sabrina Malach, about Shoresh’s programming, gardening across the generations, and realizing the dream of land-based Judaism in Canada.

What was the inspiration behind starting Shoresh?
Both the founder, Risa Alyson Cooper, and I are from Canada but lived and participated in programs at The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. We were fellows in Adamah, the Jewish farming fellowship, and Risa was also a Jewish environmental educator with Teva. We talked a lot about what it would be like if we could bring programs like that to Toronto.

When Risa came back to Canada, she had the great idea of starting a community garden in the suburbs, and that was the beginning of Kavannah Garden. At the same time, there was a huge new Jewish community center in development in the northern part of the city, and she had the foresight to approach them about starting the garden there. Most of our other programs stem from there – overall, Shoresh’s success has centered on offering the right programs at the right time.

What types of programs do you run?
Kavannah Garden is our flagship program. Each spring and fall, dozens of day school groups come to visit. Shoresh developed a curriculum for kids from kindergarten to grade 5. It weaves in Jewish and ecological teachings, but is based on Ontario’s curriculum, so it allows teachers to justify field trips. One program example is, we have this bike-powered blender that the kids love. They’ll go and harvest edible weeds and herbs, then go on the bike and turn them into pesto. So it teaches them about plants and nutrition, and helps them learn to see a world where food is everywhere and everything is valuable. It also draws from the Talmudic teaching that it is forbidden to live in a city where there is no vegetable garden.

In addition to the school groups, we have have a family farm drop-in program, and a CSA running out of the garden. It has been so restorative to build this ecological place deep in the heart of the Toronto suburbs. Our hope is that people take the ideas they learn and that they ripple out into their backyards and neighborhoods.

Do you have educational programs outside of Kavannah Garden as well?
Yes, definitely – we work with participants from kindergarten age to people in their 90s. We partnered with the Baycrest geriatric center to develop three gardens. We’ve trained the staff their and also go in every other week to work with clients. It is amazing to sit with bubbes and zaydes there, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia, and talk about growing food. We do a lot of sensory workshops with them, like having them smell herbs. Working with them is a reminder that a lot of the work we do with gardening and food is not new, and that we have a lot of wisdom to glean from our elders.

We also started a new program at the Kensington Market called Maxie’s garden. Kensington was once the center of Jewish food and communal life in Toronto – it was where all the kosher butchers and bakers were located. That is mostly gone now, but there is a man in his 90s who has been living in this house there since 1927. His backyard has some of the best soil I’ve ever seen! We partnered with Toronto’s Jewish Family & Child Services to create a program in his backyard where women working below the poverty line come and grow food. It is amazing to help revive some Jewish food culture in Kensington, while actively bringing social justice into our programming.

What do you have planned for the future?
Our next big project is the creation of Bela Farm, a 114-acre rural center for land-based Judaism, education, and farming in Ontario. Expanding from a quarter-acre garden to a huge farm an hour outside of Toronto is a big jump, so we have spent the last three years visioning with our creative team to think about what we want, and how to make it our own instead of just replicating other farm projects. We hope to fully launch in 2016, but have already started an apiary there, started a small orchard of 17 fruit trees, and planted 300 garlic cloves (originally from Adamah!), which we hope to double this year. We are taking it slow and weaving permaculture and Jewish values like shmita into the design of the space.

How has working with Shoresh impacted you personally?
Personally, it has been so amazing to be able to work with a small organization that does so much amazing work. My own personal interests have been nurtured, and I have had the space to learn and explore while making a difference.

Learn more about Shoresh, Kavannah Garden, and Bela Farm – and see lots of great farm and garden pics! – at Shoresh’s website and Facebook page.

Repair Inspiration: Auschwitz Survivor Meets German Hip-Hop Duo

File this under awesome: A recent New York Times article told the story about an 89-year old Holocaust survivor who is teaming up with a German hip-hop group called Microphone Mafia to spread music and a message. Read an excerpt below and find the whole article on the Times’ website.

NEW YORK TIMES
Amid the Rap Music, Echoes of an Orchestra Playing in a Dark Past
By: Sally McGrane
June 27, 2014

“BERLIN — AT various points during shows, the German rapper Kutlu Yurtseven gestures to a bandmate sitting demurely off to the side. That’s the cue for 89-year-old Esther Bejarano, a diminutive woman with a snow-white pixie cut, to jump in with a song. “When will the heavens open up, again, for me?” is one favorite, the refrain of a local carnival tune. “When will they open up?”

It is an unusual pairing. Ms. Bejarano is one of the last surviving members of the Auschwitz Girls’ Orchestra, the only all-female ensemble among the many Nazi-run prisoner musical groups in the camp system. Among other duties, the Girls’ Orchestra was responsible for playing the marches that imprisoned women had to keep step to as they went out to work in the morning and, even more cruelly, as they returned, half-dead, at the end of the day.

Five years ago, hoping to reach more young people with her story and her message of tolerance and anti-fascism, Ms. Bejarano teamed up with Microphone Mafia, a German hip-hop duo with Turkish and Italian roots. They have released their first album, and have been playing concerts throughout Germany and Europe ever since.

The music combines songs like the poignant Yiddish resistance song, “We’ll Live Forever,” composed in the Nazi-run Jewish ghetto in Vilna just before it was liquidated, with rap passages about current problems like racism that, in Ms. Bejarano’s view, show that the lessons of the Holocaust still need to be learned.”

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Repair Inspiration: Masbia Soup Kitchen

Since 2005, Masbia – a soup kitchen in Brooklyn – has been providing hot, nutritious, kosher meals for Jewish families in need and the broader community. In the last year alone, they provided more than 800,000 meals, engaging hundreds of regular and one-time volunteers along the way.

Recently, Masbia got some much deserved love from NationSwell. They write: “Dignified surroundings, and healthy, comforting meals, raise Masbia above the standard, a welcome reminder that seeking help with food doesn’t have to be a gloomy affair.”

Check out their video, and meet their awesome chef, below, then read the whole article over at Nation Swell.

Want to help? Sign up for a volunteer shift or make a donation to support Masbia’s work.

Alternative Break Interview: Yonatan Isser on Visiting Israel with Yahel

Right now, colleges and universities across the country are kicking off their spring breaks. As students prepare for their time off, we thought we’d check in with someone who chose to spend his last break making a difference.

Yonatan Isser, a senior at University of Maryland, participated on an alternative spring break program in Israel with Yahel. While there, he and his fellow participants lived and volunteered with members of the Ethiopian community. Yonatan found the time to chat with Repair the World about why he chose Yahel and how this trip changed his life for good.

Why did you decide to join the Yahel trip last winter break?
I knew that I wanted to go to Israel for winter break, as I have done in the past. I come from a modern Orthodox background, so my previous visits usually included visiting family, going to the Kotel, and learning at a Yeshiva. This time around I wanted to see what it is like to really live in Israel as a citizen – to get the day-to-day experience for people with different backgrounds than mine. I wanted to see other sides of Israel I had not been exposed to before, and Yahel seemed like the perfect way to do that.

What type of activities were you involved with during your time there?
We spent a lot of time with the Ethiopian community, hearing about their lives and experiences. We had organized home stays within the community, where we got to know the families, and helped their kids with homework at night. That was wonderful for developing deeper relationships. We heard a story from one resident who had immigrated to Israel and joined IDF. He ended up being one of the soldiers on duty for Operation Solomon, which meant he got to help bring many other Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

We also did lots of hands-on service. We helped plant a community garden so that people in the community could partake in recreational agriculture. We painted a mural on a wall, and helped an elderly woman in the community with some light construction in her house. We painted her kitchen, fixed cracks in her walls – things like that. That was a more informal opportunity to connect with a community member; she had heard that we were going to be in town and asked for our help through an NGO in the community.

What was most special about this type of service for you?
Unlike my other trips to Israel, this trip really pushed me out of my comfort zone. It compelled me to emotionally connect with the world around me, and experience things on a much deeper level. It wasn’t like the typical acts of chesed (kindness) I learned about growing up. We actually got to know the people we were helping, and got to speak with them and hear their struggles first hand. It was about getting the deeper story. I came back to the United States with a desire to keep volunteering at this level as an important part of my life. The trip inspired me to do more.

Care to Share Gathers Over Two Thousand Pounds of Food

This article is excerpted from UJA-Federation News.

Try to picture 3.3 million grains of rice. If that’s too challenging, you could also visualize 200,000 grapes, 35,000 eggs, 4,000 pomegranates, 440 watermelons, or 220 pumpkins. Each of these quantities of food weighs a solid ton, which is the amount of fresh produce collected during UJA-Federation’s first annual Care to Share fresh food drive in conjunction with Met Council, Hazon, and AmeriCorps.

This year’s program far surpassed its initial goal of collecting 1,000 pounds of food for those in need.

Synagogues and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups from all over the city, as well as Westchester and Long Island, contributed to the program’s success and many participants have expressed an interest in taking part again next year. Local soup kitchens and food pantries worked together with each of the collection sites to distribute the fresh produce on the same day it was donated.

Read the remainder of the article here an learn more about Care to Share here.

Check out Repair the World’s post on the Care to Share program (plus a great video) here.

Donate Fresh Produce to Your Local Food Pantry with Care to Share (Video)

File this under awesome: Hazon, AmeriCorps, The Met Council and the UJA Federation are teaming up to help bring more fresh produce to local food pantries and to combat food insecurity this Sukkot with their Care to Share program.

From now through Oct 18, gardeners, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, and anyone with good access to fresh produce in the New York area is invited to share a portion of their produce for distribution to a local food pantry. It’s as easy as finding a drop-off site near you, and bringing in your veggies.

Judaism has a tradition of “gleaning.” Back in the day, farmers would leave the four corners of their fields unharvested from which the needy could glean with dignity. Today, food deserts pervade our country. In many cities  including New York, low-income communities tend to have far less access to healthy fruits and vegetables than other neighborhoods. In some communities, there are literally no grocery stores, making it all the more challenging to feed healthy food to one’s family.
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