For more than a decade, Ekar Farm and Community Gardens has served as a central point for Denver’s Jewish community to come together around taking action toward food security, environmentalism, and urban farming. Sue Salinger (she/her), Executive Director, sees the partnership with Repair the World as a vital component of their organization.
“Often, Ekar is the only Jewish organization working within these issues in Denver. To have dedicated, Jewishly-engaged and Jewishly-committed young adults who want to work on justice issues is incredibly valuable to us,” Sue says. “We provide education about earth-based Judaism, ritual experience and farming experience that provides a well rounded service and learning experience. We’re also able to uplift social justice through a Jewish lens in a meaningful way.”
As a result of this partnership and working with Repair the World Service Corps members, Ekar has deepened their work and strengthened their core values in the community. The Service Corps brought “critical mass” to these efforts, alongside Ekar’s staff team.
Sue also has a deep connection with Repair, dating to her time in Detroit with Hazon, an organization working to create a healthier, more environmentally sustainable Jewish community and world for all. Sue served as the Founding Managing Director for Hazon’s Detroit region at a time when Repair had just opened up a Detroit fellowship program.
“Both of our organizations started at the same time and we both had fellowship programs for young adults”, Sue says. “Our programs brought the Jewish suburbs into the city to address justice issues. We collaborated with Repair many times in a variety of areas, and it was such a warm, lovely collaboration for a number of years.”
Three years ago, when Sue moved to Denver, and found out that Repair was building a program in Denver, a new and successful partnership began.
“Ekar is Jewish-inspired in the Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) field. We share a core set of values as a JOFEE organization and as a Jewish community farming organization. And those are really around our contemporary understanding and unpacking of earth-based Jewish values,” Sue says. “The kind of work we’re doing resonates with people and provides opportunities for rituals that are meaningful today because they are more accessible. These experiences help people feel welcomed and comfortable as they build a connection back to Judaism.”
As 2021 was a shmita year, Ekar has a separate cohort focused on shmita-related justice issues that work on indigenous sovereignty issues. To that end, Ekar makes space for Indigenous people to grow traditional crops. “It’s incredibly powerful to see young Jewish adults who serve at Ekar, including Service Corps members, work side-by-side with Indigenous youth trying to bridge a culture gap, reach across cultures, and share spiritual traditions.”
Repair and Ekar share the belief that change is possible, that people can make connections and build dynamic collaborations in pursuit of a just world. Through the partnership, Sue reflects, “I’ve learned during this time that no matter what else has gone on in the Jewish community, we have a rising generation of amazing young Jews. For these young people, being Jewish means working toward meeting the needs of the community and actively engaging, not just retreating into escapism or materialism.”
Ekar Farm and Community Gardens is a communal urban farm, inspired by Jewish values. We work to build community, provide experiential and environmental education, and grow sustainably produced fruits and vegetables, expanding access to those in need.