Gardens are popping up across the U.S., and terms such as trowel, compost, mulch, organic, and community-supported agriculture are becoming part of our daily vocabulary. And increasingly, Jewish institutions are beginning to see another potential of community gardens: using them as a shamash or a light unto the world; a beam for the future. In this technological age of wonder, the ancient agricultural practices of our people are have never been more relevant.
Having a garden is a wonderful thing in and of itself: gardens are beautiful, provide additional space for reflection and spirituality, and smell and taste great. But once you have fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers growing in your place of communal learning, then the relevancy of nutrition, hunger, water usage, land ethic and waste are no longer theoretical or statistical; these issues are living in your backyard and in our every day lives. Having a garden makes these issues concrete, and creates the imperative to effect positive change.
Over the course of the next several months, I’ll be writing about gardens and the environmental movement from where I sit: in Los Angeles, CA. Together we will examine gardens in various stages of development and the people who are changing their communities through these gardens. I will also share tips on ways to get kids and adults alike excited about spending some time outside. If you have no idea how to get a garden started and are interested, I’ll be covering the start-up process as well. And of course, if you have questions about community gardens, you’re welcome to ask anytime.
Chanukah begins this week: as you start buying presents for one another, think about the best gift you can give your loved ones: health. Pool some money with your friends, family and community, and make a donation to start your own garden in your school, synagogue, camp, JCC or any other place where a kid might get to taste what an actual tomato right from the vine tastes like. The ability to produce fresh food with your community can work health miracles for our collective family.
Becca Bodenstein is the Director of Jewish Life, runs an organic garden and teaches Judaism and the Environment at the New Community Jewish High School, in West Hills, CA. She also works as a consultant for individuals and institutions in different stages of environmental growth. She will be speaking at the Hazon Food Conference December 23- 26, 2010, on gardens at Jewish institutions and environmental curriculum.