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Growing in Elul

“Oh camp staff, we want you to know, oh camp staff, we love you so.” It’s the closing circle for the six day session at Eden Village Camp, and the campers are singing to the counselors! These first-time campers have had a raucous, joyful immersion into Eden Village at the end of a long, rich summer for the staff. Now they and their families form a circle around the counselors and other staff, serenading them before switching places and being serenaded. I smile from my office perch and type this blog, reflecting on my last six months working as the Lead Farm Educator at Eden Village Camp.

We’ve grown a lot together here. For one, it has been the most productive season ever on the farm. We’re well on the way to reaching our goal of 3,000 pounds of produce for our farm-fresh kitchen. I’ve seen campers grow as well, blossoming as farmers, learners and chefs under the tutelage of our amazing crew of Farm Education Apprentices. And we’ve grown as a farm team. I can say that I’ve certainly learned a thing or two about guiding (and being guided by!) the organic entity that is the farm and the farm staff.

The truest indicator of our progress is the vibrant productivity of our fields and education program: we’re going into the fall a hive of educational energy. Our staff meetings, particularly those about educational programs, contain the rare, precious mix of creative energy and listening that good education thrives on. I can’t wait to see how our plans unfurl as our fall guests arrive at our programming, like water falling on seeds in soil.

And, thank heavens, we’ve got even more room to grow here at Eden Village! Every year this place gets a little bigger, a little better. My dream for Eden Village is that we nurture our ability to slow down even as we speed up. How can we establish routines that let us do things better AND deeper? How can we nourish that fire, that vital spirit and excitement that have powered this young Jewish environmental dream? Maybe we can hold a vision of the future that resides comfortably in the present.

So for all of us, I have a blessing in the spirit of the current Hebrew month, Elul. Elul is a time of forgiveness, of perspective and kindness in anticipation of the high holy days that are approaching in Tishrei. My blessing is this: as we all grow this coming fall, may we also incorporate the lessons of a busy summer and a generative spring. May we strike that balance between vision and action, between introvert and extrovert, that mirage-like trail that appears, paradoxically, as we walk it.

– written by Jonathan Billig at Eden Village Camp, 8-19-13, 13th of Elul 5773.

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Eden Village Camp is a non-profit, Jewish environmental overnight summer camp and organic farm pioneering an organic, farm-to-table culinary and educational experience.Located in Putnam Valley, NY or EdenVillageCamp.org Featured Causes: Jewish Environmental Overnight Camp
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3 Replies
  • Adrienne Lauby
    September 6, 2013 (2:55 am)

    3,000 pounds of produce. That’s a lot to tend to.

    Slowing down to speed up is a great trick. One of my friends signs her e-mails, “The situation is changing very rapidly‚Ķ.it is important to move very slowly.” — Chinese proverb. My life is moving more quickly than it used to. Years are passing quicker than months once did. My body is telling me, at 63, that I must move more slowly. One of the things that works sometimes for me is to live each day so it works well. That forces me to do less every week. Some weeks, it seems, that I’ve done as much as I would have anyway, that I am working smarter and being more productive in the time I work.

    Then, there are the other days….

    Thanks for writing Jonathan.
    Adrienne Lauby

  • Adrienne Lauby
    September 6, 2013 (2:57 am)
  • Adrienne Lauby
    September 6, 2013 (3:11 am)

    Thank you for this post, Jonathan. Your grandfather, William Berman, was
    a man who worked with his hands…a fur man. He used to take his
    grandkids with him to watch sheep getting sheared before he would buy the
    wool off their backs.

    The way you’ve written, it seems you are a herder of sorts, taking
    Jewish people and teaching the importance of sustainability and
    connection with the earth.

    Room to grow is important. Productivity is important. And this
    ultimately leads to self growth and connection. No facebook here–real
    hands-on, eye-to-eye connection. With Mother Earth and fellow humans!
    What a great mitzvah and great source of nachas!

    Shelley Berman


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