Organization: GrowTorah, Teaneck, NJ
Grant Year: 2023
Project Director: Sara Just-Michael
Type of Grant: Signature
Grant Amount: $134,000 (3 years)
GrowTorah – To support educators with training and resources in order to expand the Anafim school garden program to include 15 additional Jewish day schools across the United States.
Why is this Anafim program expansion important right now?
Our program is vital because the urban and suburban expression of institutional Orthodox Judaism is largely disconnected from the natural world, and especially from any large-scale environmental commitment. The Torah’s obligation to the earth is very clear, yet it has been lost in recent years as environmentalism has escalated in its political divisiveness. We work deeply to depoliticize this work and anchor environmental issues in Torah values and texts, fostering a healthy relationship between our community and the earth.
How does having a Torah garden at a school increase climate awareness on the whole in that particular school population?
Our garden programs, and Anafim, in particular, engage our learners with the natural world in a familiar way that is part of their routine and regular schedule. Students learn halachic frameworks that address the environment and are exposed to a Torah language that defines and prescribes the relationship with nature. Through this Torah lens, they understand their relationship to “the environment” to be about halachic responsibilities to all that surrounds them: people, plants, creatures, land, and places, as part of Hashem’s domain.
Share an example of a unique resource used in the Anafim garden program.
For Parshat Noach, our learning goal is that students can thoughtfully discuss the importance of planning for the future of our planet, and understand how Noach modeled that for us based on their lesson in our gardens. We use the text from Rashi (Bereshit 9:20) that Noach brought grape vines and fig tree shoots into the ark with him to preserve plant life through the flood. Since this parsha is read in the middle of fall, it turns out to be an excellent time for us to collect seeds from our flowers and vegetables in the garden, and teach the skill of seed-saving to our students, which is vital to ensuring a healthy future for all.