Shomrei Ha'aretz: Adath Israel Men’s Club Takes Action
by Joel Kling and Hamilton Lempert
In the 2007 article
“Shomrei Ha’aretz: Stewards of the
Land” (http://www.fjmc.org/energy/), FJMC’s executive director,
Rabbi Charles Simon, outlined
several ways congregations can
embrace the concept of taking care of the
earth. While many Conservative/Masorti
congregations already engage in some aspect
of shomrei ha’aretz through such green initiatives
as focusing on renewable resources
and using soy candles, there is always more
that can be done.
In early 2009, Dr. Gary Smith of the
brotherhood at Adath Israel Congregation
in Cincinnati approached Rabbi Irvin Wise
with an idea for creating a long-term educational
garden. The brotherhood would
spearhead the project. With Rabbi Wise’s
help and support, usable synagogue property
was identified; after the synagogue and
brotherhood boards approved it, the project
went forward. A committee chaired by
Kevin Besnoy and Howard Goldwasser
worked with brotherhood members, synagogue
administration and staff, and religious
school staff to plan a 2010 planting
of the garden with an emphasis on education.
Sharon Wasserberg, the religious school
director, researched and developed an environmental
curriculum for the fifth grade
class. During the fall of 2009, the students
studied the historical significance and religious
aspect of caring for the environment.
To engage multigenerational families, the
committee asked fifth grade parents and
grandparents to help in the garden for one
or two weeks during the growing season,
becoming stewards of the land.
In keeping with the theme of caring for
the land, no pesticides or chemical-based
products were used, and volunteers harvested
tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and
peppers throughout the summer of 2010.
More than 25 bushels of vegetables were
donated to various organizations, including
Cincinnati’s Jewish Family Service’s food
pantry. The produce was also used when
Adath Israel, in a joint project with the Interfaith
Hospitality Network of Cincinnati,
hosted homeless families for a week. After
the season, the committee decided to
increase the garden, planted on Lag B’Omer
in 2011, by 50 percent.
In our pressured world, it is easy for an
organization to dismiss many great project
ideas as too time-consuming or difficult.
Thanks to the wisdom and guidance of Rabbi
Wise and Dr. Smith, a generous grant from
the FJMC Foundation for Jewish Life, and
the backing of FJMC’s KIO (Kentucky-Indiana-
Ohio) region, the Adath Israel Congregation’s
charitable garden project is a reality.
We hope that it will serve as a model that others
will use to educate and engage multigenerational
families in supporting those less
fortunate in our communities.
The Adath Israel Congregation Brotherhood
received a Gold Torch Award for this project
at the 2011 FJMC convention.