The Jewish Foundation of Louisville has awarded a grant of $1,900 to the Jewish Community Center’s Intergenerational Community Garden. The garden, initiated a few years ago, involves participants from the JCC Early Learning Center, Summer Camp and Senior Adult Department, who grow healthy foods, engage in moderate physical activity, experience positive social peer interactions and give tzedakah.
By participating in the garden, children and adults experience firsthand that they are empowered to make a difference and gain a greater appreciation of nature and their roles as shomrei adamah (earth keepers).
Beginning in March, the JCC’s Early Learning Center (ELC) students, ages 3-5, learn about gardening by planting seeds in cups and flats. Participants in the JCC Senior Adult Department will do the same, as well as start to prepare the garden.
When the weather gets warmer, preschoolers and older adults plant the seedlings in the ground and tend the garden. In the summer months, campers, ages 5-10, also take ownership of the garden; each camp group is responsible for weekly watering, weeding, and general maintenance of the garden. All participants take part in harvesting the food.
While the climate and space limitations prevent the garden from growing the Seven Species mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, within the space will be a biblical garden. Participants will grow and harvest symbolic foods and those that are used in rituals, e.g. potatoes for Chanukah latkes, parsley and horseradish for Passover, apple trees for Rosh Hashanah, grapes for Shabbat, gourds and corn to decorate the Sukkah, and herbs for Havdalah besamim (spices).
Some of the produce is enjoyed by garden volunteers as ELC/camp snacks or incorporated into the Senior Adults’ congregate lunches and used for Jewish holidays. However, the majority of the ‘bounty’ is donated to people living at Shalom Tower and Jewish Family and Career Services’ (JFCS) Food Pantry.
The ELC and Summer Camp will the JCCA’s TAG and Discover CATCH curricula to enhance the experience. TAG (an acronym for Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim) is integrates Jewish life, experience and concepts into the fabric of camp; nine of the 40 units relate to gardening and nature. Discover CATCH integrates Jewish values into the fitness and nutrition education.
In addition, Ginat Ha’Yeladim- Jewish Children’s Garden, was developed by Shalom Children’s Center staff at the Asheville JCC. A parent on the ELC parent committee has volunteered to enhance year-round gardening classroom activities utilizing resources such as The Agency for Jewish Learning’s Guide for Making Indoor Gardens with Young Jewish Gardeners and garden-focused picture books.
Working in the garden benefits children’s connection to the environment in addition to enhancing: basic education; mental and physical development; health and well-being; understanding the world; and connections to the community.
Jewish thought places importance on observing, understanding, and caring for nature. Lishtol Gan (Planting the Garden) is a core component of the Camp Nature curriculum. Camp’s Nature Specialist provides campers lessons on Jewish values as they relate to nature and ‘our world.’ The activities, stories, and discussions lead by the Nature Specialist have been designed to help us explore the environment through a Jewish lens.
In 2014, with a generous donation from Karen Abrams, the 3,000 square-foot gardening space increased from one to four raised beds. Abrams also purchased a rain barrel and paid for a local landscaper to prep and frequently weed the area. The garden also received seed donations from a local southern Indiana farmer. Older adult volunteers scoured yard sales to acquire hoes, hoses, and other necessary supplies.
With the grant from the Jewish Foundation of Louisville, this year’s Intergenerational Community Garden promises a summer of growth for all involved.