2016 Gendler Grapevine Project Initiatives

In 2016, The Gendler Grapevine Project introduced its “L’dor V’dor” initiative. During this grant cycle, we encouraged applicants to draw inspiration from the life and teachings of Rabbi Gendler, recognizing that he incorporated his theories and teachings into physical and practical action that resonated with his congregants and the community. The synagogue and the classroom became a physical space that strove to embody his interpretations of Jewish theory and practice. But, his spiritual practice extended beyond the four walls of the buildings in which he stood, as he was able to find the spiritual in all aspects of daily life.

For our fourth grant cycle, we asked organizations to engage in experimental practices with the goal of inspiring a new generation to find meaningful connections between Jewish spiritual practice, social justice, the environment, and their daily lives.

Descriptions of the 2016 Gendler Grapevine projects are provided below.

Project Title: Betzalel’s Workshop – Jewish Ritual Craft Making
Project Description: Hazon’s ritual craft making project will help people connect viscerally, directly, and in an unmediated way with Jewish tradition, patterns, and cycles. Hazon will engage the creativity and passions of children who participate in Teva, Hazon’s Jewish outdoor experiential education program, by developing and offering a series of ritual craft making workshops. Students will create ritual objects by hand with natural materials such as glass, wood, metal, textiles, and other local or natural materials. Workshops will take place in the art studio located at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a center that has 5,000 visitors annually. Hazon will also develop accompanying written lesson plans for teachers to use at their own schools. These plans will be posted on Hazon’s educational resources page and will be available at no cost.

IKAR and Shalhevet High School
Project Title: Gan Shelanu
Project Description: IKAR, a leading edge Jewish community based in Los Angeles, and Shalhevet, an Orthodox high school, will work together to bring the goals of Shalhevet’s Green Team to fruition. IKAR will utilize their Green Action Minyan Tzedek members to help the Shalhevet Green Team educate themselves, other students, and their families in Judaic responses to environmental injustice, beginning by enacting changes in their own community. Goals will be realized through the following activities: installing recycling and composting bins and systems; purchasing and planting fruit trees; installing a drip irrigation system; leading educational workshops; purchasing compostable materials for daily use; and purchasing organic garden supplies. In their educational workshops, they will offer a framework of Jewish textual and traditional connection to the earth and the mitzvah of protecting it. Finally, through their partnership with Netiya, they will integrate “upcycle” activities into these community events, in which participants can bring food scraps from their recent meals, learn to convert them into compost by physically turning and creating compost together onsite, and even take home some of the compost to begin their own composting projects. The combination of text study and hands-on interaction with the gardening/composting process will create a powerful experiential learning opportunity for all who attend.

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago
Project Title: JCC Chicago Outdoor Shabbat and Holiday Program
Project Description: JCC Chicago’s Outdoor Shabbat and Holiday Program will engage families in unique Jewish experiences that will bridge the connection between Judaism and the environment. Taking advantage of the warmer months in Chicago, the Outdoor Shabbat and Holiday Experience will predominantly take place at the Lake County JCC, which is located on 37 acres of lush land, and encompasses nature trails, protected marsh lands, expansive fields, and the renowned Garoon Gateway to Science. The Outdoor Shabbat and Holiday Program seeks to inspire the connection and responsibility that the Jewish people have to the planet and will provide an opportunity for the Jewish community to be surrounded by nature, take walks through the wetlands and marshes, and celebrate under the stars.

Project Title: Ramat Zion Urban Orchard
Project Description: Through the generous funding from Gendler Grapevine, Netiya will install the Ramat Zion Urban Orchard, which is an urban orchard project to be run jointly by Netiya and Temple Ramat Zion. The project will involve planting an urban orchard of climate-appropriate fruit trees on land currently used only as thirsty crabgrass lawn. The urban orchard will reforest a vacant area, provide shade and beautify the streetscape, and showcase a drought-tolerant and sustainable gardening/landscaping at a vibrant community center for the member families and passersby. The orchard will also be used to educate children at the Temple Ramat Zion preschool and religious school, as well as the Heschel Day School across the street and the neighboring Granada Hills Charter School Interns about food insecurity, the environment, and the seasons of the year. In a reverse tithe, some 90% of the fruit produced by the orchard (once trees reach maturity) will be donated to the onsite foodbank, with the remaining portion of 10% used for educational purposes on site. Netiya Educators will provide onsite mentorship through a series of community-wide workshops over the course of the first year.

New Roots/Jewish Community of Louisville
Project Title: Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market
Project Description: Kentucky is consistently ranked the unhealthiest state in the U.S. One of the primary reasons for this is lack of access to fresh food. This growing problem now affects people of all faiths. Farm-fresh food is one of the foundations for a healthy life. Lack of access to it, is a justice issue. New Roots will partner with Hazon’s 2016 JOFEE Fellow to organize in the Jewish community of Louisville and beyond to create leadership opportunities for families with limited resources, JCC members, and others to design the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market. This Market will “pop up” at Louisville’s JCC sometime during the 2016 growing season. The food has been paid for in advance so that farmers don’t face the same degree of risk as they do with a standard farmers’ market. Families pool their cash and SNAP benefits on a sliding scale to access a bi-weekly “share” of ten varieties of local, organic produce from Kentucky farmers. Local chefs will provide demos and recipes of fresh, kosher food at each event, and other fun-filled activities will be offered.

Temple Sinai DC
Project Title: Civil Rights South Trek
Project Description: In the 2016/2017 calendar year, Temple Sinai will recruit, educate, and send a cohort of adults on a Civil Rights South Trek. They hope that this project will engage their entire congregation in learning about civil rights and racial justice, and energize the cohort who participates in the trek to continue this work at Temple Sinai. They will begin the conversation with a racial justice themed discussion group on Yom Kippur afternoon. In addition to engaging in thoughtful conversation, they will begin to recruit for their Civil Rights South Trek. Temple Sinai will continue to recruit for the trek throughout the fall. During Martin Luther King weekend, they will have a weekend of programming meant to continue this conversation with their community. Their Kabbalat Shabbat service will feature the Afro-Semitic Experience, and the following day, they will visit the newly completed National Museum of African American History and Culture. In April, they will bring a cohort of Temple Sinai adults on a four-day visit to the pivotal site of the civil rights movement, going to the museums that commemorate the movement, and speaking with people who participated in the civil rights movement. Finally, they will bring this work back to Temple Sinai, using their learning as a springboard to continue their pursuit of racial justice in the modern day.

Wilderness Torah
Project Title: Wilderness Torah Training Institute
Project Description: Wilderness Torah (WT) works to reconnect Jewish life to the natural world by celebrating all of their festivals on the land (e.g., Passover in the Desert, Sukkot on the Farm, Tu B’Shvat in the forest). They reconnect Jewish youth to the land by offering mentorship programs entirely outdoors, such as Sunday School in the Woods and a nature-based rite of passage journey. With Gendler Grapevine Project’s support, WT will be holding its inaugural four-day immersive Wilderness Torah Training Institute (WTTI). During this training, they will work with 50 community educators and leaders, who will be mentored and trained in WT’s transformational earth-based Judaism model, incorporating Rabbi Gendler’s teachings and earth-based wisdom for the next generation of Jewish leaders. This training is geared towards lay leaders and educators, institutional representatives, rabbinical students, and anyone wishing to deepen their own experience. The format will closely follow their proven festival format and will offer participants an immersion into vibrant, earth-based Jewish life. Participants will be trained in WT’s K-12 experiential education model, while experiencing a holistic community-building approach, and will leave with a curriculum so participants can start using the model in their home community within the next year.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School
Project Title: Jewish-Muslim Dialogue
Project Description: Orthodox Rabbinical School, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s (YCT) grant proposal to engage with the American Muslim community throughout the 2017–2018 academic year was conceived of by YCT student Sam Englender ’18. In the summer of 2017, Englender will participate in a Quranic Arabic program, a six-week intensive program with more than fifty students. More than 90% of these students are Muslim, which will provide a unique opportunity to begin building a social network within the American Muslim community, allowing for joint consideration of how American Jews and Muslims can work toward mutual support most effectively. This experience will prompt internal discussion of Jewish-Muslim relations at YCT in real time. An open-source, interfaith resource bank will be developed, which will allow students and faculty to collaborate and share sources for use in lectures or interfaith programs. Finally, Englender and YCT will host three scholars or leading personalities from the American Muslim community as guest speakers in a series of “Gendler Grapevine Dialogues,” conversations designed to highlight shared interests or concerns and cultural points of contact between Jews and Muslims.