2017 Gendler Grapevine Project Initiatives

In 2017, the Gendler Grapevine Project introduced its “HaBanim HaBonim” initiative. 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. His spiritual practice, however, 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 fifth grant cycle, we asked applicants to propose experimental practices that will energize and educate the next generation to find ways to infuse Jewish values in their responses to social and environmental challenges. Grantees will work to inspire a new generation to find meaningful connections between Jewish spiritual practice, social justice, the environment, and their daily lives.

Descriptions of the 2017 Gendler Grapevine Project initiatives are provided below.

Canfei Nesharim
Project Title: Canfei Nesharim – Gendler Grapevine Curriculum for Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah
Project Description: Canfei Nesharim will develop integrated curriculum modules that will inspire high-school students and their families to envision and work towards a world where the Jewish community, informed by Torah values, is educated and empowered to act to preserve and protect the environment. The key concepts, goals and objectives of the curriculum modules will be developed by their Rabbinical and Science Advisory Boards, and the modules will be created under the guidance of Dr. Daniel Weber. Canfei Nesharim will host a teacher training conference, where they will enable and empower teachers to conduct the curriculum and develop the support structure that is necessary for its success. The curriculum will be integrated into Orthodox high-schools immediately after the 2017 High Holy Day season. The program will be assessed by a professional evaluator, and these suggestions will be used to adapt and further develop the program. The goal is to expand the program to other areas of the country, as well as host a retreat for participating teachers to encourage collaboration, networking, and improvements to the program.

Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center
Project Title: Environmental and Food Justice Family Workshop Series
Project Description: In the fall 2017 and spring 2018, the Edlavitch DCJCC (EDCJCC) will provide two family workshops about environmental and food justice initiatives. The first will be a “glean and learn” workshop, slated for September 2017, where participants will travel to a farm in Maryland or Virginia to glean fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. The gleaned produce will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank, an EDCJCC community partner. After gleaning, families will participate in a learning session delivered by EDCJCC JOFEE fellow Darya Watnick. The second program, slated for spring 2018, will be a hands-on workshop focused on composting and urban gardening. This program will provide families with the tools necessary to create space for families to garden and compost at home. In partnership with several DC non-profits (i.e., DC UrbanGreens) and business leaders in the urban environmental movement (i.e., Compost Cab, Rooftop Roofs, Love and Carrots), families will learn about the importance of composting and gardening as well as receive supplies (e.g., a starter kit) and information on how to create their own composters and urban gardens. This workshop will incorporate activities for all ages, including a compost scavenger hunt where children are given magnifying glasses and bingo cards with items, such as earthworms and bugs, to search for in their compost pile.

Ganei Beantown: Beantown Jewish Gardens
Project Title: Boston Jewish Food Conference 2018
Project Description: The Boston Jewish Food Conference is an annual springtime event that fosters new dynamics and connections within the Jewish community by utilizing food and agriculture to discuss the intersections of justice, sustainability, and culture against a background of Jewish traditions and contemporary life. The conference location changes every year, as Ganei Beanton is building a constituent base in the community. The conference includes multiple workshops (in the kitchen and classroom) and culminates in a Community Celebration & Shuk (marketplace), featuring experiential, do-it-yourself activities, advocacy opportunities, tabling by community organizations, a silent auction, and live music. Participants also help to prepare a kosher, vegetarian dinner alongside chef educators. The community comes together to celebrate over the meal at the Shuk and has the opportunity to express gratitude, engage with presenters and other participants while mingling with vendors, community groups, and representatives from local farms. Support from the Gendler Grapevine Project enables Ganei Beantown to develop and implement a new workshop track focused on youth and families.

Hazon: Teva
Project Title: Eco Beit Midrash Source Book
Project Description: They will develop an Eco Beit Midrash Source Book to be used during Teva educator training that will be compiled into a publication that will be made available to schools and institutions interested in JOFEE. This book will enable teachers to provide a deeper knowledge and awareness when teaching Teva students Jewish ecological and social justice concepts. The book will consist of twelve 45-minute segments, each featuring traditional Jewish text sources to be studied side-by-side with modern environmental ideas.

Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism
Project Title: Plan Bee: Honey Production in a Jewish Context
Project Description: Plan Bee’s mission is to offer a range of learning opportunities for students of all ages that revolve around the production of honey from an onsite bee hive. Toward that end, Plan Bee will include a curriculum that will tie Jewish learning to honey and honey production and weave eco-centric values and ethics together with the cycles of the Jewish calendar and the holidays. The program will also include volunteer opportunities for the congregation at large. Students will learn with a professional bee keeper and some will be involved in the hands-on process of harvesting and bottling the honey. Honey produced from the hives will be sold, used in congregational events, and gifted. Both the communal rituals that incorporate the honey as well as the religious school curriculum will highlight the centrality of honey in Jewish lore, thus adding a new dimension to their understanding Jewish text. Finally, the honey bee program will provide an opportunity for adults and children to be part of a congregation-wide project designed to broaden their community’s reach in the realm of social justice and environmentalism.

In For Of, Inc.
Project Title: Olam Ubuntu Youth Leadership Program
Project Description: This program involves Jewish and African American youth, ages 13-15, who participate in a joint coming-of-age educational program that fosters a sense of commitment to history and humanity. The youth explore together Jewish and African religious teachings, traditions and culture, and their personal and academic goals. Located in Baltimore, the program takes its name from the Hebrew word for “world” (Olam) and the Nguni Bantu word that translates to “I am because we are” (Ubuntu). The Olam Ubuntu program encourages youth to build a new community, a new world founded in the combined cultural identity, and understanding of the group. Specific objectives of the program include relationship building among the youth, knowledge of conflict resolution, improvement of youth’s speaking and listening skills, identification of social justice issues, improvement of decision making skills, and evidence of local community support. A pilot program was launched in February 2017 and included Jewish youth who attend Beth Am Synagogue’s Discovery Lab. In 2017-2018, the program will launch its first full year of operation and will expand its geographic reach to include both Jewish and African American youth across Baltimore. The Gendler Grapevine Project enables In For Of to implement a Sunday field trip series for the youth.

Jewish Community Centers of Chicago
Project Title: Environmental Infused Shabbat and Holiday Programs
Project Description: Through a matching grant, JCC Chicago will continue its Outdoor Shabbat program by developing environmental-focused community programming centered around Shabbat and Jewish holidays, many of which take place outdoors in the natural environment. JCC Chicago’s environmental-focused Jewish programming seeks to inspire the connection and responsibility the Jewish people have to the planet, as well as a connection between Jewish life and nature. Shabbat is the day of the rest for the Jewish people—rest from work and school, and from the current structure of life—while the Jewish holidays run on a cycle similar to the seasons. The outdoor environmental Shabbat and holiday programming will provide an opportunity for Jewish children and their families to be surrounded by nature, take walks through the wetlands and marshes, and celebrate under the stars—a unique way to welcome and celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Jewish Farm School
Project Title: Shorashim: Rooted in Justice Engaging Teens Through Food, Farming, and Sustainability
Project Description: Shorashim: Rooted in Justice is a teen-focused series of workshops that uses food as a lens through which to explore a rich range of topics, including sustainability, worker’s rights, social justice, and Jewish traditions. Jewish values are at the root of their curriculum and frame deeper learning and broaden students’ Jewish literacy in ways that are profoundly relevant to their interests and passions. Concepts such as Bal Taschit, and Jewish agricultural laws such as Peah and Leket, are taught to students through engaging and experiential activities, and are used to contextualize contemporary issues in the legacy of Jewish traditions and strategies for social change.

Kesher Olam Day Camp Initiative/ Camp Yavneh
Project Title: Kesher Olam Day Camp Initiative
Project Description: Kesher Olam Day Camp is a camp for rural and otherwise underserved Jewish families who have limited opportunity to the larger Jewish community. The camps will emphasize the connection to place and to Israel, using locals foods to make those connections apparent (eg set up a “mock kibbutz”). Team of camps leaders will go for one week at a time to multiple communities to run the day camps. The curricula will be consistent across all camps each summer and will focus on Israel, the connection to the land, and Israeli foods with ingredients that the families will source themselves and children will prepare. Children will participate in crafts, Israeli folk dancing, singing, and games based on Israeli and Jewish cultural themes. Families will have an opportunity to participate in regional activities for all Kesher Olam families, including Yavneh family camp.

New Roots
Project Title: Creation of a Youth Food Justice Corps and Testing the Replication of the New Roots Fresh Stop Market model
Project Description: New Roots will focus on the next generation of food justice organizers. They will be working with 12- to 14-year olds who will learn to: 1) utilize community gardening to heal themselves and their community; 2) learn from and shadow adult food justice leaders at the Fresh Stop Markets and Fresh Stop Training Institute; 3) learn how to leverage their technological fluency for the  purpose of social change; 4) organize within the Jewish community, their schools, and other spaces they inhabit to grow the local food justice movement; 5) learn the basic Jewish values of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam; and 6) work with New Roots professionals. New Roots will also be extending networking with other Jewish Community Centers that are interested in creating a Fresh Stop Market in their food-insecure neighborhood to replicate the New Roots’ model.

Oshman Family JCC
Project Title: Youth Service Havorah
Project Description: Youth Service Havurah (YSH) is a social action program that gives middle and high school students the opportunity to deepen their connection to Judaism through social action and hands-on opportunities. YSH will introduce teens to social and environmental justice issues that exist in their own backyard. The program will empower teens by asking them to be proactive and identify gaps they see in service needs in the community. The group will decide together which of these to address and create projects based on their choices. Each YSH project will incorporate relevant Jewish learning, including the inspiring, innovative, and progressive teachings of Rabbi Gendler. An open discussion at each YSH meeting about the continued relevance of the Rabbi’s philosophy and ethical concerns will infuse each project with value and meaning. YSH will give teens the tools to make change, in their own lives and in the lives of others. Because each activity takes place within the scope of the Jewish universal worldview, teens will see how relevant Jewish ideas, texts, and concepts are to their world and to making it a better place. Each project will provide meaning for the heart and the mind, allowing teens to place their actions in a larger context and see the inner beauty of Jewish teachings. By actively working to build a better community, they will be empowered to do more, and empowerment is the first step in making change.