With the goal of addressing the important issues of food insecurity, poverty, struggling schools, stressed communities, and lack of access to adequate medical care and valuable social services, Rodeph Shalom‘s Gendler Grapevine Project initiative is building on their Common Ground Marketplace project to create the Farmer’s Market Youth Initiative. The students’ contributions to the Marketplace will be grown at the synagogue.


The Common Ground Marketplace

Located in Philadelphia, PA, Rodeph Shalom is providing hands-on experiences for their 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students to learn about the environment and urban gardening. In conjunction with Could9, they are working toward building their own rooftop garden. Cloud9 staff joins the congregation class during specific sessions and educates the teens on issues involving food production and nutrition as well as access to food in different parts of the city. The teens have been working with the Cloud9 staff in the classroom to design the rooftop garden, which will be planted in the spring. Once the crops begin to grow and are ready to be harvested, the students will pick them and have the opportunity to have their own booth at the Common Ground Marketplace to sell the fruits of their labor, in order to donate the proceeds to the charity of their choosing.

During the winter months when they are unable to plant the garden, the teens are participating in several classes covering the topics of farming, sustainability, and food throughout Jewish tradition. They also met with members of the Bethesda House, which provides transitional housing for members of the community recovering from homelessness, and discussed issues of access to healthy food for people from lower income communities. They also participated in a text study, exploring Judaism’s connection to food as a basic human right and the importance of service work to make food accessible to the entire community. They are looking forward to continuing this project into the spring with planting the garden!