By Jenna Soroka
(AJNews) – Temple Beth Ora (TBO) is collaborating with Edmonton Talmud Torah Society and Talmud Torah School to create a small, edible, community-run landscape next to the Talmud Torah School building. In addition, Jewish National Fund – Edmonton (JNF), along with Beth Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues, have joined this project and are helping with community outreach. Rabbi Gila Caine of Temple Beth Ora has been in communication with farming experts at Sustainable Food Edmonton (SFE) to help with the project. According to its website, SFE is a non-profit charitable organization that initiates and supports projects and programs to encourage the building of community through urban agriculture.
The impetus for the project is timing. This past Rosh Hashanah marked the beginning of a Shmita (sabbatical) year. In the Torah, Leviticus 25:4 describes the commandment of letting the land rest every seven years. This project is launching in honour of this year’s Shmita.
Earlier this spring on March 20 Rabbi Caine, as well as Talmud Torah Society’s Natalie Soroka, held a meeting at Talmud Torah School for community members and organizations to help develop the blueprint for the Food Forest.
TT parents and students, JNF Executive Director Jay Cairns, along with TBO community members, were among those who attended this initial meeting.The conversation revolved around vision-planning, idea-sharing, and outlining logistical needs for the project. It was particularly encouraging to listen to the ideas and feedback of the students in attendance and to hear how passionate they are to be part of this initiative.
Think of [the Food Forest] as a modular project,” Rabbi Caine explained. “Start off the first year with something small and sustainable and slowly grow it.” She emphasized that it should be easy for people in the community to take part in and be accessible.
Many ideas were explored at the meeting, such as incorporating the space into community Jewish holiday celebrations and even starting a school-wide compost program to fertilize the plants. Participants agreed that this space could also be used for community gatherings and donor recognition. Food forests and edible landscapes, such as in Edmonton’s river valley, have been a way for people to connect with nature for the purpose of nurturing and caring for the environment. It is evident that this Food Forest can provide an abundance of opportunities, including curriculum enrichment for Talmud Torah students, as well as community involvement and engagement.
As planning continues, plant selection will be critical to ensure the current ecosystem is compatible and the upkeep aligns with community goals/needs. One idea that was popular among meeting attendees was to plant perennials that are grown in Israel that can also thrive in our climate, bringing Judaic deeper meaning and connection to the Food Forest.
The possibilities for this project are exciting and will flourish with the help of volunteers, donors, and partnerships with related organizations. If you would like to learn more about this Food Forest initiative, get involved as a volunteer, or become a donor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The committee is looking for lots of community input and have many opportunities to volunteer.
Jenna Soroka is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.