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Mixing Jewish Studies With Agriculture rss

Posted on: November 30th, 2009

Six days a week at 6:00am, Anna Garner participates in avodat lev, a communal period of chanting and meditation, before beginning a day of harvesting, pickling, and educational seminars.  Attracted to the idea of “living in a Jewish community and mixing Jewish studies with agriculture and organic food,” Garner is a fellow at Adamah: The Jewish Environmental Fellowship, a leadership program for Jewish young adults.

Adamah fellows work on the sustainable farm at Isabella > Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.  Photo: Zion Ozeri

Adamah fellows work on the sustainable farm at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Photo: Zion Ozeri

A seven-year-old program, Adamah holds three-month sessions in the summer and fall for 14 “Adamahniks” to live on a sustainable farm in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Adamah is a program at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a beneficiary agency of UJA-Federation.

Adamah offers Jews of diverse backgrounds an alternative space to cultivate Jewish identity, advancing goals of building a spiritually vibrant and socially progressive Jewish community, according to Ellen Carton, executive director of Isabella Freedman.

Judaism and Sustainability
“The program is about empowerment – on a Jewish level, an ecological level, and a personal level,” says Shamu Sadeh, director of Adamah. “People should leave here and be able to take the tools of Judaism and sustainability, the knowledge and inspiration, and apply them.” Alumni of Adamah have gone on to direct other Jewish farm programs, become rabbinical students, and chair an environmental commission.

“By enabling fellows to form connections among the ecosystem, ethics, and one another, Adamah invigorates a new generation of Jewish leaders and strengthens continuity,” says Helen Samuels, chair of UJA-Federation’s Jewish Communal Network Commission.

The program is designed for Jewish adults in their 20s. Prospective fellows complete an application process.
During a typical day, Garner says she pickles and cans cucumbers in the kitchen, while other fellows plant in the greenhouse and care for animals in the pasture. She works in the kitchen and completes office duties for a period during which fellows perform work service for Isabella Freedman, and she attends structured classes in the evening.

Features of this year’s program have included a class on recycled biofuels and a First Fruits Parade, during which the Adamah community danced, sang, and paraded the first harvest to the kitchen, where they made blessings.