We spoke with Sabrina Malach, Director of Community Outreach at Shoresh. Through educational programs and grassroots initiatives, rooted in Jewish social and environmental values, Shoresh’s mission is to build a more connected and ecologically sustainable Jewish community. We found out how a home garden can help our collective food system, about a flexitarian approach to Shabbat, and which insect you should give thanks for at dinner.
You’ve worked and studied around the world. Why are you planting roots at Shoresh?
After ten years of travelling and studying abroad, I longed to feel at home in the world and I needed to set down roots to meet that need. I wanted to be close to my family and life-long friends so I decided to set my life up close to them. Getting a job with Shoresh made this process easy as the organization quickly became like an extension of my family.
How do gardening and Judaism go together?
A garden is the perfect place to develop awareness of and appreciation for the miracle and majesty of creation and of life. Judaism calls upon us to be stewards rather than owners of the earth. The Midrash says that G-d showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are-how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy my world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” In addition, Jewish texts are rich in environmental ethics and agricultural laws that when practiced, result in sustainable and socially-just food systems.
You call yourself a pollinator protector – why are you so protective of the bees?
As a food producer, I understand that pollinators are my partners in food production. I plant the seeds, water and weed the plants but the bees allow the flowering plants to reproduce (through pollination) thereby creating fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Bees are critical to food production and biodiversity. Here are some important facts about pollinators and how they impact your life:
- Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops. That means that 1 out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinators
- Pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the United States.
- Pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife
They make our world fruitful, abundant and beautiful and anyone who enjoys food should also do something to protect the bees.
Most pollinator populations are in decline. Here are TWO simple ways to become a pollinator protector:
- Create habitat for pollinators in your garden. Plant patches of native flowering plants that attract and feed pollinators. If you build it, they will come. Here’s a great list of species.
- Support Farmers and Beekeepers by buying local honey and locally produced organic foods.
When people make a donation to Shoresh, what does the money go towards?
Donations towards Shoresh go towards supporting our innovative and award-winning programs that work towards building a more connected and ecologically sustainable community for all. Funds help to cover the myriad of costs involved with running the Kavanah Garden, Bela Farm and our community programs at Baycrest and other institutions. This year we are hoping to increase the number of hives at our apiary as well as increase the native pollinator habitat at the Kavanah Garden.
Why join your CSA rather than just shopping at the farmers’ market?
Both are great options but I prefer to shop at a CSA because I like the idea of investing in a farmer at the beginning of the season and developing a relationship with him/her throughout that season. I also appreciate the community aspect of a CSA where I see other CSA members every week and we discuss everything from recipes to weather. I have been a member of the Shoresh CSA Network for the last year because it connects me to the wider Jewish food movement and specifically to over 2300 households in the US, Canada and Israel who are activating their Jewish values and putting their purchasing power behind sustainable agriculture. And perhaps the most important reason for joining the Shoresh CSA Network is our commitment to tzedakah (justice). If a CSA member can’t pick up their box, they have the option to give their veggies to a charity (e.g. Ve’Ahavta, Out of the Cold or a local food bank). In 2013, we donated over 2900lbs. of local, fresh veggies to community members in need.
Do you honor Shabbat today the same way you did growing up?
Yes and no. My family went to a Reform synagogue and I grew up at a Reform Jewish day school but we were, as my brother says, non-conformadox. We weren’t allowed to go out on Friday nights but our house was not kosher. We always honoured Shabbat and I still do. Today, I take a flexitarian approach to Shabbat where some weeks I keep it completely and other weeks, I dont. I am always conscious that it is Shabbat though and mark this beautiful day of rest with intention, appreciation and reverence.