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Getting down and dirty

Dear All,

Last week I was at the Leichtag Ranch in Encinitas, CA. The Leichtag Foundation bought this 67-acre ranch in 2012, and they’re developing it as a hub for the Jewish community of North County. It’s a remarkable thing to see unfold, and it’s a fascinating way of thinking about what the letters “JCC” stand for: the Ranch is about “Jewish,” it’s about “community,” and it’s very much a “center,” yet the evolution of what takes place there – and of what could or should take place there – is far from what we think of when we think of a JCC. At its heart is an understanding of how relationship to land and to place is capable of renewing Jewish life in the 21st century in significant new ways.

Then earlier this week, I was emailing with Steven Wynbrandt. Steven is in LA, and I didn’t get to see him this trip. But he is one of the remarkable young leaders in this generation – an incredible inspiration in all that he does, and how that he does it. I first met him as an Adamahnik (applications now open for Spring and Summer Adamah), and he is not someone one could easily forget (this is a guy who once came in to Kabbalat Shabbat services at Hazon’s Food Conference, when we were in Monterey… wearing a yellow wetsuit). Steven spent three months turning the backyard of his mother’s home in LA into the most productive small biodynamic garden in the whole city, and in the last 18 months he has become LA’s king of compost.

And throughout the last week, we’ve been working intensively on the JOFEE Report (“Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Education”), which should be out in the next few weeks. The three things together – working on the JOFEE Report, visiting Leichtag, emailing with Steven – are three very different reminders, to me, of the extent of the revolution we’re now witnessing. The installed capital base of American Jewish life – all the synagogues, all the dayschools, all the Federations, all the endowments – is probably well in excess of $50 billion. (Has anyone ever tried to create a balance sheet or financial statement for the organized American Jewish community? It would be a fascinating thing to attempt.) Yet it is only in the last ten or fifteen years that people have started thinking seriously about relationship to land in a deep way; learning where our food comes from, how it is produced, how we can strengthen Jewish life by investing not just in people but, in a quite literal way, in compost. The installed capital base focused on land and relationship to land is almost infinitesimally tiny, in relation to the whole; and yet, just like Steven Wynbrandt’s rich compost, it is yielding incredible harvests.

If you want a taste of this yourself, by the way – for you, or your family – you’re warmly invited to our Adamah Farm Vacations this summer at Isabella Freedman. It’s a chance to learn about farming and composting, to see goats and chickens doing what they do, to combine swimming and hiking with pickling and permaculture. And for kids ages 5 – 12 there’s Camp Teva throughout the day. Click here for more information and to sign up.

Finally – there are still slots open for Pesach at Isabella Freedman, which sells out every year. Click here for more information and to reserve your spot.

Shabbat shalom,

Nigel