by Yoshi Silverstein – JOFEE Fellowship Director
May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod
16 Organizations. 17 Fellows. Over 500 programs. An estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country. These are some of the incredible numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort, who completed their closing seminar and siyum last week at our sister JOFEE organization, the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD.
Behind those numbers are thousands of people encountering – many for the first time – the incredible power of a Jewish tradition steeped in deep cultural and spiritual connection with the earth, with place, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with each other.
A Jewish tradition that recognizes both the limits and abundance of the resources our home planet provides for us. A tradition that says this world is amazing – there is so much magnificence – and yet we have work to do – not to complete by ourselves, but neither to desist from doing our part.
And wow did our JOFEE Fellows do their part!
Here are a few highlights of programs that JOFEE Fellows created, coordinating, facilitated, and/or strengthened during their placement year:
~ Havdallah & Moon Celebration at the Farm – Shani Mink, Pushing the Envelope Farm
~ Israel Hike & Bike Trip for Young Professionals – Josh Kleymeyer, Mayerson JCC of Cincinnati in Partnership with 2GETHER, Netanya
~ Burnheim and Bourbon: Forest Hike + Distillery Tour – Michael Fraade, Jewish Community of Louisville
~ 2016 Hazon Food Conference: Digging Deeper into the Jewish Food Movement – Jess Berlin, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center
~ Avodat Lev (morning prayers) and Jewish text study at San Quentin Prison – Rachel Binstock, Urban Adamah
~ Over twenty Sukkot-related programs!
~ Tu Bishvat seders for early childhood; elementary; middle school / B’nai Mitzvah; young adults; JCC staff; congregations and families;
And even more:
- Spring Maple Sugaring Festival – Danielle Smith, Eden Village Camp
- Restaurant Night: Havana Rumble – Michael Fraade, Jewish Community of Louisville
- Family Farm Camp & Family Farm Days + Hebrew School on the Farm – Mira Menyuk, Pearlstone Center
- Shmita Foraging Event – Bailey Lininger, Tamarack Camps
- Seed613: Start up Environmental Panel – Becky Adelberg, JCC Chicago
- Shtetl Skills Workshops – Liora Lebowitz, Jewish Farm School
- Red River Gorge JOFEE Hike – Michael Fraade, Jewish Community of Louisville, with Josh Kleymeyer, Mayerson JCC of Cincinnati
- Northeast + Midwest Topsy Turvy Bus Tours – Emily Glick, Teva (Hazon)
In addition to program development and facilitation, JOFEE Fellows serve a crucial role in building organizational capacity and spearheading sustainability projects and initiatives for their placements. To wit:
- Eli Goldstein (Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC, Bridgewater, NJ) built a CSA, school-wide composting program, and sold-out afterschool engagement classes from near-scratch;
- Becky Adelberg (JCC Chicago) helped nine JCC sites in Chicago create new recycling programs and develop board-approved institutional policies banning styrofoam;
- Daniella Aboody developed and launched Wilderness Torah’s second location on the San Francisco Peninsula for the B’Hootz Sunday School in the Woods program;
- Michael Fraade started a new community garden at the Jewish Community of Louisville, in collaboration with regional hunger relief agency New Roots, creating a truly sustainable model for fresh food access (affordable and accessible in local neighborhoods, SNAP accepted, farmer paid, staff member paid, community supported);
- Liora Lebowitz tripled Jewish Farm School’s program capacity;
- Rachel Aronson helped build and launch the first and second cohorts of the Hazon Seal of Sustainability;
- Danielle Smith coordinated and taught 34 brand new off-site outreach programs for Eden Village Camp, reaching over 1,000 children (and prospective campers);
- Zach Goldberg developed a Bokashi Composting Zero Waste program for Ramah in the Rockies;
- Nicole Cruz transformed Jewish wellness programs at Peninsula JCC through JOFEE infusions, staff learnings, and community workshops;
- Tzachi Flat led teens from his placement at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto in a service learning project building a residential rabbit enclosure for the East Palo Alto Animal Shelter, soon to be joined by garden beds to plant rabbit-approved veggies to be fertilized by the rabbits, creating a sustainable, closed-loop system;
V’hinei tov – and it was good.
Along the way, we’ve learned a few things:
- that a Fellow can accomplish tremendous things in a year, and also that change can be slow and programs take time to build (and budget for) — some of our fellows’ best work laid the foundation for future programming and expansion as they continue on in their placements;
- that effective organizational partnerships are a tremendous catalyst for a deep and streamlined impact in a community;
- and that high-quality programs and initiatives in one location can establish best practices that ripple out to other organizations and institutions around the country.
And of course many more learnings from our first year. Overall, we’re tremendously proud of the work our Fellows have accomplished, and excited to see what they will achieve in the months, years, and decades to follow.
In the early years of what we now call JOFEE, not so long ago, two programs in particular – Teva and Adamah – sparked such a deep sense of meaning and inspiration in their communities that their alumni couldn’t help but go out and create the fabric of the JOFEE landscape as it exists today. We call that alumni network Adva – which is both a hybridized word (Adamah + Teva) and is also the Hebrew word for ripple. Cohort 2 of the JOFEE Fellowship is already in full stride, having started in February 2017, and we now have seventeen JOFEE Fellows moving out as our first wave of alumni – many staying on in their placements in ongoing roles, others going to grad school for JOFEE-related fields such as teaching, agriculture, and geography.
The ripples from this incredibly strong cohort of emerging JOFEE leaders have already begun. They will continue to spread, and strengthen, and create new waves as they bump into each other and interact in new and meaningful ways – infusing the presence of JOFEE in Jewish communities and institutions around the country, and strengthening the capacity of existing JOFEE organizations to both deepen and expand their programs.
Tremendous gratitude goes to the trustees and staff at the Jim Joseph Foundation; to our partners at Pearlstone Center, Urban Adamah, and Wilderness Torah; to JCC Association of North America for their support and collaboration; to all the organizations that hosted JOFEE Fellows; to our JOFEE mentors; to Nigel Savage for his leadership; to Judith Belasco, Hannah Henza, and former Hazon staffer Julie Botnick, who lent countless hours of wisdom and support to the growth and implementation of the Fellowship; and most of all to each and all of the Fellows. As the first cohort, they have trailblazed a new space with trust, grace, and perseverance. They have shown strong personal and collective leadership in every sense of the word, navigating all the complexities and excitement of this work. And they’ll continue to express leadership in their lives, in all the beautiful and myriad twists and turns that will take. I’m incredibly proud of each of them.
Ready to jump in? Applications for cohort 3 host placements are open now. Applications for fellows will open in early summer 2017 – complete our expression of interest form to stay up to date, and be sure to read up program details and eligibility on the website.
And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 2nd Annual JOFEE Network Gathering: September 14-17 at Pearlstone Center – registration is open! Use discount code “REVELATION100” for $100 off through June 9, 2017.
In the meantime, enjoy a few more images of our first cohort’s year of joyful JOFEE infusion: