One Garden, Many Harvests

Seniors at the Boro Park Y just harvested their third crop of lettuce in the lobby! Everyone who comes into the Y is intrigued and excited by the new hydroponic garden. And the garden is growing more than produce – it is growing questions. “We had to ask a rabbi what blessing to say over it, because the lettuce is grown in water, not in the earth,” reports Ellie Kastel, Director of the Y. “Now we teach the children to say the blessing of she’ha’kol.” Ellie continues,“ The lights and the greenery have made the lobby a nicer environment. Teachers are bringing their classes to the Y to see the garden. Visitors are asking if they can do this at home. It is hard to convey the incredible impact this is having at the Y.”

At the Sephardic Community Center, the Inter-generational Garden is growing relationships. This garden is planted in containers on the JCC’s patio and roof. Linda Eber, Greening Fellow, describes how children and seniors participate together. “One day a senior who does not speak English, and rarely interacts with others, came to the garden. We were able to match the senior with children who speak Arabic and French, and the group happily completed a scavenger hunt. In addition to the senior garden club, family programs, and activities for preschoolers, 350 children experience the garden under the direction of a garden educator during the day camp season.

Several years ago, students at the Jewish Theological Seminary planted a garden in plastic kiddie pools filled with soil. Now the garden will enrich Jewish learning and social justice efforts. JTS has received a $9,800 grant from the Gendler Grapevine Project to build a permanent garden and an “Eco-Sanctuary” with benches, tables, and bird feeders. Aliyah Vinikoor, Greening Fellow, says, “This summer we are planting vegetables that will ripen in time for Sukkot because our Sukkah will be built next to the garden. As a teaching garden, we will focus on plantings that enable students to explore the agricultural roots of the Jewish holidays. And Union Theological Seminary’s Edible Churchyard is right across the street. We are excited about opportunities to partner with gardeners of other faiths on food justice projects in Morningside Heights.”

Curiosity, friendships, hands-on learning, and donors. Wherever it is located – in the lobby, on the roof, or in the ground – a garden yields many bountiful harvests.