Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My Shmitah year

 I pulled, pushed, yanked, lugged, kicked the 13 kg bag of compost out of my car and up 5 flights of stairs onto my little balcony. It wouldn’t have been so hard if it hadn’t been raining so the plastic, completely smooth with no handle, as impractical to carry as possible, wet, compost bag just slipped out of my arms.  

I know Shmitah year hasn’t quite started yet but pre-gaming is always my favourite bit so here I am, resigning from my job, leaving the safety and hipster fun that is East London fashion tech, saying goodbye to my amazing colleagues and instead, trying with difficulty, to create a mini bed of veggies I made out of a converted pallet on my little London balcony.

I have just come home from the ‘transformative experience’ of the Adamah farm in Connecticut (that’s what I told the guy filming a promotional video for the farm anyway), to the realisation I have found what I wanted  - but where was it? Where was the Jewish farm in the UK? Or in Europe for that matter? Where was the community who cared about their environment, who thought of kashrut as an opportunity to look carefully at the food we eat, who included the suffering of animals, tzaar baalei chaim as an important law?

I looked around and saw I was surrounded by like-minded people who I just hadn’t spoken to yet. At all levels of Orthodoxy, there is a community who come together in a commitment to sustainability; a community who understand that as part of Tikkun Olam, being a nation that is beneficial to society, we have a social responsibility to purchase food from places that do not exploit labor laws and natural habitats; a community who is dedicated to the idea that we have a responsibility not just to keep up with the fast changing sustainable food movement, but to be at the forefront. 

What do I plan to bring to this community?  A Jewish Food and Farm movement which will eventually culminate in a little paradise somewhere not too far from the city.   A place for summer camps, veg boxes, interfaith, movement work and an escape for Jews everywhere to come and reconnect to the land, a concept so important in Judaism. Perhaps most importantly for me, a space where I can be a farmer and still look forward to a great Shabbat!

My Shmitah year will therefore, and perhaps ironically, be spent farming and learning farm skills in order to create this paradise.  I will be organising Jewish farming events, part Jewish learning and part gardening to connect those who share my interests and those who want to learn why working in sustainability and food has always been an innate part of Judaism.

There is a famous story where Honi the Circle Maker asks an old man why he is planting a Carob tree when surely it will take seventy years to grow. The old man replies that he is planting it for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren - as his ancestors did for him. 

Though many of us have planted trees in Israel, learnt about the conservation of water there and many other environmental necessities to do with the land of Israel, we have ignored the environmental concerns of our current home for too long. The Jewish communities of Europe need to start planting trees for their great grandchildren and creating a Jewish farm will give us the opportunity to do just that.   

Spot the Kale, Rosemary, Basil, Aubergine, Brussel Sprout, Tomato .....reminds me of the cereal advert where a ton of people try and fit into a photobooth...

Me in the future

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