Hebrew word of the week: Pardes


Pardes: garden, orchard, orange grove

Talmudic literature has many words taken from Persian, but they are usually rare in the Hebrew Bible (except in the later books of Esther and Daniel). However, pardes is well known, as in Song of Songs 4:13, pardes rimmonin, “orchard of pomegranates.”

The Old Persian form, pairidaeza, means simply “a round wall, enclosure,” hence, “protected home garden.” It appears in Greek and Latin as paradisus, hence the English “paradise, Garden of Eden.” In Arabic, it becomes firdaus, and from there it is reborrowed by Persian. Hence the name of the most famous Persian poet, al-Firdawsi (who died circa 1020).

In modern Hebrew, pardes usually just means “orange grove.” Another Persian loanword in Hebrew for “orchard” is bustan, meaning, literally, “fragrance-place”* (Talmud, Sabbath 30b).

*The suffix -stan means “place,” as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Camp garden helps kids’ generosity grow


Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu is quiet in its off-season — or quieter, at least, if you’re used to seeing the space filled to bursting with energetic young campers. In the fall, it’s populated mostly by groups of adults who come through to use the grounds as a conference center, and there’s a distinct calmness in the air, a sense of relaxation that comes along with shorter days and southern light. 

The garden built by the camp, which is run by Wilshire Boulevard Temple, is still producing, however, a lively, vital corner of green, lush with the fruits of fall: spinach and kale and late-season lettuce, one last melon ripening slowly in the field.  The produce picked between now and the start of first session next summer will be donated to Food Share, Ventura County’s food bank. When campers return in June, they’ll be eating from the garden’s produce, which will include everything from a variety of greens to summer favorites like tomatoes and corn.

The garden is a grand experiment for the camp and its staff, providing much more than sustenance. Leadership campers — a select group of incoming 10th-graders — built the first four raised beds out of cinder blocks in 2011, but the soil languished in their absence. As it happened, around this time a former camper named Sara Kosoff was looking to leave a position doing food systems education and thinking about, as she puts it, “a little vacation in Malibu.”

What Kosoff proposed last year was more than just a garden. She suggested a four-day program introducing campers to the basics of the food system. It was too late at that point to add anything in for the current session, but Hess Kramer was interested. In October 2012, officials called Kosoff to propose “a full-fledged garden program” with her at its helm. 

Kosoff and Hess Kramer worked with an organization called Amir, a nonprofit dedicated to creating gardens in North American Jewish summer camps (though it’s interested in expanding to non-Jewish institutions as well). With the help of Amir and donations from local landscaper Greg Epstein, they were able to build an additional 10 beds on Hess Kramer’s property and four more at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s other camp up the road, Gindling Hilltop.

The camp worked the garden and its produce into programming in a variety of ways: by serving the fruits of its harvests at lunch, giving campers the opportunity to work there as one of their afternoon activities or chugs, and by using it to start conversations about the issues surrounding food and agriculture. Kosoff rotated  through the lunchroom every day, sitting with different groups and talking to them about food, farming and, crucially, food waste. 

Like any good organic gardener, Kosoff built a compost bin, this one specially designed with the help of counselor Emily Alfred, to have succulents growing out from its wood-pallet walls, making it a living structure as well as a home for rinds and scraps. 

“There’s a lot of food waste that happens in the dining room,” Kosoff said. “We can’t take the volume of all of that waste, but we were able to use it as a tool. So I would sit with a different cabin every day and talk to them about why we’re doing composting and take certain things from their table. When we had a barbecue, we would take their watermelon rinds and put all of their watermelon rinds in [the bin], which added up.”

Kosoff actually weighed this discarded food and announced to campers how much they had diverted from a landfill. The kids were excited about the project — almost too excited.

“Once we introduced it to the camp, they wanted to compost everything,” Kosoff said. “The campers would come up to me with bowls of banana peels and apple cores, and they were looking for a place to put it. They were really into it.”

Kosoff also used the garden to talk to the kids about hunger. This summer, campers visited Food Share and did a program connecting social justice and Judaism and food, Kosoff said.

“We went over the Jewish law that says that you must leave the corners of your fields so that people who don’t have as much can have access to produce. So we had a discussion, like, what is a corner of a field? And we had them walk around the garden silently and consider what they thought our corner was. Does it mean one bed? Does it mean a third of the garden?”

Kosoff also told them about the law stating that Jews should give 10 percent of their income to charity. The campers were moved by the overall spirit of the discussion, and decided they wanted to be generous, she said. 

“On that day, they decided … they wanted to swap those numbers. They wanted us to harvest as much as we could harvest, and they wanted us to save 10 percent for ourselves,” Kosoff said. “So we brought this big bowl of produce to Food Share, which was so cool and so empowering for the campers to decide.”

A Biblical garden story


Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz and his wife, Karen, are stumped. They’re trying to explain just how many varieties of lettuce they’ve been able to grow since an urban farming company called Farmscape installed an organic garden in their yard last year. It’s a Wednesday, and rather than roving the aisles at Ralphs or Trader Joe’s, they’re standing in their driveway, pulling a veritable cornucopia of vegetables from a narrow strip of land that once was grass. 

According to Farmscape’s Rachel Bailin, the organization “started in Claremont three years ago … as a group of college graduates who wanted to change the food system and bring equal access to good-quality fresh food across Los Angeles.” While most of the company’s original clients were in the Claremont area, they’ve expanded throughout Los Angeles in the last couple of years, with clients as far away as Redondo Beach and Thousand Oaks. 

Many of Farmscape’s clients, like the Kupetzes, are brand new to gardening, but that hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm. “We didn’t grow anything before this, no green thumb whatsoever, no idea how to do any of this. Had it not been for Farmscape, there’s just no way,” said Karen of her family’s journey into farming. It began when the City of Claremont started offering residents $3 per square foot of land if they’d get rid of their water-hogging grass. At around the same time, Jonathan, the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, was invited with Karen to a congregant’s house. The congregant had put in a beautiful garden with the help of Farmscape, and the Kupetzes were impressed.

With the promise of more climate-friendly landscaping and a chance to teach their kids about gardening, it didn’t hurt that they would also be saving money in the long run. “It takes a tremendous amount of water in the hot climate here to keep the kind of grass we had growing,” Jonathan said. “And not only is water a really scarce resource, but out here especially, it’s tremendously expensive. It was by far our biggest bill.”

Bailin, who grew up Jewish in Iowa, said that, despite Farmscape’s not being a specifically Jewish organization, a majority of its clients are Jewish. It’s a fact she’s proud of, even though she didn’t set out for it to be that way. “It was very ingrained in me (growing up) that you are connected to the earth,” she said.  So when the Kupetzes asked for a garden with a biblical touch, Farmscape was more than happy to oblige. Besides biblical classics such as figs, pomegranates, grapes, onions and apples, the Kupetzes grow everything from watermelons to mustard greens. 

Jonathan was particularly taken with the idea of using their garden for a greater good. “The Torah teaches that we’re to guard and to till the earth and also that we have dominion over the earth, but with dominion comes a sense of responsibility,” he said. To that extent, the Kupetzes hope to donate much of their crop once their 18 fruit trees mature. “Inland Valley Hope Partners, which is our regional food bank, has a program now where college students … once you’ve picked what you want, come up to your fruit trees and pick the stuff and hand it out to families who need it,” Jonathan said.

One of the Kupetzes’ Farmscape plant beds.

Karen said their three children have also responded to their parents’ new obsession with farming: “They’re more willing to try things when they know that it’s been grown here.” “We eat better,” Jonathan said. “So much better,” Karen added, emphatically. “We didn’t use our yard the way we use it now; we didn’t appreciate it.”

Once upon a time, the Kupetzes were intimidated by the idea of gardening. One of the reasons they chose to work with Farmscape was the promise of having a full-time farmer come out every week to help grow their crops, a service Farmscape provides for $60 per week. “The idea was all we had to do was watch it grow,” Karen said. But soon, she found herself slipping outside to learn from their farmer, Todd Lininger, and becoming something of a farmer herself.  “My learning curve in the last year has been incredibly steep, and it’s been an amazing challenge and an incredible experience,” she said.

The average Farmscape garden, which includes two large vegetable beds, special soil, plants and a drip irrigation system, runs around $2,700, Bailin said, though some people choose to go larger or smaller. “We have clients who sign up with us for a year, they come out, they learn how to exactly tend an organic garden, and then they’ll do it themselves.” 

With Tu B’Shevat around the corner, the Kupetzes are also mindful of how their garden has helped deepen their religious lives as well. “We’ve certainly never experienced Tu B’Shevat in the way we’re experiencing it this year,” Karen said, looking around at her semi-dormant winter garden. “Tu B’Shevat doesn’t come at a time when things are colorful … it’s sort of the promise of spring.

“We do a lot of hosting, especially around Sukkot time. So that’s a wonderful time to have people here, because the summer crop is still going,” she added.

Karen said she’s still amazed every time someone comes over and is shocked by how clueless they were about the origin of the food they eat. “Adults have no clue that kiwis grow on a vine, or that blueberries grow on a bush, or that onions grow in the ground.  We’re just so disconnected with where our food comes from,” she lamented.

The Kupetzes take solace in the fact that their example has already helped to make a change in their community. “There are at least a half-a-dozen people who have started doing some kind of garden stuff because of our garden,” Jonathan said. “You can’t experience the garden by looking at it. You have to get dirty; you have to taste it; you have to feel it. It’s a very sensory experience,” Karen said. “We hope, as things continue to grow and bloom, that we can integrate it more into not only our Jewish lives, but the community’s Jewish lives as well.”

Dig, plant, grow, give — sharing the bounty of food


If there’s one thing Gabe Goldman wishes more Angelenos would do next spring, it’s get their hands dirty.

The American Jewish University (AJU) professor and director of experiential education is signing up students, synagogues and anyone else with a piece of land and a green thumb to plant small, personal gardens next March and donate their produce to local food pantries. The project, Helping Hands Gardens, aims to stock the shelves of overburdened Los Angeles pantries with organic fare as need across the region soars.

“I found out from food agencies that the number of people coming through their doors in the last six months has been overwhelming because of the economic downturn,” Goldman said.

Goldman brought his sophomore service-learning students to SOVA Food Pantry in 2007 to get a feel for what the agency, an arm of Jewish Family Service, does. They found that the pantry’s clients weren’t just unemployed adults anymore — they were often the children of families who can no longer make ends meet.

SOVA’s troubles sprang to mind as Goldman worked in the organic garden at AJU’s Brandeis-Bardin campus in Simi Valley last summer. After a bumper crop of tomatoes, he realized he and his students could help fill a need in the community. “I thought, boy, this would be a good time to take a portion of our food and start donating it,” he recalled.

In fact, he began to envision dozens of volunteer gardeners across Los Angeles doing the same. A small, 10-by-12-foot organic garden might only produce 20 pounds of food in a season, but a network of bite-sized food-growing operations could collectively help alleviate the strain on local food banks.

“One-hundred of these small gardens could produce more than a ton of food,” Goldman said. “These gardens are small, they don’t cost a lot, and they’re easy to take care of. Anyone with a backyard can do it.”

The project is a boon to SOVA Executive Director Joan Mithers, who has seen the number of monthly visits to the agency’s three pantries climb steadily since the economy began to sour last summer. In 2002, SOVA provided food to 2,500 clients per month. That number had risen to 5,000 by 2007. A record 6,200 L.A. residents lined up at SOVA locations this September. The agency has struggled to accommodate a 40 percent spike in client visits over the past year alone, between requests for food and financial service referrals, Mithers said.

“We have no indicator that it’s going to get better soon,” she said, noting that the pantry’s donations of surplus food from the USDA have been dwindling in recent years (the agency also receives food from the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, the Westside Food Bank and community food drives). “The common belief is that it will get worse before it gets better. With so many people, it would be great to have more food coming in.”

Goldman’s crop this summer at the AJU garden was a start. He and his students set aside a 50-by-50-foot portion of the one- acre plot for the Helping Hands Gardens project and ended up donating 200 pounds of food to pantries around Los Angeles, including SOVA and Simi Valley’s Care & Share food bank. The organic offerings featured zucchini and butternut squash, sweet corn, roma and beefeater tomatoes, onions and carrots.

Mithers said the project would improve not just the quantity, but also the quality of food at SOVA’s pantries.

“This is healthy food,” she said. “When people have limited income, they tend to have to buy the kinds of things that fill them up quickly and inexpensively, and those aren’t always the healthiest products. We want to provide our clients with healthy food, and you don’t get much healthier than fresh, organic produce.”

Studies have shown that the act of gardening also carries health benefits — and a sense of pride — for the gardeners themselves, according to Goldman.

“It’s a win-win-win situation,” he said. “The people who are least able to afford organic food will have it provided for them. The students at our institution won’t just be learning about social problems; they’re taking an active role in the planning process — getting their hands dirty in the fields — and that changes them. Then the people in these agencies and schools who have these gardens get this tremendous sense of pride because they put a seed in the ground and helped it grow.”

Educators at Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles have already seen this phenomenon in the two years since they planted a community garden at their religious school. Students there are no strangers to tikkun olam (healing the world) — they currently grow flowers to bring to patients at local hospitals alongside Passover herbs and Israeli plants.

“There is a glow in their eyes when they show me the dirt under their fingernails,” said Avram Mandell, education director at Leo Baeck. “There’s something about nurturing something from start to finish that you can’t teach out of a book.”

Next spring, the school will dedicate a portion of its garden to Helping Hands. Children in grades K-6 will care for the vegetables, harvest them, and donate them to help feed the hungry.

“We want students to connect to their community through the earth,” Mandell said. “This is an amazing opportunity to teach them about contributing to society.”

That’s how Rabbi Dara Frimmer feels about her young congregants at Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles. The synagogue, whose unique Green Team encourages recycling and energy conservation, got on board with the Helping Hands project as a way to educate their 400 preschool students about sustainability.

“We want to teach our kids where food comes from,” Frimmer said. “We want them not only to have the pretty green plants in their courtyard, but also to teach them about having something they can use and work with and donate.”

Because of space restrictions on synagogue grounds, members will install several large planters around the property — namely in the playground area and in the preschool courtyard — so kids will interact with the gardens each day.

Until planting season begins in March, Goldman is reaching out to churches, synagogues, Hillels, senior centers and other potential participants to join the effort. Helping Hands Gardens will train AJU students to work with each facility as they set up their garden, which volunteer hosts will tend themselves. Goldman wants to see the project grow to a size where they can donate to food pantries throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

“Every community in the country could have Helping Hands Gardens,” he said. “I am a firm believer that any social problem we create, we can solve. We have a lot of people and a lot of kids who need help now, through no fault of their own. We’re here and we can help them, so we should.”

Mark the New Year with late summer harvest menu


A recent trip to Italy made me aware of the wonderful possibilities of growing your own lush, flavorful garden-fresh food. The villa where we stayed was entirely self-sufficient, with magnificent varieties of produce, eggs gathered from the hen house and the proprietors even making their own wine and olive oil.

 
If you have a garden, you know the pleasure of eating the freshest of salad greens, tomatoes, vegetables and fruits. And since the weather is still warm as Rosh Hashanah arrives at sundown on Friday, Sept. 22, take advantage of the healthy garden bounties and prepare a light menu featuring the late summer harvest of fresh vegetables and fruits to celebrate the New Year.

 
If you’re not a gardener, visit some of the local open-air farmers’ markets. The Wednesday morning Santa Monica farmers market is one of the largest, and there is an organic Saturday market as well, where the selection and variety is very impressive.

 
After a special round challah and apple slices dipped in honey, start the dinner with a simple salad of avocado and tomato slices served on a bed of pungently flavored arugula and dressed with a tangy orange vinaigrette. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to make it with full-flavored tomatoes from your garden; nothing compares with vine-ripened tomatoes. If they are not available, your local farmers’ market will have a selection of the tasty heirloom tomatoes.

 
Arugula is not only trendy and delicious, but very easy to grow, and seeds are available at most nurseries.

 
Next, serve a chilled beet borscht, my version of gazpacho, and pass around bowls of chopped cucumbers, green and yellow bell peppers, and chives, for a colorful do-it-yourself garnish.

 
The main course is a whole roast chicken that has been butterflied and baked on bed of fresh vegetables — a combination of garlic, onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, squash and potatoes, and garnished with fresh herbs from your garden. With this dish we will drink a special toast for a peaceful year with a glass of young, fruity chardonnay.
 
For dessert, late summer pl
ums, arranged in colorful circles on a light pastry dough make a delicious eye-appealing tart. Serve a sweet late harvest wine or hot tea with lemon, and let the children choose their favorite fruit juice.

 
Cold Puree of Beet Borscht
4 medium-size beets, unpeeled
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Diced cucumbers
Diced green and yellow red peppers

 
Scrub the outside of the beets using cold water, place in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until a fork inserted in the beet is tender, about one hour. Cool. Remove the beets, but reserve the liquid. Peel the skin, which should come off easily, and discard.

 
Dice the beets and return to the liquid. Place half of the diced beets and liquid in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl and repeat the process with the remaining beets and liquid. Add lemon juice, sugar and salt to taste and mix well. To serve, ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with cucumbers and peppers.

 
Makes eight to 10 servings.

 
Avocado, Tomato and Arugula Salad

 
Usually avocados are served mashed or chopped. For this dish, simply slice the avocados and tomatoes, which enables them to harmonize with the pungent-flavored arugula.

 
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large tomatoes, sliced
3 cups loosely packed arugula, coarse stems discarded
Vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional

 
Cut each avocado into nine to 12 lengthwise slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside. Slice tomatoes and set aside.

 
Wash arugula and dry. Slice and mound arugula on chilled plates, fan the avocado slices around the mounds and arrange the sliced tomatoes in the center.

 
Spoon enough vinaigrette over each salad to coat leaves, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve immediately.

 
Makes six to eight servings.

 
Vinaigrette Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup walnut oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper

 
Place mustard, vinegar, lemon juice in a processor or blender. Add oil in thin stream and blend until slightly thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 
Butterflied Roast Chicken With Medley of Vegetables
1 (4-pound) or 2 (2-pound) whole chickens
1 onion, sliced and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, diced and steamed
2 tablespoons minced parsley
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

 
Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme and rosemary, crushed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 cups dry white wine

 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Split the chicken along the entire length of the back, removing backbone from tail to neck. Open it out, skin side up. With a mallet or the heel of your hand, flatten the chicken, fracturing the breastbone and ribcage, so it lays flat. Arrange vegetables on a foil-lined large roasting pan, and place the chicken on top, skin-side up.

 
Mix garlic and rosemary together. Working with your fingertips, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken, beginning at the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin. Place sliced garlic and rosemary under the skin, including the drumsticks and thighs. Mix together the olive oil and herbs and rub it on the top of the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

 
Pour the marinade over the vegetables and chicken and bake for l0 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour longer, depending on the size of the chicken. Baste every 20 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. If the marinade cooks away too quickly, add more. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes, allowing the chicken to brown.

Ecohustle Blooms in Community Garden


“Whether politicizing nature is altogether wise is something we shall learn.”

— W.H. Auden

I first saw Joan Baez sitting on the floor of a farmhouse living room near my high school, and she was playing guitar and singing like an angel. Her black hair, “like a raven’s wing,” hung to her waist. There was something superhumanly beautiful about the song, the girl, that time, the place — that I have never lost.

I’ve never again seen her in person. But in the media over the years, I saw her everywhere: in civil rights demonstrations, protesting the Vietnam War. Wherever there was injustice, she was there. A grown woman now, shorn, but still an angel.

Last week, I saw her on the front of The Times in a tree near the Alameda Corridor, and the spell was finally broken.

Joan, on this one, you’re wasting yourself.

The matter at issue is a community farm in South Central Los Angeles that has sprung up on 14.3 acres that do not belong to the farmers. The land belongs to Ralph Horowitz, who says he wishes to build a warehouse or to sell the land at something close to its market value.

Horowitz, it turns out, is no match for the South Central Farmers’ PR firestorm, which has struck again and again. First, musician Zack de la Rocha, then tree-sitters Julia Butterfly Hill and John Quigley, plus actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Daryl Hannah and now Joan — who was as beautiful as ever in that old walnut tree.

I’m not sure I want to blame Joan for this, but she’s symbolic of a circus that had been, a couple of years ago, a sincere cause. It’s now a media show, an ecohustle: In the one corner, an “evil Beverly Hills landlord.” In the other, various celebrities and now a folk icon standing tall on the loam tended by hundreds of pairs of humble hands.

The climax was set to go down last week, when a civil court judge signed off on an eviction order. There ensued high-pitched press conferences, vigil invitations and e-mail blasts proclaiming doom. But at this writing, authorities have not taken action.

What didn’t seem to get mentioned was that these farmers have no more legal right to be on the 14.3 acres belonging to Horowitz than they would on your land — if they suddenly decided to occupy your front lawn and set up farming there.

I didn’t mean to be that blunt. I was one of the first to report on the garden. It is beautiful, so are the gardeners. But their cause has somehow become a rigid ideal, resistant to compromise and particularly to reality. I mean, what does Hannah really have to do with growing nopales near Avalon Boulevard?

Or what does this garden have to do with the fall of the great Maya and Aztec civilizations that never reached, let’s face it, Ensenada, let alone South Central? I don’t know, but they’re being evoked to justify the gardeners working Horowitz’s land, as is the gardening families’ allegedly desperate need for healthy nutrition — as though scurvy were endemic in South Los Angeles.

Also invoked is the issue of “ecological sustainability and community self-reliance,” as Green Party chief Michael Feinstein put it. But then, most of the farmers aren’t from the local community and the “self-reliance” involves refusing to get off someone else’s property.

Not that this sort of occupation doesn’t have a role in modern society. In Buenos Aires, former employees now run the huge Bauen Hotel, which they took over as a derelict abandoned by the original proprietors in Argentina’s turn-of-the-century economic meltdown. A little earlier, in the 1990s, in Erfurt, Germany, squatters took over the bankrupt Topf & Sohne iron works, which built the Auschwitz crematoria, putting up displays elucidating the ghastly history that had been ignored by both the East and West German governments. The difference here is, and it’s a big one, this land is not abandoned. It belongs to someone whose right to his property is valid — whether we like him or not.

Just like the rest us, developers can be run over by buses, catch double pneumonia or have their property taken at rock-bottom prices by eminent domain. This is what happened to Horowitz 20 years ago.

Horowitz (like the self-proclaimed garden spokesman who calls himself Tezozomoc) didn’t return my e-mails. So I don’t know how crucial this acreage is to his investment portfolio or his kids’ college education. But regardless, he’s been treated unfairly. The city of L.A. played three-card-monte with the property for 14 years after failing to use the land for the stated “public need,” a trash-to-energy incinerator.

Horowitz finally had to bring suit to get it back at the price he was paid for it. Now he finds his land requisitioned by busy agriculturists said to be nicer than he is. Does one have to be a fellow property owner to feel for someone who landed on the wrong side of the visionary hedge? Had Wal-Mart grabbed this land instead of the gardeners, all these ecohustlers might be out there holding vigils for Horowitz.

But it’s the city that is really responsible for this mess. It’s not clear to what extent Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fluffed a transaction that would have had the city pay half of an $11 million purchase of the land in partnership with a private foundation. What’s clear is that the city’s showed poor leadership all the way here by not seeking the best solution for everyone involved: This deal would and should include a fair price for Horowitz and offer those who actually live near the gardens their own share of this precious green space — as parkland and ball fields and perhaps low-cost housing.

In other words, the gardeners should expect that they’ll have smaller personal gardens if they really want public money to be part of their rescue.

Mayor Villaraigosa has advanced the lame argument that Horowitz, after being a victim of city shenanigans for years, should, in effect, donate his valuable land for nothing more than the price it was worth two decades ago.

The mayor could better spend his verbiage forging a more reasonable arrangement. If he can’t — and the gardeners won’t — compromise, the city might as well save its money and let Horowitz build his warehouse.

Marc B. Haefele is news editor of the Los Angeles Alternative Press and comments on local government for KPCC-FM.

 

Yeladim


 

Inch by Inch, Row by Row!

This week’s Torah portion, Tazria, means: “If a woman gives birth,” but it can also mean “plant.” And so, being the beginning of spring, that is exactly what it is time to do!

Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah – One Mitzvah Creates Another

It’s time to plant your mitzvah garden. Create a patch in your garden at home or at school and designate it The Mitzvah Garden. Plant flower seeds or bulbs, and then water and care for them. In about eight weeks, when your flowers have bloomed, clip them and take them as gifts to a hospital or senior center. What a beautiful spring gift.

A Bit of Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. For ideas of what you can do to celebrate this day, visit www.earthdayla.com. Here are just two of the events:

Earth Day on the Promenade, Third Street Promenade,

April 16, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

WorldFest, Woodley Park, Van Nuys, April 17, 10 a.m-6:30 p.m. $5 (adults), free (kids 12 and younger).

Solve this puzzle to see what you will find there:

1. The largest mammal: (__) __ __ __ __

2. Has two wheels: __ __ (__) __ __ __ __

3. Forest fire bear: __ __ __ __ __ (__)

4. Sun energy: (__) __ __ __ __

5. Makes magic: __ __ __ __ (__) __ __ __

6. Move with music: __ __ (__) __ __ __ __

7. They have eight legs: __ __ (__) __ __ __ __

Figure out what the word are. Then take the letters in the boxes and put them in order here:

__ A __ K __ __ __ I E __ T __ S T

Unscramble the words below for some of the cool things you can do

1. You can POTAD a TTIKEN

2. Help save an AGUTNORAN

3. Eat IOPETHINA food at the international food court.

 

Campers Hit the Great Outdoors


The tomato plants are thriving. Their leafy green stalks shoot straight out of the moist brown earth and sway gently in the breeze. The lettuce, alfalfa and spicy greens starts also look healthy. Herbs grow everywhere. This garden, like all gardens at one time, is still in its formative stage — one of promise. This garden, unlike other gardens, is planted in the shape of the state of Israel.

Nestled deep within a Malibu canyon off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Shalom Institute, a Jewish summer camp and nature center, has planted an extensive organic garden on its grounds this year and plans to incorporate the age-old tradition of farming into its summer programs.

“I don’t think any of this is new, but it is fashionable at present,” said Becca Halpern, the camp’s program director. “First every camp needed an Olympic-sized pool, and then it was a climbing wall, now every camp has a garden.”

Perhaps the Shalom Institute’s new garden is not on the cutting edge of summer camp innovation. At this point, maybe it is not even a novel idea, but the garden represents a growing trend in Jewish education, one that brings a predominantly urban culture back to the earth.

And this movement — at least in America — has taken its time. It began in the late 19th century, introduced in the politics of Theodor Herzl, the man credited as the founder of modern Zionism. Herzl’s chief lieutenant, Parisian physician, Max Nordau, made a speech in which he called for the need to develop what he referred to as “muscle Judaism.”

“If, unlike other peoples, we do not conceive of [physical] life as our highest possession, it is nevertheless very valuable to us and thus worthy of careful treatment,” Nordau said at the Second Zionist Congress in 1898. “Let us take up our oldest traditions. Let us once more become deep-chested, sturdy, sharp-eyed men.”

So how does an organic garden at a JCC summer camp relate to the high-minded ideals of famous Zionists? Well, Halpern explains, the garden is really a metaphor. It is a way of teaching Jewish concepts, such as tikkun olam (repairing the world), or tzedakah, which Halpern translates as justice — or more specifically, environmental justice.

And the campers, literally, eat it up.

“I talk about edible and medicinal plants with 10-year-olds,” Halpern said. She makes her point, however, by taking them into the woods and scavenging snacks.

Another summer program has taken this concept of bringing campers into nature to an entirely different level. Yael Ukeles runs Teva Adventure, an outdoor adventure program jointly based in New York and Jerusalem. Teva Adventure has teamed up with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to offer wilderness trips rich in outdoor survival skills and Jewish education.

The organizations’ pilot program last summer was a trip for boys to the wilds of Alaska, where the predominantly Orthodox participants learned skills such as ice-climbing and glacier-hiking, while finding time to pray three times a day and observe Shabbat.

“I think there are a lot of programs like this in the secular world and I think the Jewish community is following suit,” Ukeles recently said by phone from Israel. “A person who is Jewish should be able to participate in a program like this inside the Jewish community; they shouldn’t have to go outside the Jewish community. It is also educationally, a tremendous opportunity, not just in a social Jewish context, but a tremendous opportunity to do Jewish education.”

Ukeles worked with NOLS instructors to build a curriculum that synthesized outdoor skills and Jewish education throughout the trip. She explained that the program relied heavily on metaphors to make a point.

For example, the group drew parallels between their journey and other famous journeys in Jewish history, such as the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. Also, when the boys were tied together as a rope team, while hiking a glacier, the group talked about how this symbolized the connection between all Jews.

The boys also learned how to keep kosher in the outdoors. They cooked together before Shabbat, learned how to erect an eruv and even made challah without an oven under the open sky.

For Gavi Wolf, an 11th-grader from Passaic, N.J., the trip was a “crazy success.”

“The whole experience of being in Alaska was so unreal,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Ukeles. “It was funny because although I had the heaviest physical weight on my back that I have every (sic) had, I felt more at ease and unburdened than I have ever have before. I was with people that I loved in an extraordinary place.”

It is Wolf’s last thought that sums up the single most important factor in the success of any summer program for youths, be it a JCC camp or a wilderness adventure. According to a recent survey by the National Study of Youth and Religion, which measures U.S. teenagers’ involvement in religious summer camps, the thing participants value most is a sense of community.

“If there is one story here that is coming out of the data, it is that summer camp is as much of a cultural activity or more so than a religious activity,” said Dr. Philip Shwadel, a researcher for the project. “They feel more at ease with [other] Jewish kids, especially the ones who don’t live in highly Jewish areas.”

The ability of summer programs to connect Jewish youths from different backgrounds is unparalleled. Like members of a kibbutz, they live and learn together in the natural world. One parent of a Teva Adventure participant noted this lesson and, like the Zionists of old, offered his own philosophy on the future of Judaism.

“Judaism can reach its zenith only through the cooperation of diverse individuals and groups,” Craig Wichell from Sebastopol, in Northern California, wrote in a letter about his son’s outdoor experience. “In Judaism, we each have our role to play.”

While the founders of modern Zionism called for Jews to recreate their more physical past in the present, Ukeles hopes Jews will do this while bringing Jewish education to the outdoors.

“In our climate-controlled lives, we go from an air-conditioned house to an air-conditioned car or a heated house to a heated car,” she said. “It is easy to lose touch and these programs remind us that we are not necessarily running the show here. There is something bigger and in the context of the world, we are small and God is big.”

For more information on summer programs, visit
www.campjcashalom.com or

A Portion of Parshat Re’eh


In this portion, God tells us something so important that it is mentioned twice: Do not sacrifice anywhere but in the Temple. Why is this so important? Why can’t the Israelites build an altar to God anywhere? It’s similar to the idea of “appropriate restaurant behavior,” a phrase your parents might have mentioned to you a few times.

It is not proper to run barefoot around the restaurant, waving a baseball bat and screaming: “Dodgers rule!” But you can do that, say, at camp or on the beach, if you are properly supervised. Same thing with the sacrifices. God and the Levites felt that sacrifices needed to be controlled and properly supervised, just in case the Israelites got out of hand and started acting in ways that might not be appropriate for Jews who follow God’s commandments. And, they added, it is not the actual sacrifice of an animal that is important. It is the intention and the prayer that accompanies it. The moral of this story is: everything has its time and place.


Mitzvah Garden Nature Project

In this week’s portion, God says to Israel: Choose the right way to live your life. If you follow the commandments, I will bring lots of rain and food to your land. So here is an idea for a mitzvah:

Plant a garden — large or small. You will not get any rain in the summer, so help God by watering and weeding every day. When the flowers bloom, cut them, wrap them or put them in a vase and bring them to someone as a present. Maybe to your friend who needs cheering up or to your grandparents who want a special visit.

My Mother’s Kitchen: A Natural Disaster Area


My mother had a green thumb. Too bad she employed it in the kitchen, not the garden. To her credit, she was such a good housekeeper, you could have eaten off her floors. Which, unfortunately, was preferable to eating off her plates.

There are people, I’m aware, who are terror-stricken at the mere thought of visiting a dentist. I, however, who am as prone to fear and panic as anyone and more than most, can snap my fingers at the drillmaster. It’s all a matter of early conditioning. For compared to some of the culinary disasters concocted by my mother, root canal isn’t all that threatening. In fact, many was the time I used to wish I had anything, including cotton wadding, to nosh on, so long as it hadn’t been prepared by you-know-who.

We had a weekly dinner schedule in our house. Monday, we dined on meatloaf or lamb chops; we could tell them apart because the chops had one big bone, and the meatloaf had hundreds of tiny ones. On Tuesday, we had salmon patties. On Wednesday, we’d receive a care package from the local deli. Thursday, we had tuna fish and leftovers. Friday was our night for boiled chicken and barley soup. After all these years, I don’t recall what, besides indigestion, we had on the weekend.

If my mother could be said to have had specialties, they would have been her Tuesday and Friday night offerings. I don’t know who first invented the salmon patty, but I suspect he must have been related to the shmo who dreamed up chipped beef on toast. My mother used to sweat over those darn salmon patties, which didn’t help their flavor any, but probably didn’t hurt, either. At dinner, she would glower at me as I studied the orange-and-yellow creations, trying to determine, in “20 Questions” fashion, whether the objects would qualify as animal, vegetable or mineral.

My mother would remind me on such occasions that children were starving in Europe. I would urge her to mail my dinner to Poland. The nice part about my plan was that the patties wouldn’t have required wrapping. Put a stamp on one of those babies and it could have been mailed to starving children on the moon.

As if Tuesday night weren’t hardship enough, on Wednesday my lunch bag would contain a salmon patty on stale white bread. Go try to swap one of those for a cupcake! On Wednesday, believe me, I was quite prepared to keep the salmon patties and mail my mother to Europe.

It was on Friday, though, that she truly outdid herself. There are people, I understand, who absolutely adore barley soup. Which only proves, as the missionary said to the cannibal chief, that there’s no accounting for taste.

I was able to hold a spoonful of barley soup in my mouth for a remarkably long time. I could probably have kept it in there for a month, if one can possibly survive a month without swallowing. Actually, I would eventually swallow the soup; that is, the liquid portion. I would manage this by slowly and ever so carefully filtering the liquid through my teeth. This would eventually leave me, though, with a mouthload of barley. I would sooner have swallowed hemlock. After about half an hour, my parents would finally cave in. The soup would be removed from my presence and the entree would be served. It is hard to describe boiled chicken to those whom fate has spared. But such a chicken, one can safely assume, doesn’t get to go to barnyard heaven.

It always seemed to me that the Allies missed a golden opportunity to end World War II long before 1945 rolled around. It would have meant sneaking my mother into the kitchen of the German High Command. As I see this daring plan taking shape, by Tuesday night, there would have been a vague, but general, queasiness among the various field marshals. By Wednesday, when Goebbels and Goring discovered salmon patty sandwiches in their lunch bags, morale would have begun plummeting. And, by Friday evening, when Der Fuhrer himself would have been sitting with a mouthful of barley, while my mother noodged him about all the starving children in Milwaukee, you could have started the countdown to unconditional surrender.