Kayam Farm- the scene of "Planting Seeds: The First Jewish Early Childhood Conference.
It was better than imagined. It was the participants willingness to "dig deeply" on all fronts that mattered. People came from as far as Seattle,North Carolina, Texas, Boston and Worcester, Florida and New York as well as from nearby Virgina, Pennsylvania,New Jersey and of course Baltimore. There were nature specialists, ece directors, teachers, a rabbi and a great mix of ages and persuasions. There were the gardeners and the wannabes and together we weeded, worked on the farm, engaged with the farm animals at a distance of our choice and got to see red wiggler worms up close and personal. There were sessions on nutrition and healthy eating, and great meals for our own sustenance.
There was an ongoing discussion of what makes the garden 'Jewish' and how to bring the very young into this endeavor.
As the 'green bubbie' I gave the opening keynote, trying my best to weave together Richard Louv's wonderful book, "The Last Child in the Woods" with Jewish Identity and Inspiration from the Garden- For those of you not there, I used my actual weaving expertise to invite those present to image the 'warp' of the loom as Torah and the weft as the experiences in the natural world. The warp of the loom is the backbone and strength of the fabric..Sometimes that warp is invisible, and sometimes given the design of the pattern it becomes obvious and beautifully woven together- that's what create the design of the fabric. So too, if the foundation of what we do in the garden comes from our growing and continual study of what the Torah teaches us, that is the foundation of what we teach, of who we are, and what we do we the children. The stronger the warp, the stronger the fabric we create.
And just in case anyone thinks young children are too young,not so. There is no better example that the song, "Yom Rishon Avodah, Yom Sheni Avodah....Yom Shabbat Menucha" (with the hand motions of course) that demonstrates that even the youngest of children can participate in our Torah based tradition- 6 days of work, and on Shabbat we rest"
just like it says in the Torah!
So, as we prepare for Shabbos, let's try to think of all the work we've done all week- in and out of the garden- how we finish it, and rest on the coming Shabbat.
My hope is that this was only the first Jewish Early Childhood Gardening Conference- There is no way I can convey the extraordinary interplay of the parallel sessions of the Ashville JCCs' Early Childhood Cur brilliantly conveyed and shared by LAEL and JILL along with the workshops given by the incredibly knowledgeable staff of Kayam Farm. They live the life they are aspiring to and it is inspiring to work and learn along side of them
I look forward to the next gathering and learning and bringing our field to new heights,
as together we dig deeply into our Jewish Tradition and into the earth from which G-d created us all.