April 2007

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Organic vegetables. 

Congregation Kol Ami Brings Organic Produce to its Community

Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park, in partnership with the Kehillah of Old York Road and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, has recently launched the first Community Supported Agriculture project (CSA) of its kind in the Philadelphia area under Hazon, a New York-based organization dedicated to a more healthy and sustainable Jewish community. The program, officially known as Tuv Ha’Aretz, brings members of the Jewish community together with local organic farmers to support sustainable agriculture and Jewish environmental education. Tuv Ha’Aretz translates in Hebrew to mean both “good from the earth and good for the earth.”

Kol Ami’s farm partner for the 2007-growing season is Lancaster Farm Fresh, an organic farmers’ cooperative of 20 farmers. The members are old order Amish and Mennonite, living on small family-owned farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A share of the CSA is $500, for 22-weeks of organic vegetables delivered to Kol Ami each week. Half shares and fruit shares are also being offered. This arrangement helps the farmer with their high start up costs, and in turn, CSA members receive a share of the crops each week.

“Hosting Tuv Ha’Aretz is an innovative way to bring our congregation together in our new home and for us to build connections with our neighbors, nearby Jewish congregations and the community at large,” says Mark Kaplan, head of the effort at Kol Ami along with co-organizer, Robin Rifkin. As a nutritionist, Robin Rifkin loves the idea of bringing both organic and local food to Elkins Park. Rifkin, who gardens organically at her Melrose Park home, ran a nutrition education program in many of the farmers’ markets in Philadelphia. “You get spoiled by the flavor of fresh local fruits and vegetables. It’s good to know where your food is grown. This is a great way to invite our Kehillah, which means community, into our new home to share the bounty, and an opportunity to learn more about Jewish law and our responsibility to the environment.”

In addition to the fresh organic produce, Tuv Har’Aretz at Kol Ami is planning a weekly newsletter, cooking classes, potlucks and programs to educate the community around issues of healthy eating and sustainable agriculture, and to connect in new ways with Jewish traditions and values toward food and the environment. Any extra food will donated to the local Mitzvah Food Pantry.

Rabbi Elliot Holin of Congregation Kol Ami says, “Tuv Ha'Aretz reminds us of Sukkot's theme of interdependence, that we are God's partners in caring for creation. Through this communal endeavor, we partner with farmers who treat the earth with reverence and we join hands with them to share the bounty of the field.”

The Jewish community is waking up to the notion of sustainable agriculture, local foods, and healthy eating. We want to challenge and inspire participants to think deeply and broadly about their own food choices,” said Leah Koenig, Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA Coordinator at Hazon. Tuv Ha’Aretz began with one congregation in New York in 2004 and has expanded to ten sites today in the U.S. and Israel.

For more information, and a sample of a weekly share, please visit the website and click on Philadelphia.

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