Marc Stober is a Hebrew College student working toward cantorial ordination as well as a Master’s degree in Jewish Education. He sees music and food as creative avenues that people like, and that connect them to Judaism, and are surrounded by a lot of authentic Jewish tradition. He currently lives in Newton with his family.
Marc is always trying to be more intentional about what he consumes, the environmental impacts of consumption, and the relationship to our traditional Jewish dietary laws, both for him and my family. He says “it’s about trying to find the balance between what’s achievable, what makes a difference, and what makes meaning, and that’s something I’m continuing to seek out.” He realized that along the way he’d built up some knowledge of which others were interested with regards to where our food comes from and how to prepare and eat it. As someone who is also working more and more as a Jewish educator, he’s found the bringing food topics into the classroom is a great way to engage people in religious, cultural, and ethical discussions.
Marc first remembers learning about our food system in high school. He was a camper at Kutz (a summer camp affiliated with NFTY) and was told by some of his fellow teen campers that he shouldn’t eat grapes. They were boycotting grapes to support farm workers. He says, “I’d never heard of such a thing and was intrigued by the idea that my food choices could make a difference to others.”
“I was intrigued by the idea that my food choices could make a difference to others.”
For Marc, the underlying idea of Jewish dietary and agricultural laws is finding a balance between the fact that we do take from the earth and its creatures, and we want to do that in a respectful and sustainable way. Something Rabbi David Seidenberg said at the 2018 Boston Jewish Food Conference really resonated. Rabbi Seidenberg explained the role of Kashrut in Jewish tradition: It’s not that eating pigs is inherently bad, it’s just that it’s our tradition for expressing that respect and balance. For Marc, it’s not a question of God punishing us, it’s about having the humility to use our tradition as the basis for one’s own practice.
Kashrut isn’t the only value that Marc holds dear and playing a role in his everyday life. He believes deeply in B’tzelem Elohim, the idea that each one of us is made in the “image of God” and therefore everyone deserves our respect, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them. Marc adds that he’s in cantorial school, “so it goes without saying public prayer is a very meaningful part of being Jewish to me.”
It’s these unique values and practices that brought Marc to Beantown Jewish Gardens. He says, “Judaism has so many traditions around food and agriculture, from the many agriculture references in our liturgy to the laws of kashrut to how our traditional foods have evolved over millennia. It would be hard to separate food from Judaism.” It’s one of the things that led Marc to Beantown Jewish Gardens.
“It would be hard to separate food from Judaism.”
He first met Leora Mallach during his undergrad days at Washington University in St. Louis where they were both involved in Hillel. “I was really impressed with how she started this organization, and organized its first food conferences, some of which I attended.” Marc has brought his family to various events over the years including the second Sukkot on the Farm in 2012!
Marc is always looking for ways for ways to get more actively involved in the Jewish community and support innovative ideas in Jewish education. In the past he’s volunteered for groups like Open Siddur Project, Limmud, and JEDcamp Boston.
When BJG was looking for new board members two years ago, he thought it would be a great way to help a local organization he believed in. “This would be an interesting way to be involved in the innovative Jewish education community,” Marc says.
In addition to building his skills as a cantor and educator, Marc is always looking to improve his gardening skills. His advice to beginners is to start growing things from seedlings. He says, “I failed at planting things from seeds a few times, then this summer grew a little herb garden in a container from seedlings and had fresh herbs for months.”
Marc is excited to see how he and the rest of the BJG Board can bring their work to the next level, engaging more people and reaching farther into the Jewish Community. The board is currently working on a strategic plan and bringing on new members.
We are so inspired by Marc’s commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community, and society as a whole. If you find yourself inspired, consider a donation to Beantown Jewish Gardens. Your gift will sustain our work and expand our reach, helping more people live their values.