8 Sparks of Light: Leann Shamash, Master Gardener

Throughout Chanukah, we’re sharing our “8 sparks of light” providing inspiration and insight into the diversity of people working on a local level for a more transparent and just food system.

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Leann Shamash of Newton has founded both the Mitzvah Garden of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton and Gan Yarok of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Newton. Read about her passion for gardening and it’s connection to Judaism.

Why do you do this work?
My involvement comes from a passion for gardening, for the diversity of plants and desire to involve others in the joys and challenges of working with the soil. I love the idea of connecting gardening to the educational process and I want to build on the idea that we can give back to the greater community through gardening and gardens.

Why are you involved in Ganei Beantown vs. local garden club?
I have great respect for Leora and her leadership at Ganei Beantown. Synagogue gardens, though very simple, can change the way that people think about their food. They can begin to understand the toil that it takes for food to get to them. They begin to understand the water needs of plants and can begin to appreciate how important it is for us to use our water carefully and thoughtfully. Gardening projects can connect generations, can connect people to the wonder of plants, can connect people to the ancient agricultural roots of Judaism and can build community.

Synagogue gardens, though very simple, can change the way that people think about their food.

How did you first get involved in Ganei Beantown?
I went to a session a number of years ago about synagogue initiatives. I learned more about gleaning and synagogues who glean and was inspired. Since my first meeting it has been Leora who has been there for us to help us with questions and issues regarding our gardens. I respect what Ganei Beantown does and how it pushes its agenda forward of Jews making more conscientious choices about the food that they eat.

What advice to you have for others looking to be involved?
For a garden, go to gardening blogs, go to gardens and most importantly, talk to gardeners. People bring so much to the table in terms of gardening techniques. I have found gardeners to be a great group of people who love to share their ideas!

Be realistic and optimistic about your gardening goals. Know that gardening involves both successes and failures and that the failures eventually will help to deepen your successes. Last, gardening is full of surprises and small miracles. Keep your eyes open for these small miracles and savor your small successes! Good luck!

If you find Leann’s story as inspiring as we do, please consider an end of year donation.

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