Executive Director & Co-Founder

Leora Mallach

Leora Mallach, MEd, first worked for the Teva Learning Center in the Fall of 1997. Since then, she has worked for a variety of other experiential learning programs along the eastern seaboard. She helped design the Green Apprenticeship program at Kibbutz Lotan in the southern Arava and is proud to see how it has grown since its inception.

Before co-founding BJG, she directed the Adva Network, working with alumni of the Teva Learning Center and Adamah: The Jewish Environmental Fellowship in professional development, networking & job placement in the Jewish Community.

She was a 2013 Boston PresenTense Fellow and is a senior Environmental Leadership Program Fellow. On a national level, she was a mentor for the JOFEE Fellowship and participant in building the Jewish Community Farming field. 

When not creating new paradigms in the Jewish community, she can be found hiking in the mountains, berry picking or doing crafty projects with her B.B. batiks fabrics. She is otherwise dreaming about homesteading projects on her property, especially her annual springtime maple sugaring.

Executive Board

Matthew Feinberg

Matthew Feinberg (Clerk) is a Senior Research Associate at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. He has served on the Boston Jewish Food Conference planning committee and has volunteered as a cooking team leader at the Farm to Sukkah event for the past five years. He is actively involved in the Riverway Project leadership team at Temple Israel of Boston and CJP’s Dnipro Kehilla Project. Matthew has lived in Brookline for five years and in his spare time enjoys baking and posting pictures to his Instagram.

Jeanie Gruber grew up in Louisiana…one of nine Jewish kids in her Sunday School class. Her teenage years at her regional rural youth group camp remain some of her most vivid soil and soul filled experiences. She received her MSW at Washington U. in St Louis, then moved to Boston where she opened a private psychotherapy practice.  Since then she has created a unique catering and events company, Miss Jeanies, and loves helping others launch their own ideas. Most recently, she started a Wish Dish, which cooks individual members of the homeless community’s favorite food memory. She is passionate about combating food insecurity, food excess and reuse, and is an avid volunteer with the Boston Area Gleaners.

Rachel Lawent

Rachel Lawent (Treasurer) is a CPA at a public accounting firm, specializing in tax. Before studying accounting, she was a 2004 participant in the ADAMAH fellowship and then a conservation ecologist specializing in removal of invasive species from native habitats. Food, sustainability, and their connections with Jewish community continue to be strong interests of hers. Other interests include living in intentional communities, vegan baking, and knitting.

Emily Mathis

Rabbi Emily Mathis (President) has served communities across much of the Jewish spectrum, most recently in Cambridge and on Boston’s North Shore. Prior to her work in Jewish settings, Emily directed programming in the fields of environmental education, urban gardening and family literacy. In addition to her rabbinic work, she is a family herbalist, and can generally be found in the kitchen working on her next project and drinking coffee. She and her spouse, Hali Diecidue, live in West Newton with their three girls (20, 10, and 4) and their labradoodle.

Julie Meyer is a landscape designer and the Town of Wellesley Wetlands Administrator. In 2019 she served on the Jewish Sustainable Food Fest planning committee. She raised funds for The New England Center for Women in Transition; LifePath, Inc., which supports elders and persons with disabilities; and the Hampshire and Hampden Conservation Districts, which supports farmers and farmland in western Mass. Julie has a food and agriculture background, working as a farm assistant in an early CSA, responsible for publishing the New England Sustainable Agriculture Working Group listserv, and helping to develop farm-based nutrient management plans for the USDA‐Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Ryan O’Donnell is the Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator and Educator at the Connecticut River Conservancy. He and his partner have a small sustainable homestead in the foothills of the northern Berkshires where they grow vegetables, raise chickens, and host Jewish community events. Ryan has served on the board of directors for the Deerfield River Watershed Association and the executive committees of the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus and Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus. He spends his spare time crocheting and making music.

Michael Sanders

Michael Sanders has spent his career in environmental conservation. As a Development officer at the New England Aquarium and Sudbury Valley Trustees, Michael has raised millions of dollars helping to conserve our region’s most valuable resources, including multiple parcels of agricultural lands. He served on the Board of Directors for Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Acton and as Fundraising Chair, initiated a major fundraising campaign in recognition of the retiring 40-year Rabbi raising over half a million dollars. As an active volunteer for Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JF&CS) Family Table, Michael and one of his Men’s Shul Softball League (MSSL) teammates organized a yearly softball tournament fundraiser for Family Table, raising several thousand dollars from the 10-12 shuls that participated.


Rachel Barbanel-Fried, PsyD, is the chair of the BJFC 2016. She has a private therapy practice in Newton Centre working with a diverse group of people with a wide variety of needs. In addition to her clinical work, she is a registered Yoga Teacher and is certified to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. She has specialized training in the topic of food as medicine and is passionate about the intersection of food and health. She has travelled extensively, lived abroad and taught cooking, yoga, and other topics in Bulgaria, Israel and all over the USA.

Hannah Levine

Hannah Levine is the immediate past Board chair. She was the chair of the first Boston Jewish Food Conference in 2012, which was inspired by her desire to create a Jewish community interested in food systems and environmental education in greater Boston. She previously attended the Green Apprenticeship at Kibbutz Lotan and several Hazon Food Conferences, and is a former leader of the Farm-to-Shul team at the Moishe Kavod House. By day, she is an architect and enjoys cities, biking, yoga, and kitchen DIY experiments.


Past Leadership

Ganei Beantown: Beantown Jewish Gardens was founded in 2011.  Our birthing and start-up phase wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Moishe Kavod House Farm to Shul team, Hebrew College, and Hazon, who at times provided fiscal sponsorship, peer support, programming partnerships, and opportunities for growth. We continue to work with, and be inspired by, the many community members working for a more just and sustainable food system capable of feeding 9 billion people in 2050.


Becca Weaver is the Farm and Sustainability Director at The Boulder JCC Milk and Honey Farm. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture, revitalizing Jewish practice, and building a more empowered, self-reliant and resilient society. She believes that hands-on, experiential activities on the farm that are rooted in Jewish tradition are an effective and fun way to build community around these principles. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in St Louis, she started working on Jewish community farms (including Adamah at Isabella Freedman and Kayam Farm at Pearlsone), combining her technical skills with her love for food, nature, and tradition. She is certified in ecological horticulture from UC Santa Cruz and has a masters degree in agriculture, food, and the environment from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition. In her spare time, she enjoys running her own small farm business, playing in the CO outdoors, baking, domestic chemistry experiments, and sharing her knowledge with her community!