Ganei Beantown was co-founded in 2011 by Leora Mallach and Becca Weaver to create hands-on Jewish learning experiences related to creating a more just food system. We have developed with the support of numerous local and national Jewish and sustainability organizations and farms. Our birthing and start-up phase wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the 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. CJP provided our first grant to fund an eight part Urban Homesteading Workshop series for young adults.
We have grown broadly, meeting community needs as they have arrived, in teaching, workshops, developing educational gardens, running conferences, and community events. We supported the development of Jewish educational gardens in greater Boston including installing gardens at Striar Hebrew Academy and Temple Israel, Boston. Over the years we have facilitated an array of Shabbat and Holiday programs that have brought issues of sustainable food to numerous congregations and community groups.
We ran our first Sukkot on the Farm event in 2011. While it has changed over the years, it has consistently brought together hundreds of people to celebrate the agricultural roots of the holiday on a local farm. For seven years we ran the Boston Jewish Food Conference, our annual springtime event brought together a pluralistic cross-section of community members to learn about Jewish agriculture, labor issues, health, food access, kashrut, and local food history. This fun day of learning and community building included workshops, a meal, a shuk (marketplace), and DIY activities.
We transitioned to calling ourselves Beantown Jewish Gardens, not Ganei Beantown as having a Hebrew name made initial engagement inaccessible to some, and the grammatical composition of the name is confusing to those without a background in Hebrew grammar. We aim to be welcoming to all from the onset.
With support from the Jewish Initiative for Animals, we ran a series of educational sessions, Ta’amim Tovim: Putting our Food Values into Action. We provided exposure to the variety of impacts and implications of our food choices and connected participants with local and national resources, as well as a community for peer learning and the exchange of ideas.
In January 2019, with funding from the Jewish Community Farming – Field Building Initiative, our board of directors began working with a consultant on a strategic planning process to help us focus on where we excel. Such introspection and assessment led us to conclude that we could better achieve our mission by embracing a focused and mighty organizational model moving forward, a pruning process toward a main branch. Starting in 2020, we began concentrating solely on our highly successful community-wide events that focus on Jewish education and teaching about crucial issues for our times- working for a more just and sustainable food system.
We have worked with the following synagogues/communities/institutions:
Camberville Open Beit Midrash; Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Young Adult Initiative; Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Newton; Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline; Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, Newton; Gann Academy; Havurah on the Hill; Hebrew College; Inna’s Kitchen; JCC Greater Boston; Jewish Arts Collaborative; Kitchen Kibitz; Land’s Sake Farm; Moishe Kavod House; Nehar Shalom Community Beit Midrash; Powisset Farm, The Trustees; Shalom Y’all at Temple Shalom of Newton; Synagogue Council of MA; Temple B’nai Abraham, Beverly; Temple Beth Israel, Waltham; Temple Beth Zion, Brookline; Temple Israel, Boston; Temple Israel, Natick; Temple Israel, Sharon; Temple Reyim, Newton; The Boston Synagogue; The Riverway Project of Temple Israel, Boston; Tufts University Hillel