As Jews, we have historical roots in the land and a contemporary reputation as “people of the book.” How do we reconcile that? From agricultural best-practices to holiday celebrations and family stories, our ties to place and culture bind us together. It’s our duty to be mindful not only of the quality of the food we put in our bodies but also the overall health of our communities. What can we learn from the cycles of the seasons, the harvests and our historical traditions to nurture our bodies, spirits, and communities?

The 2018 Boston Jewish Food Conference: Where we grow our relationship with the land, and with each other.

Opening Session (12:00-1:00):

Living the Calendar Cycles

What can we learn from the cycles of the seasons, the harvests and our historical traditions to nurture our bodies, spirits, and communities?

Join in conversation:

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. His weather, climate and gardening content can seen/heard/read regularly on the following media outlets: as a columnist for Boston Globe, providing live on-air reports and weather discussion for WBUR Boston, a freelancer at WBZ-TV, and at his own  He continues to teach a meteorology course at Colby College. His past work includes many other New England media outlets in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine. He and his husband live in South Natick, MA and have a summer home in Harpswell, ME.

Leora Mallach is the co-founder and Director of Beantown Jewish Gardens. When not creating new paradigms in the greater Boston Jewish community, she can often be found hiking in the White Mountains, in her studio doing batik artwork or wandering around her backyard considering how best to Live Off the Land, shmoozing her neighbors, and creating weird nature art sculptures as she goes.

Rabbi Aaron Philmus grew up in NJ, and received ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. In his former life he was a Wildlife Ecologist and Jewish Nature Educator at the Teva Learning Center. He continues to learn Torah from the earth, as well as from books and people. His wife, Valerie, is a professional kosher baker and chef. They live in the parsonage home at Torat Yisrael (East Greenwich, RI) with their children Sophie (10) and Aeden (6) and 6 goats, 12 chickens, 6 ducks, and countless honeybees. You can follow him and his flock here on Instagram.

Check back as we update our workshop listings and timing.

Workshops (1:15-2:30)

Dive deep into compost. What is happening in your bin and what are your options?
According to the EPA Food Waste Pyramid, the best thing we can do with our leftovers is feed hungry people. But what about the scraps that aren’t fit for human consumption? Join us for a lively discussion about how that waste can be put to use, and find out what you can do to help.

  • Adam Jankauskas is the Founder of City Compost. Motivated by the limited access to clean, healthy food, and problems facing the industrialized food system, in 2013 he left his role in technology to pursue soil. He works to provide composting solutions in order to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, return nutrients to the soil, and live an overall more sustainable life-style. Most importantly 100% of the compost made through City Compost’s service can incorporated into existing soil (or no soil at all) to grow fresh clean healthy organic food right at home or at local sustainable farms.
  • Jeremy Marin is an avid gardener and compost enthusiast. Inspired by the opportunity to reduce waste, reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of the soil, Jeremy teaches classes with an eye toward the science of compost as well as reducing effort required. The spoils of his rot get spread across his and school gardens he helps tend in the Arlington/Lexington area, including at Temple Emunah in Lexington. He writes and provides tips about home composting and home gardening at

Wild Edible Tour 
Have you ever wondered how Adam and Eve ate? Discover edible plants in this hands-on, tasting tour. Get to know wild plants of the Emerald Necklace. Who knows an “Edible Eden” might be closer than we imagined. We will be outside and walking near the river during this session.

  • Elan Margulies is the Director of Education for Hazon. Elan aims to inspire joy and reverence for the natural world by introducing participants to earth-based Jewish traditions and the wonders right outside their door. He works to transform Jewish education through experiential learning that fosters Jewish, ecological, and food sustainability. Before returning to Hazon he pursued graduate studies in forest ecology at University of Michigan and The Hebrew University. In his free time, he enjoys finding wild edibles, brewing ginger beer and working with wood and metal.

Many Ingredients, One dish: Creating Food Community
How can food be a tool to form community? Come learn and discuss the different ways that food can be used to express communal identity and deepen interpersonal bonds. Led by Sara Gardner, a Fulbright scholar of Sephardic culinary identity, and Max Hill, a Team Leader for Repair the World: Pittsburgh, participants will explore the ways food can open the door to connection and reflect on the ways they can use it to grow their own communities.

  • Sara Gardner is the Associate Director of Young Adult Programs at Hebrew College. Previously, she conducted research on the culinary heritage and cultural identity of Sephardic Jews in Madrid as a Fulbright Scholar. Sara is also the creator and head blogger of Boka Dulse, a food blog dedicated to Jewish food history, and regularly contributes to The Nosher, a Jewish food publication sponsored by An avid cook and food historian, Sara also teaches cooking classes – some of her past teaching engagements include the Reform Jewish Community of Madrid and The Gefilteria. In 2016, Sara graduated with a BA in International Literary & Visual Studies and Spanish from Tufts University.
  • Max Hill is a second-year Fellow at Repair the World and Tulane University graduate. His passion is gardening and urban farming, and has worked to build the impact of the Pittsburgh Farm Crew over the past year. Max is passionate about food in every aspect, be it growing, cooking, or eating.  If he can’t be found in the garden, he’s likely playing soccer or petting the nearest dog.

Our Community Cooks
Bring your apron and your stories to the BJFC kitchen to cook our community dinner. We’ll be chopping, dicing, kibitzing, sauteing, mixing, playing and preparing a nourishing kosher, vegetarian dinner (served from 5:30-7:00).

Unpaving Paradise: ​Putting a Green Roof on the ​City 
As cities expand the use of living rooftops to address issues ranging from storm-water runoff to urban heat management, a green roof can solve many problems at once, often providing added resources while turning down the heat on the urban setting. These ecosystems allow communities to take full advantage of our built environments — harnessing the power of buildings to create green space, food, and wildlife in the city. Come learn more about how a green roof can harnesses principles of ecological design for the benefit of all stakeholders — and what Jewish tradition has to say in support of this enterprise!

  • Rabbi Emily Mathis serves as the Director of Community Development at the Tremont Street Shul in Cambridge, happily working the urban angle on 21st century Jewish life. She was ordained at Hebrew College and has a certificate in Organizational Management through a joint program between Hebrew College and Boston University. Prior to her work in Jewish settings, Emily directed programming at several organizations in Providence in the fields of environmental education, urban gardening, and family literacy. She lives in West Newton with her spouse Hali and their three girls (18, 8, and 2) and one fabulous black labradoodle. In her spare time, she is a student herbalist and offers herbal/natural products for wellness through her tiny business, City Garden Goods.
  • Jesse Rosenbluth is the East Coast Regional Sales Manager for Omni Ecosystems™, having spent 10 years working in applied ecology from Oregon to Massachusetts. Jesse wants every landscape to grow into the best version of itself and take full advantage of ecological principles possible through Omni’s advanced technologies. With his career spanning wetland remediation in Ohio, riparian restoration management in Oregon, farm management focused on sustainability practices in Michigan, and green roof and green wall installation with Omni throughout the U.S., Jesse is an able partner with a diverse skill set.

Workshops (2:45-4:00)

The Food Safety Net: Politics, Policies, and Advocacy
Over 800,000 Massachusetts residents currently use some form of food assistance. Most of these programs are administered by the state, but they’re also affected by decisions made at federal and municipal levels of government. In this workshop, you’ll hear about challenges and initiatives at all of those levels and what actions you can take to achieve a just support system for food-insecure individuals.

  • Keith Chappelle is the Policy Analysts at Children’s Health Watch. In this role, Keith focuses on state policy in Massachusetts, coordinates the Healthy Families EITC Coalition, and acts as the primary liaison for Witnesses to Hunger – Boston. He also assists in research and communications.
  • Max Hill is a second-year Fellow at Repair the World and Tulane University graduate. His passion is gardening and urban farming, and has worked to build the impact of the Pittsburgh Farm Crew over the past year. Max is passionate about food in every aspect, be it growing, cooking, or eating.  If he can’t be found in the garden, he’s likely playing soccer or petting the nearest dog.
  • By day, Rachel Hoh is the Farmers Market and Healthy Incentives Coordinator at the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Food Access. By night, a 3rd year dual Masters candidate in Urban Planning and Food Systems Planning at Tufts University. A native Pennsylvanian, Rachel’s undergraduate honors thesis work led to the creation of the Student Farm at Penn State. Rachel’s passions lie at the intersections of SNAP/ Food Stamps advocacy, public health, and food justice.

Threading the Needle Between Animal Welfare and Animal Rights
Abolitionist veganism regards all use of animals as exploitation and rejects human dominion. Animal welfare advocacy accepts human dominion and exploitation but tries to minimize its negative impacts. Our Biblical ancestors had an entirely different model: We only have a right to use other animals because we are in a mutual covenant with them to sustain each other. We will trace this ethic and its alternatives in Tanakh, and look for its impact on rabbinic, philosophical, and Kabbalistic thinkers.

  • Rabbi David Seidenberg is the creator of and author of Kabbalah and Ecology (Cambridge, 2015). He has smikhah from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and from JTS and lives in Northampton MA.

Our Community Cooks
Bring your apron and your stories to the BJFC kitchen to cook our community dinner. We’ll be chopping, dicing, kibitzing, sauteing, mixing, playing and preparing a nourishing kosher, vegetarian dinner (served from 5:30-7:00).

Jewish History with Wine and Grape Culture in New England
This workshop will cover the journey of the grapevine through time, from ancient Canaanite times to current New England. We will discuss what grapevines meant to the ancient Israelites and why we use their derivative for Kiddush. We will explore viticultural practices, the differences between Old and New World Grapes, hybridization, and current diseases, while viewing the onsite grape arbors.

  • Binyamin Lightfoot holds a BS in Environmental Chemistry. He is currently working as a Program Teacher at the Natick Community Organic Farm and is a Master’s of Science Candidate at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. He studied in yeshiva in Jerusalem and has a love for the plants of our tradition.  He has been involved in growing, pruning, and fermenting for years and he advocates for knowing where our food comes from and the ethics involved.
  • Dr. Elsa Petit obtained her MS in agronomy at Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs des Travaux Agricoles, Bordeaux, France and then studied diseases of grapevines at the University of California, Davis where she graduated with a PhD in plant pathology. Her research focuses on how viticultural practices influence microorganisms and more specifically disease-causing (microorganisms) evolution. She teaches courses in viticulture, plant pathology and disease ecology at the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

Putting a Face on Those Who Feed Us — Jewish Food Ethics in a Time of Xenophobia
The current immigration debate is framed in terms of mercy and compassion. But what about Jewish justice? What is our responsibility to the people who work our fields and kitchens? Explore the these questions with Rabbi Mike Rothbaum and Lily Huang from Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, as we discuss Torah teachings concerning labor justice, offer stories of contemporary worker struggles, ideas for strengthening our own ethical practices, and the ability to take concrete action to contribute to justice in the food system.

  • Lily Huang is the Co-Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. She is a native of Boston’s Chinatown and Quincy, MA. Her commitment to social justice was formed early by her experience as a child of immigrant parents who were low-wage workers in the local restaurant, hotel and health care industries. Before Massachusetts JwJ, Lily was a summer Organizer with UNITE HERE Local 26. For three years, she was a volunteer organizer with the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), recruiting and developing immigrant youth leaders across the state. Lily is on the steering committees of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) and Raise Up Massachusetts. She speaks Spanish, Toisanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.
  • Rabbi Michael Rothbaum serves as rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Massachusetts. He has been extensively involved with faith-based social justice organizations, such as Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA) and the board of the New England Jewish Labor Committee. Rabbi Mike is devoted to creating and nurturing vibrant learning communities, and sharing his love of Torah and commitment to justice in formal and informal settings.

Workshops (4:15-5:30)

Our Spiritual Connection to the Land
Explore texts both ancient and modern, Jewish and indigenous, about our spiritual relationship to the land, interspersed with meditations that will provide an experiential dimension to the workshop. There will be ample time for discussion and sharing.

  • Rabbi Katy Allen the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Jewish Climate Action Network. She is a board certified chaplain a former hospital chaplain and hospice chaplain, including 10 years at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She serves as a nature chaplain and the facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit, a multifaith center in Framingham, and is the founder and rabbi of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors, and she writes about matters of Torah and Earth at She was formerly a high school science teacher, and she received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005.
  • Rabbi Natan Margalit was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received rabbinic ordination at The Jerusalem Seminary in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Talmud from U.C. Berkeley in 2001.  He has taught at Bard College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Natan is Rabbi of The Coalition in Western Connecticut.  He is Founder of Organic Torah, a non-profit which fosters holistic thinking about Judaism, environment and society. Natan is a member of the Va’ad (steering committee and core faculty) of the Aleph Ordination Program. He lives in Newton, MA with his wife Ilana and their two sons.

Jewish Gardening in Small Places
If you are a new gardener, or live in the city and have limited space, you might want to try Jewish container gardening. We’ll look creatively to merge a desire to grow plants and vegetables, connect your gardening with Jewish practice, and your sense of fun and creativity. Please join us and we’ll all get our hands dirty with a few Jewish container gardening projects.

  • Leann Shamash has a BS in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts. She has been an avid gardener for years and has helped organize and direct the Mitzvah Garden at Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton and Gan Yarok of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of Newton. She loves to plant a wide variety of flowers and vegetables for the pure joy of watching things grow!

Feeding The Hungry: The Food Waste Pyramid, Biblical Mandates, and What You Can Do Now
Imbalances in our food system lead to massive waste and the attendant spoilage and pollution while others in the same communities suffer food insecurity and hunger. What are the Biblical mandates and how can we change food production and distribution to reduce these chronic threats to our environment and society?

Naomi Raiselle of Feeding Our Neighbors, Dana Siles of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, and Todd Kaplan, long-time volunteer with Boston Area Gleaners, will review their successes and challenges reducing food waste and redistributing excess to the hungry. Hands on solutions and opportunities will be explored!

  • Todd Kaplan has been involved in food rescue and food programs since he worked at homeless shelters and soup kitchens in Washington, D.C. from 1978 to 1982.  More recently, he has volunteered with Boston Area Gleaners (BAG) harvesting food for the last seven years. He works as a legal aid attorney when not gleaning food.  Last year BAG harvested over 500,000 lbs.of local produce that would have otherwise been plowed under and distributed it to local families in need.
  • Naomi Raiselle has been an educator for much of her life since teaching high school English post college graduation. Passionate about social justice and efforts to heal the world, she has used her skills as a public speaker to inspire and educate on a wide variety of subjects from videography (GENERATIONS cinemastories, Boston) to relationship coaching to the law and food donation. Together with Dana Siles, Naomi created New England Feeding Our Neighbors, with the goal of making event food donation a best practice in the catering and events industry.
  • Dana Siles is New England Coordinator for Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which provides a volunteer platform to bridge the gap between surplus fresh and prepared food from businesses to local shelters and soup kitchens who freely give this food to those in need. Dana has been a professional photographer for 20 years and saw the need for food recovery after weddings and events. She co-founded Feeding Our Neighbors, an initiative to educate fellow event professionals on the Law & Logistics regarding food donation after events. Dana joined the RLC team in order to help make food donation a Best Practice for all commercial kitchens and professional chefs who experience food waste.

Our Community Cooks
Bring your apron and your stories to the BJFC kitchen to cook our community dinner. We’ll be chopping, dicing, kibitzing, sauteing, mixing, playing and preparing a nourishing kosher, vegetarian dinner (served from 5:30-7:00).

Shuk (Marketplace) and Community Celebration including kosher, vegetarian dinner, community organizations, live music and our fabulous Silent Auction (5:30-7:00)