BJFC14 Shmita Summit header

We will start our day with a Shmita Seder asking questions of how to apply ancient principles to a contemporary framework to enable a more equitable, just, and healthy society, economy and environment.

Breakout groups (3:30-4:30pm) allow the opportunity to interpret and apply Shmita principles to our local synagogues, businesses, personal lifestyles and community consciousness:


Shmita requires that we share our agricultural lands, and leave our fields fallow giving them time to rest and recover. Today in an urban society, much of our interaction and our legal public space is the street. How can ‘the street’ harbor sustainability and justly accommodate all modes of transportation? And what can WE do about it?

  • Phil Goff has 16 years of urban design and sustainable-transportation planning experience. After living and working in Portland, Oregon until 2004, he now runs the Boston office of Alta Planning + Design, a Portland-based transportation planning firm. His local efforts include site planning/permitting for the bike share system in Boston and Cambridge, along with trail planning along the Charles River Basin and the Emerald Necklace in Brookline. He has been a bicycle advocate for his entire adult life and is the founder and chair of East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition. He and his family are members of Temple Emunah in Lexington.
  • Jeff Rosenblum sees our streets as places for vibrant community life and has spent the past decade working to rethink how we design them. He is currently a transportation planner and street design engineer for the City of Cambridge, having previously co-founded the Boston-based advocacy/urban planning non-profit LivableStreets Alliance, drawing from Boston’s anti-highway movement in the 1960’s. Jeff serves on Boston’s Complete Streets Advisory Committee, and co-teaches a Northeastern University 5-week summer course on sustainable transportation in Delft, Netherlands, the topic of a recent front-page globe article. He can be seen bicycling around, often carrying his 3 and 5-year old children.


Shmita is not only about our personal actions, but how the entire community functions together to make a positive contribution to the local and global environment. How can our institutions practice the Shmita year? Get practical advice and tools created by the Jewish Greening Fellowship of Hazon that will enable you to go back to your workplace, congregation, or school, ready to take concrete steps to become more energy efficient, reduce waste, protect health, and build community.

  • Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith is an environmental psychologist, educator and activist.  She directs the Jewish Greening Fellowship of Hazon, a groundbreaking effort to engage community-based organizations in the New York area in reducing energy use, implementing sustainable operations and educating their communities about climate change.  Her writings on Judaism and the environment have been published in the Jerusalem Report, the Jewish Week, the Forward, and the Huffington Post.


From SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to agricultural policies, lack of urban farming space to buying groceries on a minimum wage salary, the larger food system plays a critical role influencing access and equity in our country. A Shmita year required that debts are forgiven and that all people and creatures, master, ox and slave, rest. What can we do to ensure the dignity of all people in our current economic system?  How and why should you as a Jew and Jewish communities get involved?

  • Julie Aronowitz does congregation-based community organizing with the Brockton Interfaith Community and Massachusetts Faith Voices, local affiliates of the PICO national network. Currently they are working to raise the state’s minimum wage, ensure earned sick time, advocate for immigration reform, and fight for Jobs not Jails. The daughter of a public health nutritionist and avid experimental cook (expertise: quick and healthy), Julie is an alumna of the JOIN for Justice organizing fellowship, the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, and a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She is currently the Moishe Kavod Social Justice House Board president.
  • Joel Wool is a native of Bay State and resident of Dorchester, an environmental health advocate and freelance media professional. His work focuses on issues of structural violence, from energy and pollution to food justice to healthy housing and access to green jobs. He has served as advisor to urban planning projects at MIT and Tufts, launched Boston’s first winter farmers’ market and leveraged mayors across Massachusetts to help pass progressive energy policy. Joel is an an alumnus of AmeriCorps, the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing’s Grassroots Leadership Institute, and the JOIN for Justice Fellowship. He is also a board member of the Dorchester Community Food Co-op.


At the core of Shmita is the principle of sustainability. Shmita requires that we regularly let the land go and let it be, so that we and it may be refreshed. What can we learn from the practice of Shmita about how to live sustainably, not just with regard to the natural environment around us, but with regard to nourishing and sustaining our own integrity, health, emotional wellbeing and relationships? Come discuss what 360 degree sustainability would look like. What would it mean to live with a focus on sustainability in every area of our lives?

  • Janette Hillis-Jaffe has a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and spent five years working, parenting and learning Torah in Jerusalem from 1999 – 2004. She has spent thousands of hours studying peer counseling, nutrition, organizing principles,the mind-body connection, and the health care system during her successful effort to heal from her own six-year debilitating autoimmune disorder. Through her company, Heal for Real, she supports people to take charge of their health and overcome health challenges including chronic or acute illnesses, excess weight and persistent pain.


Can we live sustainably with our carbon footprint and fossil fuel consumption? With texts as the foundation and climate change as the backdrop, we will explore a variety of actions as we consider how we as individuals fit into the larger picture of planetary change.

  • Rabbi Katy Allen is the spiritual leader and founder of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope in Wayland, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is the co-convener with Eli Gerzon of Better Future Project of the newly formed Jewish Climate Action Network, a coalition of members of the Jewish community who are passionate about working to protect the planet.


During the year of Shmita we cannot sow or harvest our fields planted with annuals, but we may continue to harvest from perennials, plants that return by themselves each year. What common plants are annuals and which are perennials? What wilds are edibles? What nourishes these plants year after year? How can we incorporate these into our landscapes and diets?

  • Brad Baker has 30 years of experience as a landscape designer, horticulture-based educator and innovator and founder of White Oak Consulting. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture form Cornell University, as well as a Certified Horticulturist designation from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society and the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association.

4:30 pm Jewish Educational Garden meetup – for those currently involved in garden projects

Our day will culminate in a community Shuk (marketplace), featuring do-it-yourself sessions, cheese making demonstration, food sales, advocacy opportunities, tabling by community organizations as well as our Silent Auction, including:

4:45 pm Beekeeping – is it right for you?
5:15 pm Lacto-Fermentation 201