The FCG network is stronger because of our partners. That's why we will be writing regular features on this blog that highlight the work of collaborating groups or individuals to show our appreciation for all they do for our communities towards a more sustainable future. This month, to launch the series, we invite readers to learn about the work of Shoresh, an Ontario, grassroots Jewish environmental charity.
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Sabrina Malach is Director of Engagement at Shoresh, a grassroots Jewish environmental charity that operates through various locations across Southern Ontario, as well as schools, synagogues, camps, and community organizations in the Greater Toronto Area.
Since 2002, Shoresh has been bringing awareness and stewardship of the natural world around us through Jewish experiential education and action, ‘because you can only protect what you love,” Sabrina says.
While their audience is primarily the Jewish community, “we are radically inclusive,” Sabrina says. “We are open to others.”
To this end, Shoresh offers a diverse array of programs including the Shoresh Outdoor School, an after-school program bridges meaningful Jewish learning with hands-on, nature-based experiences in the Toronto's parks and ravines as well as habitat restoration, pollinator conservation and community supported beekeeping. In 2017, 11,000 trees were planted at Bela Farm, Shoresh's 100-acre rural home in Hillsburgh, Ontario to provide habitat and help sequester carbon, “Planting trees is a long-term project. We want people to act for the future. Planting trees is an act of hope and belief in the future.”
Six years later, Shoresh is now focussing on tending the forest as well as their 20-acre bee sanctuary at the farm. More broadly, their focus is on leading, inspiring and empowering their community to become protectors of the earth, a task mandated to Jews in Genesis. Shoresh also has an online shop where they sell sustainble ritual objects, mostly made by bees and local artisans, including beeswax candles for the sabbath and Chanukah and honey from their hives at Bela Farm.
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A communications specialist, Sabrina’s experience has taught her that it is important to start any engagement with a meaningful and personal narrative that pulls on people's heartstrings.
“Climate change can be overwhelming and disempowering so we try to start from a place of love and connection,” she says. “We encourage our community to join us outside and learn about the many ways Jewish wisdom inspires a connection to the earth. From there, we provide opportunities to nurture nature through our reforestation project and our pollinator conservation initiatives. By creating biodiversity, we are taking climate action in a way that is tangible and joyful."
While Shoresh is the only Jewish environmental organization in Canada, they are part of a larger network of Jewish non-profits focussing on developing programs that demonstrate sustainability a core Jewish value in the 21st century. This network is referred to as JOFEE, Jewish Outdoor Food Farming and Environment Education (JOFEE) Network, an organization of over fifty groups across the world doing similar work to Shoresh.
For Sabrina, as reports on climate breakdown keep coming out, “we’re thinking about how to maintain action without breaking people’s hearts.”
“It becomes more and more important to have ancestral wisdom to lean into,” Sabrina ends. “I feel very grateful to be part of a culture and tradition that has so much environmental wisdom to draw from our ancestors.”