Jerusalem’s Charedi Schools Go Green this Winter

We’re excited that the Launch of Leshomra’s program in Jerusalem was covered by The Baltimore Jewish Life.

Below is the article:

Kids and teachers are turning asphalt schoolyards into mini-farms

Jerusalem, November 24, 2016 – An innovative green education program was launched in Jerusalem’s Charedi schools this week, thanks to a new cooperation between the Jerusalem Municipality and Leshomra, a Charedi environmental non-profit.

The “Our Little Farm” program teaches core environmental concepts, such as not littering, recycling, composting, and water conservation, as the children plant, tend and harvest vegetables in their own schoolyard mini-farm. The program is firmly based in Torah values and has received the blessing of prominent rabbis. Our Little Farm is being piloted in 20 schools and kindergartens throughout Jerusalem’s Charedi neighborhoods, with plans to more than double that reach within a year.

With over 60% of all Jerusalem’s Jewish children now enrolled in Charedi educational institutions, the lack of green education has become a more urgent problem for the future of the city. Densely populated urban lifestyles and disconnection from mainstream media means that Charedim generally have a lower level of environmental awareness. Leshomra is the first and only Haredi group to successfully introduce practical solutions, with full support and participation of the community.

“When we approached the municipality’s Charedi Education Department, they were immediately enthusiastic about this program,” says Leshomra’s founder and director, Avishai Himelfarb. “They understand how important it is to increase environmental awareness in this city. But for us, it goes way beyond that. We know first-hand that most of the children in our community have little contact with nature – they grow up in crowded asphalt neighborhoods and schoolyards. We want them to experience the joy and wonder of touching nature with their own hands.”

“This program is one-hundred percent hands-on and very fun for the kids,” says Yocheved Foifer, coordinator of Leshomra’s Jerusalem program. Yocheved, like all Leshomra guides, is a graduate of the same Charedi school system where she now teaches about recycling and gardening. “We grow cucumbers and sunflowers and watermelons so big that it takes three girls to pick one up! Before we started, even the teachers didn’t know it was possible to grow your own food. It was a very special moment when we got to harvest and eat it.”

The Our Little Farm program first ran in the Charedi city of Modi’in Illit last year, where it was enthusiastically endorsed by parents and teachers. Based on that success, it is now expanding to more schools and other Haredi population centers. Jerusalem is at the top of the list of priorities.

“No one can deny the urgent need for this program, but until now no one has been able to overcome the obstacles to making it happen,” says Himelfarb. “We have been fortunate to receive financial backing from donors and foundations, which allows us to subsidize the programs. This makes it much easier to persuade the Jerusalem Municipality and the schools to give it a try.

“We believe that this program is the first step towards a major improvement in environmental quality country-wide.”

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