More on Shmita: December 7 Event

Bus Tour Picture

From the last Shmita event, the Food, Land, & Justice Bus Tour (Sept. 14, 2014)

By AARC Member Carole Caplan, for the Washtenaw Jewish News

On December 7, 2014, the community is invited to gather at St. Joe’s Hospital to explore how the Jewish teachings of Shmita are coming to life through the impact of regional institutions and their commitments to local, healthy food.

Meet at St. Joe’s Women’s Health Center, 5320 Elliot Dr, Ypsilanti.
For information, contact Carole Caplan at, or Idelle Hammond- Sass at

For the year’s Shmita activities, see this page.

The event is a continuation of an exciting year-long exploration of the teachings of Shmita, funded by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor late last winter. “For me, the commandments of shmita can be seen as a built-in seventh year wake-up call,” said AARC member Carole Caplan, who is co-chairing the event with fellow congregant Idelle Hammond-Sass. Caplan explains that “Shmita, which means ‘release’, is the opportunity to become conscious of our relationships with each other, with the environment, and with our understanding of true health, nourishment, and ‘enough-ness’. Just as Shabbat is an opportunity to re-set our ideas about production and consumption on a personal level, Shmita provides us with a unique and important opportunity to re-imagine and reset our practices regarding food production and consumption in and beyond our own homes out into our communities.”

AARC member and owner of Locavorious, Rena Basch, agrees. “Modern philosophy on how to celebrate and honor the Shmita years recommends we take the time to re-imagine society, re-lease the land and re-think farming”. Basch, who began working in the local sustainable food movement in 2006, founded Locavorious, a locally grown frozen fruit and vegetable CSA here in Ann Arbor. “Do you wonder how we, and our community, our congregations, our schools, and our institutions can support the values and intentions of this Shmita tradition?” Basch questioned. “This event will introduce us to the inspirational people who are re-imagining our food system by considering environmental health, human health and sustainability in institutional food sourcing.  These community leaders are on the ground working to incorporate local and healthy food into our community’s schools, hospitals and other large institutions.”

The panel will include farmer Dan Bair, Project Manager at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System; Betti Wiggins, Executive Director of School Nutrition for the Detroit Public Schools; and Nicki Milgrom, Healthy Food in Health Care Organizer with the Ecology Center. Basch will facilitate the panel and a tour of the hoop house with Farmer Dan will follow. “This event will be a great opportunity to celebrate ancient Jewish wisdom as a pathway towards invigorating local food systems, creating community mindfulness around food, and supporting sustainable local agriculture,” added Basch.

Inspired by shmitah-year materials provided to them by Hazon, the national Jewish organization for environmental awareness and action, Caplan and Hammond-Sass were touched on a personal level to take the questions they were individually wrestling with — healthy food accessibility and affordability; availability of a sustainable non-gmo, local, organic food supply, the environmental impact of the food production system, fair-wages in the food system–and gave them a framework with which they could involve those around them in the conversation as Jews. “Jews hold justice and environmental stewardship as important spiritual values,” Caplan offered, “ I believe that if we can get people into the conversation and make them understand that it is personal, more people will be inspired by those shared Jewish values to act. And, of course, with all of the interest in sustainable, local food, the time to act is now.”

The Food, Land and Justice Shmita event committee is currently made up of Caplan, Basch, and Hammond-Sass from AARC, along with Oran Hesterman, Lucinda Kurtz, and Linda Jo Doctor from Pardes Hannah. There is a hope for involvement with other Ann Arbor synagogues, and partnerships with other local organizations, as well as plans for the group to move forward following the grant year as the Jewish Alliance for Food, Land and Justice. The committee is very excited to have partnered with ICPJ, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, for this event.

Future events include ‘Sustainability at Home’, with a focus on organic home gardening and permaculture principles, in honor of Tu b’Shevat; a ‘Stewardship Day’ late spring, and will culminate the years efforts in a community-wide Youth Outdoor Education Farm Day and Community-wide Jewish Food Festival at a local organic farm.

We are looking to move forward, through this year and beyond, as a Jewish alliance for Food, Land and Justice,” said Caplan, “ and hope you will join us in this important work!