Nati Passow is just trying to live like his ancestors. “At our foundation, Judaism is an agrarian religion,” he said. “We were all farmers back in the day.”
The co-founder of the Jewish Farm School, Passow is all about living sustainability — in a Jewish setting. After majoring in religion and environmental studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Passow worked at the Teva Learning Center in Connecticut, where he experienced an “amazing crash course in environmental education.” But the dreadlocked, bearded, carpenter wanted more — to merge the education with a more skills-based approach: teaching gardening, farming and sustainable carpentry.
So in 2005 the Jewish Farm School launched, running workshops and seminars, leading alternative spring break trips and organizing an urban sustainability series. It directs a cooperative design program, which works with synagogues and Jewish centers who want to create their own gardens.
Until 2008 Passow was simultaneously working as a carpenter and on an after-school program in urban gardening in Philadelphia, but as JFS grew, it “started to become full-time.” Now he is helping with the launch of the first Jewish environmental summer camp this June, Eden Village Camp, run by fellow 36ers Yoni Stadlin and Vivian Lehrer.
He plans to use the campgrounds, located in the town of Putnam Valley in upstate New York, for programming throughout the year. “We hope to really utilize the farm as a resource for Jewish institutions,” said Passow.
“The [Jewish] calendar, holidays are all rooted in agricultural cycles,” said Passow. “At Eden Village we’re able to bring that alive.”
Tasty terrain: Passow, a vegetarian, has over 25 varieties of fruits and vegetables growing in the garden of his West Philadelphia home.
36 networking: Along with fellow 36ers Eli Winkelman and Allison Laichter, Passow was recently named a Joshua Venture Group fellow.
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