Environmental Education in Unlikely Places 

By: Tiferet Nashman, Program Coordinator, Shoresh

When you think of sites for nature conservation, a cemetery is not likely the first place that comes to mind! However, when Toronto Hebrew Memorial Parks approached Shoresh about doing Jewish environmental education at Pardes Shalom Cemetery, we were very excited!

Not all cemeteries are created equal. Pardes Shalom is a very special place. It is an arboretum that supports a huge amount of plant and animal diversity, but also brings together many different sectors of the Jewish community who all want to honour their ancestors and keep their memories alive in these beautiful surroundings. We are so fortunate that Sidney Freedman, founder of the Toronto Hebrew Memorial Parks, had the foresight and vision, to create and preserve this incredibly beautiful site for our community!

On Sunday May 28th 2017, Shoresh educators facilitated a Toronto Hebrew Memorial Parks workshop for Torah High Students during which we explored  our connection to Pardes Shalom.

Through Hitbodedut, or personal reflection, we turned our attention inward, exploring how we feel in the forest.

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Through a Ma Rabu Nature Walk, we discovered the incredible biodiversity in area, looking at maple and birch trees, hearing sparrows and woodpeckers, and even spotting the Trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower, in full bloom!

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Through discussion and hands-on activities, students considered their personal connection with nature. We studied the Cycle of Life from a Jewish perspective, learned how the Jewish tradition encourages us to be mindful of waste even in death, and explored our personal responsibility to the next generation.

We are so honoured to have been given the opportunity to create new life and meaning out of this cemetery, connect young people to their tradition, and continue making this a beautiful space for generations to come! We’re looking forward to future partnership and collaborative experiential education with Toronto Hebrew Memorial Parks!

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