By Aria Druker, Shoresh Garden Educator
My name is Aria, and I am entering my 3rd year at Quest University, where I study Liberal Arts
and Sciences. What I have learned over my last few years is that one of the most beautiful parts
of a Liberal Arts and Sciences program is that all parts of the brain are encouraged to stay
curious – all the time. We ask questions about everything – and look across all disciplines and
fields for the answer. The program brings back our inner-child, we ask the questions that as
adults we often take for granted, “How did that mountain form?” “What kinds of soil is best for
this plant?” “How do people, in a techno-focused era connect to land?” While few of us claim to
be ‘experts’ in all fields, simply asking the questions makes us feel more connected – or at least
more in awe of what complexity exists.
It is said that back in the days of the shtetl, young students were presented with a problem, or a
quote, or an idea, and asked to debate it with a partner. Once the debate was complete, they
were asked to switch sides, and present the argument from the opposition not using any of the
same points. To me, this way of learning resonates as it recognizes sometimes answers are
complicated, they aren’t always black and white. Sometimes one side seems obviously correct
until asked to think from the other.
One of the reasons I chose my school was because it was in the mountains, deep in a forest,
and surrounded by nature. A place of quiet beauty that gave me the time, space, and inspiration
to look around and ask – why? As Neil Degrasse Tyson once said, “Humans are genetically
connected with life on Earth, chemically connected with life on other star systems and atomically connected with all matter in the universe.” What that means to me is that we are all connectedto each other, to earth, and to everything around us. One of the things I have had the privilege of exploring as Shoresh’s summer intern, is the connection of my Jewish and my
The reason I call myself a Jewish environmentalist, is because my environmentalist vision is
founded on my Jewish values. My environmentalist belief is that in having the privilege of being
able to grow and create life on earth, we also carry the responsibility of protecting said life. As
stated by G!D to Adam when showing him the Garden of Eden “See my works, how beautiful
and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I created, I created for you. Be careful not to spoil or
destroy my world — for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it” (Midrash Kohelet
Rabba, 7:28). As both a Jew and as an environmentalist, I fear our ability to ‘destroy’ this
‘beautiful and praiseworthy’ world, especially since both communities agree that we are the onlyones that can repair a path of destruction. So to ensure the Jews are held to their responsibility to care for the world in Bereishit (2:15), it explicitly states that G!D put Adam “ in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.”
Lastly, I am a Jewish environmentalist because my parents held, practiced, and passed on
those values. When I had my Bat Mitzvah, my parents gift to me was planting a tree in Israel.
When my sister graduated high school they donated a tree in her honour as well. We grow from
our Jewish roots, but also we plant roots for the next generation to enjoy. Our parents raised us
on the story of emperor Hadrian. “Emperor Hadrian was walking along a road near near Tiberias in the Galilee, and he saw an old man working the soil to plant some fig trees. ‘If you had worked in your early years, old man,’ he said, ‘you would not have to work now so late in your life.’ ‘I have worked both early and late,’ the man answered. ‘And what pleases the Lord, He was done with me.’ ‘how old are you?’ asked Hadrian. ‘A hundred years old,’ the man answered. ‘A hundred years old, and yet you stand there breaking up the soil to plant trees!’ said Hadrian. ‘Do you expect to eat the fruit of the trees?’ ‘If I am worthy, I will eat,’ said the old man. ‘But if not, as my father worked for me, I work for my children.’” (Leviticus Rabbah 25:5).
Today we see the beauty of the fruits of labour from those that came before us and it is our responsibility to follow their example for those yet to come. I find that through my hobbies, passions, and life experiences I am drawn to Judaism and nature, but what I find is that they are intertwined in ways I could never have imagined, in ways that are inspiring, and in ways I learn from, and try to integrate in my life practices. I guess you could say Judaism is in my nature.