Here is a brief look at Shoresh’s “roots”!
2002: Shoresh was established as Torat HaTeva: The Jewish Nature Centre of Canada by Alexandra Kuperman and Tuvia Aronson. Torat HaTeva began offering hands-on educational programs with Jewish schools and synagogues in Toronto, hosting an annual Tu B’Shvat Seder and visioning the creation of a nature centre at the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus in Vaughan!
2006: Risa Alyson Cooper and Sabrina Malach, both Leo Baeck alumni, reunite at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut where Sabrina is part of the Adamah Fellowship and Risa is a Jewish environmental educator at the Teva Learning Center. Together they begin visioning how to bring Jewish environmental programs to their native Toronto.
2008: With the support of Ahuva Goldschmidt and Shai Spetgang, Torat HaTeva staff and volunteers, Risa Alyson Cooper submitted (and was awarded!) grants to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program to develop an educational garden at the Lebovic Jewish Community Campus, which at the time was in its first stages of development.
2009: With funding from Trillium and Environment Canada, and with the support of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Kavanah Garden was born! In our first season we hosted 1400 community members and grew 400 pounds of fresh, local, organic produce for tzedakah, with the help of 200 volunteers (including our first cohort of interns!). We also hosted the first season of the Kavanah CSA in partnership with the Cutting Veg Organic Farm, providing 58 families with a full season of fresh, local, organic vegetables! Not bad for a pilot season!
2010: In our second season at the Kavanah Garden, we doubled our growing space! As the founder and director of the Kavanah Garden, Risa was listed as a “Woman to Watch” by PresenTense Magazine . As well, the Kavanah Garden was given honourable mention in the Jewish Daily Forward’s Forward 50!
2011: In 2011, Torat HaTeva was relaunched as Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs! Sabrina Malach officially joined the team as Director of Community Outreach, just in time to bring together over 50 community members to celebrate the growth of the Jewish Food Movement in Toronto and share Shoresh’s vision for the future!
2012: Shoresh’s Kavanah Garden is included in the Slingshot Guide as one of the 50 most innovative Jewish projects in North America! Shoresh is selected as one of three projects that will change the Toronto Jewish community by the SixPoints Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund and receives funding to build a permanent home for the Kavanah Garden on UJA’s Lebovic Jewish Community Campus! Visions for Bela Farm begin forming and Risa is selected as a fellow in the prestigious Joshua Venture Fellowship to develop Bela Farm as Shoresh’s next big venture!
2013: The Big Schlep! Over 100 volunteers help move Shoresh’s Kavanah Garden to our new PERMANENT home on the Lebovic Campus! We build our first three bee hives at Bela Farm! Shoresh is included in Slingshot (again!), selected to participate in Genesis: UJA’s Centre for Innovation, and Risa is awarded the prestigious Pomegranate Prize for excellence in emerging Jewish educators by the Covenant Foundation!
2014: Shoresh establishes a garden in the backyard of a community member’s home in Kensington Market in partnership with Jewish Family and Child Services, reflecting our increased commitment to hunger relief in our community. Shoresh is featured in Slingshot (AGAIN!) Sabrina is selected to participate in TENT: Food NYC, a week-long program exploring food and Jewish culture in NYC. Shoresh got LOTS of media attention this year including a FULL PAGE in the Toronto Star on Sabrina’s bee keeping venture at Bela Farm, articles in the Canadian Jewish News, Jewish Tribune and Shalom Toronto AND a shout-out in the New York Times
2015: Shoresh launches Bela Farm, revealing our ambitious 7-year plan including our 20 acre native reforestation project and 20 acre perennial bee pasture at the inaugural (sold-out) Taking Root event. Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua of Vaughan visits the Kavanah Garden and notes it as “one of the best places” to visit. Risa is featured in the Canadian Jewish News as one of 24 Jews Who Are Changing the World. Shoresh harvested and sold ALL 1000 jars of Bela’s Bees honey to hundreds of community members in time for Rosh Hashana.
2016: Shoresh officially roots down at Bela Farm with our Grand Opening celebration where 200 community members gathered to mark the beginning of Shoresh’s stewardship of Bela Farm. We planted the first 2 acres of the Bela Farm Bee Sanctuary and sold more 1200 jars of Bela’s Bees honey. We hosted over 250 people, 5 inspiring panelists and 26 snack and schmooze sponsors at the 2nd annual Taking Root event. We collaborated with the Ontario Jewish Archives to create an exhibit celebrating Jewish farming in Ontario from past to present. We joined the Jewish Community Farmers network, an international group of Jewish organizations that integrated farming and gardening into their programs. And, we developed a new program series with Jewish Family and Child where Shoresh staff mentor young adults through The Pearl Project.
2017: Shoresh plants 11,000 native trees at Bela Farm and grows our apiary to 30 hives. We hosted over 200 people at the Bela Farm Honey Festival and launched our newest sustainable product, beeswax Chanukah candles! We launched the Shoresh Outdoor School at the Kavanah Garden. We joined the JOFEE (Jewish Outdoor Food, Farming and Environmental Education) Fellowship as mentors and Jared Kaminsky joined the Shoresh team as our Interim Managing Director. We hosted over 400 people at Taking Root!
2018: Our ten-year anniversary was epic! We launched a new, mid-town site for the Shoresh Outdoor School, made the cover of Hadassah Magazine, received a Trillium grant to grow our pollinator habitat and were hired to consult and mentor about sustainable Jewish beekeeping with our friends at the Shalom Institute in Malibu. At Bela Farm, we hosted our first field trip with students from the Montessori Jewish Day School, expanded the bee sanctuary, built Beit Shoresh, our welcome and education centre, planted 20 new trees and harvested more that 2600 jars of honey! Our offices moved from the Wolfond Centre in the Annex to the Prosserman JCC and we hosted more than 450 at Taking Root: The Power of Many!
2019: What a year! We expanded the Bela Farm Bee Sanctuary by planting a 2-acre Pollinator Food Forest and celebrated our reforestation efforts at the Bela Farm Forest Festival, we brought more than 70 community members together to represent the Jewish community in the Global Climate Strike in Toronto, we organized 100 Debates on the Environment which brought together local politicians to share their environmental platforms for the 2019 Federal election, we launched our seed starting program in the CHAT greenhouse, we redesigned the Bela’s Bees Honey Labels, we had our first non-vegetarian event featuring heritage, local, kosher chickens at Eating Jewishly, we lovingly tended our apiary at Bela Farm resulting in an abundant harvest of 1500 jars of honey and we ran dozens of community programs inspiring and empowering thousands of community members to become shomrei adamah, guardians of the earth.
2020: What a year we had! We started the year with Taking Root: Planting for the Future where we brought together more than 400 community members to celebrate Tu Bi Shevat. We hired four new staff, Allie Shier, Rachel Karstadt, Mira Goldstein and Tamar Golberg. We’ve said l’hitraot to our amazing Director of Programs, Beth Denaburg. Along with the rest of the world, we had to adapt to a new reality caused by Covid-19 and have put all of our spring programs on hold until further notice. We still found ways to gather with community at Bela Farm, on hikes, as well as virtually, and provided resources throughout the pandemic to empower our community to be Shomrei Adamah.