We spoke with our dear friend, biological dentist and former Chairman of the Shoresh board, Michael Schecter from Schecter Dental to learn about the unique and inspiring ways that he connects his medical, Jewish and environmental ethics and why he’s a HUGE fan of ours.
As a biological dentist, we understand that you take a preventative and holistic approach to dentistry. We love you for that! We also know that you care a great deal about our planet’s health. What do you think are the connections between the earth’s health and human health?
The love is mutual and I must add respect and admiration for the leadership you provide. This is a loaded question. To keep this to a reasonable length, I will bring just a few ideas
- I understand human health to be a combination of mental, physical, and spiritual balance. I find my health balance in nature. Fresh air, quiet surroundings, and beautiful vistas leave me to reflect, strengthen, and calm.
- In many ways, the same disease/healing processes in humans also impact the earth. For example: Toxins that are polluting our planet, harming ecosystems, and reducing biodiversity are also effecting human reproduction, immune health, and neurological patterns. Ozone, on the ground level, is produced to combat harmful smog. The same ozone is produced by human white blood cells to combat disease in the body.
- I understand biology to be a massive interconnected organism. In a human body, 90% of all cells are non-human cells. We are constantly drawing and sharing energy, nutrients, electricity, and hormones from our surroundings. One example of this is the abundant grounding nature of the earth. There is a significant number of nerve endings in our feet to allow for this grounding process to occur. we inherently rely on the physical earth to balance our internal electrical system
You’ve incorporated environmental responsibility into everything you do professionally and personally. From minimizing waste to green building, Schecter Dental demonstrates a true commitment to living an ecologically responsible lifestyle. Why do you go the extra mile and spend the extra dollar?
I think your first question really answers this second one. Human existence is reliant on our planet. Human prosperity and advancement is reliant on our planet’s health and stability. Sadly, for the first time in history, we are living in an era where humans are impacting the planet at a greater rate than nature itself. We are actually moving more earth and altering more air than the natural cycles that occur. This is astonishing. I recognize that this path is not sustainable. It is critical to reduce our individual and collective footprints.
After a careful analysis, I am also confident that some of these choices will prove to save money over time. My additional investment in insulation and building design allows me to minimize heating costs. I have yet to turn the heat on this winter!! As well, LED lighting has provided an incredible reduction in hydro bills. Supporting local business will help to maintain economic growth. A healthy economy will lead to successful business for all of us.
What are some things you do in your daily/personal life to minimize your ecological footprint?
- I have to plug my dental approach relating to pharmaceutical/chemical reduction 🙂 In my opinion, affluent toxic pharmaceuticals and chemicals are one of the greatest dangers we are grappling with today. From the production of these products to the runoff into our ecosystems and even the extensive political influence these companies wield, damage is occurring, often irreversible. One small example is the pervasive use of Tricolsan in dental products. Consumers may not be aware that this DDT analogue is found in many home hygiene products in addition to several dental cements and adhesives.
- I do my best to minimize toxicity. I offer homeopathic remedies, ozone, and natural rinses as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. I carefully screen all products to ensure biocompatibility, environmental responsibility, and reduced synthetic chemicals. One new and exciting example is a chair side ceramic restorative material. Dental fillings can now be placed with ceramic. No more resin/plastic filled options.
- I don’t have a car. I bike or transit to work. I also limit by personal purchasing to necessary items and always focus on local responsible companies.
How do your strong Jewish values and ethics inform your environmental ethics?
I would argue they are intertwined. Attending Jewish Day School, responsibility, humanity, and kindness were emphasized along with a strong sense of justice. I understand my role as a steward of the land, an opportunity to grow and help maintain this beautiful world that has been provided.
The very concept of Shmita and even Shabbat is to take a period of rest from production/work/consumption and to revel in creation. As Michael Pollan put it, “determine to observe the Sabbath. For one day a week, abstain completely from economic activity: no shopping, no driving, no electronics.”
Here is just some of the Jewish wisdom and ethics that inspire and inform my daily choices:
- Bal Tashchit (Do Not Waste): Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs a well, or does away with food in a destructive manner violates the negative mitzvah of bal tashchit, do not destroy or waste (Kiddushin 32a).
- Environmental-Themed Meditations: Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone. May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grass, among all growing things. And there may I be alone in prayer, to talk with my Creator, to express everything in my heart. And may all the foliage of the field awake at my coming, to send the power of their life into the words of my prayer, so that my prayer and speech are made whole through the spirit of all growing things. (Meditation of Reb Nahman of Bratslav)
As a long-time friend and supporter of Shoresh, what do you love about us?
I love and admire your perseverance and vision. The ability to acquire land (Bela Farm) and create a space that will prove meaningful to an entire community is just incredible. Shoresh will continue to be a leader reconnecting Jews and Ontarians back to the land. And this need is only growing.
I also want to tip my hat to the inclusiveness of Shoresh. It is so positive to witness interfaith programming and the multi denominational population that attends Shoresh events. It seems to me that gender, age, race, religion, and level of observance is irrelevant at Shoresh. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to get dirty in the soil together.
When your daughter was born, you planted an elderberry bush in her honour in the orchard at Bela Farm. How was this experience meaningful for you and why did you choose to mark Sahara’s birth in this way?
I am optimistic that all my children will share in the wonder, awe, and sheer enjoyment I find in the natural world. I want Sahara to have her special place. Somewhere she can feel a close personal connection to the planet and the natural cycle of growth. Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” helped with this inspiration 🙂
What are you most excited to see Shoresh grow over the next ten years?
I think the growth in the past ten years has been tremendous. I can’t wait to see what will come in the next ten!! I am excited for Shoresh to continue to develop a strong donation base. I am confident that the Toronto community’s and the Jewish community’s support for Shoresh will only grow. The more we give to Shoresh the more we will receive.
I am excited to come with my family and experience a growing farm. To witness the development of an edible forest, useable crop land, and ethically cared for animals is a real blessing. Of greatest importance is accessibility to wonderful value added products. Shoresh honey is just plain delicious. I’m sure all the future products will be even better. Where do I sign up?