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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Members of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes Plant Intergenerational Garden

Members of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes Plant Intergenerational Garden

By Philip Devencentis
Suburban News

An article describing the intergenerational garden at Barnert Temple

Members of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes Plant Intergenerational Garden

Theo is among the synagogue's youngest greenskeepers.

FRANKLIN LAKES — Nature’s bounty is abundant this summer at Barnert Temple, where a vegetable crop is yielding baskets of fresh produce for both congregants and the homeless.
Theo is among the synagogue’s youngest greens-keepers.
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Theo is among the synagogue’s youngest greens-keepers.

Congregants say the intergenerational garden was created to draw every segment of the temple community together.

And, so far, they are raising their thumbs in satisfaction — green thumbs, naturally.

A group of 20 people ages 8 to 81 assembled at the 544-square-foot plot late last month to spread mulch, pull weeds and plant flowers and the remaining eggplant. Oscillating sprinklers and water detection alarms were installed days later.

The garden features five varieties of tomatoes, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, lettuces, onions, peppers, potatoes, squash, string beans, zucchini and an array of herbs.

The produce goes into temple suppers and is donated to St. Paul’s Community Development Corp. in Paterson. The outreach mission of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church provides an emergency shelter for up to 50 homeless men at a time.

"The motivation was creating a non-threatening way for people to become involved in temple life," said Seth Haubenstock, co-chairman of the project.

Haubenstock said the vegetable garden is the first stage of a more substantial landscaping project that will eventually feature a greenhouse and a meditation garden.

The idea to create a garden was conceived four years ago, congregants say. At that time, temple preschool teachers began reading about "nature deficit disorder," an affliction of children who are spending less and less time outdoors.

Sara Losch, the temple’s director of lifelong learning, said the garden is now included in preschool and religious school curricula.

An outdoor classroom near the garden is already used for preschool "circle time." The trunk of a felled ash tree was chopped and carved into stools for preschoolers to sit on.

The garden has become a favorite spot of the temple’s Renaissance Club, too, which is for senior citizens.

Accordingly, some garden beds are raised to provide them with a comfortable workspace.

"There are ample opportunities for everyone to work in the garden and to learn what Jewish texts say about caring for the Earth and for each other," Losch said.

Losch explained "pe’ah," for example. This lesson in Jewish charity from the Torah dictates that one must leave the corners of his field for the poor.

"Yes, the garden connects us to the Earth," Losch said. "But it also teaches us a very important lesson in humility and that we are not the center of the universe. We are here to help the universe move forward."

Eileen Roman, co-chairwoman of the project, said the garden also helps the temple fulfill its GreenFaith membership requirements. GreenFaith is a Highland Park-based interfaith coalition that works with houses of worship and religious schools to become better environmental stewards.

"It gives me goose bumps to see the community work together," Roman said. "I’m so proud to be a part of it."

Roman said Scenic Landscaping of Haskell, Jan Fence of Wayne and Garden State Irrigation & Lighting of Wyckoff donated materials.

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