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Cultivating Culture:

A (virtual) Gathering of Jewish Farmers

Sunday, January 24, 2021

11th of Shvat 5781

9:30 to 10:30 AM EST

Community Morning Practice

Avodat Lev

Barn (zoom room one)

Avodat Lev (Heart Work) is a contemplative chant-based practice based on one of the three Jewish services to honor the passing of the day. We will follow the core structure of the morning/Shacharis service. Our avodah/service will include Hebrew and English chanting, guided meditation and meditative silence. The practice is meant to guide us in greeting the morning and cultivate connection. Avodat Lev was initially crafted by Adamah housed at Isabella Freedman Retreat Center.


Simcha Halpert-Hanson

Dropping into Your Body: Yoga with Molly & the Goats of Ivy Rose Farm

Greenhouse (zoom room two)

Come join on your floor or from your bed from some rolling, lengthening, strengthening, and awakening. We will explore the different ways our breath impacts our movement and our movement impacts our breath. If you have a yoga mat, great! If you have two big books (or yoga blocks), great! If you just have your carpet, dayenu. Come as you are, move as you are able.

Molly Block & the Goats of Ivy Rose Farm

10:35 - 10:50 AM EST

Welcome & Opening

Barn (zoom room one)


Join Jewish Farmer Network’s co-founders Shani Mink and SJ Seldin for a warm and grounding welcome into the first day of Cultivating Culture. We will collectively acknowledge the Original Stewards of the lands we are each calling in from, get to know who’s “in the room,” share why we’re all here, and set the mood for a day of learning and connection.

11:00 - 12:30 PM EST

Session Block One


100 Years of Farming at Himmelstein Homestead Farm

Barn (zoom room one)

The Himmelstein Homestead Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut has a history as rich as the soil where the family has farmed for nearly 108 years. Louis and Dora Himmelstein arrived on the farm in April 1913 and by 1926, records indicate there were as many as seventy-four Jewish family farms in Lebanon.  Today, the Himmelstein Homestead Farm is the only active Jewish family farm remaining from those original Jewish settlers in Lebanon and may be likely the oldest Jewish family owned farm in CT.  Come learn more from Frank Himmelstein about the unique history and current landscape of Jewish farming in the region.

Frank Himmelstein

Is Kosher Slaughter Humane?

Greenhouse (zoom room two)

Some claim that kosher it is the most humane form of slaughter in existence, while others pronounce it a barbaric form of slaughter that should be banned. In this session we will cut through the noise and gain a true understanding of what kosher and other forms of slaughter are, their effect on welfare, and work to see them in the context of the full life cycle of the animals we eat.

Yadidya Greenberg

TransPlanted - A Panel of Trans Jewish Farmers

Orchard (zoom room three)

Shoshana Mackay (she & they) will lead a conversation with fellow trans Jewish farmers La’akea Kaufman (they/them), Micha Chetrit (he/him), Sam Panken (they/them), & Simcha Halpert-Hanson (they/them). They’ll discuss how the intersections of their multifaceted identities have influenced their relationship with themselves, the land, and HaShem.

Moderator: Shoshana Mackay

Panelists: La’akea Kaufman, Micha Chetrit, Sam Panken, & Simcha Halpert-Hanson

1:00 - 1:45 PM EST

Lunch Dates

One of our favorite parts of in-person conferences is the lunch time conversations that turn new acquaintances into friends and collaborators.  We weren’t willing to let this go! So we’ve organized virtual “lunch dates” centered around different identities, interests and geographies. In your registration form you let us know which “lunch dates” you’re interested in, but don’t let that stop you from popping into another conversation just as you might in a conference building dining room. All topics will be available on both January 24th & January 31st, pending enough participants. ​


Barn (zoom room one)

Orthodox Jews ✲ Queer Jewish Farmers ✲ JOCISM (Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sephardi, & Mizrahi) ✲

Jews by Choice ✲ Russian Jews



Greenhouse (zoom room two)

Grazing Group ✲ Beginning farmers ✲ Vegetable Producers ✲ Seed Savers ✲ Land Justice ✲

Farm Based Educators ✲ Herbalists ✲ Beekeepers ✲ Academics ✲ Urban Farming ✲ Grains Group



Orchard (zoom room three)

Israel ✲ UK & Europe ✲ Canada ✲ California ✲ Pacific Northwest ✲ Midwest ✲ Southwest ✲ New England ✲ 

Mid-Atlantic ✲ Southeast

2:00 - 3:30 PM EST

Session Block Two ✦ Shmita Intensive

Shmitah, meaning 'remission,' is an ancient Jewish agricultural and economic statute found in the Torah. After six years, the Torah commands that during the seventh year the land of Israel experiences a Shabbat, a rest, similar to how the Jewish people are commanded to experience Shabbat every seventh day. In the Shmitah year, most primary agricultural activities are prohibited. In addition to agricultural remission, there is also an economic remission where debt is released. As Shmitah is a central piece of the tapestry of Jewish agricultural thought, and the next Shmitah year begins this coming Rosh Hashanah (5782) we feel that it’s important to devote one session block on each conference day to Shmitah learning. Enjoy!


Reflections on Shmita from Israel Today

Barn (zoom room one)

I made aliya onto a religious farm "erev shmita" 2000. That experience captured a lot of my heart and soul in the Jewish/Zionist project- and shmita's been a theme in those questions of society, land, sovereignty and humility over the last twenty years for me. We'll thread between shmita in modern Israel, the tantalizing vision it represents for us as a people and in the context of the conflict, and hopefully also about modern shmita initiatives in Israel, like "Shmita Yisraelit" of Teva Ivri.

Shaul Judelman

If Shemittah is the answer, what is the question?

Greenhouse (zoom room two)

Every law, every mitzvah, is an answer to a question. Our challenge is to figure out what that question is, and to explore how (and if) the question resonates for us today. Shemittah is a complex answer, which leads us to wonder, what question(s) motivated its creation. We will explore: Why is there such a practice as shemittah? What is it coming to teach us? How can we translate its particulars that are relevant to an agricultural culture into particulars for today?

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin

Shmita: The Origins and Continuing Relevance of the “Sabbath for the Land”

Orchard (zoom room three)

This session will explore the biblical origins of Shmita, the practice of letting land lie fallow every seventh year. We will consider rabbinic perspectives on Shmita’s importance and how it is to be observed, while also asking ourselves what the relevance of this ancient practice might be for modern farmers. The session will include both havruta (one on one) and group study, and all sources will be provided in translation as well as in the original.

Michael Fraade

3:45 - 5:15 PM EST

Session Block Three


Jewish Herbalism

Barn (zoom room one)

Spices, fruits, leaves, & roots. Did you know there are almost 70 different plant remedies mentioned in Talmudic literature? Join together to learn about some of these medicinal and ritual herbs and their connection to Judaism. Also, learn how to weave your own sacred connections between healing plants and your spiritual practice. Bring an herb, botanical drawing, family remedy, or an herbal story to share with the group.

Chelsea Taxman

Tzedek (justice) & Adamah (earth): An Intro Course

Greenhouse (zoom room two)

This session will explore what Jewish principles help us orient to the land in right relationship? How do we see them being practiced today and how can we further integrate them in today's world? How does Judaism guide us to honor the harvest and inhabit an abundance mindset, while pursuing equity and justice?

Ophir Haberer

Chewing the Cud with Jewish Livestock Farmers

Orchard (zoom room three)

The Torah is filled with stories of Jewish leaders who cut their teeth as leaders by tending to their flocks of goats and sheep. Join us to hear the stories of three modern Jewish livestock farmers where we will ruminate on Jewish identity and raising animals in a changing food system. We will explore the ways that these farmers are shepherding in a brighter food system through regenerative pasture management while harvesting dairy, meat, fiber & friends.

Moderator: Rabbi Aaron Philmus

Panelists:  Suzanna Goldblatt-Clark, Caleb Straus-Peretz & Cody Nicolson-Stratton

5:30 - 7:00 PM EST

Creating a Life on Land: The Soul Fire Farm Story

Barn (zoom room one)


Leah Penniman, co-founder of Soul Fire Farm is joined by her children, Neshima (age 17) and

Emet (age 15) for an honest and reflective conversation about what it took to build our lives on land

as a Black-Jewish family. We will ask ourselves the hard questions, share our personal story, and

open ourselves to your queries. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and wonder alongside us as we recount our

15 year journey on this mountainside.

7:30 - 9:00 PM EST

Sunday Night Shmooze


Queer Jewish Farmer Shmooze

Barn (zoom room one)

Queer folks (& Jewish folks) have been building communities of support for each other for generations beyond count. We’re thrilled to take part in this tradition by creating a space that we can hold for each other and ourselves. Come join us to share in the miracle of shared identities and lived experiences. Sing with us, share with us, make blessings with us, chat & connect with us as we celebrate our queerness as a reflection of the divine. This space is for anyone who identifies on the broad, brilliantly colorful LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Shoshana MacKay & Simcha Halpert-Hanson

Tu B'Shvat Seder

Greenhouse (zoom room two)

Tu B'Shvat is a birthday celebration for the trees that is named for the day on which it falls, the 15th of the Jewish month of Shvat. While Tu B'Shvat is actually Wednesday night (01/27) & Thursday (01/28) we’re celebrating  early with a special conference. We celebrate the coming blossoms of spring through a Seder (ritual meal) in which we explore the mystical Jewish concepts through eating a variety of fruits, nuts and wine (or grape juice).


To make this seder participatory, we ask that you pick up the following items:

  • Red wine & White wine or red grape juice & white grape juice

  • Fruit that is fully edible - think figs, grapes (raisins), berries fresh or dried (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)

  • Fruit that has a soft outside and a hard inside. AKA fruits with pits: olives, dates, peaches, apricots, plums

  • Fruit with an inedible outisde, thick peel, soft inside - oranges, bananas, mangos, pomegranates


If you can’t get some or all of these items, no worries! You can still participate, learn and connect!

Sarah Rovin & Shani Mink

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