What's So Jewish About Gardening?

Community is Feeding America in Nine Greater Hartford Gardens


Greater Hartford, CT -- (SBWIRE) -- 06/11/2013 -- This spring, Jessie’s Community Gardens is pleased to announce that they will have installed nine edible community gardens, staffed by volunteers who tend to and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables that supply food pantries in Greater Hartford. The gardens, including an orchard that opened this year in Westmoor Park in West Hartford, produce lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, peaches and pears.

Garden architect Judy Brenner, who organizes volunteers for each location, estimates that last season 200 volunteers supplied Hartford area families in need with an estimated 700 pounds of lettuce alone. At Beth El Temple in West Hartford, Hebrew school students grated and jarred potent Passover horseradish from Jessie’s Community Gardens in order to raise funds to buy seeds for next season's planting of vegetables that are donated to a food bank. 

The original Jessie’s Community Garden was inspired by the Kostin family, longtime Hartford area residents who saw the need to supply food pantries with fresh food. The gardens bring awareness of sustainable farming, offer hands-on learning and have become therapeutic outlets for Hartford residents. Michele and Dane Kostin plan to have completed a total of 15 Jessie’s Community Gardens, all of which honor the memory of their daughter, Jessica. For the Jewish community, the project also fosters Jewish values: tikkun olam (repairing the world), gemilut chasadim (benevolence), and l’ovda ul’shomra (to till and to tend).

The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford ( which supported the founding of Jessie’s Community Gardens in 2010, often partners with interfaith groups to identify opportunities for social action. The scope of Americans at risk of hunger goes far beyond the Jewish Community in Greater Hartford. Secular, religious and interfaith groups across the country are working to close the meal gap through growing communities. Today, Feeding America (, a national non-profit organization, will reveal a ‘Map the Meal Gap Map’ 2013 campaign (#mealgap on Twitter), showing the local face of hunger.

“What began as a step toward a tangible way to fight poverty in our own backyard” said Laura Zimmerman, associate vice president for public affairs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, “is now, thanks to the Kostins’ inspiration, a huge asset to our community.” Nearly 70 percent of the clients of the Kosher Food Pantry, where much of the produce is delivered, live below the poverty line. In New York, hunger is also widespread. According to a Special Report on Jewish Poverty released this week by the UJA Federation of New York,, 32 percent of New York Jews were living in poor or near-poor households in 2011.

For volunteer opportunities and garden locations, contact Judy Brenner: (860) 523-1762

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