Sprouting a better world – Green Kippah Initiative to construct rooftop garden on Federation CJA building

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Federation CJA rooftop garden

by Gabriel Couture

Last year the Green Kippah Collective, a Jewish youth-led movement interested in leadership and learning experiences, started working towards building an urban rooftop garden that would crown the Montreal Federation CJA building.

Born out of a “desire to sprout a diverse community of creative people who are interested in exploring the intersection of progressive Jewish Identity, food and the environment”, the Green Kippah Collective, led by Myrite Rotstein, Aryeh Canter and Cai Rintoul, worked with a team of volunteers to create the first rooftop garden on a Jewish Federation building.

Inspiring sustainability

The project was greatly inspired by Myrite’s experience visiting “The Food Project” in Boston and being trained in their summer institute. There, she learned about the current global food system, nutrition, farming and sustainability. She believed in the feasibility of such a project in Montreal.

25%

Estimated cooling energy saving of a green roof

As a food and wellness coach, she realized that, in Boston, The Food Project was turning their gardens into classrooms and felt this was a good way of teaching others about the health, environmental and personal benefits of growing your own food. According to Myrite, “There is something miraculous and spiritual about watching a seed you planted turn into food that you can harvest.”

A source of nourishment for the Montreal Jewish community

Building the garden in the epicentre of the Jewish community provides the Green Kippah Collective the greatest reach possible to the local diaspora. As a physical space of agriculture in Montreal, it will offer young Jewish adults a unique and nourishing space for learning and interaction. Given today’s new understanding of climate change, this generation is increasingly interested in being environmentally and socially conscious. Santropol Roulant, a Montreal community organization that “uses food as a vehicle to break social and economic isolation between generations and cultures” lists some of the numerous benefits of urban agriculture: a food system that is healthy, accessible and sustainable regardless of socio-economic status; a reduction in food associated greenhouse gas emissions; mitigation of the urban heat island effect; reduction in rainwater runoff; and an opportunity for the expression of cultural identity.

An environment to engage

For Aryeh Canter, this last point is vital. With this project, he hopes to spark interest in the Jewish Food Movement, a dynamic movement of people and organizations spreading awareness about today’s food system and the relationship of Judaism to farming and agriculture. Using the garden as a showcase, a community space of sharing and learning, he wants to inspire people to engage with their Jewish identities and the natural world around them. He also believes that by fostering this sort of innovative community, the rooftop garden can act as an alternative space at Federation CJA, where less connected Jews can be inspired to come forward with their own project ideas and actively participate in ensuring the future of the Jewish people.

The Green Kippah Collective has also, and will continue to organize presentations, workshops and gatherings that focus on food, farming and questions of Jewish identity. When functional, they also plan on sharing the garden’s harvests with Le Café, to supplement the meals they serve with fresh and local produce. The garden will also serve as a space for employees of Federation CJA to rest, eat and relax.

The Green Kippah Collective does not want to stop with just one garden. Their vision is to create gardens for the Cummings Centre, Hope & Cope and more.

This initiative is the perfect example of Tikun Olam in action.

For more information, visit the Green Kippah Collective’s blog or Facebook page. To get involved, email  greenkippah@gmail.com.

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