Environmental Workshops

Did you know the ancient Rabbi’s planted their sense of awe, wonder and mystery inside Judaism’s holidays, blessings, prayers, texts, and mystical practices? They felt a strong sacred relationship with the natural world and wanted to find ways for future generations to remember this. They created a calendar connected to moon, sun, and the seasons; holidays that follow the growing season, blessings for rainbows, thunder, and the first flowers of spring; a prayer book overflowing with the Cosmos, and even a law that mandates simplicity!

How might we moderns connect with this ancient material?  After all, texts, like emails can be mysterious.  What might these ancient writers be trying to tell us?  Together we will unpack these texts, taste these holidays, and follow their paths as they weave together our hearts on the inside with the world on the outside in such a way that it all becomes one.

  • Activating Radical Hope

“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” (Vaclav Havel, artist, dissident, world leader.)

“The Talmud teaches that when we reach the heavenly realms we will be asked the question: ‘Were you able to keep hope alive throughout your life?'” Shabbat 31a

This workshop will explore elements of deep and radical hope. What is its role in our activism? In our personal lives? Hope is a spark we carry in our hearts, nurtured by elements of gratitude, wonder, interconnectedness, acknowledged grief, and imagining future possibilities. Together we will learn from our ancient mythic story of being released from slavery; we will re-imagine traditional words like Redemption and Messiah; and our prayerbook will help us open the prayers of our heart. This workshop will combine sharing circles, personal reflection, text study, being outdoors, art and storytelling, as we explore the process and tools for activating radical hope.

Registration is now open for this full day workshop.  It will be held during the Teva Seminar, June 4-7, 2013 @Isabella FreedmanClick here to register.

  • Psalm/ Pslam:  Entering the Poetry of Praise

In the psalms, like great poetry, rivers unabashedly clap and mountains dance with joy.  We will take a close look at Psalms 104 and 148, and use them as a template to write our own psalms based on our favorite places.  A variety of activities, active ones for kids, more reflective ones for adults, allow everyone to acclimate to the joy of being outside.  From this place, writing prompts will be used to write our psalm.  In addition to writing, a large collective mural can be made.

  • The PrayerBook: Where Heart, Text, and Land Meet.


The prayer book, a great anthology of poetry, theology, and source texts, is overflowing with the natural world.   Together, we will find ways to bring the prayers to life by focusing on prayers that lead us out into the natural world.  In addition, this experimental prayer workshop will include small group reflections exploring our diverse personal experiences of prayer.

  • Celebrating the Tree of Life:  Experiencing Tu’ B’Shevat, Judaism’s Earth Day


The mystics revived this ancient tax day for fruit from the trees, into a mystic celebration of the Tree of Life whose fruit provides the very existence to our world.  This celebration, a mere 400 years old, is a meal with fruit and nuts from trees and four glasses of wine.  The Seder, will serve as a primer on Jewish Mysticism and provide a sample of Judaism’s ancient environmental wisdom.  The seder will lead our conversations exploring our relationship with trees, the natural world, and the Source of Life.

  • ReStorying Tisha B’Av

Aldo Leopold taught that the price of an ecological education is to live in a world filled with wounds.  We all hope to keep grief away from our lives, and yet the rabbis created Tisha B’Av, a deep summer day of mourning that powerfully reminds us of the losses we have endured.  In this workshop we will connect these ideas; we will learn the history and practices of Tisha B’Av; and supported by a tradition of giving voice to tragedy, we will discover our laments and elegies for the world.  Sensitive activities from Joanna Macy’s life work will be included.  Participants will begin to write their own modern day Kinot, or laments based on the pain of the world they carry but seldom have the chance to acknowledge.  Maggid David’s Tisha B’Av lament, “The Burning Ocean is Not a Metaphor”, expressing shock and grief at the Gulf Oil Spill can be found here:

  • From Oy to Action:  Developing Individualized Action Plans for individuals and Communities

This workshop will directly address the latest statistics for planet Earth, and framed with Jewish texts to motivate, participants will personal action plans based on their individual values and habits.  Action plans can be developed for your school, synagogue, or community and in this way, long-lasting change can take root.


-CD’s Available-

The Birth of Love: Tales for the Days of Awe includes David’s retelling of ancient mythology, Old World Yiddish tales (set in the Berkshire foothills), medieval folktales and other stories first told at High Holiday services.

The Life and Times of Herschel of Ostropol: The Greatest Prankster Who Ever Lived brings to life the spirited and light-hearted Herschel, a beloved folk character from the Ukranian village of Ostropol. This CD is jam-packed with lively re-tellings of traditional folk stories, old world Yiddish tales, and introduces Ida, Herschel’s strong-willed, quick-witted and beloved wife. Filled with warmth, humor and excitement, this CD provides fun and pleasure for the whole family.