A Space to Celebrate

Sarah Julia Seldin16.02.18

Farm 2 Table Tu B’Shevat at Ramah Darom

As I drove through the dark into Ramah Darom, I thought, “This place is gorgeous.” I live just north of Asheville, North Carolina, which is an easy and beautiful two-hour drive to Ramah Darom through Southern Appalachia. Despite my grandfather being a former board member, I had never been to Ramah Darom, with its idyllic setting and well-maintained facilities. I was here for the Farm 2 Table Tu B’Shevat retreat. As a farmer and a Southern Jew, I was so excited for an event that emphasized sustainability in our food system and explored it through the Jewish tradition—and for such an event to be so close to home.

There is a special joy to walking into a room and being greeted with smiles and exclamations. I walked into dinner, late but just in time to eat a wonderful kosher pasture-raised lamb, provided by Naftali and Anna Hanau of Grow and Behold, and prepared by Ramah Darom’s executive chef Todd Jones. I ate—too much—and talked with both strangers and friends. Eliana Leader, Director of the Kaplan Mitchell Retreat Center at Ramah Darom, kindly gave me a baggie to take away the pieces of meat that I just couldn’t make room for in my full and happy belly.

Goats from Ivy Rose Farm were fed by retreat participants.

I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Labovitz and her partner Shawn Bernard from Ivy Rose Farm. The farm is a few hours away from Ramah Darom’s Clayton, Georgia campus, and for the second year in a row, Laura brought her animals to the Farm 2 Table Retreat for feeding, chores, and show and tell. This year, she also brought three roosters that were used for a kosher slaughter. Witnessing and participating in Shechita is a valuable experience for omnivores and vegetarians alike. This demonstration connects us with the food traditions of our ancestors in a tangible, visceral way.

Justin Goldstein, Rabbi in Residence for the Farm 2 Table Tu B’Shevat, is also my rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Asheville. He and I speak often about the need and opportunity for Southern Jews to have a space to gather and celebrate. As I left to return to Asheville, we looked at each other with the mutual understanding that this is it. Ramah Darom is an accessible place for Southern Jews to gather together to celebrate the best of our traditions, to honor the fruit of the trees, and rejoice in the fruits of the earth.

About the Author

Sarah Julia Seldin is Co-founder and Director of Development of the Jewish Farmer Network.  Jewish Farmer Network connects Jewish farmers to each other and the world to Jewish farmers. She lives and farms just outside of Asheville in Western North Carolina. Sarah can be reached at sarah@jewishfarmernetwork.org