Pushing Up Zucchini
How one congregation in California is growing food for the hungry in their temple’s cemetery.
By Laura Kiniry
Since 1995, the Congregation Emanu-El Temple has devoted part of its 25-acre Home of Peace cemetery to growing food for the hungry. The one-acre garden beside the mausoleum is named Pe’ah (Hebrew for “corner”—Leviticus:19 instructs farmers to reserve the edges of their fields for feeding the poor). Pe’ah provides 12,000 to 20,000 pounds of organically grown vegetables, including broccoli, rainbow chard, spinach, zucchini, cauliflower and root vegetables, to the food bank annually. “We choose hearty vegetables that do well in the cold,” says Sandy Rechtschaffen, the temple’s social justice coordinator, “because it’s not always sunny here.”
The congregation also hosts gardening workshops and offers Victory Garden-style planter boxes to anyone who will give some of what they grow to the food bank. “We couldn’t call them ‘plots,’” says Rechtschaffen, laughing. “This is, after all, a cemetery.”