As we celebrate Earth Day, our thoughts naturally turn to the environment and what we can do to protect and preserve it. At the MJCCA, we live the Jewish value of ‘Shomrei Adamah,’ to be Guardians of the Earth, and we are always looking for opportunities to inspire, teach, and encourage participants of all ages to be responsible stewards of the environment.
We have joined forces with Trees Atlanta on several ongoing initiatives, marking the first time Trees Atlanta has worked with an organization outside Atlanta’s perimeter. In February, Trees Atlanta held a Family Tree Planting Day for students in our after-school program, Club J, and as a community service project for teens. Together we planted 21 trees of various varieties on our Zaban Park Campus. Trees Atlanta is also conducting educational programs at the MJCCA to teach children and teens about the various tree species on our campus and how to care for them. In addition, as a part of J-Serve, the International Day of Jewish Youth Service in March, our Teen Department helped Trees Atlanta with landscaping projects along the Atlanta BeltLine.
We are also teaching the youngest members of our community to have an early respect for the earth. Students at The Sunshine School, the MJCCA’s preschool in East Cobb, are enjoying the fruits and the veggies of their labor through an edible organic gardening program where they help plant, water, and harvest what is grown. Classroom lessons correspond with what the children are doing in the garden, so they can learn things in a real, hand’s on way. The preschoolers not only get the chance to learn about and grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit, they get to taste the fruits of their labor and many are learning an early appreciation for healthy foods. And, as guardians of the earth, they are learning how compost is used to enrich the soil by putting food scraps and yard waste into compost bins.
The gardens get a green thumbs up from parents, who are thrilled with the enthusiasm many of the preschoolers are bringing home for healthy foods. One parent even brags that after trying okra from the school’s vegetable garden, her son apparently now asks for okra as a snack. If we can teach children to appreciate the earth and ask for okra as a snack, there’s no limit to the good we can do!
Our responsibility to the environment extends across the agency. A matching grant from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s Grants to Green initiative, which we received last May, is helping to support the MJCCA’s sustainability efforts. These funds are enabling us to improve our overall environmental impact, increase operational cost efficiencies, and provide a healthy environment for employees, members, and guests.
Doug is the chairman of the Board of Directors at the MJCCA. AtlantaJCC.org