Embracing Your Child’s Love For Animals Through Judaism
Are your kids entranced by puppies? Love to cuddle with kittens? Chase squirrels in the park? Dig in the dirt for earthworms and rollie pollies? Then you have one more adorably fun and meaningful tool in your box to connect them to Jewish tradition and values!
The Torah and Jewish culture are full of opportunities to deepen your child’s love for animals and foster values of animal welfare. From kashrut dietary laws to tza’ar ba’alei chayim (not inflicting pain on animals), there are many places in Judaism to look for supporting your child’s affinity for animals.
Through my work at Ekar Farm, we have been testing out some activities and programs thanks to the Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA). As part of our educational programming for 11-13 year olds, Ekar Farm is piloting “The Ark Project.” It is a first-of-its-kind animal welfare curriculum and service-learning framework developed by JIFA. The Ark Project offers an innovative opportunity for b’nai mitzvah students who are looking for a meaningful, empowering avenue to protect and honor animals in their community. For our pilot program, three b’nai mitzvah students chose to research the status of bee populations and how to educate the public about protecting valuable bee habitat. This group will be installing our new bee colonies and planting more bee habitats at Ekar Farm in May!
Melissa Hoffman, editor of this new curriculum, emphasizes the unique nature of our partnership and project: “The Ark Project not only gives young Jews a chance to fully express and act upon their passion for helping animals; it provides b’nai mitzvah with experiences that make their Jewish values relevant and exciting. We’re thrilled to see the students at Ekar bringing the curriculum to life in ways that make a direct impact on an issue they care deeply about.”
In addition to empowering young people to expand their knowledge about animal welfare and Judaism, Ekar Farm also hosts a fun-filled day of animals for our Annual Mother’s Day and Shavuot Festival. But why might we bring a petting zoo to our urban farm during Shavuot?
Shavuot is the festival following Passover that celebrates the moment Moses receives the Torah on Mount Sinai. This event in our people’s history completely transformed the Jewish narrative by handing down the moral code and laws that the Jewish people still use to this day. The Torah gave us the ability to be self-sufficient. With the Torah we can take care of ourselves and our communities without relying on a higher power to determine how to act in every situation.
Shavuot falls during the time of year when animals are being weaned away from their mothers, a time when the young become more self-sufficient. This is an important developmental stage for animals where they are learning how to fend for themselves. This gives us the opportunity, as Jews, to celebrate the growing process of young animals alongside our growth as a Jewish people. What better way to do this then by engaging with animals and their babies on a farm! This seasonal timing of Shavuot also helps to explain why we eat dairy treats like butter, yogurt, and cheese on Shavuot–there’s a surplus of milk for humans as young animals are being weaned off their mothers!
By connecting families with a live variety of animals, we provide a memorable experience that brings the story of the Jewish people and cyclical seasons to life. These Jewish holidays and other Jewish traditions can be powerful vehicles for establishing key values like caring for animals, the earth, and each other. Instilling compassion and understanding of other living things at a young age can lead children to impactful projects like The Ark Project when they are older. Continue to foster your child’s love for animals by revealing how our Jewish roots relate and see your children make a meaningful impact in the future!
Check out the ways to foster your children’s animal interests at Ekar Farm below:
MOTHER’S DAY AND SHAVUOT FESTIVAL
Bring the whole family to a unique Mother’s Day event on the farm! On Sunday, May 14, 11am to 1pm, we welcome families to enjoy a petting zoo, potato planting project, and butter making to celebrate hard-working mothers and Shavuot. Bring a dairy, vegetarian picnic lunch to enjoy with your family and friends. Pre-register online here!
Give your children ages 5-12 an engaging camp experience at Ekar Farm as a way to foster their love for living things like animals and plants. Sign them up for Camp Ekar this summer! Find more information about our camp sessions online here.
THE ARK PROJECT SERVICE-LEARNING
Interested in learning more about The Ark Project for your b’nai-mitzvah-aged child? Contact JIFA’s Humane Education and Program Specialist: Melissa Hoffman – email@example.com. To learn more about Ekar Farm’s pilot cohort in Denver, contact Ekar Farm’s Lead Educator: Margot Sands – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margot Sands is the Lead Educator at Ekar Farm, Denver’s Jewish community farm. She is a 2017-2018 Hazon JOFEE Fellow, alumna of the Urban Adamah Fellowship in Berkeley, CA, and a former FoodCorps Service Member in Boston, MA. Margot holds a Masters in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, a B.S. in Environmental Science from Northeastern University, and a Master Urban Gardener certification. She loves to cook, paint, pet cute dogs, and misses milking goats at the crack of dawn.
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