Mission

The Jewish Farm School is dedicated to teaching about contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative trainings and skill-based Jewish agricultural education.  

 

We are driven by traditions of using food and agriculture as tools for social justice and spiritual mindfulness. Through our programs, we address the injustices embedded in today’s mainstream food systems and work to create greater access to sustainably grown foods, produced from a consciousness of both ecological and social well being.

History

We ran our first program in 2006, sprouting out of a shared vision by our founders to develop educational programming that would foster opportunities for Jews to reconnect with the processes of working the land and growing food. Their vision consisted of establishing a school that would enroll students seeking alternative modes of education. In doing so, the learning would entail farming, animal husbandry, natural building and Jewish learning as well as achieve the necessary requirements for accreditation.


Since 2006, Jewish Farm School has run over fifty different programs, reaching over 7,500 children, college students, and adults. For three years JFS was named by Slingshot as one of the 50 most innovative organizations in North America, and our programs are a catalyst for lifelong learning and engagement in Jewish, environmental, and social justice-related issues.

 

Since 2013, JFS has been focusing our programs in the Philadelphia area that connect the local Jewish community with the vibrant urban agriculture and food justice movements. Click here to learn more about our current offerings.

The Staff

Nati Passow

Co-Founder & Executive Director

 

Nati Passow has been a leader in the field of Jewish environmental education for over 10 years, was selected to the Jewish Week's "36 Under 36," and was a recipient of the Joshua Venture Group Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurs.  Under his direction, JFS was named by Slingshot as one of the most innovative Jewish organizations in North America for three years. Prior to forming Jewish Farm School, Nati ran an award-winning garden construction program for the Urban Nutrition Initiative in Philadelphia and led service–learning trips in the developing world for American Jewish World Service. Nati has studied sustainable building design and natural building and is a certified Permaculture designer, and holds a B.A. in Religion and Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. 

 

Nati can be reached at nati@jewishfarmschool.org

Hannah Slipakoff

Kleinlife Garden Manager 

 

Hannah began learning how to grow vegetables as a teenager in Philadelphia, PA where the food justice and urban agriculture movement catalyzed her political and social consciousness. 

 

She is incredibly grateful to have experienced learning and working on diverse urban and rural farms over the past ten years; including apprenticing at George Jones Farm in Oberlin, OH, studying at The Center for Agroecology and Community Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz, training participants in The Philadelphia Community Farm Collaborative's Beginner Farmer Training Program, managing Mort Brooks Memorial Farm for Weaver's Way Food Co-op, and most recently, co-managing and supporting food sovereignty education programs for Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY.

 

Hannah works in awe of the innate human power to create, nurture, and sustain life. She balances her dedication to growing food with fierce commitment to practicing yoga, serving as a birth doula, and working with spirit in the kitchen. Hannah's role with JFS is to help manage the agricultural projects at KleinLife in Northeast Philly.

 

Hannah can be reached at hannah@jewishfarmschool.org.

Alex Voynow

JOFEE Fellow

 

Alex grew up in the Pine Barrens, 45 minutes east of Philly, where his growing wonder of trees and forest soil mingled with a discomfort and distrust of mainstream suburban lifestyle, and set his eyes towards alternative and restorative ways of living. After graduating with a B.A. in Geography from Vassar College in 2015, he’s spent the past few years working in multiple nodes of the food system, including as a chocolate maker and a restaurant cook, and living on a variety of farms on the west coast and in Central America. He combines his love and understanding of food and agroecology with a commitment to social and ecological justice and community organizing, bolstered by his experience as a community organizer with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition and SURJ Bay Area. When not weaving together food justice, community organizing, and jewish tradition, you can probably find Alex in his kitchen, in a dance or yoga studio, or wandering the blocks of his neighborhood looking at trees and talking to neighbors and admiring West Philly’s infinite variety of porches.

 

Alex can be reached at alex@jewishfarmschool.org

Rowan Machalow

Side Yard Seedlings Program Manager

 

Some of Rowan's greatest loves are gardening, teaching, and Judaism, and they are excited to be leading a program that combines all three! Rowan is currently working on a doctorate at the UPenn Graduate School of Education, and has been an elementary and middle school teacher and preschool director. 

 

Rowan is a firm believer in supporting children in taking risks, getting dirty, following their passions, and making meaning of complex ideas. Some of Rowan's favorite teaching experiences with preschoolers put nature and Judaism at the center: taking care of chickens and collecting eggs, baking challah, caring for the garden throughout its seasons, making cheese and yogurt, dipping Shabbat candles, composting with a worm bin, and exploring the botanic origins of spices in a Havdalah besamim box. Through regular immersion in activities like this, Rowan believes that even city kids can build an intimate relationship with how the Earth provides and how we can nurture it.

 

Rowan lives with their partner and 4-year-old in West Philly. When Rowan isn't hanging out with JFS, they may be found playing guitar or viola, managing their synagogue's database, cooking and canning, serving on several boards, researching how teachers do their amazing work, and, of course, gardening. 

 

Rowan can be reached at rowan@jewishfarmschool.org

Mary Holmcrans

Repair the World Fellow

 

 

Mary recently graduated from Ursinus College with a BA in French and Environmental Studies. While in school, she studied abroad in Madagascar and did research on impact of small NGOs on a coastal community, as well a case study on corporate social responsibility. Seeking to develop a career in environmental justice through non profit work, Mary is currently serving as a Food Justice fellow with Repair the World. Originally from Takoma Park, Maryland, Mary now lives in Philadelphia and spends her free time exploring parks and bookstores with cats.

 

Mary is the primary contact for our Philly Farm Crew program and can be reached at mary.holmcrans@werepair.org

The Board

Rob Auritt

 

Robert Auritt has nearly 20 years of experience as a business attorney practicing at the intersection of the entertainment, media, and technology industries. Rob is currently Vice President and Deputy General Counsel to Comcast Spectacor, an industry leading hospitality firm with expertise across a wide range of disciplines, including professional sports, entertainment, venue management, food services and ticketing. Rob is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and holds a bachelor of arts in Religion from Temple University. He is a past president and an active member of Kol Tzedek synagogue in West Philadelphia and lives with his wife and two children in the Bella Vista section of South Philadelphia. 

Lila Corwin Berman

 

Lila is an Associate Professor of History at Temple University. She holds the Murray Friedman Chair of American Jewish History and directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. The Feinstein Center fosters innovative research into the American Jewish experience and serves as a convener of public scholarship conversations and experiences. Berman is author of Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit (University of Chicago, 2015) and Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (California, 2009). 

Michael Bomze

 

Michael is a math teacher, traveler, hummus enthusiast and contributor to the Jewish Exponent's Philacatessen blog. A firm believer in local food systems, he is a regular at the Clark Park and Headhouse Farmers Markets, and considers ethical and local food sourcing to be as important as taste when selecting where to dine. 

 

He has spent all of his life in Philadelphia, with the exception of the four years he spent working towards and receiving his bachelor's degree in math and secondary education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Most recently, he received a masters' degree in education leadership from Villanova. 

Alexandra Hochster-Korman 

 

Alexandra is a dentist at the Rose Tree Dental Group in Media, PA, where she treats both adults and children.  She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and Brandeis University.  Alexandra is a founding member of the Sisterhood at Mekor Habracha/Center City Synagogue and lives in the Graduate Hospital section of Philadelphia with her husband, Jonathan and their daughter, Miriam.  She believes that food sustainability is a Jewish value and is excited by the the Farm School bringing the Farm into cities.

Bryant Simon 

 

Bryant is a professor of history at Temple University. He is the author most recently of Everything But the Coffee: Learning About America from Starbucks (2009). His research and scholarship has earned awards and honors from the Fulbright Commission, Humboldt Foundation, Urban History Association, Organization of American Historians, and the Smithsonian Institution. 

 

Bryant's recent work focuses on food and society. Currently, he is putting together a collection of documents about food and the American history with Professor James Giesen, for Wiley. In addition, he is working on broad ranging study of one of the worst industrial accidents in the recent American past. In 1991, a factory in Hamlet, North Carolina that had never been inspected blew up, killing twenty-five people who were trapped inside behind locked doors. Simon’s book will explore this story, but even more the high and often deliberately hidden costs of cheap government, cheap food, and cheap labor in United States and around the rest of the world.

Risa Waldoks

 

Risa works at The Food Trust, a nonprofit organization ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. As part of The Food Trust's Center for Healthy Food Access, she brings together community residents, policymakers, public health and economic development leaders, grocers, farmers, foundations and others to advance health equity across the country. Risa completed the Urban Adamah fellowship in 2013. She is a Co-Chair of the Repair the World Philadelphia Advisory Committee and also helps to plan the annual Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festivals . Risa is a regular at JFS programs, and she volunteers with various groups in West Philadelphia, where she lives. 

Carly Zimmerman

Board Chair

 

Carly is the CEO of Challah for Hunger, a Philadelphia based non-profit with an international impact that inspires young people to “bake a difference” through challah baking, advocacy and philanthropy. Carly holds a M.A. in Jewish Professional Studies from the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership and a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives and works in Philadelphia with her husband Michael, where she spends most free time outside on a bike or a walk with her two dogs. She is excited to support Jewish Farm School's growth!