This Week: January 27 - 31

Published: January 26, 2014

I am excited about a new collaborative project the School of Divinity and an organization called Adamah are developing together. Adamah, a program of Hazon, integrates “physical, social, spiritual, Jewish and ecological realms in order to inspire participants to a life of service to the Jewish community and to the earth.” The School of Divinity and Adamah have jointly designed a 3-credit course to be held at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut during the 2014 summer session. The following course description was crafted by Fred Bahnson, director of the School of Divinity’s Food Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative:

Roots & Branches:
The Jewish Environmental Fellowship for Emerging Christian Leaders

But if you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in…to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches.
If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.

from Paul’s letter to the young church in Rome, circa 58 C.E.

In Paul’s metaphor, the wild olive shoot is the Christian church that God has grafted onto the “rich root” of Israel. Paul, like the Jesus he followed, drew on agrarian imagery prevalent in the Hebrew scriptures. For modern Christians looking to understand the ecological roots of our faith, such images offer a vastly overlooked storehouse of wisdom.

Much has been made of the theological indebtedness Christianity owes to Judaism, yet less has been said about Judaism’s wisdom in the ecological realm. In our modern context of ecological crisis and a faltering global food system, perhaps one of the most important forms of wisdom Jews have to teach Christians is how to integrate soil and soul. That is, how can authentic religious practice inform, shape, and inspire ecological healing? How are issues of food and ecology shaping new interpretations of ancient religious practices? And how can communities of faith combine theological rigor with regenerative ecological practice?

In the North American context, a food and faith movement has taken root, one largely led by Jewish and Christian communities. Noting this rising trend, the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University formed what has become the first initiative of its kind in the country: the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative. While our emphasis is primarily on training Christian faith leaders and equipping them to become change agents around food issues (see below), we actively seek engagement with other faiths. In particular, we have much to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters who are doing this work around the country in places like Adamah.

In order for the olive branch to draw its life energy from the root, however, it must be physically connected to the root. Simply reading about Jewish understandings of ecological thought and practice is not sufficient. Proximity and embodied, hands-on learning are necessary. By studying with members of the growing Jewish food movement, emerging Christian leaders can learn to combine an emerging ecological paradigm in food production with liturgical and scriptural study. Such a framework can equip our students with a unique set of skills and understanding of the intersection of food and faith. Students will also learn about creative interpretations of ancient rituals, specifically Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.

We see this entire project as not only benefitting the students involved, but as hopeful groundwork for Jewish-Christian dialogue. Through the interplay of land and liturgy, ecology and theology, soil and sacrament, this partnership’s impact will extend far beyond the students involved. We see this partnership as a way to plant seeds of mutual respect and understanding within both Jewish and Christian communities that will bear fruit for years to come.

The project is being funded by a grant from The Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

To Take Part

  • Students interested in enrolling in this course should complete an application available through the Office of the Academic Dean. Deadline for application is February 10, 2014. 
  • Estimated student fee for the course is $350. This fee includes travel to the retreat center and food and lodging.

>> Download Application


Academic News

Last Day to Add Classes, with permission Tuesday, January 28
Incomplete Work from Past Term, due to instructor Wednesday, February 12
Last Day to Drop Classes, with permission Tuesday, February 18


>> View the full edition of This Week online.


Blessings for the week ahead,

  Jill Crainshaw
  Associate Dean for Academic Affairs