I have had the pleasure of being involved with Beantown Jewish Gardens since moving to Boston in 2012. I wrote the following letter on behalf of the Board of Directors of this nonprofit following the initiation of a strategic planning process. The original version was posted here.
One year ago, Ganei Beantown convened the first meeting of a new board of directors. The creation of this board was necessary to ensure the long term viability of Ganei Beantown. This new board is a group of individuals focused on supporting and sustaining the work of this grassroots organization.
At the beginning of the summer, we, the board, embarked on a process to explore our strategic vision. The recent transition provided a key moment to take the temperature of the organization and confirm our vision and that it was still the right one. We asked big questions about whether or not Ganei Beantown was doing what it set out to accomplish.
Over the summer, we spoke with members of our extended community about their experiences, impressions, and desires. We spoke about the different ways in which people connect to our work. We reviewed Ganei Beantown’s mission statement:
Building community through experiential food and agriculture programming
rooted in Jewish text, tradition, and culture.
We asked about how Ganei Beantown could best reach different communities, and which communities were the ones we should be reaching out to. It was a privilege to get to know those who had been invested in Ganei Beantown over the past six years as we talked everything from the macro to the micro.
You spoke, we listened, and we learned a lot. Jewish learning and community building are at the core of what we do, and are evident in everything we do. Gardening, sustainability, and food justice are our unique catalysts for education and community building. There is something unique to the way that the broader Ganei Beantown community ties it all together.
What you, our community, affirmed was incredibly helpful to hear as we look to the future. Ganei Beantown is building community across denominations, affiliations, and generations in a way that few others are. People enter into our learning community in any number of ways and Ganei Beantown opens those doors. What we do is different and indispensable.
It’s worth noting that many members of the board entered into the Ganei Beantown community outside of the gardening framework. It was striking to learn about how widely Ganei Beantown was perceived to be exclusively working on synagogue and school gardens, while others exclusively viewed it as the host of the Boston Jewish Food Conference. We took this to heart as we considered how these different programs fit into the strategic vision of who we are.
We learned that what we’re doing is worth doing, but we need to double down. The diverse programs that we run are our strength, but also our challenge. Knowing that we mean many things to many people, this is a challenge we readily accept.
For this upcoming Boston Jewish Food Conference you will see that we are returning to basics with the theme “Living Off the Land.” We are known for our work with Jewish gardens and that means every track and class at this year’s conference will be designed with that lens. We look forward to seeing you all on June 10, 2018 for our 7th annual gathering. Our planning team is is formation now and we ask that you consider joining the team this year for this special experience.
You also told us that we need to grow. Our dynamic founder and Executive Director, Leora Mallach is looking forward to working with new volunteers and educators, as we aim to reach more people and grow. We want to bring more opportunities to Boston from the wider world of Jewish Outdoor Food and Environmental Education (JOFEE).
Lastly, you told us that it is important to ask for your financial support. Your donations make all of this possible. Please consider including Ganei Beantown in your year-end 2017 donations. In addition to one-time gifts, we encourage you to commit to giving to Ganei Beantown on a monthly basis automatically. Each month, your gift of $18, $36, or $54 will go along way to sustaining our work.
Thank you for your ongoing support. We look forward to seeing you soon in the garden, at an upcoming event, or over a communal meal.
Ganei Beantown Board of Directors,
P.S. We are in need of your talents. Please contact one of us if interested in becoming a member of our growing board of directors.