Our mission is to expand support, sustainability and facilitate further development of the community garden at Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel (CABI) for neighboring residents of Depot Bench and CABI congregants. We encourage residents of all ages from a variety of backgrounds to work together and learn about gardening and new techniques to achieve a healthy sustainable community garden. In addition, the garden will promote self reliance, physical activity, social interaction and contribute to the health and well being of our community.
CABI Community Garden is located on the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue property in Boise, Idaho.
History of Ahavath Beth Israel’s Sponsorship of the Community Garden
— Excerpt as found in the 2006 Community Garden Workbook by Sherrill Livingston
“Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel’s (CABI) home is the oldest synagogue in continuing use west of the Mississippi. In October, 2003, the 108-year old building moved from its cramped downtown location to a new campus four mile up the hill onto the bench. The four acre site brought the historic house of worship together with anew educational center and a social hall. The original master plan envisioned a community garden to share with the synagogue’s new neighbors. In the first year on site, time and money limited the possibility of fulfilling this vision.
At the same time, the Idaho Office for Refugees (IOR) was initiating a plan to develop community garden sites for new Americans in their own neighborhoods. A large group of refugees live near the synagogue and IOR approached the congregation about the benefits to refugees, particularly those from agrarian cultures, of supplementing their food with high quality, low cost produce and the opportunities of social interaction, language learning and community building. With CABI members hard at work on building their new facility, it made sense for the large tract of land to used by the refugees.
A small committee of current and former board members joined the IOR coordinator to design the garden, find grants from public and private sources, seek donation plant materials and seeds and draft the letter of agreement as well as gardner contracts. The synagogue’s contractor donated a garden shed: the landscaper donated an irrigation timer; two members secured donations of manure and wood chips. Working through challenges of agreements to use this site without losing property rights, coordination of the garden’s development at the same time as the synagogue’s landscaping, the congregation and leadership were committed to seeing a growing, living garden at our entrance that represented an international community working together.
In May of 2004, the first seeds were planted in fifteen plots and four raised beds for refugees from Somalia, Liberia, Afghanistan, America and the Ukraine. The raised beds were designed and built by the Bar Mitvah class for use by senior or handicapped gardeners who have troubles bending down. The site is next to the railroad and the soil was almost 100% clay. Dozens of synagogue members joined community work days to help refugees shovel and wheelbarrow the compost, manure, ash and other soil amendments that have brought this garden to life.We maintain the garden without chemicals. A compost system was constructed by CABI children participating in a Jewish nature camp (Camp Teva). As the seeds have germinated and grown, so has the synagogue campus risen. The final dedication of CABI’s new building incorporated a theme of planting and growing, complete garden centerpeices. Donations were given of seedlings, garden gloves and hand tools. For the shade during the hottest days, the Synagogue’s Sukkah was put up, with bales of straw for seats, which was later used as mulch in the garden plots. The final gift to the garden was a hand painted sign made by the Synagogue day camp children.
Each part of the congregation, from day camp to adult volunteers, has benefitted from working with and welcoming these new Americans. None if us could have envisioned the reward, each day, of sharing our site and seeing plants and families growing and laboring together in what was once bare soil. One of the core values of our Jewish tradition – g’milut chasadim, acts that create loving kindness – calls to reach beyond ourselves, to say that our new home is also a home for our neighbors, a place that offers sustenance to Jew and Gentiles alike. Torah teaches that none of us really own the land. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. We are just the stewards. Our community garden reminds our Jewish Community that for all we have done on this new site, the land is still Gods’, and God asks that we share it with those in need, with those that will make it grow, and with those whose labors are a source of blessing.”