We’re off to Teva!

A little over 15 years ago, I had my one great idea.
After spending two years working at Nature’s Classroom, a five-day environmental ed program for elementary schools, hosted at an overnight camp, I thought “We could do this.” And by “we”, I meant, Jews. Why not create a program for Jewish day schools, that brought children to camp to spend time in the outdoors, exploring the natural world and learning Jewish traditions and values of environmental stewardship.
I brought my idea to a number of camp directors, and one was crazy enough to let a 25 year old with no administrative experience try to get a program off the ground. A handful of Solomon Schechter schools in New Jersey were crazy enough to sign up for the first season. And a group of staff were crazy enough to drop whatever they were doing to work three weeks at this pioneer program (more than one were good friends of mine, to whom I am eternally grateful.)
Thus was born the Teva Learning Center, which has grown through the contributions of hundreds of fine staff and under Nili Simhai‘s wise and visionary leadership into “North America’s foremost Jewish Environmental Education Institute…(which touches).. the lives of 4,000 participants annually.” Kids who come to Teva get to see a completely different model of Jewish life than exists almost anywhere else in the world – dynamic, alive, creative, a little “out there”…. and it’s super green. I wish it had existed when I was a kid. Fortunately, my carob seeds have borne fruit in only one generation, and in five years, my own daughter’s sixth grade class will heads off to Teva on a big yellow school bus.
And this weekend, I’m attending the Teva staff reunion with the girls. Yay and Shabbat Shalom!

Comments read comments(6)
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Sarah Buttenwieser

posted November 20, 2009 at 7:08 am

how cool is this? your piece in getting a seed planted. brilliant.

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posted November 20, 2009 at 8:41 am

Mazel Tov!

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Frume Sarah

posted November 22, 2009 at 1:54 pm

YOU did this????? OMG — I LOVE the whole idea behind Teva and wish that we had it out here. I know that we have something similar up in the greater LA area…but it’s not the same.
Hope you are having a wonderful weekend!!!!

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posted November 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Interesting. I remember doing nature’s classroom as a kid in day school in CT.
And I remember when I taught in Beit Rabban in NY about ten years ago a Teva rep came to speak to the kids. And I was more than a little annoyed when his talk about Jewish environmentalism turned into a marketing spiel for the program, which we as a school had no plans to participate it. I was dismayed that the rep was going into the bead thing and the program, when we hadn’t signed up for it. The kids had no say in deciding whether to go or not. And we didn’t get to hear a whole lot about what Jewish environmentalism actually meant.

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Judy Meltzer

posted November 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm

And I remember sitting at the top of a mountain at the conclusion of a hike with my young daughter, and listening to her describe her dream of a Jewish environmental program. How I wished I had the means to write a check to make the dream a reality. But being Amy, she didn’t need my financial support, and now Teva is an award winning program that benefits thousands of people. Amazing! And what an honor to be the mother of the creator.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm

And Nili just won the Covenant Award- A huge accomplishment for Teva and Jewish Environmentalists in general. Yay for Teva!!!

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