Regarding The Jewish Chronicle’s Sept. 12 article, “JCC’s new Early Childhood Development Center showcased at meeting,” as a partner with the Jewish Community Center in the area of childhood education, I wish to clarify our role.
Beginning in August 2011, the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Center embarked on an ongoing journey to become a Reggio-inspired early childhood program as part of the Agency for Jewish Learning’s multiyear program, the Pittsburgh Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative, better known as JECEI. The preschool at Temple Ohav Shalom in the North Hills is also participating in the JECEI program along with the Squirrel Hill JCC.
The Reggio Emilia approach is at the core of JECEI and it is through the continued funding from the Centennial Fund for the Jewish Future, an endowment within the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Foundation that the AJL is able to move forward with this transformative initiative.
We at the Agency for Jewish Learning look forward to continuing our partnership with the JCC and Temple Ohav Shalom, and to transforming Pittsburgh into a nationally recognized center for Jewish early childhood education and family engagement.
(The author is the Agency for Jewish Learning director of early childhood and school services and JECEI coordinator.)
God cares what we eat
In the Aug. 1 portion of the week, Rabbi Joe Hample asks the question, “Why would God care what we eat?” He proceeds to answer the question that God cares about our eating well if we associate it with considering the less fortunate and feeding the hungry, and fasting on Yom Kippur and other fast days to make us more sensitive to giving charity for the poor. But the heading question is not really answered for our day.
I believe the Torah shows God cares what we eat as well. In Exodus when the people on the desert coming out of Egypt complain they have no meat and God sends them quails and they stuffed themselves to capacity and become ill that God wanted them to be vegetarians to return to the diet of Eden, which was not only the healthiest but was symbolic of a peaceful lifestyle where we protect animal life and not devour it. It is understandable that with the hardships of man post Eden where he had to endure the hardships of producing his own food that his survival became the first consideration.
To further prove that God does care what we eat, the new knowledge we have acquired about what foods contain has been proven to effect our health. We will soon have 8 billion people on this planet to feed and scientists tells us that the practice of meat eating has not only wasted valuable land and water supplies but its elimination could feed many more hungry people on the planet. Future generations may find that feeding babies vegetarian if the proper vitamins are mixed with food and even candy will keep them even healthier, and as they have never eaten meat they may never miss it.
Some Jews fear that without meat in their diet they could loose an important aspect of holiness, but Torah scholars are aware that our ancient prophets predicted a messianic age of peace and justice and vegetarianism, and where else should it begin but with ourselves in our own homes with our own families around our own tables preserving our own bodies. As we maintained victory gardens in World War II, we can again grow healthy vegetables and fruits in our own backyards or on apartment balconies or public gardens in pots and share the produce with food banks for the poor to win victory over the evil of hunger; and the evil of pesticides.
We must build our own messianic age as Theodore Herzl would have advised had he lived, ever adapting ourselves and our Judaism to this modem age. And in the words of David Ben Gurion who believed that with the birth of the state of Israel prophesy unrecognized since Biblical days would also be reborn.