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Sustaining the Earth, Sustaining Ourselves Hadassah Puts a Spotlight on the Environment

Carol Goodman Kaufman

Carol Goodman Kaufman

By Judy Polan

The Western New England Region of Hadassah will present its 2014 Annual Education Day on Sunday, April 6 at the Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass. Organizers of the event – called “Sustaining the Earth, Sustaining Ourselves” — anticipate members and associates coming together from all over New England, to experience a day of engagement, learning and empowerment.
Four prominent speakers will highlight the day: Professor Bertold Fridlender, internationally renowned biologist and President of Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem; Jan Sullivan, Director of the Community Assessment Program for the Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health; children’s author and educator Vivian Newman, a consultant for the highly regarded PJ Library (a project originated by the Grinspoon Foundation, which is based in Springfield) and Rabbi Jacob Fine, senior educator and “food justice” proponent at Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton.
Rabbi Fine will speak on “Shmitah Medicine for a World at the Brink: How the Biblically Mandated Sabbatical Year Might Help Us Save the Planet and Ourselves.”
“Among the most radical and profound teachings we find in the Jewish tradition is the concept of Shmitah — the sabbatical year. As conceived in the Torah, once every seven years the Israelite farmer was obligated to refrain from farming and to allow the land to go fallow, its resources to be shared with all other people and animals alike … In today’s world, Shmitah’s radical teachings of restraint and resource sharing are well worth paying attention to.”
Carol Goodman Kaufman, one of the 2014 Education Day’s main organizers, says that the theme of environmentalism is well-tailored to Hadassah’s mission. “A major component of Hadassah’s domestic education work focuses on health — ranging from breast cancer awareness to osteoporosis prevention to our newest heart health initiative, “Every Beat Counts” — and we believe that an essential foundation for good health is a clean environment. In addition, we have had a long and fruitful relationship with the Jewish National Fund, building parks and reservoirs, and, of course, planting millions of trees in Israel. So the theme is definitely in keeping with our mission.”
Kaufman said she is excited about all the presenters, who were chosen “to represent various aspects of the environmental puzzle.”
Speaker Jan Sullivan, in her role with the Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health, oversees investigations of disease patterns in the state. She will discuss environmental effects on public health and the possible biological effects of exposure to environmental contaminants.
Vivian Newman will conduct an interactive session on teaching children about their responsibility to the environment. She will demonstrate using several of the PJ Library books about ecology that have been distributed to thousands of children in the U.S. and Israel.
Kaufman is particularly delighted to welcome Hadassah College President “Tolo” Fridlender to the conference. He will talk about his work as the director of the BioExplore Project, an agency that is responsible for cataloguing “every item of flora in the Mediterranean area for potential uses in everything from life-saving pharmaceuticals to cosmetics.” The College works with Spain, Greece, and the Palestinian Authority – showing that cooperation through science can overcome many political barriers.
Activities at the 2014 Annual Education Day, in addition to the cited talks, include a variety of booths featuring locally produced foods and “up-cycled” craft items, made by artisans using found and cast-off materials.
Event planners are still accepting applications from artisans, so those interested should contact Janet Hodos at or Henny Lewin at
A $36 cover charge includes a morning coffee break, lunch, and access to all programming. For more information, please contact Ellen Masters at or Carol Goodman Kaufman at

Judy Polan (; is a freelance arts and culture writer.

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