Back to Basics: Farm-to-Table Food

The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.

Joel Salatin, Folks, Farmer and Author of This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Genesis Culinary students began day two of their course with a reading and discussion of the above quote. This short yet poignant observation of our modern food system begs the question: Why is there such a disconnect between the land and the supermarket and how does this disconnect affect how we eat or think about food? As curious cooks and aspiring home-chefs, these are the questions we must ask ourselves whenever we prepare a meal.

image1To dig deeper into the subject, we went straight to the source and paid a visit to Brandeis University’s extraordinary rooftop farm. Located on a hidden mezzanine near the science labs, the rooftop farm grows entirely from milk crates filled with soil and provides enough produce each week to feed over a dozen families and has the potential to feed many more. Launched in 2015 thanks to a student-led initiative, the farm is maintained by a group of volunteer student organizers, one of whom gave us an in-depth tour of the rows of kale, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes currently in season.



Participants harvested sweet and hot peppers, tri-colored carrots and a range of fresh herbs to bring back to the kitchen classroom, where we paired up and honed our knife skills. Quietly and patiently we improved our dicing and mincing.  We learned to julienne peppers and chiffonade herbs and the room filled with the incredible aroma of hyper local vegetables. Tonight, as we settle into dinner in the dining hall, we will no doubt think of the farm, and the farmers, that made our meal possible.


Liz Alpern

Genesis Culinary Art and Anthropology

Adapting to Brandeis, BIMA, and a New Home

At around two thirty on an afternoon at Brandeis University, Massell Quad hums with the quiet sounds of people enjoying the pleasant respite from the scorching heat that has taken up the past few days. The soft green of the trees above us creates a canopy of sparse shade, and the pond shimmers with the gentle breeze in the sunlight. People sit with guitars and clarinets and other instruments that I couldn’t name if I tried, and the layered melodies combined with the wind and sun creates a blissfully peaceful atmosphere.

A tour group slowly makes their way around the pond, the tour guide reciting facts about the campus I realize, with a jolt, I already know. Its funny how a place can change so much in your eyes in the course of two weeks. When I first got here, the Brandeis campus posed a challenge, a map full of places to get lost or mistakenly open doors not meant to be opened, but already, I see this place as somewhere familiar and comforting. Already, I pride myself on knowing what the tour guide describes.

We have been at BIMA/Genesis for two weeks now, and in what seems like such a short period of time, the friendships that have been formed are astoundingly close-knit and true. And the best part is– we aren’t finished yet! No doubt, in the following weeks, the relationships we have started will continue to thrive, and new connections will be made every day. The Brandeis campus, for me at least, has transformed from a daunting map to a home.

Gavi Klein,

Berkeley, CA

BIMA Creative Writing

BIMA’s Meta Theme: The Tower of Babel

This year, the curriculums of BIMA’s majors and ABMs (Artist Beit Midrash) are connected by one meta theme. Specifically in ABMs,  participants are provided the opportunity to explore the many ways in which art and Judaism can come together to shape who they are and who they want to be. Each BIMA participant joins an ABM track with a specific artistic focus –  dance, theater, visual art, animation or creative writing –  and uses it to explore the annual theme.

This year, the theme is the Tower of Babel. The story of the Tower of Babel, from the Book of Genesis,exploresthe origin of all earth’s different languages. In these explorations, the participants draw inspiration from our rich Jewish tradition to create original artistic work that reflects their lives as a young Jewish people committed to the arts. The final project in the ABM is an interpretation – either literal or abstract – of the Tower of Babel. Together, the final projects create a ‘living Midrash’ of the story, creating a rich tapestry of interpretations and insights into the relevance of the story to their lives as teens and as Jewish people. The final projects will be shared with the community during our ABM showcase at the end of the summer.

Educators ask many questions to challenge students in their perspectives and interpretations of the story, in an effort to expand their thinking and ability to view the story from new angles. Some of the core questions are as follows:

  • How do we communicate with people that do not speak the same language? Where does communication break down?
  • What happens when we are confronted with limitations?
  • How can we channel collective frustration and anger?
  • How do we create something that is worth while? How do we create something that leaves a positive impact on the world?

Educators also use prompts like the following to inspire open interpretation in the participants

  • What is the significance of the concept of vertical and horizontal in the story?
  • What is the purpose of multiple languages? What barriers do they create?
  • Explore the concept of unity or dissipation as a result of language barriers.

For the remainder of the BIMA program, we’ll be posting photos about these explorations and the participants’ processes and projects on Instagram and Facebook, with the hashtag #migdalbavel. Be sure to follow us to see the superb projects the participants are creating!