Pinat Shorashim Charts New Direction

history03Pinat Shorashim has ceased all activities at Kibbutz Gezer and is moving on – embracing new opportunities thousands of miles away. Here’s their farewell letter:

“It was eighteen years ago that we began to collect the first stones and build the bridge later to be called the The Bridge of Peace in a place to be called Pinat Shorashim. Our purpose was to find creative ways to teach Jews from around the world the importance of Judaism and Israel in their lives regardless of where they legitimately chose to live. We are informal Jewish educators, yet have been dedicated to what we have always called “painless education”. Almost everything in this beautifully landscaped park and gardens has been built by the many participants in our programs. To them we are extremely grateful!

Well over 100,000 visitors have had the opportunity to learn about Kibbutz Gezer, Jewish community, Israel, Biblical stories, Midrash and most importantly their connection to Jewish Peoplehood. We have had thousands of high school students from hundreds of different communities around the world, Birthright groups, synagogues, Jewish Federations, Jewish schools, families, Jewish educators, shlichim, even hundreds of Israeli prisoners in rehabilitation with whom we have been volunteering for five years, and of course, tens of thousands of Israeli school children in various quality educational programs creatively offered by our wonderful staff to whom we are extremely grateful!

A remarkably dedicated volunteer board has worked tirelessly to help Pinat Shorashim create our vision, values and educational philosophy. Their true loyalty and commitment to the values for which we stand have been central to our on going success regardless of the many obstacles we faced during these eighteen years. To them we are extremely grateful!

All this would not have been possible without the quiet, yet essential support of our partners around the world, especially the hundreds from the Kansas City Jewish Community, who have supported our not-for-profit organization from the very beginning of our project. It has not always been an easy time. We thank all those who have supported us even when the times were tough. We have faced a few wars and an Intifada, when groups were not coming, but the support did. We faced a major devaluation of the United States dollar, but not the support of our partners, and even with the economic crises the world is currently facing, our friends in Kansas, including Wichita have been so very consistent! To all of them we are extremely grateful!

During the past few months, we have been in negotiations with the kibbutz regarding the amount of “rent” they want us to pay. It seems that they feel the land could be more valuable if developed in a different way. We have had a rocky road with the administration of Kibbutz Gezer for quite some time. In the last couple of years they have created a number of obstacles that made our work very difficult at times. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to come to an agreement with the kibbutz.

In spite of the many members of the kibbutz who celebrated important familys’ machot (joyous occasions), the hundreds of Gan (pre-school) children who enjoyed the educational areas as well as the natural beauty of the park, and the many teenagers of the kibbutz who have worked with such dedication for Pinat Shorashim, the Kibbutz has given us too many “take it or leave it” ultimatums for us to continue. They have sent us a letter from the lawyers of the kibbutz stating that we must cease all activities by December 31st and remove all our belongings.

It is with great sorrow that we have agreed to cease all activities and be out as soon as we possibly can. The reactions from hundreds of people from many parts of the world, who so far have learned of this unfortunate turn of events has been both powerful and very moving to those of us who have worked so hard to create this unique educational enterprise.

Unfortunately, and with tremendous pain, we have no choice but to leave Kibbutz Gezer and find new opportunities to continue the important Zionist educational work in which we have been so successfully engaged for 18 years, “CHAI”, a lifetime.

But we are determined to continue our work. For many years our friends and leadership have encouraged us to “franchise” Pinat Shorashim and bring this creative educational concept to other locations. The Temple Congregation B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City has offered to become a pilot for this initiative. In fact, we have raised the funds necessary to bring many of the components of Pinat Shorashim to Kansas City. This will give us the opportunity to do some strategic planning with a community known for its creativity and innovation. We look forward to sharing our new direction with you as we move forward.

We are confident that the sadness we feel is shared by the many thousands of people whose lives we have touched. We want to assure you that we are committed to continue the important work we are doing in other venues.”

image: Sukkat Shalom
From the Biblical passage, “And Judah and Israel dwelt in safety, everyone under the vine and under the fig tree.” Shaded by grape vines and fig trees, the Sukkat Shalom provides shelter and shades a beautiful mosaic floor designed with symbols from Jewish life.