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Kenwood Synagogue to Plan Edible Forest for Veterans in Washington Park

By Sam Cholke | January 6, 2015 5:10am
 K.A.M. Isaiah Israel is helping the R.T.W. Veteran's Center imagine how its garden could be expanded to include a grove of fruit and nut trees.
K.A.M. Isaiah Israel is helping the R.T.W. Veteran's Center imagine how its garden could be expanded to include a grove of fruit and nut trees.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — Members of K.A.M. Isaiah Israel synagogue will help plan out a forest of fruit and nut trees for veteran gardeners in Washington Park for the annual Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend.

The weekend of workshops and lectures on urban farming, environmental stewardship and social justice has in recent years included an afternoon planning out a real garden for the neighborhoods around the synagogue, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd.

At 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, farmers, beekeepers and others will help plan out how a vacant lot next to the R.T.W. Veteran’s Center could be revived as a grove of fruit and nut trees.

“We are using it as an exercise to show how you set up an urban garden site,” said Robert Nevel, president of the Kenwood synagogue across the street from President Barack Obama’s house.

He said he was aware of the intense speculation about areas around the veteran’s center as a possible location for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

“It will be hanging over the room that the site is a possible location for the Obama library, but that is not the thrust of this,” Nevel said.

The synagogue supports the vets’ current garden on a city-owned lot just north of the center at 5536 S. Martin Luther King Drive.

Arnetha Gholston-Habeel, the director of R.T.W. Veteran’s Center, said in early December that they were turned down by Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) when they tried to buy the lot because of the possibility of the Obama library being located close by.

She said she was worried about the center’s survival if the Obama library locates across the street on 10 acres of land owned by the University of Chicago and the city.

Nevel said it may not be likely that a new grove of apple or pear trees is planted for the veterans, but he wants to put attention on the positive things already happening in the neighborhood as the University of Chicago, the Obama Foundation and others start making new plans for Washington Park.

The weekend’s events kick off at the synagogue at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 with a special Shabbat service and a lecture from Nevel titled “Climate Change: A Sacred Approach to a Profane Problem.”

The events continue on Sunday with workshops on coffee roasting, cooking, beekeeping and landscaping with edible plants.

All events are free and open to the public.

A full schedule is available at kamii.org/mlk.

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