#SaveSadeh: the only Jewish farm in Europe threatened with eviction

The only Jewish community farm in Europe is currently under threat of eviction. Sadeh Farm is located on a Jewish heritage site in Kent known as Skeet, which has been part of the Jewish community for 80 years. In 2018, Sadeh, a group of Jewish educators and environmental activists, secured a 10-year lease from the site’s owners, the Jewish Youth Fund (JYF), to manage Skeet’s historic house and grounds. In January this year, JYF announced plans to end Sadeh’s lease early and sell the site to the highest bidder.

Jewish agriculture is a growing movement, especially among young Jews. As the United States is home to a growing number of Jewish agricultural projects and networking organizations like the Jewish Farmers Network, Sadeh is the only Jewish community farm in Europe. At a time when environmental concerns are a burning issue for most young Diaspora Jews, Jewish agricultural projects create a necessary link between religious values, ritual community and climate justice. The closure of Sadeh threatens to damage the future of this emerging global movement of Jewish youth.

“Living in Sadeh as a student is a blessing. One night I took a homework break in the moonlit field and saw a meteor. I worked my way through the courses. After swimming in the pool lit by a single candle, listening to ambient and trap music, I sat up in bed with wet hair, notebooks and dictionaries, and studied the Talmud,” Maya said. Simkin, a Jewish student who spent time as a Sadeh Fellow. in 2021. “Sadeh encouraged fellows to become teachers as well as students, motivating us to organize activities with guests, work on personal projects, share poetry, songs and other food with each other. others.” Simkin described Sadeh’s potential ouster as “a great loss”.

For Jewish students who have spent training time in Sadeh’s scholarship programs, Sadeh’s expulsion would be devastating.

“The Jewish student world would be bereft and honestly vapid in the wake of Sadeh’s closure. For young Jews, it is a place to meet mentors. said Simkin. “Where else can we congregate eerily to splatter paint on Bride Shabbas’ white dress, humming lekha dodi? Where else can we descend into a Havdalah native garden planted with fragrant besamim, shake evening primrose filled with tiny seeds in a musical instrument, bless an elderflower cordial under a nail moon , then learn Maya’s Yiddish songs around the fire? The way we manage and imbibe the land in Sadeh is exemplary of our commitment to doikayt – the here.

On May 26, 2022, Sadeh launched a public campaign to save the historic Jewish site. Supporters have used the #SaveSadeh hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, sharing testimonies attesting to Sadeh’s huge impact on the Jewish community, especially Jewish youth.

On Instagram, a Jewish teenager named Chani, 13, wrote: “Sadeh empowers me to enter my teenage years feeling like I can be myself and embrace the wonders of the outdoors… If it wasn’t for Sadeh, I’d probably be staring at home on screens and eating junk food.

Sadeh has become a community hub for alternative Jewish organizing in Europe, connecting to co-sponsored events with other independent and progressive Jewish organizations. “Sadeh helped us start the cafe and organize our first big online event, Purim 5781/2021,” wrote pink peacock coffee, a quirky Yiddish cafe in Glasgow. “Without them, European Jewry would be poorer, less connected to the land, and we wouldn’t exist!

Sadeh has been so formative to many of us on the editing team for so many years,” wrote Yentea queer Jewish student collective of writers and artists based at the University of Oxford, in an Instagram post supporting efforts to save the farm.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis affirmed the importance of the organization’s role in the European Jewish community ecosystem. “I know Sadeh Farm is an exceptional facility, creating impactful educational experiences for all, especially young people, helping them understand the importance of sustainability and protecting our environment,” he said. “It would be a real loss for our community and I sincerely hope that a favorable solution will be found.”

Sadeh received their lease on the condition that they keep the house in the same condition as they received it and fulfill the JYF’s charitable purposes of supporting Jewish youth. Sadeh maintains that they have more than fulfilled their part of this bargain.

According an article in the Guardian, The Jewish Youth Fund responded solemnly to the panic over the sale. “The Jewish Youth Fund admires the educational work that Sadeh does with schools and families,” a spokesperson said, “but that is outside of our mandate. The reconfigured building, with its much reduced capacity of approximately 28 en-suite rooms, is now totally unsuitable for groups of young people. This has created an impossible problem for us as it is a non-revenue generating asset that is not used in accordance with the charity’s purposes. »

However, Sadeh reports that they have invested £40,000 a year in major improvements since 2018, turning the neglected house and grounds into a successful guesthouse, cross-community education center and the only Jewish community farm in Europe. Hundreds of guests, 80% of whom are under 20, visited it last year. Skeet, the site on which Sadeh sits, has a Jewish history dating back to 1943, when young working-class Jews from London’s East End, many of them refugee children, arrived there to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Sadeh’s presence invigorates this historic site, paying homage to the Jewish youth who call it home.

Prior to the surprise announcement of the sale of the site, Sadeh received no correspondence from the Jewish Youth Fund indicating that they felt Sadeh was not meeting the terms of their lease.

The site is already on the market, and there are two weeks left before the offers are submitted. If no action is taken, it is very likely that this important Jewish heritage site, along with Sadeh, will disappear. Sadeh is only asking to stay until the end of their lease in 2028. In the meantime, they will actively seek to purchase the property. This would allow both the JYF and Sadeh to achieve their goals.

“What could be more important to Jewish youth,” said Talia Chain, Sadeh’s original founder, “than making sure they have a planet to live on, and that our community – like all others – has a coming ? That’s what we’re trying to achieve here.

Sadeh urges the Jewish community to write to the JYF in support of Sadeh and to continue sharing their testimonies on social media using the hashtag #SaveSadeh. For anyone who has grown both vegetables and their own alcohol at Jewish agricultural sites like Sadeh, the future of a global Jewish agricultural movement hangs in the balance.

If you want to support the future of Jewish agricultural projects in Europe, share a testimonial about #SaveSadeh on social media and learn more about the efforts to preserve this historic Jewish community farm here.

Photo courtesy of Sadeh.

Mary I. Bruner