Spirit in Nature Author Deborah Newbrun Awarded 2018 Covenant Award

Deborah Newbrun, co-author of Spirit In Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail, has been named a 2018 recipient of The Covenant Award.

The Covenant Award is among the highest honors in the field of Jewish education.

Newbrun is the Senior Jewish Educator and Director Emeritus at Camp Tawonga in San Francisco, California. A leading practitioner in the field of Jewish camping, Newbrun used Camp Tawonga as her laboratory, becoming a pioneer in the Jewish Outdoor Food and Environmental Education (JOFEE) movement, constantly searching for ways to infuse Jewish learning with the radical wonder inherent in our natural landscape.

It was during her service as a National Park Ranger after college that Newbrun first began to consider what it would mean to take Judaism and worship outdoors. “Growing up, I didn’t understand that Judaism was a land-based religion,” Newbrun said. “But if it was, why were we always praying indoors? I began searching for every Jewish teaching I could find about nature, and then mining each one for wisdom and guidance on how to be human. My vision remains to inspire a life of Jewish learning and exploration triggered by the same mandate that God gave to Abraham: be a blessing – hayeh bracha.”

In Spirit in Nature, she examines the beauty and wonder of nature through Jewish eyes. Through 27 activities, hikers of all ages will come alive to the miracle of God's creations. The activities focus on the marvels of nature: hosts of tiny creatures living in the soil, the rainbow of colors embellishing fields and trees and stones, the intricate interdependence of plants and animals. Each discovery celebrates the divine spark that exists within every living creature and every object found in the natural world.

Building on Jewish sources and Jewish tradition, Spirit in Nature fosters respect for flora, fauna, and natural phenomena and shows how to sanctify them with the appropriate prayer, such as the blessing recited upon seeing a rainbow or upon smelling a fragrant plant. This pioneering work will awaken hikers to the wisdom of Jewish tradition in its dedication to safeguarding and preserving the bounty of God's creation.

An index highlighting the connection between key Jewish values and the environment makes Spirit in Nature an effective classroom tool.

“Being selected as a Covenant Award recipient legitimizes the notion that serious Jewish education happens at camp, in the woods, by the river, in a garden, and through singing or sleeping under the stars,” Newbrun said, upon learning that she had been selected for a 2018 Covenant Award.

“As long as Jewish educators have the kavanah (intention) and capability to pass Jewish wisdom along, Jewish learning can happen anywhere.”

 Mazal Tov Deborah!

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