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October 8, 2015 | 25th Tishrei 5776

The Isaac Mayer Wise Academy and the URJ Greene Family Camp Establish Eco-Village

Eco-Village to underscore importance of environment, sustainability and leadership

Annette Powers

August 2011 - The Union for Reform Judaism's (URJ) Greene Family Camp (GFC) announced the establishment of the Isaac Mayer Wise Academy Eco-Village at GFC in Bruceville, Texas.

Through the Eco-Village, some of which will be complete by next summer, campers will produce their own food, build their own communities, and explore the natural world in a more in-depth way. For many city-dwelling campers, this will be a transformative experience. It will be a place where older campers can learn about and experience the natural world while teaching younger campers to appreciate it. Every camper and staff member will be involved.

The Wise Academy Eco-Village encompasses the best of what camp offers: communal Jewish living and learning.  In every aspect of the program, Jewish values and Jewish practice are at the forefront.  From teaching the Jewish concepts of caring for the land and its inhabitants to discussions about the agricultural heritage of the Jewish people, the Eco-Village will be a meaningful addition to GFC's educational programs. 

Plans for the Eco-Village include a new horseback riding program and campers of all ages will also have the opportunity to learn about archeology, geology, and navigation while riding through the camp's extensive grounds.  New tree houses in the Eco-Village for camp overnights are planned. Instead of sleeping on the ground, campers will sleep in shelters built into the tree canopies.

One of the main benefits of the Wise Academy Eco-Village program is that it will educate and inspire the entire camp to become a macro eco village. Many areas of the camp rely on energy and water consumption that can be reduced through more efficient use of resources. The staff of the camp's sustainability program, which is connected directly to the Wise Academy Eco-Village, will look for every opportunity to teach and utilize sustainability techniques.

Resources to initiate the project were donated by the Board of the Isaac Mayer Wise Academy of Dallas, Texas. The Board chose the URJ Greene Family Camp to carry on its legacy and continue to reflect the Jewish values that guided the Academy from its founding in 1996 to its closure in 2006.

In the words of former President of the Board of the Wise Academy Dr. Ellen Jackofsky, "The Wise Academy's values of Holiness, Study, Repair of the World, Respect, "Menschlichkeit," and Love of Israel are all evident in the creation of the Eco-Village concept. What better way to help support the Jewish education of children from all of our communities." The Reform movement and the URJ Greene Family Camp are honored and humbled to play a role in the furtherance of the community's goals in the Jewish education of children.

The GFC Kibbutz will be the "marquee" occupant of the Eco-Village.  The Kibbutz program, now in its 33rd year, currently houses approximately 50 rising 10th grade high school students and 10 staff members per session. Kibbutz housing will be patterned after those in "Bustan Village" at the Reform Movement's Kibbutz Lotan in Israel. These unique structures are currently in use wherever simple, energy-efficient housing is needed. The Kibbutz Campers will be the primary summer stewards of the GFC zoo, garden, and orchard. They will learn about and maintain the plants, trees, and animals. They will also learn to act as role models and pass that knowledge on to younger campers.

Campers on the Kibbutz are responsible for preparing meals for themselves. Members of the clergy and faculty guide a revolving work-group of Kibbutz campers through the process of creating meals and using products from the garden and orchard. Camp-grown fruits and vegetables are also used in cooking classes for younger campers.

The garden, a centerpiece of the Eco-Village and the larger camp, was recently named in memory of Janet and Morris Newberger. "My parents loved gardening and the values represented by taking care of the Earth" said Carol Weinstein, Academy Board Member and the Newbergers' daughter. "This is a fitting memorial to them."

The Eco-Village and Kibbutz program are parts of the URJ Greene Family Camp Capital Campaign. GFC are still seeking support for key elements of these and other projects to enhance GFC facilities and programs. For more information on the URJ Greene Family Camp, contact Loui Dobin ( or Rabbi Ana Bonnheim ( 

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