Call for Moon Manual Contributions
Hi! My name is Sydney Switzer, and I'm an artist and educator living in Glasgow, Scotland. I'm passionate about bringing experiences with nature into Jewish practices, drawing on our ancient texts and traditions to create meaningful rituals. I do this in a variety of ways, from hosting in-person events for adults and families in Scotland, creating artworks which reflect on my own explorations of nature and traditional processes including spinning, foraging and fermenting, and developing resources to help others connect with the land on their own.
Please see a selection of my recent projects below, and be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44-7716914643 with any questions.
Mitzvah Day Fire Cider Workshop for Young Adults
I've been hosting a series of workshops for young adults connecting nature-based practices and experiences with Jewish festivals. For Mitzvah Day, we came together to make fire cider, as well as exploring Jewish sources and traditions relating to the various herbs and vegetables we were using. We then donated some of the fire cider to the MILK Community Apothecary, as well as the participants taking some home for their own use.
Rosh HaShana Apple Orchard Celebrations for Families
I've been hosting an annual Apple Orchard Celebration for Rosh HaShana in different locations across Scotland. Families come together to learn about the symbolism of ritual foods for Rosh HaShana, as well as to learn about the history of apple cultivation in Scotland and how community orchards are having a contemporary resurgence. Families pick apples, which we then use to cook and craft with, gaining a deeper appreciation for this beautiful fruit, and the relevance it can bring to our Rosh HaShana celebrations.
Chavaya B'Chava was a series of educational videos for children that I created while volunteering on a farm in the Scottish Highlands. Each of the videos explores a different aspect of the farm, connecting it to ideas of Israel and Jewish practice, and incorporating Hebrew learning. This episode explores the idea of making your own food and clothing, and how the chalutzim who built Israel had to produce many of their own foods and products, and organized themselves together to do so. You can see episode 6 below, and see the whole series at https://ujia.org/chavayabchava/, including 7 videos and supplementary PDFs with additional information and activities.
Experiencing Nature Through the Parshiot
I'm currently working on creating a resource which goes through each of the parshiot and explores any plants, elements of nature, or natural processes including nature-based crafts, fermenting, etc, present in the text and commentaries. It will then suggest nature-based activities, explorations, recipes, projects and journalling prompts relating to the text that week. This excerpt is from Parshat Vayera, and will finish with a recipe for foraged hawthorn ketchup, along with a picture tutorial.
Feeding Our Guests
This story is where we find the idea of ‘Hachnasat Orchim’, or welcoming guests. Avraham goes to great lengths to prepare food for his guests, and is rewarded for it.
We read about how Avraham goes about preparing the meal, from scratch, going through the raw materials that the food is made out of. When he goes to Sarah to ask her to make the bread, he specifically refers to taking the flour to make the bread. It describes how he slaughters the cow for the meat, and how he takes milk for the butter directly from the cow.
We read (Breisheit 18:6-8):
(6) Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quick, three seahs of choice flour! Knead and make cakes!” (7) Then Abraham ran to the herd, took a calf, tender and choice, and gave it to a servant-boy, who hastened to prepare it. (8) He took curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them; and he waited on them under the tree as they ate.
(ו) וַיְמַהֵ֧ר אַבְרָהָ֛ם הָאֹ֖הֱלָה אֶל־שָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מַהֲרִ֞י שְׁלֹ֤שׁ סְאִים֙ קֶ֣מַח סֹ֔לֶת ל֖וּשִׁי וַעֲשִׂ֥י עֻגֽוֹת׃ (ז) וְאֶל־הַבָּקָ֖ר רָ֣ץ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיִּקַּ֨ח בֶּן־בָּקָ֜ר רַ֤ךְ וָטוֹב֙ וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וַיְמַהֵ֖ר לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת אֹתֽוֹ׃ (ח) וַיִּקַּ֨ח חֶמְאָ֜ה וְחָלָ֗ב וּבֶן־הַבָּקָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וַיִּתֵּ֖ן לִפְנֵיהֶ֑ם וְהֽוּא־עֹמֵ֧ד עֲלֵיהֶ֛ם תַּ֥חַת הָעֵ֖ץ וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃
Today, it’s so easy to buy processed and made foods, but we can gain an even deeper appreciation for them by getting to know the source materials, processes, and doing it ourselves. While Avraham may have made his own butter out of necessity, not choice, exploring the processes behind making our own foods can be a very fulfilling experience that helps connect us to the food we eat, and serve others.
When I knit for other people, I often think about how every stitch, every tiny piece of the hat or scarf or jumper has been touched by my hands. It’s not just the intention of giving a gift to someone, but the fact that my hands have been so deeply involved in the physical material I’m giving them - it’s as if each stitch is like giving them a tiny hug. When we make foods from raw materials, it feels like that as well.
Hawthorn trees are abundant in Scotland, and the haws are the perfect ripeness about the time we read Parshat Vayera. Before Shabbat, I’m rushing around trying to get things done, especially as it’s the first Shabbat of daylight savings, and there’s so little time. But taking a few minutes out of the rush to go and pick haws from the tree brings some mindfulness to the routine. Getting outside, picking tiny berries, one by one, so as not to catch my sleeves on the thorns, touching each one, slowly boiling them, twice, filtering it out, and preparing a fresh, local, homemade hawthorn ketchup, feels like a much deeper way to honor and celebrate Shabbat guests, than simply putting a bottle of store-bought ketchup on the table.
There are so many different ways to bring foraged, fermented, and homegrown foods to the Shabbat table, to share with our guests. Try weaving foraged greens into your challah, or even just making challah yourself. It’s not the season, but I love filling my challah with freshly-made wild garlic pesto. Home pickles are great to serve, sauerkraut, or a special foraged syrup to drizzle over ice cream for dessert.
Chanukah Foraging Walk
I led a foraging walk for young adults in Glasgow to celebrate Chanukah. We learnt the midrash of how Adam HaRishon experienced the darkness of the solstice. We then celebrated the nutrients and growth we were able to find in nature, just like the the warmth and light we internalize through the lights of Chanukah, even in the dark of the winter.