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Pardes Yehuda: Eli Rogosa is saving the world

Friday, June 27, 2008

Eli Rogosa is saving the world

Eli Rogosa, founder of

You know those people that you meet just for a moment, and you know that not only have they had a profound effect on you in that brief encounter, but you recognize the greatness of their ideas and their endeavors and are immediately humbled by the knowledge that the Holy One blesses the world with such special souls... In the early emergence of New England spring I encountered Eli Rogosa for one of those brief, special moments.

I was visiting the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in northern Connecticut to attend a retreat for rabbinical students sponsored by PANIM; an INCREDIBLE and sacred place, and a holy and blessed organization--definitely follow those links. I pulled up to the remote retreat center, snuggled away in the warm (in spirit) and welcoming green New England mountains, after a wonderful day sharing coffee with a man I'm honored to call mentor and friend, Bob Meagher, and tromping through the pine forests of Hampshire College. So I park my car and begin to timidly wonder around the area looking for someone who looks as if they know where they are. I happen upon two sweet women from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, who were attending the same retreat and also appeared as if they had no idea what was going on. We introduce ourselves and jump into a successful game of Jewish geography (an easy game when you make up only a tiny fraction of the population). When two wise women swagger up, clearly familiar and comfortable with their surroundings. The taller, a grey haired woman who carried her confidence like a brilliant shawl, leaned to the shorter, a woman who struck me as a stalk a grain--ancient and firmly rooted, yet light and dancing in the wind (I would soon understand why I was feeling such things)--the taller leaned to the shorter and said softly, "Shall we ask them how their retreat is going?" They approached the three of us, who clearly looked a bit uncertain and admittedly not wholly comfortable. We immediately began chatting after polite introductions and explanations of the newness of the environment.

The women explained to us that they had been doing a matzah baking retreat (Passover was just around the corner); in those two minutes I learned more about matzah then I knew there was to learn. For example, the original matzah was made from emmer, an ancestor of wheat, now all but extinct--it is much tastier, more nutritious and gluten free. And thus I was introduced to one woman who is saving the world. Eli Rogosa.

Eli Rogosa is the founder of the Heritage Wheat Conservancy, she spends her time saving us from evil people like these folks .

How is this one woman saving the world? Simple. She is saving the foundation of our food. Eli travels the world collecting ancient grains and assuring that they survive amidst the rise of genetically engineered foods, the literal copy-writing of foods, and the global food crisis that is upon the world.

Why is her work so important you ask? Food is at the center of it all. When certain entities seek to submit others to their power, they lock up the food supply--it is an old story, as old as centralization and urbanization (if not older...) Our own consumer culture is one in which is are completely removed from our food supply and production. We go to the store, or restaurant, and purchase food already neatly packaged and sometimes prepared. We have no knowledge of where the food comes from, no honor for the people involved in growing, picking, transporting preparing and packaging those foods. We hardly even have an awareness of the person stocking or bagging our groceries! We have allowed corporations to erase our knowledge of nutrition and food, replacing our ancient memories with fabricated food pyramids and calorie counts. All we need to know of food is within our collective sacred conscience. Eli is reminding us of that.

According to Eli's website,
The Heritage Wheat Conservancy is a grass-roots initiative by and for traditional farmers to conserve the heritage wheats best adapted to our organic fields. All profts from the sale of our wheats support our conservation farms in Maine, Palestine and Greece. Heritage wheats are well adapted to the organic fields of traditional farmers, have the highest capacity for stable yields in weather extremes of climate change and are rich in flavor and nutrition.
To give you an idea of what Eli does, I had asked her to answer a few questions for me, via e-mail, so I could have some more information to share with people, because I am so excited by what she is doing. Her response was that she was too busy keeping up with all the 112 rare varieties of ancient wheat she had saved in the Middle East and Europe and was planting for spring.

Eli's work saving ancient grains in the Middle East has brought her toward other sacred work as well. Beyond perhaps most any other region in the world, the Middle East needs lots of positivity and lots of healing. Eli has helped create real means for peace in the Middle East.

One of the foundations of the philosophical approach which has dictated Shimon Peres' approach to the peace process has been his belief that if the Israelis and Palestinians have shared economic interests, they would be more likely to work things out. Eli, and a group she helped establish, the The Israel Seed Conservancy (read about it here), is a grassroots collective of Arab and Jewish farmers to save traditional knowledge and grains. Shimon Peres has the right idea, but the wrong commodity. The answer is not in sharing the financial resources, the future peace of Israelis and Palestinians is recognizing their shared food resources.

At you will find great information that will explain more about the incredibly holy and important work that Eli is embarking on. In addition to wonderful information you can also purchase ancient grains and donate to the Conservancies.

The safety of our food supply is at risk. The key to our future is in the work that Eli Rogosa is doing. Thank you, Eli.

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