June 6, 2017

Finding Purpose & Direction Outdoors

In the final week of the 3rd Tivnu gap year program, the participants planned a siyyum, which is a traditional Jewish way of celebrating the completion of a book of Torah or other Jewish learning. The Tivnuniks were proud to gather at the end of their nine months together to celebrate all that they learned in this chapter of their lives. A few Tivnuniks felt inclined to share some words about what they learned and created this year. Below you will find Sasha Pitkofsky’s speech.

The last few days I’ve been preparing a little spiel to share with you all today. I’ve tried to sum up what this year has meant to me and the best word I have come up with is “helpful.” I know it’s pretty broad but bear with me…

This year I’ve had internship placements at a few places. At Portland Parks and Rec I sorted through incoming nursery plants before they’re distributed to the parks. I also worked in the greenhouse pruning and watering all of the plants, as well as doing pest management. I even learned how to drive a gator! I’ve learned that I don’t want to be a horticulturist because they have to memorize a bunch of Latin names. In the bathroom, there’s a conveniently placed poster that I’ve had plenty of time to study. I now know the different classifications of trees based on the crown, the color, the height, and the leaves of the trees. Time well spent, I know. But I’ve decided to move onto other things.

One of the biggest influences this year has been my time at Zenger Farm. The skills I’ve learned this year at Zenger are invaluable to me because I will be able to apply them in the future on my own farm. I’ve been able to see firsthand what a working sustainable farm looks like. I’ve had an active role in the upkeep of the farm. I’ve worked with the animals, the people, and even the compost. In fact, that was my favorite part! Working with my hands, being out in the fields, and being with nature brought me closer to G-d. Sitting in synagogue isn’t tangible enough for me. But harvesting what I’ve sowed has allowed me to establish a connection with some higher power. This has made me feel important and valuable. I feel like I have a purpose. I can see what good can come out of hard labor.

Creating community at Zenger has also been so fun. I’ve loved working with the farmers who are all so welcoming and kind. They opened their community to me through our similar values and interests. When I’m with the educators, I get a chance to see a different benefit of the farm. I’ve come to value education more highly than before. I’ve learned that by teaching kids healthy options, we can empower younger generations to be more in tune with what our bodies are capable of.

These experiences at Zenger have reinforced my love of farming and of being outdoors. My goal in life is to open my own sustainable farm using a farm-to-table model. I am indebted to Zenger for the chance to learn skills to apply in my farming future, and to Tivnu for helping me take that first step.

I’ve become so much more independent — more than I thought I’d grow in a year. Depending on myself has made my confidence soar. I’ve learned the value of using different styles of communication to work with people in kinder ways. I’ve come to understand what is important for me to have in a communal living area. The camaraderie at our communal dinners created a really weird, goofy family of Tivnoodles. The support from Erik, Steve, Adinah, and Anna was not just of a staff; they made me feel like I’m a part of their family. Collectively, these experiences have been so helpful in forming me as a post-high school young adult who is confidently trying to figure out my place and purpose in the world.

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