Let’s Meet Jewish Person of the Week- Aaron Levine
Where did you grow up?
West Bloomfield, MI
What did you do Jewish growing up? What do you do now?
I grew up having Shabbat dinner with my family on Friday nights and going to Shul with my family on Saturday mornings. I was a public school/Hebrew school kid, and spent my summers at Tamarack before getting bitten by the Young Judaea bug in high school. That led me to a fabulous gap-year in Israel and the best friends ever. Shout out to my Camp Young Judaea Midwest family! These days, my main Jewish activities are Shabbat dinner and living out our Jewish agrarian roots as an “urban farmer.”
Where did you go to school?
I went to undergrad at Michigan State University and am pursuing my Master’s Degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
What do you do for work?
I work where urban agriculture and youth development cross paths. In my role as Urban Agriculture Coordinator at the Gary Comer Youth Center, I work with my team to plan, recruit, and implement activities for teen employment readiness programs in our on-site growing spaces. On the side, I am the Director for the eight-week Farm & Food Forest School through that runs on Sundays during July and August at KAM Isaiah Israel. As a Master Gardener, I also volunteer in this program each Sunday throughout the year when Farm School is out-of-session and spend a morning each week in the summer volunteering at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Butterflies & Blooms exhibit.
What do you do for fun/to relax?
Relax?! Why would I do that?! For serious, though, when I’m not busy farming, I enjoy escaping the city for a day-hike at the Indiana Dunes National Park, and find comfort in a home-cooked meal + and then going for ice cream with my brother and sister-in-law, and with a group of very special friends! #Scooter’s!
What is your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
I’m a sucker for the salad bar at Original Soul Vegetarian in Grand Crossing. Like, I’m gonna have to make a line-item in my budget for that…next year.
What is your favorite Jewish Chicago Event?
I love going to Sukkah parties!
What is your favorite way to spend shabbat?
I love sharing a home-cooked meal with those who are close to me and catching up on our highlights and challenges of the week.
Top three things on your Chicago bucket list?
Going to all the top ice cream shops around the city (currently/always accepting recommendations).
Walking through the Pedway downtown.
What should we know about urban agriculture?
Contrary to popular belief, this work involves a year-round commitment! For example, take the KAMII Food Justice program I volunteer with. We meet in January to select and order our seeds. By early February, we will have finalized our planting plan and put into place a list of tasks needed to get our micro-farms up and running. We sow our first seeds on the first Sunday in March, and rush to get our sites ready for transplanting in April and May. We’ll have our harvest ready for donation to hot-meal programs from June-October, and we put our growing spaces to bed in November. In December, we plan for our MLK Weekend Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend, and in late January, we start all over again!
How did you get involved in this field?
I got into this field because I was looking for a new opportunity in outdoor education. I got lucky in having a chance to be involved in the work of two top-notch organizations with talented people who guide me along the way.
Why are you passionate about this work?
I’m passionate about this work because I have the opportunity to work outside, learning from and teaching a whole lot of very special people. My experiences over the last six years have been truly humbling!
When the Tribe Gathers… There is bound to be good food, but make sure to grab dessert first!