by Myriam Gurba
Tikkun olam, the seemingly simple concept of world repair, can lead to some scorching debate. What actions best express tikkun olam? Is tikkun olam combing the shore for six pack rings so that shore birds may safely frolic? Is tikkun olam loaning a non-Jew homey rent money so that he avoids eviction and indefinite residency on your couch? Is tikkun olam saying no to an exotic kiwi fruit and instead brunching on homegrown berries? Does tikkun olam apply only to the planet we call home or to galaxies far, far away? These questions and more were explored with vim, vigor, and a lot of elbow grease at the inaugural Tikkun Olam Institute (TOI), hosted by Southern California Jewish Student Services, sponsored by Larry Tichauer and
Dr. Harvey & Adrianne Goldstone of Dr. Goldstone High-Definition Vision Centers in memory of Harvey’s grandfather, מנחם מנדל בן משה, and attended by college, university, and high school students from Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties.
The first ever Tikkun Olam Institute kicked off the afternoon of June 15 with some good old-fashioned beach clean-up at Long Beach’s Colorado Lagoon. Students volunteering from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and University of California, Riverside (UCR) converged at the lagoon’s Wetland and Marine Science Education Center, met with three members of Tidal Influence, who work with Friends of the Colorado Lagoon (FOCL), and learned about FOCL’s plans for improving the marsh and enhancing native plant and animal habitats. In other words, volunteers got schooled about waterworld repair!
After this brief lecture, FOCL representatives schlepped wheelbarrows, gloves, and hoes out of the education center, and it was time to get dirty and proactive. Led by FOCL, TOI volunteers trekked to the wooden fence guarding the water and FOCL demonstrated how to distinguish between native and non-native plants. Native shrubbery creates a vital, leafy barrier protecting the lagoon from trash and volunteers broke a sweat weeding this entire periphery.
After weeding, volunteers headed back to the education center where FOCL demonstrated plant propagation. FOCL explained that volunteers would be transplanting native plants—salt grass, shore grass, pickleweed, California sea lavender, and sand spurry—salvaged from the lagoon’s west arm. Volunteers pulled plugs from flats and transferred them to plastic cups, potting a total of 60 plants destined for balding strips of the marsh. With spades in hand, volunteers also marched to banks, harvested some grasses directly from the earth, and re-potted them as they knelt on sand, sea hares and terns watching.
Covered in sand, pollen, and marsh muck, volunteers caravanned to Rabbi Kaplan’s home for a barbecue and break down of the clean-up. Jacob Goldberg, of CSULB, commented, “As a marine biology major, it was cool to learn the history of the lagoon.” Judd Lieberman, of UCR, declared, “I liked the clean-up!” Chowing down on the first of several hamburgers, Danny Leserman, of UCR, said, “As a social and community event, the clean-up was a success!”