Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

A garden of kindness for all to enjoy

On the coldest morning of the year, Jan. 21, Jewish Academy of Orlando students, teachers, staff and parents braved the weather to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Gan Shel Chesed, the Kindness Garden.

The fifth grade class—under the guidance of their teacher, Emily Watson, and art teacher Penny Goldstein—chose to do this project as their legacy to the school. In the center of the garden, the fifth graders planted an olive tree—the tree of peace. The other grades also planted trees along the sidewalk for a total of seven trees.

Within the next few weeks Colette Paquet Landscapers will finish planting the garden with herbs, bushes, trees and flowers following a blueprint designed by Paquet, who chose specific plants that will provide a peaceful space for anyone who walks into the garden. There is even a “buddy bench” where friends can sit.

“This garden represents values to practice: How to treat one another, remember to be kind and practice compassion,” said a fifth grader during the ceremony.

“We must learn to take care of this garden like we must take care of each other,” stated one student.

Another student reminded all the school students that they are caretakers, not owners of this garden as it grows and provides beauty for future JAO students.

After the tree planting, fifth-grade student Maya, told Heritage that even though all the values brought forth were great ideas, “the most important thing is to bring people together.”

Maya also pointed out that Tu B’ Sh’vat and Martin Luther King Day were on the same day this year. The fact that Tu B’Sh’vat and MLK Day were on the day of the dedication was not lost on any of the students. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” said King. This is exactly the point the students wanted to make with their garden.


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