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Sowing Success

Riki Goldstein

A formerly barren schoolyard now lush with produce. A little girl buoyed by the prospect of a better future. Robin Katz and Start-Up Roots are using simple ingredients — water and vegetables — to transform lives.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Little Sarit’s brown eyes are full of wonder. She looks out at the workers who are pulling up the gray concrete of the schoolyard. Beyond the cracked fence are the crowded streets of one of chareidi Jerusalem’s poorest neighborhoods. The air is spiced with holiness, the buildings and alleys have a quaint, old-world charm. But the schoolgirls who crowd at the window together with Sarit knew of hunger and poverty before they ever heard of Chumash, dikduk, reading, and writing. They all come from homes on shaky financial footing and have often experienced other dysfunction. Today, in the yard of their rundown school building, something new and marvelous is taking place. Workers. Plans. Greenhouses. A state-of-the-art hydroponic farming system. Sarit turns to Robin Katz, the energetic American woman who’s the executive director of Start-Up Roots and the driving force behind the new project in her school. “Why did you choose us?” “I picked you girls to be the leaders in this,” Robin responds. “I see your wonderful middot and potential for leadership. You can do this and others will follow. You’ll set an example for everyone.” Sarit beams. And for once, the little girls of Beit Sara* — left behind, impoverished, at the bottom of the city’s pecking order — are at the forefront of a new and exciting campaign. But for once, it’s not a campaign for charity handouts.

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