Rodef Shalom’s Garden Grows into Latest Exhibit of Wearable Greens
By Alaina Raftis , TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The lush greenery at Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Botanical Garden is celebrating it’s 25th year with a new exhibit titled “What Shall I Wear?”
This year, the garden showcases various plants and flowers that have been used to make clothing and fragrances for thousands of years.
The heavily cultivated and well-maintained garden — which sits on a third of an acre off of Fifth Avenue in Oakland — was created by Irene Jacob, a botanist who founded the docent program at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and her husband, Rabbi Walter Jacob, to bring people closer to the Bible in a nontraditional way.
Often referred to as “Little Israel” because its geography replicates the confines of the Holy Land, the garden features various miniature landmarks such as Mt. Hermon, a mound of stones stacked beneath the shade of the billowing Acacia trees, and the Jordan River, a tranquil stream of water trickling from one corner of the garden to another.
The thousands of signatures penned in the guest book each season are only one sign of the garden’s success.
“This is the largest and most complete garden of its kind,” says Arlyn Gilboa, who has been a docent at the garden for 15 years, “It’s wholly dedicated.”
The garden contains 56 out of 110 plants specifically mentioned in the Bible and an additional 50 flowers that Jacob added to awaken the verdant oasis.
“Some people come to Pittsburgh just to see the garden,” says Jean Simon, another docent.
Plants that aren’t mentioned in the Bible were given creative names such as, “Jacob’s Coat,” “Angel’s Tears” and “Elijah’s Blue” to play along with the biblical theme.
This year’s exhibit “was just something new that we haven’t focused on before,” Gilboa says. “Sometimes our exhibits don’t have biblical roots, but this year it certainly does.”
Some of the plants featured in this year’s exhibit are used for the essential oils in perfumes and fragrances. They include, among others, banana shrubs, carnations, chamomile, gardenia, geranium, jasmine, kumquat, lemon verbena, mock orange, musk plant, myrtle, patchouli, rose, rosemary and sage. The cotton and flax plants also are displayed and both have been used to make clothing since the ancient times.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Gilboa looks at the two massive Cedar of Lebanon trees at the entrance to the garden. “The fact is that the ancients were dependent on plants, and so are we. For me, I feel a strong connection with Jewish history when I’m here. It’s such a treat.”
When: Through Sept. 15. Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays; noon-1 p.m. Saturdays Guided tours available 12:15-1 p.m. Aug. 6 and Sept. 3
Where: Rodef Shalom Temple, 4905 Fifth Ave., Oakland