When the Holy Temples stood in Jerusalem, the priests performed a water-drawing ceremony every morning of Sukkot. The celebration continued every evening, with song and dance, as part of the nation’s communal prayers for abundant rain in the coming rainy season.
The Flamholz family of Teaneck chose this water-centric ritual — called Simchat Beit Hasho’evah — as the symbolic basis for the multicultural “Liquid Earth” day of water exploration at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy on October 8, during the weeklong Sukkot holiday.
Participants of every age, religion, and ethnicity are invited to dance, draw, and learn about water, courtesy of the Teaneck Creek and the Jack Flamholz Water Sustainability Project.
Thanks to that project, during the last school year large Israeli-made rain-collection barrels were installed at the conservancy as well as at the Hawthorne Elementary School in Teaneck and at the Flamholz home. They show how rainwater may be collected, conserved, and used safely for any purpose but drinking. Guided tours of those installations, led by the Israeli inventor of the barrel system, will be available at the end of the day.
“My husband was a very proud American and Jew,” said Beverly Luchfeld, Jack Flamholz’s widow. “He really was grateful to the local community as well as the Jewish community and felt he had to give back. His passion was water sustainability. He wanted to start small — with a local school and the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, where he volunteered — and get it right, and then maybe expand from there if others could contribute to the effort.”
When Mr. Flamholz died in October 2016, the idea was in its initial stages,” his daughter, Eta said. “We found his notes and decided to make it happen.”
“Sustainability, like charity, begins at home, so let’s start with small affordable, achievable, demonstration projects on the grounds and in the building (on it too),” Mr. Flamholz had written in his notes to the conservancy.
Liquid Earth will open with interpretive dance and music by the Nikki Manx Dance Studio and Englewinds oboist Sarah Davol at the conservancy’s Five Pipes Mural. Musician and storyteller Lauren Hooker will tell the history of the local Lenape with Native American flute music, percussion, interactive sign language, and songs.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy volunteer Dr. George Reskakis will lead a session on the history of water use in Teaneck and Bergen County, previewing an opportunity to see the new barrel collection system. Children will be invited to work with the conservancy’s Eco-Art Committee to design murals for the four barrels. Afterward, a shuttle tour of the other locations will set out from the creek, weather permitting.
“My dad had internalized environmental and sustainability issues and he wanted people to see concrete examples to understand how logical they are,” said Eta Flamholz, who recently moved to San Francisco but was planning to fly into New Jersey for Sukkot.
Ms. Luchfeld explained that in 2010, her husband and their sons, Avi and Bitzy (David and Bezalel), had visited Israeli water-conservancy sites, including some of the 123 schools at which Amir Yechieli installed his barrel system to harvest rainwater for garden irrigation and toilet-flushing.
“Most barrels are flat on the bottom, so the sediment settles and can make the water unfit for use,” she said. “What’s unique about Amir’s barrels is that they come to a point at the bottom, and have a spigot at the point to drain out sediments.”
The system can operate on gravity or use pumps to bring the harvested water to wherever it will be repurposed.
In addition to the two barrels at the conservancy, another eight for the Hawthorne School and two for the Flamholz backyard were shipped from Israel. Each holds approximately 700 gallons. They are set up in pairs, so that when one barrel is filled halfway it starts filling the other to avoid an overflow.
Importing these large plastic barrels was neither cheap nor logistically simple, but Ms. Luchfeld felt that working with Mr. Yechieli perfectly combined her husband’s passions.
“It’s a way for Israel to be a role model here — a small country that should be a desert but has a surplus of water today,” she said. “If the barrel project takes off and there is sufficient demand, we’d look into manufacturing them here.”
Mr. Flamholz, a physicist and computer scientist, also had a strong interest in Jewish history. He had delved into the writings of 14th century talmudic scholar Rabbi Nissim of Gerona, whose “Drashot HaRan” discussed the factors that allowed Jews to prosper in medieval Italy and Spain. Mr. Flamholz compared that to the Federalist Papers, looking for similarities in the writings of the American founding fathers.
Based on that interest, the Flamholz family is organizing a day of study at Manhattan’s Drisha Institute on November 12, exploring “how we as Jews in America have prospered, and why there may be changes in the wind,” Ms. Luchfeld said.
That this day of study will happen in November is not accidental. “One of my husband’s favorite holidays was Thanksgiving,” Ms. Luchfeld said.
What: The Jack Flamholz Water Sustainability Project Day of Water Exploration & Celebration
Where: Teaneck Creek Conservancy, 20 Puffin Way, Teaneck (in case of rain, it will be moved indoors to the Puffin Cultural Forum)
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. October 8
How: RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/LiquidEarth
And also: Snacks will be provided and picnickers may bring lunch. There is no sukkah on the premises