October is the perfect month to focus on a very active group of passionate stewards at Kol Shalom in Annapolis.

This time of year is particularly special to those observing Jewish holidays starting with Rosh Hashanah, their New Year. This month IPC would like to express gratitude by highlighting Congregation Kol Shalom Annapolis for their commitment and profound practice of Tikkun Olam ("repair the world") on their grounds and through the lives they touch at the Tree of Life Preschool.   

Fall signifies the time of year for transformation both personal and environmental. It is a time of reflection, renewal, gathering, and celebration. While Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are introspective holidays of reflection and contemplation, Sukkot or “Tabernacles” is a community holiday of celebration that gives thanks for this time of harvest. 


Kol Shalom’s and Tree of Life Preschool logo honors Etz Chaim, the tree of life, and pays tribute to the natural beauty surrounding their sanctuary. Last year Kol Shalom signed our IPC Partner Congregation Pledge and continues to serve as good stewards of the land and waters of the Chesapeake. Barbara ("Bobbie") Kestenbaum has been a prime motivator behind gathering members and pulling everyone together. Working with IPC, Kol Shalom was awarded funding to install rain gardens, berms and a swale. Their property also supports pollinators with lovely native gardens and trees found throughout the property.

Astonishingly, the preschool itself has all organic materials for their playground that provide enhanced learning by connecting children to the natural world. The Tree of Life Preschool is one of only five premier nature-based schools in Maryland and utilizes the wonderful outdoor space that surrounds the synagogue. Intrigued by this concept my questions steered towards finding a deeper understanding on how Jewish faith informs Kol Shalom congregants and students at Tree of Life Preschool. The resounding answer to this question is that Tikkun Olam remains connected with the human responsibility for fixing what is wrong with the world.

This fundamental Jewish principle has become synonymous with social justice activities and any act that improves the world. Allison Charapp, Director of Tree of Life Preschool believes if everyone takes baby steps we will get there, and many are motivated and believe her. The nature based pre-school program also exposes children to Jewish religion and culture providing an environment that inspires exploration, engages curiosity, and nurtures spiritual growth based on teachings of Judaism. Many families of different faiths have become allies to the Jewish community at a time when antisemitism has been on a dramatic rise. The love and dedication to care for creation bonds people of all backgrounds and provides a safe space for those who are committed to heal and restore our relationship with the earth.

Bobbie also has been practicing this act of repairing by engaging Kol Shalom in watershed stewardship through the RiveWise Congregation program, and all the ongoing conservation landscaping projects that take quite a bit of maintenance. Allison hosts a celebratory end of the year clean up party that shows all congregants the value in maintaining their beautiful grounds. What a difference we all can make collectively when we practice Tikkun Olam.