I teach experiential courses on food and environmental literature, conduct multidisciplinary community-engaged research, and speak widely on the local food and environmental movements.
I spent the first part of my career studying theatre at Yale University and producing performance art in downtown Manhattan with P.S. 122 and the Wooster Group. I then decided to take a deep dive into the history and culture of American Jews. I earned a PhD in American literature and Jewish Studies from Brandeis University and then became an award-winning author and Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Toronto. My first book, Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical won the MLA/Kurt Weill Prize for the best book in Music Theater and my second book, Theatrical Liberalism: Jews and Popular Entertainment in America was a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award.
While I was building my academic career, our climate was sliding into chaos and governments were doing nothing to help. Increasingly alarmed, I became involved in the local food and farming movements in Ontario, helping to found Shoresh and Bela Farm and initiating conversations and action around environmental issues in my university, my synagogue, and in the wider community. It was meaningful work, but like our North American lifestyles, it was unsustainable. I had a growing family, a demanding job, and an urgent need to “save the planet,” and my body began to give out. It took a major health crisis to make me see that, in pursuit of a “successful” life, I had bought into a story that demands depletion -- of our bodies as well as the body of the planet.
Some of my projects include:
Writing about new cultural mythologies
Fostering immersive land-based and embodied learning experiences
Experimenting in cooperative agriculture, herbal knowledge, art and political advocacy
Designing new approaches to health, life writing, feminism, and environmentalism
Developing land-based Jewish spiritual practices
My mission now is to change that story. For myself, for my students, for all those who feel disconnected and helpless in the face of seemingly insurmountable environmental problems, and for the beautiful planet which sustains us.