Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Ari Weil!
TW: Ari, you're currently a fellow with Repair the World Detroit-- tell us more about what you do!
AW: I am a Food Justice Fellow where I work primarily with Keep Growing Detroit (KGD), an organization that supports the amazing urban agriculture network in the city. I help build their capacity by recruiting and facilitating volunteer days at their farm - Plum St. Market Garden. One of my bigger projects with KGD is planting the family demonstration garden. Using only the seeds and resources that KGD distributes to thousands of gardeners in the city, I am creating a model garden so people can see what is possible to grow with their seeds using a variety of farming techniques. It's fun! If you want to learn more and volunteer please reach out at werepair.org and detroitagriculture.net!
TW: You grew up in metro Detroit - what made you decide to stay?
AW: There is so much to Detroit that I did not get to see growing up. My story is a typical one - only going "downtown" for Tigers games and concerts. I love exploring, and as much as possible I try to expand my mental map of the city by going to new areas and meeting new people. If I can, I take the side roads and avoid the highways so I can "connect the dots." Also, it is nice to be close to Ann Arbor for Michigan football games. Go Blue!
TW: Where did you develop a passion for service?
AW: This is definitely cliche, but I love being active and doing work that makes a difference. It probably started when I was younger and I helped my dad with yard work. Then I realized that I could help people with similar tasks that really needed the extra hand. Then, by getting other people involved, more good work could be done and it could be fun!
TW: What's your favorite book and how does it move you?
AW: In terms of fiction, Holes by Louis Sachar. The book is better than the movie, but the movie is pretty great too. It is an amazing story of acceptance and bravery. It taught me the true value of friendship, how to survive in the desert during a drought, and that if I ever see a Yellow Spotted Lizard I should eat some onions. I always shed a tear when (spoiler alert!) Stanley finds Zero alive hiding under the boat Mary Lou. It makes sense that my favorite gardening activity is digging. It is so cathartic to dig a hole!
Non Fiction- The Nature Principle by Richard Louv. It is the followup to his big hit The Last Child in the Woods. It details the psychological and physical benefits of exposure to nature (as you may be able to tell by now I love "the outdoors"). It is especially important now that technology has quickly become ubiquitous with the human experience and can detract from time spent in natural settings. So...put down your phone and go outside!
TW: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven't visited?
AW: One day I would love to do a through hike (hiking a couple thousand miles for 4-6 months from one end of the trail to another) on Appalachian Trail on the east or the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast. Or both! I also really want to go hiking in New Zealand. I have only heard amazing things about the country. They have a through hike called Te Araroa that is supposed to be epic! Also, Vancouver.
TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
AW: So many great options! Channukah is always near my birthday so it's a good time, it is fun to dress up on Purim, Passover has great food (I often like Matzah more than bread), and TuBshvat because trees = life. Though, if I had to choose one it would be Sukkot. I love camping and I really jive with the Sukkah. Also, I can shake it like Shakira with the Lulav and Etrog :)
TW: Fav Jewish food?
AW: A Hillel Sandwich. For those unfamiliar it is a sandwich you make during passover with matzah, horseradish, and charoset (a mix of apples, nuts, and other yummy ingredients). I could eat it every day and I would be happy. The sweet and spicy combo is perfect.
TW: Who is the coolest Jew?
AW: Besides me? ;) Even though he has been going through some hard times lately, I would say Shia LaBeouf. From Even Stevens to Holes (I couldn't only mention Holes once!) he is excellent. We can forget about his work after that. I admire that he just does his own thing and doesn't seem to care what people think.
TW: If you could add an 11th commandment what would it be?
AW: Recess should be at least an hour, twice a day during school, all the way through high school. Kids need time to play. School is hard when you are cooped up inside all day. Recess lets kids be creative, get exercise, and focus better in the classroom.
TW: How about a fun fact?
AW: I am training for a Tough Mudder race that will be on June 4th. It's a 5 mile run with mud and obstacles. If anyone wants to get down and dirty in the mud with me at the race please join!
TW: Best movie ever made, hands down?
Hook. Robin Williams plays a grown up Peter Pan and goes back to Neverland to save his kids from Captain Hook. A timeless classic!
TW: Finish the sentence: When I go to The Well...
AW: I enjoy meeting people from around Metro Detroit and learning how Jewish traditions can make a positive impact on my life.