"Spirit in Nature" episodes are available for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and other platforms.
"Spirit in Nature" episodes are available for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and other platforms.

‘Spirit in Nature’: New Jewish ‘doing’ podcast fosters appreciation for nature

A new “doing” podcast from a rabbi and a producer who live in the Bay Area encourages listeners to go outside and take a walk.

In episodes of “Spirit in Nature,” host Rabbi Deborah Newbrun and producer Sarah Lefton lead listeners on guided walks in nature, interjecting Jewish teachings, scientific explanations and exhortations about conserving the Earth. One episode sends listeners to a beach to learn about tides and the lunar calendar. Another sends them to a place with soil to learn about decomposition and the idea of “holy ground.” There is also an episode dedicated to shmita, the agricultural sabbatical year.

The first five episodes of “Spirit in Nature,” which were released Jan. 27 and are between 10 and 18 minutes long, are available for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and other platforms.

“Our hope was to make Jewish nature learning accessible to both individuals, friends and families,” Newbrun told J. “At the moment we are partnering with a Jewish day school, a JCC, an overnight camp and a synagogue to see how the podcasts can best be used.”

While the podcast looks at ecology through a Jewish lens, Newbrun said non-Jewish listeners will be able to follow along.

“Most people have never taken this kind of walk,” Lefton told J. “It’s intuitive that nature feels close to God, or that we feel spiritually open by the ocean, or under a giant tree. These recordings are ways to put on that spiritual lens.”

Newbrun and Lefton have known each other for years and were colleagues at Camp Tawonga, which Newbrun directed for 22 years. A one-time park ranger, Newbrun served as Bay Area director of Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization, and is the author of “Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail.”

Lefton is an educational media creator who founded BimBam (previously known as G-dcast), the beloved Jewish media nonprofit that stopped releasing new videos in 2019.

Newbrun said she hopes to record more episodes of “Spirit in Nature” with Lefton. The podcast is sponsored by the Covenant Foundation.

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is the culture editor of J. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv.