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Allegra Benveniste Honigman, Community Gardener

  • Subject: [cg] Allegra Benveniste Honigman, Community Gardener
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 10:03:27 EST

Thanks Jim,

As Jews, our responsibility is to take the world that God has given us and to preserve it and make it better - our word for it is "Tikkun."  The other part of our tradition is that we are to strive to have a "good name."  As the Union Prayerbook - the Reform Judiasm text that Congregation Emanu-el uses in its daily worship says, in its English translation from the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for mourners, that the dead, "still live on earth in the acts of goodness they performed and in the hears of those who cherish their memory."

Among the many acts of grace and love (for those who experienced Allegra personally, let me add the word "tough" to love. for the occasions that we all experienced her lovingly direct expressions of disapproval) of this woman's all too short life, was her membership in the Clinton Community Garden as both a volunteer and a multi - term member of its Steering Committee.

Allegra had an extraordinary eye for color, balance and display in our volunteer beds. Allegra's idea was, " there are alot of people in this neighborhood who will never get to the Botanical Gardens, or can't afford the car fare.  In our front bed next to the magnolia tree, we want a three season explosion of color, so those nursing mothers, seniors, or people re-creating  from what life gives them can rest and see something nice."  Please go to the Clinton Community Garden website and click on "Become a Volunteer" to see what Allegra's keen eye and my back assembled from God's gift of flowers.  Clinton Community Garden

On building community:

Nurses are practical - their job is not diagnosis, although Allegra was a superb diagnostician, but doing the lions share of the work of healing and supporting the patient by marshalling the family's support through teaching.

We had a problem in the Clinton Community Garden.

New York City, and Hell's Kitchen in particular, has traditionally been a haven for new immigrants to America.  Previous waves had brought Dutch, African , English,  Irish, German, Italian, Norman French, Serbian, Croatian,Greek, Puerto Rican, Central American, Asians from the Caucasus to Tibet , mainland Americans who had chosen to live in NYC, and what I call "refugees from America" - folks who came to Manhattan to escape prejudice or worse, for the choices they had made for those whom they had decided to love.  We had absorbed all into our garden community.

However we were having a problem with our latest immigrants, large families of folks from Yemen whose men had opened delis in our neighborhood and had large families of children who were flooding the garden.  The situation was this - the local playgrounds were filled with crack dealers, junkies, the lowest grade of street whores and the only decent public space in the neighborhood for kids to go was our garden. 

The Yemeni mothers were women of cover and our garden was the only open place in the neighborhood where their modesty was respected.  In their faces I saw the Jewish great-grandmothers of some of my family members who had lived in the old Polish-Russian Pale,  shtetl of the Jewish Ghettoes of Europe, bound by faith, home and a way of life that had not changed for centuries.

Their kids, being kids, were tearing through the garden, sometimes 100 on an afternoon, ripping things up, peeing on plants, running into people having the time of their lives. There were confrontations between gardeners, kids and parents and it was beginning to get ugly.

After all they had signed our English and Spanish garden agreements, had been talked to repeatedly, and still they weren't complying.

So Allegra decided to take another tack.  She went to an Iraqi departmental secretary at St. Clare's Hospital and brought him to the garden during her lunch hour and gave him a tour.  He was not the easiest man in the world to get along with (neither am I or many of us) but Allegra convinced him to translate our garden rules and membership agreements into Arabic.  And in a few weeks, when we had them to distribute to the ladies, who were illiterate, they brought them to their husbands and sons who explained them. 

The attitudes in the garden changed, because while kids would be kids, they worked to control them better and felt respected, having been given the same rules as everyone else, in language that they understood.

The current garden sign on our fence, composed by Egyptian born gardener and former steering committee member Zaki Tewfik, is a continuation of Allegra's work.

Thought you might to know about this,

Adam Honigman
Clinton Community Garden 

Subj: [cg] CG Volunteer - Adam Honigman
Date: 1/10/04 10:00:09 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: jimcall@casagarden.com
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Sent from the Internet

Friends of this listserv:

In the past, I have complained about inappropiate postings (political views and
not CG oriented) on this listserv so please bear with me here.

In the early morning hours of Dec 25th, Adam Honigman's wife, Allegra
experienced stomach discomfort so she and Adam walked to a nearby hospital
(only a few blocks away). She passed out prior to getting there and a taxi came
to their assistance, taking them to the hospital's emergency room.  She was
experiencing the beginning of a major heart attack. 

A few days later, she was slowing rebounding from this traumatic experience.
Adam, their son, Daniel, and close friends spent time visiting with her.
Because the attack impaired her vision, Adam read get well cards to her.

On Jan 4th, Allegra suffered another heart attack.  This created a grave
situation so relatives and close friends were contacted.

Yesterday (Jan 9th), Allegra Benveniste Honigman passed away.  Services will be
held this coming Monday, January 12, 2004 at Congregation
Emanu-el, 65th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, NYC at 1:00 p.m.

As many of the ACGA listserv participants are very aware of, Adam is the most
active and helpful contributor to this forum.  His community gardening
expertise which comes from many years of being a devoted volunteer of the
Clinton Community Garden (NYC)is invaluable. He has shown many times over and
over his willingness to help many seeking answers in their quest to create a CG
or to improve their existing garden. 

Please take a few minutes to express your thoughts of this great loss to his
family.  Allegra was a nurse for 30 years.  That committment alone summarized
her devotion to help others in need.

Adam's phone number is 212-541-5277.
Email: adam36055@aol.com
Home Address:  360 West 55th Street, New York, NY 10019.

Kindest regards to all,  Jim Call, CASA CG Volunteer Dir. 

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