Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Teaneck—Most people go through their day-to-day activities on autopilot, taking for granted the natural resources required to make everything happen. Jack Flamholz, who passed away in October, was always looking to make the most of what the environment has. After his passing, his wife, Beverly Luchfeld, started sorting through his books and interests and found that he had researched a variety of different projects and laid out how to fulfill them. Due to his prolonged illness over the last five years of his life, he was unable to carry them out, but the passion, the belief and the execution were all written out for others to proceed onward. 

“My father was, among many things, passionate about education, Jewish tradition and water sustainability,” reflected his daughter Eta Flamholz.

Flamholz had learned of an Israeli—Amir Yechieli—who devised a water sustainability system by collecting runoff rain and using it for other purposes. Yechieli’s system, Yevul Mayim (water harvest) can use the rain for anything from toilet water to landscape watering. Flamholz’s blueprint for this project—which was outlined in his papers—was to partner with schools and homes to bring water sustainability and conservation to the forefront as a mainstream option. The family partnered with the Teaneck Creek Conservancy, which connected them to Hawthorne Elementary School. “My first thought was to start at the high school level, because students would need to be older in order to understand the concepts,” explained Luchfeld. “But I was told to start with the youngest audience first, so that conservation becomes a way of life from a very young age.”

The large barrels were delivered to Hawthorne Elementary and the inaugural event will take place May 23, from 9 a.m. to 10:15. “Students will begin exploring ideas on water sustainability in public and private spaces, utilizing the barrels for hands-on learning,” Luchfeld explained excitedly. As the rain water collects in these giant barrels, sediment settles in the bottom. The students will learn to turn the spigot on to drain the sediment, which cleans the water. They will use the water to irrigate the Hawthorne Elementary school garden, named in memory of Teaneck Mayor Lizette Parker. The garden is part of the reason why they partnered with this specific school. The water will also be used for the school’s toilets, an expense that costs the school half a million dollars annually. A school in San Diego has already successfully implemented a similar program in partnership with Yechieli’s system. Southern California has recently suffered a devastating drought, and even though they have benefited from recent rains, water is always at the forefront of their conservation efforts.

“Sustainability, like charity, begins at home, so let’s start with small affordable, achievable, demonstration projects on the grounds and in the building,” Jack Flamholz wrote. The plan is to expand this program over time, even to the point of having the students bused to the Luchfeld/Flamholz house to see how she has implemented water sustainability on a personal level.

“My husband was a scientist who excelled in physics,” Luchfeld remarked. “A physicist is a scientist, an artist and a philosopher, an individual attracted to the aesthetics, the abstract and the concrete in problem solving. Jack was a meticulous and rigorous thinker, but most importantly, one who recorded his thoughts for posterity.”

By Jenny Gans