Meet Risa Alyson Cooper



“There’s a shift happening. It can be scary to be part of its early stages, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough, but what starts as a trickle can turn into a flood.”






When Risa Alyson Cooper found a community of people who shared her passion for protecting the environment within a Jewish framework, she was struck by a ‘wow’ moment. “It was one of those mind-expanding experiences where all the different pieces of myself came together in a harmonious, beautiful and meaningful way.”


Since her first experience in such a community she now works as the executive director of Shoresh.


Shoresh’s mission is to educate, inspire and empower the Jewish community to serve as ‘shomrei adamah’- protectors of the earth. “We try to demonstrate to the community that environmental ethics are Jewish ethics: to live Jewishly is to live in a deeply balanced relationship with the natural world around us.”


Tikkun olam, a central tenet of Judaism, is often understood as repairing relationships between people. Risa explains that repairing the world goes deeper into our roots and is also about our relationship with the ground we stand on. “We talk about tikkun olam all the time, meanwhile we don’t think about our relationship with the world itself, with the earth that sustains us.”


Shoresh serves to create wow moments for others, just like the one Risa experienced. “We strive to create those moments where you feel that there are no words to describe your experience other than ‘wow!’. Seeing a kid really see a caterpillar for the first time, someone harvesting potatoes for the first time, or someone connecting to a Jewish text on a deeper level… all of these are successes for us.”


Risa explains that these wow moments catapult individuals into feeling empowered to make changes in their lifestyle. “It all needs to start with awe and wonder. You can’t ‘you should’ people to death, unless you start from the place of what Heschel calls ‘radical amazement’ and have people feel that sense of wonderment.”


The global impact on the environment to date is far from inspiring, but despite the issues rising, Risa remains optimistic about the work that is currently being done to improve the state of the environment. “In order to continue, I have to hold to the beautiful things that are happening. The fact that our Jewish community is even talking about these issues is amazing.”


“There’s a shift happening. It can be scary to be part of its early stages, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough, but what starts as a trickle can turn into a flood.”


The values that drive the work Shoresh does are menschlekeit and radical gratitude. Risa incorporates these values into her professional and personal life. She is grounded and committed to be a protector of the earth.


Risa Alyson Cooper grew up in Thornhill, and completed her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Comparative Religious Studies, and then went on to complete her Masters in Contemporary Jewish Environmental Ethics at the University of Toronto. She worked at the Teva learning Centre in Connecticut, was a member of the Adamah Jewish Farming Fellowship, and now works as the executive director of Shoresh.


Learn more about Shoresh on their website, Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Jumans of Toronto is a window into the lives and passion of Jewish young adults making their mark in the world. A 50-part series, Jumans is inspired by Humans of New York. If you’d like to recommend someone awesome to be highlighted, please send an email to



Written by: Adina Samuels