After years of working various agricultural jobs, Swampscott native Rebecca Remis, the founder and owner of Birdie’s Blooms, has found her way back to the North Shore to open her own sustainable floral design company. Yet, amidst the pandemic, she has been relegated to working at her house and using her car to deliver her creations.
It was on May, 5 2020 (Mother’s Day) that she launched her own floral design company, which is named after her maternal grandmother and incorporates the Jewish values she had learned while working in the Jewish sector of agriculture.
Her grandmother, Birdie, worked in Berlin after World War II as a press secretary. It was there that she met her husband, a Holocaust survivor who later became a cantor at Mishkan Tefila in Newton. While her grandfather’s story of Holocaust survival got a lot of attention, deservedly so, Remis thought her grandmother’s story was remarkable and deserved more attention.
“Growing up, I heard less about how awesome it was that she went to Germany in the 1940s to serve her country,” Remis said. “In this time of raising the voices of women and marginalized folks, having a story to tell about who she was felt really powerful.” Remis also mentioned that having an ancestral connection in the business was important to her.
At the beginning of 2020, Remis had planned on moving to Western Massachusetts and working at Many Graces, a flower farm in Hadley. She had planned on working there for a bit then eventually opening her own business, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated her plans.
“When it was clear I wasn’t able to go anywhere, and I wasn’t taking that job, I decided to launch it,” she said.
Remis got into agriculture while attending George Washington University, working at the Food Justice Alliance, a group focused on sustainable gardening, food distribution and community outreach.
She twice studied abroad for a semester in the Yunnan Province of China, learning about the birth of the organic food movement along with understanding why organic agriculture is important.
During her sophomore year at GWU, she joined an alternative spring break program led by The Jewish Farm School, a group that focused on sustainable agriculture tied to Jewish traditions. “That was the first time I put my passion for agriculture into the framework of my religious beliefs,” Remis said.
It was there that she learned about another program, the Eden Village Camp, a sleepaway organic farming camp in Putnam, New York. She did a farm education apprenticeship there, which was another spark in her farming education.
After a brief hiatus from agriculture, Remis worked in Healdsburg, California, at Eden Village West. She worked with kids doing different activities, all incorporating an awareness of their ecosystem in addition to the agricultural history of the Jewish people.
That was the leading lesson at the camp. “At its core, the Jewish people have been an agricultural society for a very long time,” Remis said.
“There’s 49 days between Passover and Shavuot,” she said. “One interpretation is that the reason there is 49 days in between is because that’s how long it takes for barley to mature. It wasn’t actually that people were just counting the days just for fun; it was that they were waiting for the Passover of the wheat crop to the barley crop.” That is one example of the agricultural underpinnings of Judaism that worked to inspire Remis.