By Rob Goldberg
This summer I was privileged to tour every Olmsted Park in the City of Buffalo – all from the vantage point of my bike saddle. This unique cycling experience was led brilliantly by Ken Rogers, known by so many in Jewish Buffalo through his civic leadership and popular spin classes at the JCC. Ken steered our group of 10 cyclists to every major park, parkway, pocket park, and even those locations influenced by Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s first and perhaps greatest landscape architect.
Olmsted designed a system of parks and parkways in Buffalo that was the first of its kind in the nation. On our 35 mile roll, we experienced Front Park, designed in 1871, one of Olmsted’s first successful waterfront park development projects. We stopped by Martin Luther King Jr. Park on the East Side, formerly Humboldt Park, rode through Cazenovia Park and Riverside Park, and made a pit stop at South Park. Thomas Herrera-Mishler, President and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, writes of South Park: “It remains one of the most intact Olmsted landscapes in Buffalo.” South Park is also home to a golf course and the magnificent botanical garden housed in a glass conservatory, designed by Lord and Burnham. Our final tour was through The Park (later known as Delaware Park) that was completed in 1876.
Which brings me to this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1). In the reading, the daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah) come to Moses concerned about how the Promised Land was to be divided in relation to their family. Given that they had no brothers to inherit the land, the daughters proposed to Moses that they be allowed to inherit their father’s portion. They asked: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?” (27:4).
Moses brought their request to God and the response was immediate: “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance….”
While this event shaped the way in which we legally understand inheritance, it also
underscored how precious such inheritances can be: they are our connection to the past, a link to those no longer with us, an asset entrusted to future generations to cherish and protect.
The same could be said about the inheritance that Frederick Law Olmsted left us: the remarkable and innovative park system he designed for Buffalo over 125 years ago. And like the daughters of Zelophehad, this gem is our connection to the glorious past of our City, a link to Olmsted’s brilliance, and an asset passed down for us to cherish and protect now and for generations to come.