In 1990, JRF passed a movement-wide resolution on the environment and congregational life. Since 2006 we offered conference calls and resources on Sustainable Synagogues and Living a Jewish Life Rooted in Ecological Values.
As part of the Sustainable Synagogue Initiative and the 2008 JRF Biennial convention, we honored 15 of the individuals and communities leading the way in our movement in integrating Jewish values and religious life, and sustainable communal policies and practices. Read more to see the full list!
1. Adat Shalom, Bethesda, MD, (http://www.adatshalom.net/)
Environmental Education, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Activism
Adat Shalom has taken on environmental issues, both within their congregation and in the larger community. They have brought in locally grown organic vegetables, via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They also designed and built their home, some eight years ago, with environmental and social sustainability in mind, becoming only the second synagogue in the country to be designated an “Energy Star Congregation” by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
2. Beit Tikvah, Baltimore, MD, (http://www.beittikvah.org/)
Sponsors of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Conference and participants in the newly formed Baltimore Environmental Network of Synagogues
Though less than 100 families, they felt like something was missing and needed to be doing more. JRF’s 2007 Omer Initiative on the Environment was their challenge to work harder on environmental issues, creating new projects involving more of our congregation’s adults and children. They are partnering with “Tree Baltimore”, trying to double the tree canopy in the city; and their Tikkun Olam Committee is looking to diminish wastefulness by inviting congregants to make their own uniquely-designed, re-usable plates to bring to synagogue.
3. Bnai Keshet, Montclair, NJ, (http://www.bnaikeshet.org/)
Synagogue Greening Initiative, Education curriculum and Honoree of Greenfaith
The Greening Synagogue Project is an exciting and timely initiative cosponsored by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Living (COJEL) and Green Faith, an interfaith environmental organization. Bnai Keshet is one of two participating synagogues, along with ten other houses of worship, who implement sustainable practices to become beacons of environmental justice. Its Tikun Olam committee is: (1) reducing synagogue waste; (2) increasing energy efficiency at Bnai Keshet; (3) studying the ways spiritual life informs and is informed by the natural world; and (4) advocating for environmental justice in the community.
4. Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta, GA, (http://www.congregationbethaverim.org/)
Hannukah for a Brighter Future energy initiative
This award winning Hanukkah home guide includes a nightly ritual of replacing a light bulb in your house with an energy efficient CFL bulb, short teachings about the importance of saving energy, a light bulb joke, and a blessing.
5. Darchei Noam, Toronto, Ontario, CAN, (http://www.darcheinoam.on.ca/)
Environmental Principles of Capital Campaign
Consonant with “the obligations of Bal Tashchit (do not waste) and Tikkun Olam (repair of the world),” Darchei Noam’s new building selected [in their own words] “heating, cooling, lighting, and water systems [which] reflect our determination to minimize our impact on the natural environment. We sought out sustainable building materials and interior finishes and implemented environmentally respectful operating practices. In the process, we have crafted a beautiful yet practical new home, one that is comfortable and inviting, nurturing and inspiring.”
6. Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, IL, (http://www.jrc-evanston.org/)
Greenest Synagogue in NA and ongoing green policy development
Rabbi Brant Rosen and the leadership and members of the JRC in Evanston, IL- for boldly going where no synagogue has gone before! JRC has received the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program for the congregation's new building. The "platinum" rating – which is the first for a house of worship, anywhere, ever! -- is being sought for features such as using recycled concrete, sensor-controlled lighting and a parking space reserved for a hybrid car. JRC's energy costs will be nearly half those of a typical synagogue of the same size; it has created a pilgrimage site for sustainable spirituality.
JRC awarded JTA Green Beanie Award 2009
See http://jrf.org/omer07-CCaplan, http://jrf.org/omer07-BRosen,
7. Kehillat Israel, Pacific Palisades, CA, (http://kehillatisrael.org/)
Mitzvot for Sustainable Living
Become Carbon Neutral;
Become Food Conscious;
Become Energy Efficient;
Reduce Oil Consumption and Dependency on Foreign Oil:
Be Waste Conscious
8. Shir Hadash, Milwaukee, WI , http://www.cshmilw.org/ Year of the Environment
Shir Hadash of Milwaukee made this "shemita" or "Sabbatical" year a "green" one, “to explore how we as Jews can give our stressed and endangered world a rest.” Each congregational committee will be involved in some way in the exploration of environmental concerns. By Shavuot the goal is to have worked out rules of eco-kashrut and an ethical purchasing guide for the congregation with suggestions for personal use.”
9. RSNS, Plandome, NY, (http://www.rsns.org/)
Synagogue Greening Initiative and save-the-rain campaign
When agreeing in 2005 to purchase all its electricity from wind, small hydro and bio-energy-generated sources, RSNS became the first synagogue in the nation to become “carbon neutral,” and only the second religious institution in the entire country to qualify for the EPA Green Power Leadership Club. Then, at High Holiday services, ‘Green Choice’ applications went to every synagogue member, encouraging them to become carbon neutral as well. Last year, North Shore also became a Tuv Ha’aretz site – the first Jewish CSA, run by the environmental organization Hazon, where members buy shares in a local organic farm and receive fresh produce each week at shul.
10. Temple Bet Hatfiloh, Olympia, WA, (http://www.bethhatfiloh.org/)
Buying local and local farm initiative
To promote buying locally, Temple Beth Hatfiloh promotes purchasing locally grown organic produce through sponsorship of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), in which participants support local farmers by buying “shares” of the farm’s yield. Bet Hatfliloh’s partner farm emphasizes tzedakah (righteous acts) too, by promoting community gardening, building gardens for low-income families, and providing jobs and leadership development for community youth.
11. West End Synagogue, New York, NY, Brit Adamah Congregational Covenant and Educational Environmental Program, Sarah Chandler, Ed Dir special mention
West End’s students have discussed steps the synagogue has already taken, such as recycling and fair trade organic coffee; and steps they have already taken, like vegetarianism and using compact fluorescent bulbs. Students did research, brought in their findings, and brainstormed ways to make changes, small or large, in order to have less of an impact on the earth. Then, based on a tried and true method of the Teva Learning Center, these ideas were compiled into a single document -- Brit Adamah, a contract with the earth -- introduced and distributed at West End’s Tu Bishvat/Shabbat program.
12. Reconstructionist Rabbinical College- Green Committee, www.rrc.edu
Ongoing work in energy conservation and sustainable practices at RRC.
"The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) and the Green Committee of the RRC have recently committed to paying a voluntary surcharge on the RRC electric bill to offset the greenhouse gases generated by the school. The surcharge goes toward the purchasing of wind power by the local utility. There is more that can be done, but this is seen as an important first step towards being responsible for the emissions we create as a community."
Camp JRF blends formal and informal educational approaches that promote strong connections to Judaism, Reconstructionism, and positive human values – so a strong commitment to stewardship of the beautiful property in the Poconos, and to living lightly on the Earth, comes naturally. Camp JRF integrates with No'ar Hadash, our youth movement, so that year-round congregational experiences influence the camp program, and in turn the camp program influences those congregational experiences – making a seamless whole between camp and city, inside and outside, summer and the rest of the year.
14. Rabbi Michael Cohen, for his work in Israel and the Arava Institute (http://www.arava.org/new/)
By encouraging environmental cooperation between peoples, the Arava Institute works towards peace and sustainable development on a regional and global scale. The Institute, situated on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel's Southern Arava Valley, is home to academic programs, research and public involvement. "We have begun to build using dry garbage and mud -- tying old tires together, stuffing them with dry garbage, then covering them with mud, to build chairs, walls, buildings,” and more -- just one of the many original sustainable efforts emanating from the Arava Institute.
15. Special Honor: Rabbi Fred Dobb, Adat Shalom, MD; COEJL Board; lifelong activist in ecological consciousness and Jewish life.