Congregation Beth Israel Joins GreenFaith Environmental Program


Temple Shalom of Aberdeen, N.J., another participant of the program, working with young members of the congregation to plant seeds in the community garden.

Congregation Beth Israel, a Reconstructionist Jewish community based in Media, Pennsylvania, has announced its participation in the GreenFaith interfaith program for environmental leadership. Beth Israel is the first Reconstructionist congregation to join the GreenFaith certification program, joining more than 65 other houses of worship.

The GreenFaith program follows a two-year certification process that includes programs for spiritual practices, physical stewardship, and environmental justice. Beth Israel has already completed several audits of its energy usage, waste handling, and grounds maintenance.  

The synagogue recently completed an overhaul of its heating systems which included conversion of the heating plant from oil to gas, replacement of old inefficient equipment and upgrade of the building’s controls and zoning capabilities. The results:

  • a better heat delivery;
  • a projected 30% reduction in fuel usage and related emissions; and
  • an expected reduction of more than three-quarters in heating costs.

All of this will save more than $10,000 per year.

More after the jump.
Other efforts have included installation of more efficient lighting systems, more extensive recycling, and educational programs for religious school students and the general congregation.

Future activities within the certification process will include:

  • spiritual and educational programs within the Beth Israel community and with other communities;
  • further improvements in sustainability and environmental impact of Beth Israel facilities and its members’ homes; and
  • programs to address the environmental burdens on disadvantaged communities.  

Beth Israel’s teen community has already begun Walking the Walk, a nine-month interfaith dialogue and service project that involves teens from local Jewish, Muslim, and Christian congregations and will include urban gardening with Urban Tree Connections.

“As Jews we know that we are both a part of the whole and responsible for the whole. We are global citizens with a Jewish mandate right here, right now, to protect the earth,” Beth Israel Rabbi Linda Potemken said. “The GreenFaith process offers Beth Israel a creative, practical and spiritual approach to fulfilling our responsibilities in a concrete, structured fashion.”

“I’m delighted that the Beth Israel community has chosen to undertake the rigorous GreenFaith certification process,” Beth Israel President Jennifer Lenway said.  

Beth Israel has always been an engaged, diverse community whose values include building a better world as well creating a community for our members, practicing the traditions of our heritage, and providing education for our children and adult members. The spiritual, stewardship, and justice components of GreenFaith will support all these missions.

New Orleans Menorah Inspires White House Hanukkah Celebration

— Kori Schulman

The menorah used at the White House Hanukkah ceremony was generously loaned from the Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans — one of very few items from the congregation that survived the devastation of Katrina. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold,” said President Obama in his remarks, “And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”

Today, Congregation Beth Israel has just broken ground on a new synagogue and they look forward to lighting this menorah as part of the dedication ceremonies next year at Hanukkah.