The JOFEE Network Gathering is the annual gathering place for thought leaders, enthusiasts, and program professionals throughout the Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming and Environmental Education world. With some of the best Jewish outdoor educators from around the world leading workshops, hands on learning sessions, panel discussions, and keynote addresses, participants will take away new experiential education tools and resources and build new relationships with like-minded Jewish professionals across the country. Whether you have been a JOFEE-nik from the beginning or are newly interested in bringing JOFEE programming back to your community, the JOFEE Network Gathering is the place to be.
By Richard H. Schwartz
One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the recitation of the four questions which consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Many questions are also appropriate for Tu B’Shvat, which starts on Friday evening, February 10, in 2017, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other nights of the year. [Read more…]
So much of the America I had taken for granted as recently as last week has disappeared.
President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” feels increasingly appropriate, leading many Americans wonder if Trump will really remain President for four years of will one of the many scandals swirling around him lead to his impeachment, or if Trump’s erratic behavior and plummeting popularity will lead his cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
Since biblical times, the Jewish people have taken every seventh year in the land of Israel as a Shmita, “sabbatical,” for the land and for forgiving debts.
At Mishkan Shalom of Philadelphia, Rabbi Shawn Zevit, with the partnership of Rabbi Yael Levy, staff, President David Piver and the many lay leaders and teachers, will lead the congregation through a year where each aspect of congregational life will embrace the Shmita philosopy.
“Our strategic plan has been aligned with Shmita in all facets of life, including adult education, religious school, spiritual practice, social action and sustainability,” Zevit said.
If we can eat more locally grown food; get our students to recycle more; have our religious school families carpool more; use recyclable products for our meals and onegs, “joys,” then as a congregation and as a Jewish community we will be able to reduce our footprint on the earth.
In addition to adopting Shmita principles and practices for the year 5775, the congregation is joining the Jewish Environmental Network to explore ways to embrace the fundamentals of Shmita in everyday life and living, not just during a Shmita year, but for the foreseeable future.
More information about Mishkan Shalom’s Shmita initiatives, and a complete schedule of services for adults, teens and children, can be found at the congregation’s website.
To learn more about Shmita, read Hazon’s Shmita Sourcebook, written and compiled by former Shmita Project Manager Yigal Deutscher, with the support of Anna Hanau and Nigel Savage.
The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to encourage participants to think critically about the Shmita Cycle – its values, challenges, and opportunities – and how this tradition might be applied in a modern context to support building healthier and more sustainable Jewish communities today. The Shmita Sourcebook is a 120-page sourcebook that draws on a range of texts from within Jewish tradition and time, tracing the development and evolution of Shmita from biblical, historical, rabbinic, and contemporary perspectives.
The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to be accessible to people with little Jewish background, as well as rigorous and challenging for someone with more extensive Jewish learning. Our intention for the sourcebook is to offer an educational background so we can collectively be exploring the possibilities of Shmita together. We do hope this will serve in establishing a shared, common ground. From this place, we can continue the work, expanding upon our own curiosities and understanding of Shmita, and creatively apply the values of this tradition to our own lives in all the diverse ways that are possible. We hope you enjoy the sourcebook, and it finds good use in your hands, and in your community.
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.
The new rule sets separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants. Coal plant in Rochester, Minn.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) applauded yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency’s release on Friday, of a revised standard limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.
“Carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of climate change, which is one of the great moral challenges of our time,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “This proposal takes an important step towards addressing the effects that our electricity generation can have on the Earth and human health.”
COEJL and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism collected hundreds of signatures from the Jewish community in favor of the original rule proposed last year. The new rule responds to concerns raised in public comments to the prior proposal, by setting separate standards for emissions from coal plants and natural gas plants, and providing flexibility for industry while achieving similar outcomes.
More after the jump.
“We hope that these revised regulations will be made final after the comment period and implemented without delay,” said Gutow.
“These rules were released during the holiday of Sukkot,” noted Sybil Sanchez, director of COEJL.
Ecclesiastes Rabbah (1:4) reminds us that
One generation goes, another comes, but the Earth remains the same forever.
Eating and sleeping outdoors in our sukkot makes us appreciate some of the many gifts we receive from the Earth — clean, breathable air, and fertile land in a stable climate. But we are confronted by the fact that the Earth is changing before us, and these resources will not be here for future generations unless we act now. Adopting these rules is an important part of that action.
The release of the proposed standards is a key point in the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which he announced last June.
“We look forward to the release of standards for existing power plants, as well,” concluded Sanchez.
How has the surface temperature of Earth been changing?
This is the second installment of a series of articles giving examples of “green” initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.
Trees are the lungs of our planet. Carbon dioxide levels rise and fall in an annual cycle, as plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. As forested land is depleted, our planet loses its natural ability to mitigate the damage that we are doing to the atmosphere.
Accordingly, we should avoid cutting down trees whenever possible, but it should be done in a way that makes sense.
Our School Will No Longer Be Printing Out Forms To Send Home
Each summer I have to fill out numerous forms with the same information for my children’s camps, schools and afterschool programs, the PTO, etc. However, one of the schools has announced that it was “going green,” and would no longer be printing out the required forms. Instead, parents would have to go online to find them.
I was delighted to hear this, and imagined that I would go online and see an online form which would be pre-populated with my data from last year which I could review, correct and then approve by clicking on a button. However, that is not exactly what the school had in mind. The forms were not to be submitted online, but instead needed to be printed out by the parents, completed by hand and mailed in.
Somehow, parents print out their own forms does not strike me as any “greener” than the old system, where the school would print it out for us. The only difference is who pays for the copies.
The story of “Offgreen” banking, and ideas on how to do better follow the jump.
Banks guilting us into forgoing receipts
Similarly, some banks are trying to use a cloak of “greenness” to save themselves some money. As the ATM screenshot to the left shows, the bank is trying to guilt us into forgoing a 2-inch by 2-inch receipt.
It’s easy being GREEN.
You can save paper to save trees and save the Earth.
You can reduce 0.49g carbon footprint at this time.
If I breathed even once during the time I read this message, I have exhaled 0.98g of carbon! Twice the potential savings for not having any record of my deposit.
The electricity used by a 60 Watt light bulb gives rise to the production of 10 grams of carbon every second. That is the equivalent of 20 ATM receipts every second.
My car discharges almost 20 pounds of carbon for every gallon of gasoline it burns. Each gallon of gasoline is the equivalent of over 18,000 ATM receipts. Instead of debating whether or not I should be printing a receipt, I should have debated whether or not to drive to the ATM in the first place!
A round-trip ticket from Sydney to Australia for one person involves the emission of 2776 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of more than five million ATM receipts!
We need to focus our environmental efforts where they will be the most effective. When school and banks make these gestures in the name of “greenness” the results are either counter-productive or negligible.
How can we keep our eye on the ball?
What should we do instead?
- Put clean used paper in a recycling bin instead of the trash.
- Reuse the back side of paper from the recycling bin when you need to make a sketch or jot a note.
- Take electronic notes instead of paper notes.
- Read articles and emails online instead of printing them out.
- Buy poly lumber furniture made out of quality artificial recycled post-consumer plastic and rubber. Not only you would be saving the trees and keeping soda bottles and automobile tires out of our ubiquitous landfills, but you would enjoy a quality material which is weather resistant, attractive and maintenance free.
Fighting the climate change is probably the most important issue facing our generation. Many people of good will would like to do their part to address this problem, but don’t really know where to start from.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation out there, which leads people to take steps that might make them feel “green,” but don’t really help much, if at all.
Accordingly, this is the first of a series of articles giving examples of “green” initiatives that do little other than distract, along with ideas about what we should be doing instead.
This installment is all about drinking water. Future articles will delve into paperwork and electricity. Please send me feedback on these articles along with your ideas.
First part of series follows the jump.
Enjoy a drink and refill your bottle here!
Why support tap water?
Led by students, Hampshire college ended the sale of bottled water on campus in Fall 2012.
Bottled “Green” Water
The municipal waters in the areas where most of us live are perfectly healthy to drink, and yet many of us choose to drink bottled water. 20 billion barrels of oil go annually into making the water bottles that Americans throw out, creating 25 million tons of greenhouse gases.
Nestlé’s bottled water comes from Dallas, Texas, meaning that we are simply substituting Dallas water for Philadelphia water, and paying the supermarket and polluting the environment for the privilege. Other waters come from more exotic locations like Fiji. It is still the same H2O by another name, but it is being shipped around the world to quench our thirst.
Nestlé Waters, “The Healthy Hydration Company,” tries to “green-wash” their product:
To reduce the global environmental impact of PET bottles, Nestlé Waters created a new generation of packaging: the Eco-Shape PET bottle.
True, their new bottle is 25% lighter than its predecessor — largely due to a shorter bottle cap. Nevertheless, 25% lighter is still 75% too heavy compared to the truly environment-friendly alternative of a reusable water bottle, canteen or cup. In fact, the smaller cap makes the bottle more difficult to reuse, and is more prone to being swallowed by small children.
Oddly enough, most of our National Parks continue to sell bottled water, even though they have some of the most pristine water in the country on site. In fact, 30% of the Grand Canyon National Park’s recycling waste used to come from disposable bottles before it has gone bottled water-free.
— by Rabbi Arthur Waskov
Along with 14 other religious folks, clergy and committed “laity,” I was arrested for standing at the White House with signs and songs, reciting the names of more than one hundred people who had been killed by one result of the climate crisis — Superstorm Sandy.
Among those arrested alongside me were Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who teaches on social justice at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is a member of The Shalom Center’s Board; Lynne Iser, a member of the Board of Isabella Freedman retreat center; and Freyda Black, a cantor, farmer, and member of P’nai Or Fellowship in Philadelphia.
More after the jump.
We were calling on the President to act swiftly to heal our Mother Earth from the climate crisis, from the plagues that modern Pharaohs — Big Oil, Big Coal, Unnatural Gas — have brought upon us.
As you see on the faces of two of us actually in the prison wagon after our arrests, the arrest itself — paradoxically — felt like a step into freedom, a continuation of, rather than a break from, both our joy in singing and our sorrow at the deaths we had recited. What is the Freedom of Passover? Freedom to grieve our wounds, Freedom to celebrate our covenant for action with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Holy One who is the interbreathing of all life.
These are the Ten Plagues I recited, and below them, “Ten Healings” that accompanied the blessing of our Globe.
- Undrinkable water poisoned by fracking. (Sorrow!)
- Asthma: Lungs suffering from coal dust and gasoline fumes. (Sorrow!)
- Suffering and death for fish, birds, vegetation, and human beings from the oil upheaval in the Gulf of Mexico. (Sorrow!)
- Smashed mountains and dead coal-miners in the lovely hills of West Virginia. (Sorrow!)
- Unheard-of droughts in Africa, setting off hunger, starvation, civil wars and genocide. (Sorrow!)
- Drought in Russia, setting off peat-bog fires and scarcity of wheat. (Sorrow!)
- Summer-long intense heat wave in Europe, killing thousands of elders. (Sorrow!)
- Unheard-of floods in Pakistan, putting one-fifth of the country under water. (Sorrow!)
- Superstorm Sandy, killing hundreds in Haiti and America. (Sorrow!)
- Years of drought and fires in Australia. (Sorrow!)
- Parched corn fields and dead crops in the US corn-belt. (Sorrow!)
- Creating organic farms in countrysides and cities. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Wind-based energy: Purchasing home & company electric power from wind-based suppliers. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Hybrid or electric cars. Families buy them; convince cities, government agencies, & businesses to switch their auto fleets. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Use public transportation. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Family & congregational education/ action to heal the Earth: At Bat/Bar Mitzvah time and teen-age baptisms/ confirmations, “turning hearts of children and parents to each other, lest the Earth be utterly destroyed” (Quote from last passage of Malachi, last of the classical Hebrew Prophets). (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Vigils, picketing, civil disobedience at sites of mountain destruction by coal companies. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Prevent the Tar Sands Pipeline. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- End fracking: Insist on moratoriums or prohibitions. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Divestment by colleges, pension funds, religious communities, etc from investment in fossil-fuel companies, shifting investment to renewable, sustainable energy. (L’chayyim, To life!)
- Carbon pricing: Insisting that Members of Congress put prices on carbon-fuel production and pay dividends from the incoming fees to American families. (L’chayyim, To life!)
Will Oversee First Formal Research on Integration of Jewish Learning with Food
— by the Hazon Staff
Recognizing the growing interest among individuals and families in experiences that integrate Jewish learning with learning about food, the environment, and the outdoors, a group of national and local funders have awarded a grant to Hazon to oversee new research in this area. Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and Rose Community Foundation, the research will explore how participation in immersive Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs influences individuals’ Jewish growth and leads to increased Jewish involvement.
More after the jump.
Nigel Savage of Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental organization says
More and more people, particularly young adults, express their Jewish identity through passion for building sustainable and environmentally conscious Jewish communities. We need to learn more about this phenomenon, better understand effective strategies, and determine long-term outcomes on participants. This is an exciting first step in deeply examining this relatively new and emerging space of Jewish learning and engagement.
While organizations have invested time and resources to develop and sustain these immersive educational programs, to date there has been no formal evaluation or research conducted in this field. Nor has there been a review of existing research from outside the Jewish world to inform practitioners and funders.
Among other areas of interest, the research will examine such topics as the kinds of learning that occurs in these experiences that deepens Jewish identity; to what degree these experiences influence participants to become involved in their Jewish communities; and the relationship between local and national programs.
Al Levitt, President of the Jim Joseph Foundation, says
We are excited to partner with other funders to determine how to invest the community’s attention and resources in this area. There appears to be growing interest in Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs, and this research will help us better understand the learning that is taking place and identify what is working most effectively. The findings from this study will help inform future grantmaking decisions and could ultimately lead to more Jews being engaged in meaningful Jewish experiences.
Charlene Seidle, Vice President and Executive Director of the Leichtag Foundation, says
Immersive experiences in the areas of Jewish food justice, farming and environmental advocacy help align individual values and interests with substantive Jewish principles and traditions. We look forward to learning together about the impact of these experiences in order to inform our funding and program model development.
The grant announcement comes a week after Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center announced a merger of their organizations, both national leaders in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement in particular. The merged organization also will include the Teva Learning Alliance, which began in association with Isabella Freedman in the 1990s. The merger builds on the success of the existing Isabella Freedman campus – a spiritual home for many — and Hazon’s track record of re-connecting American Jews with the natural world. The new entity will have a wide range of programs, staff and volunteers in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and will be positioned to have a greater impact across the country.
“Merging the organizations certainly capitalizes on the strengths of each one and combines various separate areas of expertise into a streamlined operation,” Savage adds. “This in turn will foster a broader and more in depth study that ultimately will lead to more significant learnings for the field.”
Along with reaching out to alumni and former participants of programs run by Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Teva Learning Alliance, the study will reach out to alumni from a range of other related programs including Eden Village Camp, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, Kayam Farm, and the Jewish Farm School. Their program offerings include Jewish farming programs, environmental bike rides, conferences about food and sustainability, group camping trips structured around Jewish holiday celebrations, backpacking and outdoor adventure trips, and environmental educator training fellowships.
While the exact number of participants in these programs is unknown, field leaders estimate that in 2011, as many as 2,500 individuals participated in an immersive Jewish food, environmental or outdoor education program lasting four days or more.
“Programs that integrate socially conscious living with Jewish learning are proving to be a high-potential ingredient in the mix of experiences that enable young Jews to live as global citizens in accordance with Jewish values,” said Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which includes the Schusterman Family Foundation. “We believe this research will provide a framework for understanding how such experiences can help inspire a deeper connection to Jewish life.”
The research will build upon early planning efforts being led by the Green Hevra, a network of key Jewish environmental organizations of which Hazon is a participant. The Green Hevra received a $65,000 startup grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Morningstar Foundation earlier this year.
Sarene Shanus, Chair of the Jewish Community Development Task Force of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal at UJA-Federation of New York notes, “We are pleased to embark on this research partnership, as it builds on the foundation we’ve helped to lay with the Jewish Greening Fellowship, the Jewish Farm School, and Eden Village camp as touchpoints for Jewish community and environmentalism.”
Lisa Farber Miller, Senior Program Officer of Rose Community Foundation, says
The Colorado Jewish community is seeing a sudden burgeoning of individuals and new organizations interested in being part of the Jewish Food Movement. Established Jewish institutions are realizing the importance of embracing the values of the sustainable food and environmental movements. Hazon provides pertinent educational resources, links and assists grassroots groups like the Jewish chicken coops in Denver and Boulder, and helps organizations adopt new ways of engaging their users to learn about food and the environment. The national research study, which includes a case study highlighting Denver/Boulder Hazon work, will help us better understand how we can continue to advance this movement.
For Hazon, the grant is an opportunity to further the organization’s goals of offering compelling experiences, providing thought leadership, and supporting the work of the individuals and organizations that share its vision for healthier and more sustainable independent communities in the Jewish world and beyond. The research will be conducted by an outside firm and managed by Hazon with oversight from an advisory team that includes both funders and practitioners.
“There is now a strong and expanding group of individuals and organizations that seek to create these learning opportunities,” says Savage. “The support from funders to conduct this research will ultimately help all organizations that offer Jewish food, environmental and outdoor education programs.”