Hazon Receives Grant

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.”

The 2012-2013 Pennsylvania Budget: Areas to Improve

Daylin Leach— by Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach

Since the state’s fiscal year ends at midnight on June 30th of each year, May and June are always a busy time when everyone in Harrisburg is scrambling to put together next year’s budget. We’ve had tough budgets for the past four years because during a recession, demand for government services goes up while revenues coming into the state coffers go down. Unlike the federal government, we are constitutionally required to balance our budget each year, so every dollar we spend must come from a revenue source.

There are really only two ways to eliminate a budget deficit: you can either cut expenditures or raise revenues. Actually, the smartest approach is to use a balanced approach that does both prudently. Unfortunately, for the past several years — due to the political realities of Harrisburg and the fact that Governor Corbett has pledged to Grover Norquist, a lobbyist who lives in Washington, DC, that he won’t increase revenues in any way — the budget has been balanced exclusively through cuts.

It is important to remember that there are many areas of the state budget that can’t be cut, either due to federal or state law or contractual obligations. In some cases, if we tried to cut money from a given program, we could be sued and required by a court to spend the money with interest. In other cases, our laws force additional spending. For example, Pennsylvania’s criminal code creates about 2,000 new net prisoners per year (the second highest number in the nation). This requires us to build a new prison, which costs about $300 million to build and $50 million per year to operate, every single year.

All of the cuts we can make must come from a relatively small sliver of the budget that is discretionary. This includes money for first responders, education, libraries, human services, health care for our citizens, transportation improvements and our safety net for the very poor. We have continued to go back to these same areas of funding when making deeper and deeper cuts each year.

As a result, we have now reached the point at which we are in real danger of abandoning basic government services and the citizens who rely on them. You may have read about how some of our poorer schools literally would have had to close their doors if the federal courts had not intervened and ordered us to provide additional funds. Tens of thousands of people have lost their access to healthcare, childcare facilities have had to close, and libraries are either closing or drastically cutting back their hours and programs. Schools are eliminating art and music programs, guidance counselors and tutoring; and we are opening 30,000 new natural gas rigs across the state while drastically reducing the funding for environmental inspectors charged with making sure the drilling is done safely. In short, the picture is very bleak.

Following the jump below, I am going to try to give you a fuller picture of the cuts we are facing and provide you with the alternatives for which I am fighting. In my view, we could easily raise sufficient revenue to avoid most of the worst cuts without burdening a single Pennsylvania family. We could accomplish this by, among other things, enacting a reasonable tax on the Marcellus Shale extraction that is giving energy companies billions of dollars and closing the “Delaware Loophole,” which allows 70% of Pennsylvania companies to avoid paying their fare share to help our state prosper.

These and other ideas will enable us to continue providing basic services to our citizens and will ensure that Pennsylvania is a state with the educational, economic and environmental quality of life that will attract businesses and families for decades to come. I hope you find this information helpful.

A list of programs funding to be restored and funding mechanisms follow the jump.
As I noted above, I would like to stimulate an open and honest dialogue about the current budget’s shortcomings. There are a number of cuts that I believe will be extremely harmful to our state. I will first enumerate some of the
worst of the many troubling cuts in the budget proposed by Governor Corbett.

If I want to restore the funds for these important programs, I obviously have an obligation to identify where the necessary revenues would come from. So I will provide some suggestions along those lines as well.

Top 5 most destructive cuts in the budget proposal.

  1. Higher Education
    Governor Corbett has proposed cutting higher education by 30 percent this year, on top of the 19 percent cut passed last year. These draconian proposals represent not cuts, but an abandonment of our commitment to make college affordable for all Pennsylvanians. These cuts would result in dramatic tuition increases in state related universities and put college out of reach for many of our citizens.
  2. Basic Education
    Last year, over my “no” vote, the legislature and governor enacted a budget that cut over $850 million from basic education. These cuts came disproportionately from poor school districts, but hurt all public schools. The governor
    has proposed hundreds of millions in dollars of additional cuts, including eliminating the No Child Left Behind Compliance grants and the Charter School Reimbursement grants.

  3. Department of Environmental Protection
    At a time when we are opening over 30,000 new fracking wells in Pennsylvania, the DEP budget is being cut, which will result in many fewer inspectors and enforcement agents ensuring that this new and controversial fracking technology is being used safely and responsibly.
  4. Human Services
    The governor proposes to cut human service funding by 20 percent ($168 million). These services cover needs including Mental Health, Behavioral Health, Drug & Alcohol, Intellectual Disabilities, Child Welfare, Homeless Assistance and what remains of the Human Services Development Fund. These cuts will obviously have a devastating impact on many of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
  5. Child Care Services
    If this budget passes, we will have cut childcare services and assistance by almost $140 million over the past two years. Without these services, parents may be unable to get back on their feet, receive training, or go back to work if they have to turn down a job or opportunity because they can’t afford or find childcare. Also, this lack of funding could mean the elimination of “Keystone Stars”, a nationally-recognized program that provides resources and professional development to the educators who prepare children for school success.

In addition, the governor has rejected the recommendations of his own hand-picked commission to raise money to fund much needed road and bridge repairs.

How to pay for the restoration of these funds:

  1. Levying a Marcellus Shale Impact Fee
    Imposing an impact fee on drillers would go a long way toward helping recoup the loss of natural resources taken from our state, as well as toward helping us balance the budget. Going further, imposing a tax on those drillers would do even more to help us. Consider that a 6% tax on producing wells would generate about $312 million in 2012-13 and $396 million in 2013-14. This rate is consistent with what virtually every other state in the nation charges for the extraction of natural resources from its soil.
  2. Closing the Delaware Loophole
    The Delaware Loophole, a way under the law for corporations to evade paying taxes, is an issue that has needed fixed for years. For some reason, this has yet to happen. If we closed the Delaware Loophole, our state would be able to bring in $550 million in just one fiscal year.
  3. Ending the Vendor Discount
    Under the Vendor Discount, Pennsylvania pays private businesses millions of dollars each year just to handle sales tax receipts and remit them to the state. This program was conceived many years ago before the advent of computers, and since there’s no longer a valid need for it, it’s time to end it. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of only 13 states with an unlimited sales tax vendor discount. If we stopped providing this unnecessary discount, our state would save nearly $75 million per year.
  4. Taxing Smokeless Tobacco
    Currently, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not tax smokeless tobacco. This would be an easy solution that would garner $50 million per year, simply by imposing a tax of $1.35 per unit — the same tax that is levied on cigarettes.

Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About Mitt Romney


Pro-life mailer sent by Romney campaign to Iowa voters


Ron Paul (R-TX) & Mitt Romney (R-MA) laugh during break at debate Jan. 23. Photo: Chris O’Meara (AP)

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things every American Jew should know about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney; follow the links to view supporting materials.

  1. Romney emphasized recently that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that his would “be a pro-life presidency.”
  2. Questions linger surrounding the Iran-tainted assets of Romney’s charity, even as President Obama places unprecedented pressure on Iran.
  3. With each passing month, Romney has disagreed more and more with the scientific consensus regarding global climate change.
  4. Romney vehemently opposed the President’s contraception compromise, which will ensure that women’s preventive services are widely available while addressing religious liberty concerns. This compromise was praised by groups ranging from the Catholic Health Association to the Orthodox Union.
  5. During nationally-televised debates, Romney has engaged in outright lies surrounding the President’s record on Israel, and he uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue whenever possible.
  6. While 76% of Jews support gay marriage and even more support gay rights, Romney doesn’t just oppose gay marriage — he has chosen to engage in gay-baiting rhetoric in front of conservative crowds.
  7. Romney told CNN, “yes, I would vote for” the anti-Israel Ron Paul for president if Paul were to become the GOP nominee.
  8. Romney’s flip-flops are legendary; for example, he supported key elements of the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate — but he now promises to dismantle it.
  9. Romney is no moderate, at least not now. By his own description, he’s “severely conservative.”
  10. As the front page of The Washington Post has recently noted, Romney has formed a “strategic partnership” with the anti-Israel Ron Paul.


Broad Jewish Leadership Signs Eco-Covenant

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Yesterday, The Shalom Center and I joined with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) in a formal signing of the “Jewish Environmental and Energy Imperative” declaration, part of its Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign. Leaders from a broad spectrum of the Jewish community set the community-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 14% by 2014.

More after the jump.
Before reporting my own talk and naming the other speakers,  I want to note that over the last two years, COEJL has come back from the brink of the grave, mostly owing to the work of three people: Rabbi Steve Gutow, head of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (under whose umbrella COEJL operates); Rabbi David Saperstein, the Jewish community’s designated prophetic voice in Washington as head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Sybil Sanchez, the exec of COEJL, who breathed active life into the newly raised-up body.


This is what I said:

We have just been reading the Torah passages about the ecological disasters that Pharaoh — a top-down, unaccountable, arrogant ruler — brought upon his own country: undrinkable water, swarms of frogs and lice and locusts, unprecedented hailstorms: what we call the Ten Plagues.

Today our own Pharaohs — the top-down, unaccountable, arrogant giant corporations of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Gas, and their allies in and out of government — are bringing terrible plagues upon our planet:

  • unprecedented droughts and fires in Russia;
  • droughts and famines in Africa;
  • floods in Pakistan;
  • oceans encroaching on the shores of island nations and Bangladesh, endangering their very existence;
  • vanishing snow-caps in the Himalayas that for centuries have provided water to billions of human beings.

And these are not just foreign events. Those who think that we Americans will be safe if we stop using “foreign” oil must face the truth:

  • The oil-well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico — a plague brought on by modern corporate pharaohs drilling for “American” oil.  
  • Drinking water on the farms of Pennsylvania, so poisoned by the fracking industry that when farmers touch a match to their kitchen faucets, chemicals in the water flame up into torches — a plague brought on by modern corporate pharaohs drilling for ‘American’ gas.  If these pharaohs get their way, the plague will engulf the drinking water of millions in the cities whose water comes from the shale rock regions.
  • The worst drought in the history of Texas,  the destruction of whole mountains in West Virginia, the epidemic of asthma among our children ‐ all plagues brought on by modern corporate pharaohs.  Brought upon Americans by corporate obsession with profits from exploiting ‘American’ oil, coal, and gas. Supported by some, including even some in the Jewish community,  in the name of US ‘energy security.’

We can halt these modern pharaohs, as we halted the Tar Sands pipeline when thousands of protesters surrounded the White House and about a thousand were arrested there.

For The Shalom Center, the Covenant we are about to sign means that in order to reduce emissions of CO2,  we must dissolve the arrogant pharaohs of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Gas — no matter whether they bear a “made in America” label or not.”

Others who spoke were

  • Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, exec of the Rabbinical Assembly;
  • NY City Councilman David Garodnick; Nancy Kaufman, exec of the National Council of Jewish Women;
  • Joe Laur, exec of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal;
  • Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the program on the rabbi as social activist at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (and president emeritus of the board of The Shalom Center); and
  • Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, exec of the Jewish Greening Fellowship at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.

In signing the Jewish Environmental and Energy Imperative Declaration, leaders are committing to take many significant steps, including:



  • Setting the personal goal of reducing emissions by 14% by September 2014, which is Judaism’s next sabbatical year (Shmittah year). 


  • Setting the community-wide intention of reducing greenhouse gases by 83% of 2005 levels by 2050 (a goal set by the US government), with a communitywide approach to greening homes and buildings.

Meanwhile, including but reaching beyond COEJL, there has emerged an amalgam of Eco-Jewish organizations called the Green Chevra, which has recently received an important grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Among its fifteen active and activist members are groups committed to one or more of four ways of dealing with our planetary crisis in Jewish terms:  hands-on greening of synagogues, JCC’s, and Jewish households; the awakening of ecological themes in Jewish practices like the festivals and life-cycle events and the “kosher” consumption of food and other fruits of the earth; the creation of alternative communities, especially Jewish organic farms; and public advocacy for change in public policy.

I am glad to report that The Shalom Center is not only a member of the Green Chevra but sits on its “stewardship committee,” coordinating its work.

For many years we have been doing this work to pioneer eco-commitment in many regions of the Jewish world. It is an aspect of what we call “Transformative Judaism” — a commitment to bring the fullest Jewish wisdom and action to address the present deep multidimensional earthquake (ecological, economic, military, political, familial, sexual) in the life of the human race and the rest of our planet.

Jewish Leaders Commit To Reduce Energy Use


Leaders across the political and religious spectrum celebrate Tu B’shvat by setting goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14% by 2014.

— by Vicki Stearn

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) today announced that a diverse group of community leaders has joined its Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign by signing the “Jewish Environment and Energy Imperative” declaration. Rabbis from the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform and Renewal movements and other communal leaders set the goal of significantly lowering greenhouse-gas emissions, advocating for energy independence and security, and reducing the Jewish community’s energy consumption 14% by 2014.  The official signing ceremony at Manhattan’s 14th Street Y preceded Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish new year for trees.

The declaration states:

The need to transform the world’s energy economy while addressing global climate change is not only a religious and moral imperative, it is a strategy for security and survival.

Each of us — as Jews, people of faith and Americans — has a personal responsibility to work toward lowering greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, COEJL co-chair, and president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “This responsibility starts in our hearts and from there we must care for our homes, places of worship and institutional buildings.

More after the jump.
COEJL Director Sybil Sanchez said,

The Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign commits our leadership to take concrete action on climate change and energy security. Reducing our energy use by 14% by 2014 is our first step toward the national goal of an 83% reduction of 2005 greenhouse gas levels by 2050.

The year 2014 is the next ‘sabbatical’ or seventh year in the Jewish calendar, a traditional time to refrain from impacting the earth.

“Greening and sustainability are areas where the Jewish community has both an opportunity and an obligation to take a leadership role in the neighborhoods where Jewish institutions thrive,” said Stephen Hazan Arnoff, 14th Street Y executive director.  

Since participating in the Jewish Greening Fellowship program, the Y has reduced energy usage with new systems and equipment, and adopted sustainable practices to reduce and reuse materials, especially in the Y’s theater, where the ceremony took place.

Among the 50 signers of the declaration are:

  • Robert Barkin, president, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation;
  • Rabbi Yosef Blau, chair of Rabbinic Advisory Board, Canfei Nesharim;
  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs;
  • Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women;
  • Karen Rubinstein, executive director, American Zionist Movement;
  • Sybil Sanchez, director, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life;
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism;
  • Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president, The Rabbinical Assembly;
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, executive director, the Shalom Center;
  • Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president, Orthodox Union; and,
  • Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president and CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

About COEJL
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life deepens and broadens the Jewish community’s commitment to the stewardship and protection of the earth.  Through a network of 27 national organizations and 125 community agencies, COEJL is mobilizing the Jewish community to address today’s energy and climate change crisis. COEJL is an initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

About the 14th Street Y
The 14th Street Y builds community in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village.  The Jewish center embraces people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds, offering health and fitness, education, art and recreational programs for people and families of all ages. The 14th Street Y is part of a network of 44 programs at 27 sites provided by The Educational Alliance.

How Green is Your Campus?

— by Hannah Lee

I returned home from a sojourn in California, engaged with sustainability issues, to receive the new issue of Sierra, the bimonthly publication of the Sierra Club.  The article that caught my eye was Dig In, its annual ranking of the environmental standing of  U.S. universities.  This year, they reached beyond the classrooms to assess “what lessons are learned when the classroom walls fall away.”  

The top of the class this year is

  1. The University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Its score on the Sierra survey was 81.2.

Every building [at the University of Washington] completed since 2006 has earned a Gold accreditation from the  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system.  All of its appliances are Energy-Star rated and the hydro-powered campus runs three farms, an extensive recycling program, and the “conservation-research hotbed Pack Forest.”

UW’s Paccar Hall (see picture) achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified building save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

More after the jump.
The other top schools are, in order:

  1. Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont (score, 81.1);
  2. University of California, San Diego (score, 80.6);
  3. Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina (score, 76.8);
  4. Stanford University in Palo Alto, California (score, 76.6);
  5. University of California, Irvine (score, 74.8);
  6. University of California, Santa Cruz (score, 74.3);
  7. University of California, Davis (score, 73.2);
  8. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington (score, 72);
  9. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont (score, 71.8).

    My alma mater, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, came in at number 33 (score, 64.1).

Accompanying articles focused on:

Also described are the non-conformist programs that are “miles from the mainstream” at:

  • Maharishi University of Management (built by the “giggling guru” in Fairfield, Iowa in which the curriculum balances “modern clean technology and 5.000-year-old Vedic philosophy based on Sanskrit texts”);
  • Deep Springs College, close by Yosemite, California (where students have mandatory farm labor requirements and the hydroelectric generator provides 80% of the school’s energy);
  • Gaia University with no real campus (“students earn degrees by documenting a project that involves any envy-inducing combination of world travel and social activism”); and
  • Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado (a curriculum grounded in Buddhism and which promotes compassion, including with the environmental movement).

Parents with younger children may be interested in the article on The Green School in Bali, Indonesia, a K-12 school that incorporates green philosophy from its open-air classrooms (like an inverted sukkah, with roofs but no walls) to its electives that include Global Perspectives, Environmental Management, and 21st Century Science.  I first heard of The Green School when my friend told me her daughter’s family was taking off to Bali for several months this past spring and I avidly followed their adventures on their blog (now taken down, since they’ve returned home).  This is a school where the children (and parents!) enthusiastically welcome the assignments, from a themed unit on water for the fifth-graders (as it relates to math, literature, and science), an aquaculture farm to raise tilapia; and the sixth-grade project to calculate the school’s annual carbon footprint, “then plant enough bamboo to offset it.”  The Green School has yet to graduate its first class (due in 2013), but if one can afford the $10,000 tuition, it’s an adventure worth blogging about.


Finally, the issue included profiles of the staffers deemed most committed to sustainability as a social movement:

  • Howard Davis of the University of the District of Columbia;
  • Megan Zanella-Litke of the University of Richmond (Virginia);
  • Sid England of the University of California, Davis; and
  • Jeremy Friedman of New York University.  As Manager of Sustainability Initiatives for a student body of 40,000 (more than four times the number of people who live in my hometown),

Friedman views his mandate thus:

“The values that underlie my work are the same values that underlie my whole life.  It’s a holistic worldview, and for me the challenge of transforming our world is a very personal and political project.  I see my job as creating the capacity for real change and then allowing countless individuals who care to lend their sweat and knowledge to the enormous task of transforming the world around us.  We need to imbed sustainability across all levels of society more quickly than any social movement in history has ever done before.  It’s a time when some of the most important efforts aren’t the most glamorous ones.”

Among the reasons I went to California was to attend the Hazon Food Conference, held for the first time at the University of California, Davis campus.  What a thrill it was for me to celebrate Shabbat with 300 other people who were passionate about a sustainable future.  The marvel was how many young folks were in attendance and how many had stories of their own works-in-progress.  I feel so positive that my daughters’ generation would — no, will — undertake the task of managing our resources to ensure a renewable future.

Giving Back, Going Green and Growing Bigger

— by Alicia Zimbalist

Foundation for Jewish Camp Presents Summer 2011 Trends

As summer 2011 winds down and record numbers of kids are coming home from Jewish camp, parents all over North America are wondering: What did my child do this summer at camp?  The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is pleased to share that amidst the lip dubs and flash mobs, campfire sing-alongs and Maccabiah competitions, kids of all ages were participating in a variety of amazing and inspiring activities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps this summer.

More than 70,000 children and 10,000 counselors experienced overnight Jewish summer camp this year.  Over 10,000 of these campers did so with a need-blind incentive grant from FJC’s One Happy Camper program (OHC).  OHC works in partnership with over 67 organizations including Jewish federations, foundations, national camp movements, individual camps, the Jim Joseph Foundation (JWest), and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library program (PJ Goes to Camp) to provide $700-1500 to families for their first, and sometimes second, summer at one of over 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps.

More after the jump.
FJC’s Specialty Camps Incubator camps, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, completed their second summer and shattered their expected enrollment numbers for summer 2011 with an increase of 67%.  The camps – 92Y Passport NYC, Eden Village Camp, URJ Six Points Sports Academy, Adamah Adventures, and Ramah Outdoor Adventure – offered 1,010 campers, hailing from 34 states and 10 countries, a new kind of Jewish camping.

The Jewish camp community continues to increase opportunities for children with special needs.  As many camps and camp movements already have well-established programs for children with emotional and developmental disabilities, many camps are creating new, more specialized programs going forward.  B’nai B’rith Camp in Oregon introduced Kehilah this summer, catering to children with physical and cognitive disorders and the Union for Reform Judaism recently announced a new initiative for special needs programs in their camps and Israel programs with Chazak, a program for children with communication and social delays at Eisner and Crane Lake Camps.  Dietary needs have also become a priority at Jewish camp.  New Jersey Y Camps partnered with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center to create the first of its kind a completely kosher, gluten free kitchen.

Greening has been a developing trend in Jewish camping with new innovations introduced each summer.  Many camps grow their own organic gardens and use a hands-on approach to teach campers about the environment, integrating Jewish values and lessons.  This summer, four camps participated in a gardening project by Amir which designed programs to guide in the creation and cultivation of gardens with Jewish educational components.  At Camp Tel Yehudah, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake, Camp Ramah in California, and Camp Ramah in Canada, Amir representatives helped campers plan, nurture, and harvest new gardens.  The campers also decided how much of their crop they would donate to those in need and helped deliver their crops to local charitable organizations.  nurture Jewish camps are also beginning to take huge steps to lessen their carbon footprint now that basic changes – like changing light bulbs and forgoing disposables – have been made.  Shwayder Camp overhauled their waste water system to an eco-friendly cleaning system.  URJ Greene Family Camp is currently creating an Eco-Village, expected be ready for campers in 2012.  Camp JRF is also working on an Eco-Village which campers participated in the design of this summer and will help with the construction of next summer.

Caring for community and “repairing the world” — tikkun olam — is a key programmatic element of Jewish camp.  Throughout the summer, campers across embark on a variety of philanthropic endeavors on a national and local level.  Four camps piloted a new philanthropy program this summer with help from the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN).  Aimed to provide campers with opportunities to engage in collective philanthropic giving with their peers while guided by Jewish values, camps created programs in which teen campers decided together how and where to donate money provided by JTFN.  Habonim Dror Camp Galil, JCC Maccabi Camp Kingswood, URJ Camp George, and URJ Green Family Camp participated this summer, building on the successful teen philanthropy programs already in place at several of the Ramah camps.  JTFN, in collaboration with FJC, is hoping to expand the initiative next year.

Another way camps modeled tikkun olam as well as pikuach nefesh (saving a life) for campers this summer was through Bone Marrow Donor Drives with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.  24 camps held drives for counselors and parents (when held on opening/visiting/closing days) to get cheek swabs which entered them into the worldwide registry for patients in need.  Almost 850 new donors were added to the registry from Jewish overnight camps alone between June and August 2011.

“We are so proud of all Jewish camps for what they are doing to create the next generation of strong, committed, compassionate Jews as well as maintaining a healthy planet for them to live on,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, FJC.  “This summer, my staff and I collectively visited over 80 camps.  At every turn, we were overwhelmed with pride at the innovations taking place throughout the Jewish camp community.”

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps.  To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America.  Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike.  FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America each summer to further its mission.

Four Jewish Summer Camps Sell “Fracking Rights”


Camps Endanger Drinking Water, Food, Health & Climate

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Forward reported that the following four Jewish summer camps in Pennsylvania have signed leases with gas exploration companies to allow “fracking” —  the hydro-fracturing method of pouring tons of highly chemicalized water to smash shale rocks into releasing natural gas.

  • Starlight’s Perlman Camp, which is owned and operated by B’nai B’rith;
  • Camps Nesher and Shoshanim, which share a property in Lakewood and are owned and operated by the New Jersey Federation of YMHA and YWHA; and
  • Camp Morasha, an independent camp in Lakewood.

The Forward reports that

Fracking of a single well creates more than one million gallons of wastewater awash in pollutants, including some radioactive materials.  According to a February report in The New York Times, state and federal documents show that the waste water is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.

The Shalom Center views it as a profound violation of Jewish wisdom and values for summer camps or other Jewish institutions to sell the rights to use their land in ways that will poison  God’s and humanity’s earth, air, food, and water.

More on actions you can take to halt this after the jump.
Normal Federal protections for drinking water and clean air have been thwarted by the Halliburton Loophole pushed through Congress by former Vice-President Dick Cheney. It prevents application of these protective rules to drilling by the gas and oil industries. As a result, no one knows what chemicals are causing the dangers to water, food, and health that are appearing in fracking areas.

Fracking has turned the drinking water of farmers near well-heads into “water” that turns to flame when a match is lit at the kitchen faucets.

Fracking threatens the drinking water supply of the Philadelphia and New York  City metropolitan areas, and has been charged with raising cancer rates in communities near fracking sites.

Fracking is also a planetary threat. Scientists at Cornell University have analyzed fracking and report that it leaks methane, a planet-heating gas much more  powerful than CO2, at such a rate that  “if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, [fracking] shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil.”

On September 7-8, the national commercial association of companies that are  fracking shale rock regions will gather for a national convention in Philadelphia.

So environmental organizations are planning to face the “Fracking Association” with major demonstrations on September 7-8. The goal is at least 2500 demonstrators, with a rally, a march, a counter-conference, and a “Blessing of the Waters.”

The Shalom Center has taken the lead in bringing together an interfaith planning committee to put together a “Blessing of the Waters” as part of the Sept 7-8 arrangements.

We invite religious folk, clergy and lay, who want to take part in these events to get in touch with us by writing Rabbi Arthur Waskow with “Interfaith Blessing Waters” in the subject line.

The two-day anti-fracking event will include: a large rally near the Philadelphia Convention Center from  noon to 2 pm, Wednesday September 7; a march through Philadelphia to Gov Corbett’s office that day; an interfaith “Blessing of the Waters” at Penn’s Treaty Park on the Delaware River at 5:30 pm;  and on Thursday, an all-day conference to plan strategy to stop fracking, to be held at Rodeph Shalom Congregation in down-town Philadelphia.

Fracking is currently under a moratorium in parts of New York State. New Jersey has just outlawed it. Wells have been drilled in parts of Pennsylvania. The Delaware River Port Authority has imposed a moratorium that may expire in September.

What you can do to stop fracking:

  • Call your child’s summer camp to urge they reject any leases or plans that might allow fracking.
  • Call  Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith International, at (888) 388-4224 (toll-free) or 202-857-6600, about Camp Perlman, and Leonard Robinson, exec of the New Jersey Y Camps, who has decision-making power over those camps,  at (570) 296-8596..
  • Sign the petition for a national ban on fracking.
  • If you live in New York State, call Governor Cuomo at 518/474-8390 and urge him to ban fracking throughout New York State. In Pennsylvania, call Governor Corbett at 717/787-2500 with the same demand.
  • Call your members of Congress and tell them to pass the FRAC Act to repeal the “Cheney-Halliburton” exemption for hydrofracking from environmental laws.
  • Show the documentary film Gasland in your community. It documents the dangers of fracking. DVD’s are available on the Gasland website.
  • Save the dates of September 7-8 to attend the interfaith events on fracking in Philadelphia.  Click here for more information.
  • See our article for background.
  • Prepare to use Shabbat Noach, October 28-29, when Jews read the biblical story of the Flood, the Ark, and the Rainbow, as a time to address fracking and other threats to our planet, and act to heal our Earth in the spirit of the Rainbow.

I talked with Leonard Robinson, director of the New Jersey YH-YWHA summer camps (which are located in Pennsylvania). He gave four arguments for the leases:

  1. The issue is “bigger than we are,” he said. This meant that whether the Delaware Bay and River authorities clamp down on fracking will make a difference, and the camp is essentially helpless.
  2. Moreover, the camp’s neighbors were leasing their land and since the gas drilling/fracking may do damage beneath the earth’s surface horizontally across ownership lines, better they should make their own deal that might protect the camp’s land better than not leasing.
  3. The camp made a lot of money from the lease.
  4. The lease was agreed to two years ago, when the camp had much less information than it does now about the dangers of fracking. “Now, we can’t just cancel the lease.”

I responded thus:

Of course the issue is bigger than the camp. When big institutions are attacking Jewish values, the question is whether to surrender because they are more powerful or organize to stop them —  including, in this case, to reach out to the neighbors and work with them against the fracking companies.

I mentioned the San Francisco case where some people are organizing a referendum to outlaw circumcision of children. The official Jewish community could have decided the issue was “bigger” than they were – too big to fight – and surrender (even maybe having mohelim make a deal for a buy-off to replace their lost income) or instead, choose to fight. They chose to fight, because circumcision was seen as a core Jewish value. Are clean water, air, and food, and the healing of our climate crisis, the protection of God’s Creation, a core Jewish value or not? In “Jewish identity-building” of campers, what are they taught about Jewish values and the Earth?

As for the inviolability of leases agreed to two years ago, I pointed out to Mr. Robinson that it MIGHT be argued that if the fracking companies withheld information they had two years ago about the poisonous chemicals they are adding to the fracking water, and in other ways misled the camps and other lessees, that the leases might be voidable.

So I encourage you to call Mr. Robinson at (570) 296-8596, and urge him to take all necessary steps to void the existing leases, to make no new ones, to make protection of the Earth and of human health a clear Jewish value taught in his camps, and to join with The Shalom Center and others in the Jewish and  broader American communities to convince state governments to outlaw fracking, as the State of New Jersey has just done.

My conversation with Mr.Robinson makes clear that this issue goes beyond the four camps that have already leased land for fracking. It raises the basic question whether Jewish camping, which is widely  said to be intended to strengthen Jewish knowledge, practice, and values among young people, can actually enhance – instead of betraying –   its unusual opportunity of making connections between Jewish values and the healing of relationships between adam and adamah, the earthy human race and the Earth itself.

There are hundreds of such camps, sponsored by the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and various Orthodox denominations, by Habonim Labor Zionists and by Young Judea, by many Federations and other Jewish organizations.   There is even a Foundation for Jewish Camp, 15 West 36th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018 ; Phone: 646-278-4500, whose CEO is  Jeremy J. Fingerman, 646-278-4505.

Among these many camps, there is at least one,  Eden Village Camp in Putnam Valley, NY (877) 397-EDEN (3336);  which was founded explicitly to renew the Jewish connection with the Earth. Its program to do this is both extraordinary and exemplary.

The Shalom Center intends to pursue both our efforts to end any practices that subvert the Jewish value of healing God’s creation, and our efforts to strengthen those program that support that value as a core commitment of Judaism and the Jewish people.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; newest book, co-authored with R. Phyllis Berman, is Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus & Wilderness across Millennia.

A Lesson in Sustainability from the Makers of Notre Dame

— Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

My writing has been scarce recently because of a family vacation to France for my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. However, an important lesson occurred to me yesterday while cruising down the Seine on a charming bateau mouche.

First, I was reminded that the Cathedral Notre Dame took nearly 200 years to construct (1163-1345 CE). Building such an enormous edifice without modern technology is a monument to the dedication and vision of the people and the church at that time.  Bishop de Sully devoted most of his life and his wealth to a project whose fruition he would never witness. However, the logic of time inspired people to attain immortality by devoting themselves to works of timeless grandeur.

Today, consumers demand immediate satisfaction for their desires. CEOs look no further than the balance sheet on their next quarterly report. And politicians are concerned only with the upcoming election (as well as the quarter-to-quarter fundraising battle and the daily poll tracking numbers associated with it).

More after the jump.
Conservationists warn that the world may already have hit peak oil production, but business interests counter that this problem may still be 30 or 40 years out.  They conclude that we do not have to worry about it. How short-sighted is that? Even if we had enough oil to cope with exponentially growing consumption over the next 200 years, then what? How egotistical would it be for us to conclude that we do not have to prepare for a post-fossil fuel economy.

Those who have faith in the invisible hand as conceived by Adam Smith are doomed to waste our resources and our environment with little concern for future generations. In my article, Every Economic Cloud Has A Silver Lining, I explained how narrow-minded profit maximization leads us to destroy resources unless their sustainable yield is superior to the interest rate. How foolish is it for us to tie fate of our planet’s bounty to the interest rates set by Central Banks!

It is taken as axiomatic that the economy is suffering if our consumption does not increase 5% year upon year. Yet who truly believes that our current level of consumer demand is sustainable? Where will our planet be in 200 years?

Upon returning to the port, we saw the iconic Eiffel Tower and learned that Gustav Eiffel only had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years. The tower had been built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World’s Fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution), and it was intended to be demolished around the turn of the century.  However, those plans were set aside and the building stood as the tallest man-made structure in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built in New York City. Today, the Eiffel Tower still dominates the Paris skyline. Such a feat in our era of planned negligence is unheard of. Who today would bother designing a structure capable of weathering the elements for over 120 years when he only had a 20-year permit!

According to Annie Leonard:

What percentage of total material flow through our system is still in product or in use six months after being sold in North America? 50 percent? 20 percent? NO. One percent.
One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport-99 percent of the stuff we run through this
system is trashed within 6 months. Now how can we run a planet with that rate of waste.


Tinkerers and pot-menders are long gone as simple devices make way for more complicated appliances which are no longer designed to be repaired and replaced, but rather to be thrown out and replaced. Replacement is an accomplishment for those who venerate the GDP, but an eye-sore and a health hazard for those concerned by our environment.

Red, White, Blue … and Green

How to make your barbecue more environmentally friendly.

–by Misty Edgecomb

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 60 million Americans get together with their friends and families barbecues on the Fourth of July. Good times, for sure, but to what impact on the environment?

These millions of grills release some 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and consume the same amount of energy as the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, uses in a whole year.

Big consequences. So what to do?  The Nature Conservancy is offering 10 tips for eco-friendly celebrations, so you can have yourself a green barbecue this Fourth of July and all summer long!

Top 10 Ways to Green Your BBQ Party (in no particular order):

1. Use reusable or biodegradable plates and utensils. If you can’t find those, at least go for products made from 100 percent recycled materials. Remember that your biodegradable plates will need to be cleaned before going in the compost bin- ketchup, hamburger grease and other-non-veggie food matter doesn’t compost.
2. Fill up pitchers of water, homemade lemonade and iced tea instead of buying huge quantities of personal-sized beverage containers.
3. If you take heed of tip #2, you’ll need to provide cups. If you use plastic or paper cups, provide markers at the drink counter so people can write their names on their cups- and therefore not use more than one.
4. And even if you follow tip #2, you’re likely to have beer and other individual-sized beverages in a cooler. Encourage recycling by putting out easily identifiable bins- you’ll find fewer bottles and cans smeared with ketchup in the garbage.
5. Grill locally grown fruits and vegetables. While local doesn’t necessarily mean organic, small farms are often more likely to be more sustainable and pesticide-free.

More after the jump.
6. Going vegetarian can be better for the planet than eating meat. But if you do eat meat – or your guests do, invest in organic, local or sustainably raised dogs, burgers and chicken.
7. Encourage walking, biking or carpooling to your party.
8. Make sure mosquitoes don’t drive your guests away. Before the party, take a look at prime mosquito breeding grounds – clean out rain gutters, check other spots with standing water and mow your grass (with a reel mower, of course). Even better, help the mosquito-problem year round without resorting to chemicals by installing a bat house in your yard.
9. If you’re throwing a big bash, chose e-vites over mailed invitations.  Sending invitations electronically will save both money and trees. Bonus for going the electronic route: You’ll save on the fuel used to deliver the cards.
10. Don’t forget the little things. Choosing organic condiments, reusable napkins instead of paper ones, homemade decorations and fresh flowers over disposable party products and other details will help round off the finishing touches of your green BBQ.

For more information:
http://www.nature.org/greenliving/gogreen/everydayenvironmentalist/green-your-summer-bbq.xml

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.  To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.