Seeking an Inner Freedom

—  by Hannah Lee

On Shabbat, my Rabbi challenged our kehillah (congregation) to do more to observe Independence Day than march in a parade.  I love the Fourth of July, my second favorite American holiday after Thanksgiving.  My family invites our friends and neighbors to watch the neighborhood parade that passes in front of our home with us, but how else to celebrate?  Well, before writing this piece, I wrote a letter of thanks to President Obama and inserted it into the mailbox set up at the special exhibit on To Bigotry No Sanction, now at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

More after the jump.
The most thrilling part of the exhibit was seeing that the famous phrase, “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” was first coined by a Jew — Moses Seixas, in a letter on behalf of the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Israel, also known as the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.  (The Hebrew name sounds like a contemporary merge.)  

George Washington, newly appointed as the first Chief Magistrate (the title was later changed to President) of the United States of America, echoed back the phrase in his reply, but with a more elegant turn from “to bigotry give no sanction.”  Seeing the original letters side by side as well as other letters that had been penned to Washington made me cognizant of how elegant and scholarly were Washington’s letters.  His reply to Seixas’s letter, which was full of blessings and also freely quoted from the Bible, was the most eloquent letter on display.

On Sunday, Professor Jacob Needleman was interviewed on NPR, and he spoke of our Founding Fathers who had a deeper, fuller meaning for “the pursuit of happiness,” than merely shopping to stimulate the economy.  Professor Needleman said that happiness meant to them a life of virtue.  My Rabbi would concur and say that true happiness means living in accordance with God’s will.  Then, Professor Needleman spoke about an “inner freedom,” one that allows us to maintain strength against popular but misguided ideas and trends, including shop-till-you-drop consumerism.  May we all find an inner freedom of integrity for ourselves and our family.  Happy Independence Day!

The To Bigotry No Sanction, exhibit will be on view at the National Museum of American Jewish History until September 30.  The museum, located at 101 South Independence Mall East, is closed on most Mondays.  

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.