Going Green Jewishly

Help David Duchovny and Shalom The Pig Get to Israel by Sundown

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
By Abby Sher for Jewniverse

Maybe you first fell for David Duchovny as the DEA Agent in Twin Peaks. Or you tracked his every move in The X-Files as the steamily troubled Agent Fox Mulder.

Either way, it’s hard not to feel smitten all over again when you read his allegorical new book called Holy Cow. It’s a grim but hilarious look at how animals are eaten and revered, depending on your location. Duchovny looks a lot different from his X-File days. But his sly smile and tousled hair are still in place.

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The Visionary Creator of a Vegan-Friendly Jewish Summer Camp

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 7:00am

The Jewish Veg Spotlight Shines On ... Isaac Mamaysky
If you think finding a vegan-friendly – or, better yet, a vegan-promoting – synagogue is tough, try looking for a vegan-friendly Jewish summer camp for your compassionate kids.

That would have been really tough to find. Until last summer, that is.

That’s when JVNA member Isaac Mamaysky, along with a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, fulfilled his dream of creating and operating a summer camp for Jewish children and teens.

Mamaysky’s Camp Zeke drew 180 campers aged 7-17 to a beautiful, lakeside site in the Poconos last summer, and even more campers are expected for the camp’s second season in 2015.

The camp provided a predominantly vegetarian menu with numerous vegan options at every meal. And the camp’s activities included a plant-based culinary program.

This is a sure sign that the Jewish Veg Movement is gaining momentum and, just as importantly, becoming mainstream.

Mamaysky was able to create the camp thanks to $1.5 million in grants from four major Jewish foundations – Jim Joseph, AVI CHAI, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and UJA-Federation of New York.

JVNA sat down with Mamaysky to discuss Judaism, veganism and how they intersect at Camp Zeke.

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Passover at Isabella Freedman

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 7:00am
Looking for an environmentally friendly Passover experience?  Join Hazon at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center this year from April 3-12

 All-Inclusive 9-Night Retreat

A place to discover your heart, without losing your mind.
—Jill Robinson, Passover 2014

Once we were slaves in Egypt… and now we are free to celebrate Passover surrounded by the beautiful foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.

Celebrate your freedom by bringing your whole family to an enriching, relaxing, and fun-filled Kosher-for-Passover program in a beautiful country setting.

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For more Passover news, check out our    page.

EcoFriendly Purim

Mon, 03/02/2015 - 7:00am
Enjoy the holiday in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner
From ReformJudaism.org

Purim is a festival of joy and celebration but unfortunately one of a lot of waste, too. There are many ways that we can enjoy our holiday in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Leket Israel, Israel's National Food Bank and leading food rescue network, recommends the following tips for a more eco-friendly Purim.

Trash the Baskets: What can you do with so many straw baskets and gift bags? Package your Mishlo-ach Manot in useful, reusable containers such as storage containers, glasses, mugs and pasta drainers for year-round usability.

Wrap it Up: Mishloach manot food items can be wrapped up in a pretty hand towel, apron or other useful fabric item.

Sustainable Stuffing: Instead of padding your package with shredded cellophane or colored paper, use banana chips, sunflower seeds or popcorn (only for recipients older than 3).

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For more information, recipes and great ideas for Purim, check out Jvillage's Purim Holiday Kit

For more Purim news, check out our    page.

We Need Green Rabbis

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
By David Krantz on HayimHerring.com

Meals served on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. Trays of leftover food simply thrown away. And the lights left on all night. From synagogues to Jewish student centers, these are very common Shabbat experiences. Clearly there is a gap between modern Jewish practice and environmental values. But there’s also a large gap between modern Jewish practice and the environmental tenets of Judaism.

Judaism is an inherently environmental religion, with so much written about it, by myself[1] and many others — particularly rabbis Ellen Bernstein,[2] Fred Scherlinder Dobb,[3] David Sears,[4] David Seidenberg,[5] Lawrence Troster[6] and Arthur Waskow,[7] and profs. Richard Schwartz,[8] Hava Tirosh-Samuelson[9] and Martin Yaffe[10] — that I don’t need to repeat here the extent of environmental values present in Jewish laws, customs and practice. Still, outside of the nascent Jewish-environmental movement, I rarely meet rabbis who are familiar with Jewish-environmental wisdom. Usually, as a leader of a Jewish-environmental nonprofit, Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, I am asked by rabbis what’s Jewish about environmentalism. It is the extent to which Jewish clergy and, in turn, their communities, are unaware of the environmentalism that flows through Judaism that is troubling. And that lack of knowledge, in part, can be traced to the lack of Jewish-environmental education in rabbinical schools.

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Down to Earth: The Vital Lessons Learned in Burying the Dead

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 7:00am
Returning our deceased to the soil honors the injunction for a proper burial—and keeps us mindful of the life cycle of which we’re a part
By Regina Sandler-Phillips for Tablet Magazine

“Bury him a burial,” commands the biblical passage at the center of our Jewish funeral imperatives (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)—asserting that even the corpse of an executed criminal is worthy of respect. By traditional extension, all our Jewish dead are given the honor of levayah, which literally means “accompanying” to the grave. Full levayah includes active participation in burial, which carries two protections against desecration: one of the human body (adam), the other of the earth (adamah).

My funeral attire as a rabbi allows for full freedom of movement and is worn with the expectation that I will be actively navigating piles of soil, clay, or mud. An Italian-American friend of one bereaved family told me that I “wielded a shovel like an Italian ditch digger.” (It was a flattering, if irreverent, exaggeration.)

The ancient sage Shimon ben Gamaliel declares, “The learning is not primary, but the doing.” I’ve learned how to offer words and music, to help mourners share memories and recite Kaddish, to organize lines of comforters leading away from the grave.

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The Power of Service Can Transform Community, When Rooted in Strong Partnerships

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 7:00am
By Cindy Greenberg for Zeek

Last month I spent three hours sorting radishes at a Brooklyn food pantry in Bed-Stuy — edible, rotten, edible, rotten. It was the least glamorous of volunteer experiences, and honestly, at first I was disappointed to have committed my time to something so mundane. But the radish sorting slowed me down, and those hours created space for thinking and conversation that shifted my perspective.

Talking to my fellow volunteers as we sorted side by side, I learned that some were there to fulfill mandatory community service hours and others were motivated by uneasy feelings about moving into a low-income community and the impact of gentrification. I exchanged smiles with the clients as they lined up for donated groceries and experienced a deepening sense of obligation to my neighbors. I quietly observed inefficiencies in the system and contemplated how I might personally contribute to better supporting Brooklyn’s hungry.

I’m not alone in recognizing the power of service.

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Considering the Chicken

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 7:00am
By Jacob Siegel, Rabbinic Intern for Hazon, for The Jew and the Carrot

I slaughter my own chickens.

For the past several years, I have seen many animals die. I have experienced a range of feelings, from total cold focus to sadness and even fear. But I recently experienced a slaughter that transformed the way I see meat.
I trained in kosher slaughter four years ago, after seeing a slaughter myself. I realized I wanted to be able to produce my own meat — I saw making local kosher meat accessible as an essential way to create a healthy Jewish community, healthy food systems and a healthy local economy.

At the Hazon Food Conference in December, I helped with a demonstration led by fellow shochet (slaughterer) and food activist Yadidya Greenberg, and I performed the actual slaughter.

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Planting Trees for Tu Bishvat

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 7:00am
This act has always been held in high regard in Judaism.
By Lesli Koppelman Ross for MyJewishLearning.com

Reprinted with permission from Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holiday Handbook (Jason Aronson).

In the Jewish scheme of the world, trees have always occupied a key and revered role.

 According to the Creation story, seed bearing plants and fruit trees were put on the Earth before any other living thing (Genesis 1:11-12). In other words, the first thing God did once He had firm land was to plant trees!

The Tree of Life, which God placed at the heart of the Garden of Eden, became a symbol of Jewish existence, a core value of individual and communal living: continuity.

The Talmud sages held wonderfully imaginative discussions about trees in life and legend. They believed that mankind, which they often compared to trees, owes its existence to them and should treat them with special recognition. Serious consequences would result from destroying a tree. The Torah (itself called a Tree of Life in Proverbs 3:18) prohibits the destruction of fruit trees, even in times of war (Deuteronomy20:19-20), and to prevent the loss of Israel's natural forests, the sages prohibited the Jews from allowing goats to graze freely. Today in Israel, anyone who wants to destroy a tree must apply for a license, even if the tree is on his or her own property.

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Sustaining Resistance: How My Everyday Practices Make My Everyday Activism Possible

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 7:00am
By Yaira A. Robinson for Zeek

  •     “We do this because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.” —Sandra Cisneros

We do this — the work of tikkun olam

Because the world we live in is a house on fire: Racism. Hunger. Economic Justice. Climate. Education. Domestic Violence. Poverty. More.

And the people we love are: Oppressed. Attacked. Desperately poor. Sick. Afraid. Hungry. Vulnerable. Suffering.

Burning. The people we love and the world we live in are burning.

Sometimes, this is how it feels — like the world is on fire — and in the face of systemic racism, climate change, or the widening gap between rich and poor, it’s difficult to see what difference my individual actions could possibly make. I pour my heart into work for a better world, often with no tangible immediate results.

I suppose I could just watch TV and drink beer. Or maybe go shopping, like all the advertisements tell me I should. (Yes! What would make me really happy is a diamond bracelet!)

That’s not real, though. Escapism and consumerism don’t solve anything — least of all, the questions or yearning of my heart.

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Israel's oil drilling in Golan criticised

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:00am

From AlJazeera online

Southern Golan Heights - Heavily subsidised Jewish-only settlements, large Israeli military areas and tanks dot the rolling green hills in this part of the Golan Heights; Syrian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war.

In addition to the ubiquitous signs warning of landmines, remnants of Syrian life are everywhere; bombed-out homes, dilapidated schools, crumbling hospitals. Most of the region's indigenous Syrians - an estimated 90,000 Christians, Muslims and Druze - were expelled from the 70 percent of the Golan Heights under Israeli control.

Today, only some 20,000 Syrian Druze live in six villages still standing in the territory, while more than 21,000 Israeli settlers reside in dozens of Jewish-only colonies built atop villages demolished after the war.

It is here that Afek Oil and Gas, an Israeli company, has been granted exclusive license to conduct exploratory drilling for oil. Afek is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Limited, a New Jersey-based company for which former US Vice President Dick Cheney is an adviser.

On September 11, Afek won approval to conduct exploratory drilling in 10 possible locations throughout the Syrian territory. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli High Court froze Afek's efforts due to a petition submitted by environmental activists. The petition remains undecided.

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Holy Harvest: 6 Faith-Based Farms Worth Knowing

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 7:00am
By Ben Harris for modernfarmer.com

If you think demand for local food is the sole domain of big-city foodies and godless hipsters, think again. For religious farmers, the locavore impulse is more than a lifestyle preference -- it's a divine imperative.

And their numbers appear to be growing. “It’s absolutely on the rise,” says Fred Bahnson, the director of the Food, Faith & Religious Leadership Initiative at the Wake Forest School of Divinity and the author of “Soil and Sacrament,” a memoir chronicling Bahnson’s experiences at four religious farms. “It’s partly influenced by the larger cultural renewal of interest in food, the whole food movement phenomenon. But I’d say it’s also coming from more a place of spiritual hunger, the desire for a deeper connection with our food, with the land, with community.”

Dozens of religious farms now dot the landscape. Here are six worth knowing about.

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JNF USA Doctors Mission Connects to a Healthy Israel

Mon, 12/29/2014 - 7:00am
A JNF USA Doctors for Israel Mission visited Israel from the USA for a week of tours, meetings with medical professionals and getting acquainted with KKL-JNF's diverse projects a number of which are funded by JNF-USA. From start-ups in northern Israel to medical centers in the Arava, the members of the mission learned about Israel and its innovations, especially in the field of medical technology. “Our objective is to promote contacts between American and Israeli medical professionals, and to become acquainted with KKL-JNF's diverse projects in Israel,” said Dr. Robert Norman, who co-chaired the Doctors for Israel Mission. “It is amazing to see how the country is developing, not only in medicine, but in all areas. There is a true spirit of initiative here, of creativity and innovation.”The tour began in northern Israel, where the doctors got a close-up look at some hi-tech companies developing medical technologies.

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The Place of Tikkun Olam in American Jewish Life

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:00am
By Jonathan Krasner for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs


The symbolic moment when the now ubiquitous phrase “tikkun olam” entered the American Jewish mainstream probably took place during the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States in September 1987. A crisis in Vatican-Jewish relations was precipitated by the Pope’s meeting in June with President Kurt Waldheim of Austria, whose activities as a Nazi intelligence officer were the subject of controversy. The meeting in Miami between Jewish leaders and Pope John Paul II on September 12, 1987 was meant to signal the desire of both sides to embark on a process of repairing their relations. In his public remarks to the Pope in Miami, the leader of the Jewish delegation, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, called for a spirit of reconciliation and goodwill. “A basic belief of our Jewish faith is the need ‘to mend the world under the sovereignty of God’—‘l’takken olam b’malkhut Shaddai,’” Waxman declared: “To mend the world means to do God’s work in the world. Your presence here in the United States affords us the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the sacred imperative of tikkun olam, the mending of the world.”2

Waxman’s remarks were notable mainly because he mentioned the term “tikkun olam” in public. By the mid-1980s, rabbis, educators, communal workers, ac­tivists and others were invoking tikkun olam as a value concept in support of a variety of humanistic and distinctly Jewish causes, ranging from environmentalism and nuclear non-proliferation to Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation and unrestricted Soviet Jewish emigration.3 For the most part, however, its use was confined to internal American Jewish discourse. Waxman’s introduction of tikkun olam to a broad international audience indicated the extent to which the term had become embedded into the fabric of American Jewish life. Before long, tikkun olam found its way into the pronouncements of non-Jewish public figures such as New York Governor Mario Cuomo and became the rhetorical motivation for service learning and social justice organizations such as AVODAH, American Jewish World Service and Panim el Panim. “Tikkun” also radiated from the masthead of a new, self-consciously intellectual, progressive Jewish magazine. By the 1990s, tikkun olam was everywhere.4

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Rooted in Israel’s history, five remarkable trees

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:00am
Tales of timber, from the cedars outside the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem, to the 600-year-old oak at the tomb of Rabbi Yosef Abba Halafta in the Galilee
By Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am for The Times of Israel

'One day Honi Hameagel, a righteous miracle worker, saw an old man planting a carob tree. Knowing that a carob tree took 70 years to bear fruit, and that therefore the old man would not live to see the results of his labor, he asked why he was planting a tree whose fruits he would never enjoy. ‘Carob trees were here when I was born, planted by my father and his father,’ answered the old man. ‘Now I plant trees for the enjoyment of my children and their children’s children.’” (Talmud Ta’anit 23a)

Although trees offer desperately needed shade, and add that extra dash of beauty to our lives, we rarely take the time to admire their barks, their leaves, their towering heights.

Yet trees are the oldest forms of life, and, aesthetically pleasing, they are ecologically essential.

If trees could talk, they would be able to tell us wonderful stories about our history, our nation, and the lives of those who came before us.

Here are just a few:

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Eco-Friendly Hanukkah Traditions

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:00am
From sustainablebabysteps.com

Have you started preparing your eco-friendly Hanukkah traditions yet? No doubt you are thinking about polishing your menorah, dusting the dreidels and starting the search for the perfect presents.

However, how will you polish that menorah? Did you keep the dreidels from last year and what types of presents will you buy? These are all things which need to be taken into consideration if you want this holiday season to be a sustainable one.

My household Hanukkah traditions usually consists of a nightly Menorah lighting and present giving, so that each family member receives eight presents in total. We might also go to a public Menorah lighting and attend or hold our own Hanukkah party during the 8 day festival. We don't put up much in the way of decorations or exchange cards, but every family is different with their own Hanukkah traditions over decorations, food, present giving and so on.

There are a few basics though that are generally common to all and I have listed some eco-friendly ways to celebrate the holiday below which cover those basics:

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