Going Green Jewishly

Why Earth Day is a Jewish Holiday

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 7:00am
By Robert Rabinowitz for COEJL

April 22 is Earth Day. The very name makes many Jews nervous. A special day to celebrate the Earth sounds suspiciously pagan, bringing to mind images of Druids conducting fertility rites at Stonehenge or modern witches dancing to invoke nymphs in a misty forest glade. Perhaps what makes us so wary of this modern festival, first celebrated in 1970, is the idea of introducing the Earth as a “being” or moral agent with its own needs and mystical powers. And yet, ironically, the Bible is full of references to the way in which the Earth responds to the behavior of the people who live on it. The book of Leviticus, for example, warns the Children of Israel that immorality will cause the Land of Israel to “vomit” them out (Lev. 18:24-28, 20:22). In the shema prayer, it describes both the earthly benefits – rain, fertility and abundance – for listening to the commandments and loving God, and the costs – drought and famine – for ignoring God’s word (Deut. 11: 13-21). One compelling way to read this text is to think of it as suggesting that a major way for us, as individuals and as a society, to judge our actions and policies is by their environmental consequences. The shema warns: “Beware that your heart be deceived and you turn and serve other Gods and worship them” (Deut. 11:16). The “other Gods” need not be idols, but could just as well be the idolizing of wealth and power that often has profound negative environmental consequences. As we know, corruption and oppression frequently lead to poverty and hunger.

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Court approves removal of Rishon Lezion beach restaurants

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 7:00am
The owners of the five restaurants must destroy and evacuate their facilities by April 20, the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court ruled.
From JPost.com


The Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court approved the evacuation of five beachside eateries in the central Israeli city on Tuesday, accepting the state's previous decision on the subject and rejecting the business owners' appeals.

As part of the "Coasts Project" run by the State Attorney's Office and the Environmental Protection Ministry, and according to the stipulations of the 2004 Coastal Environment Law, the state has issued removal orders for the five restaurants in question – built without permission on the Rishon Lezion beach, a Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office statement said. The aim of the project is to restore the country's coastal resources and provide the public with free passage on the beaches, the statement said.

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Chesed in Hod - loving-kindness in grace.

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 7:00am
From Jewish And...

Some thoughts on the Omer and our environment

We open up this week of the Omer focusing on humility, grace, and smallness. A week of remembering that the role of the pixel is both vital and beautiful in its importance and tininess.

How we interact with our environment may be an exercise in compassion. We are so small our impact seems negligible. Yet each of our infinitely tiny actions makes a difference, as we each contribute ripple effects that expand our smallness in all directions.

I work to be compassionate to the planet, to my neighbors, and to my family.

Every small action still counts.

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How to Have An Eco-Friendly Passover

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 7:00am
By Snap Greene in Snappy Tips for NorthStarMoving.com

It’s almost Passover! You know what that means? Time for lots of  family, yummy food, telling stories, asking questions…yep, it’s Passover Seder time! How do you celebrate Passover? Whatever you do, make sure it’s eco-friendly! Here are some tips and tricks for making your matzo time more green:

Passover Food and Cooking
As always, the best way to go green is to buy Passover food that gets the eco-friendly seal of approval. Make sure your kosher wine, matzo ball soup, potatoes, and other Passover ingredients are from local sources, are organic, and/or come from fair trade vendors. You can probably find all these Passover ingredients at your local farmers’ market.

Also, since Passover means no bread, don’t just throw out all the old bread you’re using. Make breadcrumbs and freeze them for after the holidays, or use your old bread to make bird food for your outdoor friends! Waste not, want not!

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For more Passover news, check out our    page.

For more Passover ideas, check out our Passover Holiday Spotlight Kit

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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