Going Green Jewishly

How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 7:00am
By Betty Ilovici, NoCamels

Four years of devastating droughts in California have pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief ones being the high costs and the potential environmental damage.

To address these challenges, California is turning to the world leader in cutting edge desalination technology – Israel. A $1 billion desalination project is already underway in San Diego County – which will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – and Israeli engineers have been called in for their expertise.

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How a Biblical Edict Became a Boon for Palestinian Farmers

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 7:00am
Naomi Zeveloff at The Forward

Just beyond the Israeli military’s Al Hamra checkpoint, the Jordan Valley opens into a checkerboard of red soil farms that make up the Palestinian village of Froush Beit Dajan. It is a land under Israeli occupation. But occupation notwithstanding, in early October, an intricate year-long transaction was underway in the village that crosses this stubborn region’s usual ethnic, religious and geographic lines.

Soon after the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashanah, workers in Froush Beit Dajan loaded boxes of young cucumbers with yellow blossoms still attached to their stems into a truck bed shaded by a blue tarp. The cucumbers were destined for Israel, where, to the consternation of some Israeli Jews, they would be sold almost exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox.

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Extinct Tree Resurrected from Ancient Seeds is now a Dad

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 7:00am
APRILHOLLOWAY for Ancient-Origins.net

Ten years since the Judean Date Palm was miraculously brought back to life following the chance discovery of seeds in the 2,000-year-old ruins of Masada, the male date palm tree named Methuselah, the only one of his kind, has become a father.

For thousands of years, the date palm was a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, as it was a source of food, shelter and shade.  Thick forests of the palms towering up to 80 feet and spreading for 7 miles covered the Jordan River valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the shores of the Dead Sea in the south.

So valued was the tree that it became a recognized as a symbol of good fortune in Judea.  It is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers, from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive, and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.
However, its value was also the source of its demise and eventual extinction.  The tree so defined the local economy that it became a prime resource for the invading Roman army to destroy.  Once the Roman Empire took control of the kingdom in 70 AD, the date palms were wiped out in an attempt to cripple the Jewish economy. They eventually succeeded and by 500 AD the once plentiful palm had completely disappeared, driven to extinction for the sake of conquest.

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Israel installs record-setting solar field on Knesset roof

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 7:00am
From Israel Hayom

Israel has installed solar panels on the roof of its parliament building, creating what it calls the largest solar field of any national assembly in the world.

The office of the parliament speaker says energy generated from some 1,500 solar panels will provide 10% of the electricity used at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and saving approximately $400,000 annually.

"We have here 4,600 square meters [1.1 acres] of photovoltaic panels and this makes the Knesset the greenest parliament in the world and it's part of an amazing, extremely exciting project called Green Knesset that contains altogether 13 projects of making the Knesset more friendly to the environment," said Knesset spokesperson Yotam Yakir.

The array of solar panels, according to a Knesset press release, provides a capacity of 450 kilowatts.

The Knesset is also advancing other energy-saving projects, like installing energy-saving light bulbs, automatically shutting down lawmakers' computers at the end of each workday, and using water from air conditioning systems to help irrigate the gardens surrounding the building.

The statement says the measures will reduce the Knesset's energy use by a third.

Scientists will also conduct ecological research on the parliament roof.

The Knesset unveiled the solar field in a dedication ceremony on Sunday.

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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 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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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

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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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