Caring About the Environment, Jewishly (Blog Action Day 2009)


How do we live as Jews, caring consciously and spiritually about the environment? I’ve done a lot of thinking about this matter, but the best speech that I ever heard on it was a presentation given at the 2009 ROI Summit.

The presenters have kindly agreed to share their speech with you on caring about the environment and living a Jewish life.

This post is an entry for Blog Action Day 2009.  (Check out the blog, and find them on Twitter at @blogactionday and with the hashtag #BAD09.)

The Speech

Presenters:  Karin Fleisch, Vivian Lehrer, and Anthony Rogers-Wright.

Karin Fleisch:

TNJ_ROI.KarinFleisch.JAFI_15Oct09“Environmentalism just makes sense. We all live on this planet and need its resources to thrive and survive. As Jews, environmentalism is rooted in our history, our religion, and our values.

Climate change, over-consumption, mass species extinction — these are happening now. And it’s not just about the Earth anymore. It’s about preventing massive…human…suffering.

Vivian Lehrer:


But it’s going to be alright – probably – IF we adapt, as we are so good at doing. We already have all the solutions we need to make significant change.

We need to stop thinking of Jewish environmentalism as a separate category and focus on creating a healthier world for all – because, in the process, we’re going to strengthen Jewish communities and identity.

The Jewish imperative for environmentalism isn’t marginal – it’s our most core, mainstream and familiar values and traditions.

Shabbat– is an ecological treasure! A day to rest from shopping, manufacturing, driving!

Kashrut (keeping Kosher)- the idea that what we eat matters, that it’s upon us to minimize suffering of animals! We need to update this to take responsibility for the full impacts of what we eat, the stuff we buy, and what we put into landfills. We vote with our dollars and with our forks for the full story of our food and our stuff.

Brachot (the blessings over our food)– invite mindfulness of where our food comes from. To bless food we have to figure out whether it grew from the ground or a tree; from there it’s a short step to thinking of how it was raised, whether the people involved in getting it to us were paid a fair wage, whether its story helped or hurt our environment.

— Keep reading for a list of Jewish environmental organizations —

To the Jewish Education folks in the room: Jewish environmentalism WORKS! It gives us the opportunity to be relevant again to unaffiliated and young Jews, who see the environment as the single greatest challenge of today. As we come together to farm, do a fundraiser bike ride, pick up local vegetables at our shuls – we have FUN – and create a substantive, relevant Judaism along the way.

To the Building Bridges folks: we have here the chance to combat anti-Semitism by building interfaith partnerships around shared values.

To all of us: we have the chance here, at a time when efficiency is needed, to strengthen our organizations by putting a Green Team in place in each organization, to plan and implement efficiency measures and to shift norms towards more modest consumption. A zero-waste goal for your next public event would create an instant cutting-edge and community feel, while helping the organization.

Anthony Rogers-Wright:


Becoming more environmentally conscious and active is really just a conscious decision to open yourself to making vast lifestyle and cultural changes.

To this end, we invite you to be more conscious about your food consumption, where it comes from, how it was processed and delivered. We invite you to consider the consequences of your actions on your sisters and brothers, and the earth overall. And we invite you to create green groups in all of your religious and secular communities.

Although this Summit was divided into different tracks or groups, I believe that we are all united in that each of your tracks have a responsibility to include environmental consciousness with all of your decisions and conclusions.

To the Bridge Building track: if you will commit to building bridges that consider the environment while inviting interfaith discussions, intrafaith discussion, interracial discussions, and intergender discussion, STAND WITH US NOW.

To the Visions of Israel track: if you will commit to including an environmental imagination in your desired images for the future of this blessed nation of Israel, STAND WITH US NOW.

To the Jewish Service track: if you will commit to including environmental awareness in all of your service and tikkun olam initiatives, STAND WITH US NOW.

If we stand together, Israel shall stand together, and as the world watches and hears us, they too will be compelled to stand with us. Together then, we will remain standing as we eliminate all of the divisions that would attempt to make us fall now and in the time beyond.

Toda raba and shalom.”

The Team

Other members of the 2009 ROI Summit’s environmental team included: Artur Lokomet, Assaf Shmueli, Avner Warner, Einat Kramer, David Krantz, Hamutal Gillo, Jesse Ash, Maya Iluz-Bell, and Olga Skulovich.

(For a fuller explanation of the Summit’s 8 tracks, click here.)

Jewish Environmental Organizations

If you would like to learn more about Jews and the environment, start with these organizations:

My post for Blog Action Day 2007, “Middle East Environmentalism: Blogging for the Environment,” includes a  comprehensive review of additional environmental organizations in Israel and the Middle East.

Recommended Reading

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:



Like what you are reading? Please subscribe by e-mail or feed reader by clicking the sidebar icons.


24 Responses to Caring About the Environment, Jewishly (Blog Action Day 2009)

  1. Carmi says:

    Maya, thanks for the link to Sviva Israel. We have just opened our US office in Boston and look forward to increasing our programming in States.

    Just one note, your link leads to my blog on Judaism and the Environment in the Talmud, but our official website is

    Shabbat Shalom


  2. Tsvi Bisk says:

    Dear Maya,

    Welcome back! The Jewish World has missed the most intelligent ideas-mediator in the Jewish blogasphere.

    Hope you are well!

    Tsvi Bisk

  3. Hi Maya,
    Thanks for the kind words about the Sviva Israel Facebook Events blog post. Glad you enjoyed it! I also am thrilled to find this great list of Jewish environmental organizations on your blog. I’m a member of the “green” committee of my shul, and I am so glad to find this resource list!

    • Maya Norton says:

      My pleasure, Debra. It was a worthwhile read.

      I’m trying to learn more about the green synagogue movement. I’m scoping resources wherever I can find them. Do you have any recommendations?

      Shavua Tov,

      ~ Maya

  4. > I’m trying to learn more about the green
    > synagogue movement. Do you have any
    > recommendations?

    The Green Zionist Alliance recently launched a Community Partners program for synagogues, JCCs and other organizations. You can read more about it here:

  5. […] my own blog, The New Jew, which focuses on philanthropy and social innovation, I published a post on “Caring About the Environment, Jewishly.” There I share a speech by […]

  6. […] of thinking about this matter, but the best speech that I ever heard on it was a presentation given Read More » Share and Enjoy:Tags: jews Categories: Blogs, The New Jew, jNet Related PostsAshkenazi in Germany: […]

  7. This is very informative. Truly Jewish traditions are both soul and earth-friendly.

    • Maya Norton says:

      I wish there was more written about this on a regular basis. There are some great resources available, but I hope in the future we can really push the envelope on the green issue. Eco and Jewish should coalesce. Zionism is naturally a green movement viewed from a specific perspective.

      ~ Maya

  8. Queenie Ross says:

    What an excellent blog, I’ve added your feed to my RSS reader. 🙂

    • Maya Norton says:

      Thanks so much! I’m not able to update regularly these days, although my goal is to produce the highest quality content possible when I do, so an RSS feed is definitely the best way to go.

      You can also find me on Twitter at @mayanorton. You?

      Nice blog, BTW. I wish we had more diaper options in Israel, but alas, it is disposables for my baby.

      ~ Maya

  9. Jack Burns says:

    I think Twitter has potential. I think this blog is onto something.

  10. Jewish tradition are great. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  11. Too bad everyone doesn’t take time to think about our environment. Just think how awesome it would be if everyone just gave it a little more thought. Great post. Thanks.

  12. […] “Caring About the Environment, Jewishly (Blog Action Day, 2009)”, The New Jew […]

  13. […] “Caring about the Environment, Jewishly” (Blog Action Day 2009) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: