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.
Presenters: Karin Fleisch, Vivian Lehrer, and Anthony Rogers-Wright.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
- Arava Institute– center for regional environmental leadership, particularly between Israel and Jordan
- Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
- EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East
- Green Prophet
- Green Zionist Alliance
- Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership
- Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, including the Adamah: the Jewish Environmental Fellowship and the Greening Fellowship
- Jew and the Carrot
- Jewish Climate Change Initiative
- Jewish Farm School
- Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
- Sviva Israel
- Zalul: the Israel Water Blog of the Israeli Zalul Environmental Association
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.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
- “Israeli Environment: New Mall Seeks to Green the Negev”
- “Shifting Speeds: Israeli Government Invests in Cycling Programs for Sake of Environment”
- “Charles Bronfman Prize for Humanitarian Action: Seeking a Better World” (includes profile of Prof. Alon Tal’s work in desert ecology)
- “Guest Author Tsvi Bisk Asks: ‘What if One Billion Dollars a Year Were Used to Buy Israeli Energy Technology?'”
- “Israel: Biggest Polluter in Eastern Mediterranean”
- “Gaza Giving: Surfing for Peace with Dr. Dorian Paskowitz”
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