Let’s Get Sustainable in 5771

by Rachel Cohen
(originally posted on the RACblog)

This is the first post in our new “Let’s GetSustainable” blog post series – look for an environmentally-themed posteach Monday and learn more on our Greening Reform Judaism web portal!

Yom Kippur has come and gone, and it’s hard to believe that a new Jewish year is upon us once again. Throughout the Yamin Noraim(Days of Awe) we took time to reflect on the past year, repent for ourwrongs, and set goals to improve ourselves in the year ahead. And we atthe RAC are busy preparing for another great year. In 2011 we will celebrate our 50th anniversary continuing to build on our strengths as we look to grow in 5771 and the fifty years to come.

Aswe consider how to renew our commitment to ‘live Jewishly’ in the newyear, one area where we can all do more is environmentalsustainability, or the use of resources in such a way that meets theneeds of the present without compromising the future. We know thatcaring for our world and its limited resources is a reflection of our Jewish values of shomrei adamah and tikkun olam, but many of us struggle when it comes to translating these values into action. Sustainability means more than changing a light bulb or shopping at afarmers’ market; it is an ethic of stewardship that influences eachdaily decision we make, a commitment to live our lives in a responsibleway, and a fundamentally Jewish issue. Especially after a year offossil fuel-driven disasters, our concerns for energy security and forthe health of our planet and our children demand that we step up ourcommitment this year.

That’swhy in 5771 we at the RAC will work directly with Reform congregations,camps, and the institutions of our Movement to truly commit to limitingour negative environmental impact and having a positive impact on ourcommunities in the process. This will mean new programs for holidays -both the traditional harvest festivals (Sukkot is right around the corner!) and times like Shabbat Noah, when we read a torah portion about the Flood, the Rainbow, and the Covenant with God to preserve our world (get involved with resources from the RAC and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life).

We’ll learn together in new ways, starting tomorrow with the first of five sessions in our Virtual Beit Midrash (house of learning)series of online workshops on energy and environmental topics fromsynagogue gardens and community supported agriculture to Chanukah andenergy use in our synagogues.

And finally, we’re thrilled tolaunch our “Let’s Get Sustainable” blog post series, featuring weeklyupdates from congregations, Camps, environmental sustainabilityexperts, and Reform Jews working to increase environmentalsustainability across North America. We’ll feature experts in a varietyof energy and environmental fields providing useful tips and updatesfor taking your green efforts to the next level at your synagogue andat home.

As we go through the year, we’ll hear from the 8 New Jersey congregations participating in our Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program with GreenFaith,who will share their success stories and present eight unique modelsfor building a sustainable synagogue community. We’ll also featureupdates from our 13 URJ Campswith highlights on how they are saving food, energy, and otherresources – and their plans for the years to come, which range fromsolar panels to food-producing gardens.

We look forward tosharing the stories of our congregations, camps, and leaders devoted tothe very literal repair of our broken world, and hope you’ll join usreflecting and commenting on the examples highlighted, integratingenvironmental sustainability into your home and synagogue life usingour resources and sample programs, and sharing your story with us and with our Reform Jewish community across North America.

L’shana tovah!

Rachel Cohen is the Sustainability Program Coordinator at Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC

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