A Commitment to Stewardship

From the Green Team
Temple Sharey Tefilo Israel, South Orange, NJ

rj_greening_final logo.jpgTemple Sharey Tefilo Israel (TSTI) is one of eight Reform synagogues that became involved in the GreenFaith Certification program starting in May, 2010. With support from the URJ and the RAC, we committed to a rigorous two-year program that would help our synagogue become more environmentally aware and active, and help us become leaders in the Greening Reform Judaism effort.  As a congregation that had historically maintained focus on the environment, joining this program was a natural next step to add structure and discipline to existing efforts.  

One step toward Certification requires participant organizations to complete 25 action and awareness items over 7 stewardship categories (Energy, Waste, Water, Toxins, Transportation, Grounds Maintenance and Food).  At the 14 month mark of a 24 month program, I am proud to say that TSTI has already completed this requirement, and has actually completed a total of 30 stewardship steps. The list of actions is quite varied, but some of the highlights include:

  1. Installed motion sensor water faucets – While water appears to be unlimited, the U.N. estimates that only 1% of the global water supply is drinkable. We are trying to limit our water consumption and cut water waste;
  2. Eliminated bottled water – The environmental damage from the amount of plastic discarded via water bottles is obvious and we wanted to eliminate our contribution to this problem. (Learn more about bottled water and how you and your congregation can “kick the habit” here.);
  3. Installation of a bike rack – When congregants bike to TSTI, they spend more time in the environment and reduce their carbon footprint;
  4. Installed 2 bird feeders – While creating an easy refuge for wildlife, we also hope to foster habitats that can create learning and awareness for our Religious School and Early Childhood students;
  5. Closed unused fireplace flues – Easily forgotten at the end of each season, open fireplace flues are costly energy mistakes throughout the year;
  6. Installed programmable thermostats – These items are very inexpensive and the annual energy and financial savings in a large facility are many times the cost; 
  7. Motion sensor light controls – It is easy to forget to turn off lights when you are the last one out of a room.  Again, like thermostats, the cost vs benefit analysis made installing motion sensors an easy win; 
  8. Women’s Connection Hike – A great event that had multi generational attendance and had everyone out interacting with nature. 

As you can see, we are undertaking a variety of exciting initiatives to save energy and water, educate our members on environmental issues and create a more beautiful space for worship, learning and play. In the area of Worship, we have had sermons on the environment on Yom Kippur and Creation during the year. Our 7th grade students studied Biblical Passages concerning environmentalism as a Jewish value. In addition, they studied Israel’s environment on Tu Bish’vat. Our Certification is a holistic approach to everything we do at TSTI. The financial savings for our synagogue have been outstanding, and the excitement from congregants and synagogue leaders is palpable.

Going forward, TSTI will focus on Interfaith environmental activities and Environmental Justice education and advocacy, which are equally important and new to us. We look forward to becoming a GreenFaith Certified synagogue next year and continuing to help other synagogues embrace sustainability. Be in touch if you’d like to share ideas!

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