Ten Teva Tidbits: Reflecting on the Teva Seminar
“Baruch atah (a strong breath out), eloheynu ruach ha-olam, a-sher kid-shanu b’mitz-votav vitzi-vanu la-asok b-divray torah. Blessed are You, Breath of Life, Spirit of the Universe, who sanctifies us with Your Mitzvot and commands us to engage in the study of Torah.” – Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of presenting at and attending the Teva Seminar on Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT. Isolated in the grounds of this Jewish, environmental haven, I shared time with and learned from some of the most interesting voices in the Jewish environmental movement. Between the nearly two dozen sessions I attended throughout the week, and the time I spent with Jewish environmental leaders, it would be impossible to share every lesson and insight in this single blog post. Instead, I have Ten Teva Tidbits to impart below:
- Our Jewish leaders are at the forefront of community organizing around the environment. Rabbi Jason Navarez of Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY, shared his experience working with the Bedford 2020 Project – an effort led by the faith community, businesses, technology firms and the land and water industry in Bedford, NY to reduce the town’s energy consumption 20% by the year 2020.
- “We need to be hospice workers for the world that is dying and midwives for the world that is being born.” – Joanna Macy. I attended a session led by Rabbi Mordechai Leibling focused on the process of mourning the greatest loses of climate disruption. We mourned all that has been lost and destroyed by our current treatment of the planet, but we also addressed our immense responsibility to safeguard our earth for future generations.
- Food waste is an incredible moral and environmental issue. In a session led by Ora Sheinson, President of Canfei Nesharim, we discussed the environmental and economic impact of food waste in our local communities. In Judaism we are commanded to abide by the Biblical mandate, bal tashchit, “do not waste,” but the average American still produces 4 pounds of waste a day! Learn best practices for curbing climate change and protecting human health by diverting food waste from landfills.
- This Rosh Hashanah marks Shmita, commonly translated as the “Sabbatical Year.” Throughout the seminar, sessions and activities referenced the Shmita Project, aimed at extending the practices of Shmita into a contemporary context. Biblically, Shmita is the seventh year in a calendar cycle when the land is left fallow and debts are forgiven. This Shmita year, consider the ways in which your community or you individually can focus on sustainability.
- Jewish outdoor, food and environmental education (JOFEE) programs have been powerful Jewish community builders for participants, professional, and Jewish organizations. In a plenary session, Hazon presented their report, “Seeds of Opportunity: A National Study of Immersive Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE),” which they conducted to explore the growth of the JOFEE field over the last decade and what kind of effect immersive, outdoor and environmental experiences have on participants and their relationship to their Jewish identities.
- The Jewish community has a profound voice in interfaith coalitions on the environment. In many sessions throughout the seminar, particularly those focused on activism and advocacy, presenters discussed the value of working with others in the faith community on issues related to the environment. The Jewish tradition has so many texts that speak to our responsibility as stewards of the earth that often in interfaith coalitions, our Jewish leaders offer a unique and strong moral argument.
- Many Americans are completely unaware that 40% of the world population live without access to toilets, and that 2,000 children die every-day from the consequences of unsafe defecation. To raise awareness around this critical issue, New York City based artist and activist Shawn Shafner has created the People’s Own Organic Power (POOP) Project. The POOP Project aims to promote conversations around sustainable sanitation to benefit the environment and human health. In one session, Shafner lead the community in humorous activities and songs about being waste-making consumers!
- GMO foods might pose dangerous consequences for human health. Cara Michelle Silverberg, Director of the Jewish Community of Amherst Camp Shemesh, presented on the potential correlation between GMOs and autism. Learn more about this connection and what kind of implications it has for our current food system.
- More people die of poor air quality in the Tel Aviv metro area alone than in war or terror related incidents in the entire country of Israel. President of the Green Zionist Alliance, David Krantz, presented on Israel’s energy concerns and potential implementation of hydraulic fracturing for shale oil. Currently, Israel sources most of its energy from coal and natural gas. However, as a means of developing a domestic source of energy, corporations are trying to extract shale oil through hydrofracking, which potentially poses great risk to the environment and human health. Learn more and what you can do to help Israel’s environment.
- Pickles are easy to make and delicious to consume. On Thursday afternoon, I learned to make pickles with the Adamah Fellows at Isabella Freedman! What a fun way to end the week!