Tag Archives: Environment
Teva Seminar participants

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: Read more…

Reform CA Wander No More

Reform CA: Victory for Affordable Homes and the Environment

The following statement was released today by Reform California:

As leaders of Reform CA, an initiative of the California Reform Jewish Movement for justice, we are overjoyed by the bold decision of our state leadership to invest significant and long-term cap-and-trade funding into the building of affordable homes near transit in California.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Co-Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Just Congregations and Lead Organizer of Reform CA, stated:

“In the book of Genesis, the protection of the earth is placed in our hands.  And as a Jewish people whose central narrative is that of wandering without a place to call home, we have a fundamental responsibility to address the suffering that comes when one who seeks shelter can find none.  It is with this dual responsibility in mind that we have come together on this issue as Reform Jews from every corner of California to turn our faith into action.”

Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, a resident of Sacramento and Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, added:

“Building these homes will help reduce the number of miles traveled by cars on our state’s roads and highways by over one hundred million miles each year. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will be significant, as will be the impact on the lives of so many of California’s hard working families who struggle to afford their rent or mortgage.”

To campaign for this decision, Reform CA leaders traveled to Sacramento to meet with over 30 legislators and the Governor’s office. Local clergy and lay leaders also campaigned in their home districts and sent over 700 letters to Assembly Members and Senators. In addition, 55 California rabbis and cantors signed a petition to Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. Dozens of Reform rabbis preached about this issue from their pulpits, making spiritual and moral calls to address California’s urgent need for affordable homes and a healthy environment.

We applaud the courageous leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, as well as our state legislature, including Senate President Pro Tempore Elect Kevin de León.  Today is a great day for California — and for our children, our grandchildren, and the many generations that will follow as we take another step closer to the California of our dreams.

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Public Health and the Carbon Pollution Rule

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ruleregulating emissions from coal-fired power plants. Of course, in the long-term this key regulation will have a significant impact on mitigating climate change. But in the shorter-term, it will also affect another critically important issue: human health. Read more…

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EPA Regulations: What They Mean for Our Future

The rule on carbon emissions is out. If you have followed climate news over the last week or so, there is no doubt you have seen reports of the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan. The proposed plan would set emissions limits for existing electric power plants, which account for about 40 percent of our current CO2 emissions in the United States.
But what will the rule actually do? And why should we care?

Read more…

Reform CA at Lobby Day 2014

Reform CA Lobby Day: Do Your Congregations Build Affordable Housing?

By Rabbi Stephanie Kolin

On Monday, June 2, 2014, nearly 30 Reform CA leaders from all across California, descended on the Capitol building in Sacramento. We started our morning at Congregation B’nai Israel for breakfast, lobbying training, and a briefing by coalition leader Shamus Roller, Executive Director of Sacramento Housing Alliance. After our minds, hearts, and bellies were full, we jumped into our cars and headed to the Capitol. Rabbi Jocee Hudson of Temple Israel of Hollywood led us in a powerful prayer and kavvanah on the steps of the Capitol, as we held a tallit, our ritual shelter, above our heads.

Our first meeting was as a group, with Senate President Pro Tempore, Darrell Steinberg. Steinberg, a member of congregation B’nai Israel, noted our deeply impactful work on the TRUST Act last year, and gave us focus for the long day ahead. We shared our gratitude with him for creating the opportunity for using Cap and Trade funding for building affordable homes near transit and then continued on our day.

Throughout Lobby Day, Reform California leaders met with over 25 of our legislators, including Senate Pro Tem Steinberg, the office of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the office of Pro Tempore Elect Kevin De Leon, and Governor Brown’s staff members who cover environmental and housing issues. Reform CA leaders asked hard questions, shared why as Jews we are committed to the preservation of our planet as well as those who inhabit it, and urged our state leadership to allocate significant Cap and Trade funds for building affordable housing near transit, not just for this year’s funds, but for the long term.

One of the many stories that emerged from this day encapsulates the power of raising a faith voice in the public square.

The team that met with Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas, Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Rabbi Dara Frimmer, and Rabbi Tamara Eskenazi, reported back that they had a wonderful meeting with him in which they had a lively exchange about Cap and Trade funding, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and building affordable homes near transit. The beginning of the meeting, however, was quite remarkable. After they explained why they were there, Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas asked them: “So, do your congregations build affordable homes or are you involved in construction or development?”

They answered (somewhat confused): “No.” So he inquired about what they were doing there if they were not positioned to gain from the building of these homes. And they told him that they were there because they are Jews. They explained that we are charged with caring for the earth and for the people who inhabit it. They care about people who are suffering and struggling, they shared. Rabbi Eskenazi said: “We have an interest in living in a California that is just and compassionate for all people.” They shared that they were there because it is our job to repair what is broken in our world.

The members of that team reported back to the Lobby Day participants that Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas nodded his head in understanding and then the conversation began in earnest! We will learn again and again that our voice, a moral faith voice, has a different kind of impact in Sacramento. We are not a special interest lobby group – we speak for what is just and right for the most vulnerable in California, for our own families, and for our neighbors across lines of race, class, and faith. We have serious interests in living in an economically and environmentally just state that allows all of its citizens to thrive and grow.

When we take action in the public square, when we enact justice through the lens of Torah, we play a sacred role in creating the California that we dream of.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin is the Co-Director of Just Congregations. She is the lead organizer of Reform California, a joint campaign of the Peace and Justice Committee of the CCAR, the Religious Action Center, and the URJ’s Just Congregations. You can join the email list and learn more about the upcoming housing campaign at rac.org/reformca  

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Reform Jewish Movement Responds to Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a new proposal to set the first ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants in our nation’s history. Last June, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan aimed at addressing the devastation of climate change. Under that plan, President Obama has called on the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants.

Carbon emissions are leading contributors to climate change and air pollution, and power plants are our nation’s largest stationary source of carbon pollution. By the administration’s estimate, today’s proposed standards, when implemented, will curb carbon pollution from the power sector by 30% by the year 2030, significantly reducing detrimental impacts to the environment and human health.

In response to today’s proposal, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the RAC, issued a statement in support of the new carbon pollution standards, saying: Read more…

goats in field

Reflecting on the Jewish Environmental Movement

This piece was originally published on the Jew & the Carrot on May 29, 2014 

Smash! Squeeze! Study! These were three tasks to choose from: the smashers would be taking hammers or use their fists to crush the apples, the squeezers would be sweeping the apple chunks into the wooden juicer to press, and the studiers would be reading and discussing Jewish texts related to apples, eating and the sabbatical year, Shmita. Everyone got a chance to perform each of the tasks and at the end of the activity, we sipped the delicious, fresh, homemade apple juice.

I participated in this apple juice making program in October at the Green Hevra council meeting. At the time, I had no idea what to expect from the retreat. I knew that I was attending the meeting with leaders of different Jewish environmental organizations throughout North America and I knew we would be collaborating, sharing ideas, and presenting unique but complementary perspectives on Judaism and environmental stewardship. Read more…

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Attend the Teva Seminar on Jewish Environmentalism!

Are you interested in heightening your synagogue’s efforts in greening and environmentalism? Do you want to learn more and acquire the necessary skills and tools to educate your congregation about recycling, conserving energy and gardening? Mark your calendar and register for…

The Teva Seminar on Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education
June 9-13 at the
Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

The Teva Seminar is the premier annual professional development opportunity in the field of JOFEE: Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education. Now in its 20th year, this four-day, hands-on training program is designed for educators, camp counselors, community leaders, and anyone who is seeking training in the emerging field of Jewish experiential, environmental education. Participation in the Teva Seminar will help you enhance your work in this field, whether you are a looking to build a garden and gardening curriculum in your congregation or heightened your community’s environmental advocacy efforts. Read more…

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