By Rabbi Everett Gendler
Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity. Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.
Its symbolic appropriateness is evident. Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity. We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation. People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me: Why only a symbol? Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple? The question was not easily answered. Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain. Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…