June 29th, 2017 | 5th of Tamuz, 5777
Last year, from the bimah at Greenburgh Hebrew Center, a shul outside NYC, there was a reminder to attend the annual meeting and vote to approve the budget. I overheard the whispers of two men discussing the budget: “We are saving money on our electric bill…” “Really?” “We actually have solar panels on our roof…” I couldn’t help but smile.
In 2013, with help from Hazon, Rabbi Barry Kenter led Greenburgh Hebrew Center to install 200 solar panels on its roof. The panels meet more than half of GHC’s annual electricity demand, reducing the congregation’s electricity bill by more than $7,000 per year.
Fast forward four years, and the 62 organizations Hazon has partnered with on greening in the NY area are now estimated to save at least $8.3 million over the next 10 years. Leading these reductions are solar energy projects like GHC’s, or the 103 kW solar PV installation at the JCC of Staten Island, which saves an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to planting 63 acres of trees.
The Hazon Seal of Sustainability is a national effort to connect environmentalism and Jewish values and to put sustainability at the forefront of organizational life. The Seal uses education, action, and advocacy to offer a pathway to make change. In the process, it opens up new forms of Jewish engagement. It provides the opportunity for the Jewish community to be leaders in this area.
Here are just some of the projects:
- B’nai Jeshurun (New York, NY) and Adat Shalom (Farmington Hills, MI) switched their lightbulbs to ultra-efficient LEDs, drastically reducing their climate-harming carbon emissions.
- Hannah Senesh Community Day School in New York and Hillel Day School in Michigan built educational gardens and outdoor classrooms, which they have woven into their curricula, blending Jewish sources on the environment with hands-on work in the soil.
- Last year, after Sukkot, over one ton of leftover organic material – skach, lulavs, and etrogs – were diverted from a landfill and composted by Jewish organizations on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
- Ramah in the Rockies piloted a Bokashi (fermented) composting system, allowing them to compost 2000 gallons of waste each summer.
- Colorado State University became the first-ever Hillel in the US with a chicken coop on campus.
- The board of Emanuel Synagogue in Connecticut voted to ban styrofoam altogether; another – Romemu, in Manhattan – experimented with using real plates and silverware, which congregants take turns washing. Bet Am Shalom took its food scraps to a backyard chicken farmer.
The stories go on. And we are just getting started.
More than three dozen organizations have joined the Hazon Seal of Sustainability so far, and we invite you and your institution to join, too.
Just last week, blistering, unusually hot temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere wreaked havoc – with flights grounded in the US Southwest and pavement literally melting in England. Scientists estimate that it’s been 115,000 years since earth’s average temperature was this high. Now is the time to step up.
Help us get more organizations started on the path to sustainability; let’s make the Jewish community a beacon of sustainability for ourselves, for other faith communities, and for the world. Can each of our synagogues proudly boast a garden or compost or solar panels? Together, can the Jewish community meet the Paris Climate goals? Could we even – someday – become the first carbon neutral religious community in America?
To get there, we need your help. In addition to signing up to join the Seal of Sustainability, your monthly gift of $10, $18, $36 – or an amount that works for you – will make a significant impact on our ability to do this work, and protect our planet as Jews and as human beings. Your support is needed now more than ever. Click here to become a monthly sustainer.
Thank you for joining us in this important work,
PS – If your monthly gift is new or increased, it will be matched dollar for dollar. That is real impact.
PPS – Last week, we encouraged you to sign an open letter to leaders in the American Jewish community in response to our government’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords. We hope that you will join with the more than 130 organizational leaders that have signed.