Just before Earth Day, Congregation Adath Shalom in Morris Plains became the first congregation in the country to receive the Greenfaith Energy Shield on April 21.
Awarded by the Highland Park-based Greenfaith, an interfaith conservation group, the shield marks the completion of a process of integrating energy conservation and education into the synagogue community that took about one year.
In order to earn the shield, the Conservative synagogue had to complete four discrete tasks: integrate energy topics into worship services; relate Jewish teachings about energy to children, teens, and adults; analyze facility energy usage and institute measures to reduce that usage; and encourage congregants to implement energy-saving steps at home.
“The average house of worship causes the greatest impact on the world through its energy usage. It’s the second-highest fixed cost after personnel,” Adath Shalom Green Team chair Bill Friedman told the congregation at a ceremony on April 21, the day before Earth Day, in the synagogue sanctuary. “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved today and I look forward to keeping our energy conservation and sustainability efforts front and center with everything we do at the synagogue.”
Rabbi Larry Troster, Greenfaith’s rabbinic scholar-in-residence, gave the keynote address at the ceremony, attended by religious school students, about 25 congregants, Mayor James Barberio of Parsippany, and Deputy Mayor Jim Loveys of Randolph.
“We believe religious communities can be great engines of social progress and change,” Troster said. “You are the leading edge; you are the community we will point to to say, ‘They’ve done it.’”
Adath Shalom served as the pilot community for the new shield. The first full cohort of 10 Conservative synagogues has just been accepted to begin the program, and they are expected to complete its requirements by Hanukka.
The shield program was developed in partnership with Judaism’s Conservative movement as an intermediate step for congregations that are serious about the environment and sustainability but cannot commit to the more rigorous two-year certification process that Greenfaith launched four years ago. (Several area synagogues have received that certification.) Eventually, Greenfaith expects to open the new initiative to all houses of worship, according to Stacey Kennealy, director of Greenfaith’s certification and sustainability program.
“We have seen congregations at varying levels,” she said in a phone conversation. “Some are able to commit to the two-year process, but others want to commit but need a more limited scope. Our goal is to help congregations no matter where they are on the spectrum.”
The energy shield is the first in what Greenfaith envisions as a series of “merit badge”-type initiatives. Looking ahead, Greenfaith has nearly completed materials for a water shield; other areas under consideration are food, recycling, and cleaning.