Greening the Reform movement

Greening the Reform movement

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange and Temple Shalom in Succasunna are among the eight New Jersey congregations selected for the new Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program, launched on June 3 by the Union for Reform Judaism and interfaith environmental leader GreenFaith.

Through the two-year GreenFaith Certification Program, houses of worship will undertake environmentally themed education and worship and environmental justice programming and advocacy. Upon completion, the synagogues will become certified GreenFaith Sanctuaries. The URJ and GreenFaith are underwriting the cost of congregational participation.

“I’m really grateful for GreenFaith for giving us the opportunity to do this,” said Sharey Tefilo-Israel’s Rabbi Daniel Cohen, who noted that members Phil and Sue Hoch helped spearhead the effort. “It really dovetails with what we were already doing as a congregation quite well,” added Cohen, who delivered a talk on Jewish environmentalism a couple of years ago during the High Holy Days. “Environmentalism is a Jewish value, and Judaism is how we interact and relate to each other in the world.”

The synagogue, which now has a Green Team, has already begun installing more energy-efficient fixtures in the building, using nontoxic supplies, and drastically reducing the use of paper.

Sharey Tefilo-Israel will also implement environmental education in its religious school and conduct an audit of the building.

At Temple Shalom, which has long had a commitment to social action, the project will involve “every single facet of the congregation,” said Rabbi David Levy. “This isn’t simply about doing it for ourselves,” he said, but for “our communities, our movement, our world.”

The temple will get involved in numerous activities, including text study of environmental issues in its religious school and life-long learning program and involvement in “action and advocacy” efforts with interfaith groups and elected representatives. The program also dovetails with the temple’s ongoing renovation project, which will make the building more energy- and cost-efficient.

“When you take care of the world, you take care of yourself as well,” Levy said.

GreenFaith executive director the Rev. Fletcher Harper said, “GreenFaith is excited to partner with the Union for Reform Judaism and its Religious Action Center to invest in this pilot effort…. We look forward to welcoming these eight outstanding congregations into the certification program’s interfaith community.”

Mark Pelavin, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, said he is “thrilled to partner with GreenFaith to launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot.”

The other participating congregations are Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, Temple Emanu-El in Edison, Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, and Temple Sinai in Tenafly.

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