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Canfei Nesharim, through our Jewcology project, is teaming up with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) to raise funds for our 2014 Year of Policy Engagement on the Environment. Together, we aim to raise $15,000, including a match from the ROI Community, by October 3. Learn more and donate here.
On Sukkot, we remember the Simchat Beit Hashoeva (Celebration of the Water Drawing Ceremony) and on Shemini Atzeret we begin our prayers for rain. Our rabbis and ancestors understood that water is essential for life. Canfei Nesharim encourages communities to focus on appreciating water on Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.
Canfei Nesharim is proud to launch our Year of Jewish Action on the Environment, in partnership with Jewcology!
We are focusing on saving energy and reducing food waste, with practical actions suggested by the Jewish mitzvah of bal tashchit. Actions will be released approximately every two weeks through Tu b'Shevat 5774.
Explore all Actions
Core teachings on 18 topics linking Torah and the environment were released between Tu b'Shevat 5772 and Tu b'Shevat 5773. The materials were shared at least 145 times on the web, in almost 100 social media postings, and reached over 51,000 people during the course of the year.
The materials comprise the most comprehensive set of learning materials on Torah and the environment ever created, and are intended as a resource for the entire Jewish community!
Explore All Available Teachings
Do we know who grows our food? Does it matter?This question was first raised for me five years ago when I was the Campus Rabbi at England’s Cambridge University. Invited to High Table dinner with the professors at one of the colleges, I was surprised to discover that most of the conversation among some of Britain’s leading minds revolved around the food....Read More
Shemot, the Hebrew title of the Book of
Exodus, means “names”, suggesting how significant the issue of identity
will be as the saga of Jewish slavery, redemption and revelation
unfolds. Shemot opens with a list of the names of the Children of Israel
as they came down to Egypt, counting each individual within those
families: “Now all those descended from Jacob were seventy souls, and
Joseph, who was in Egypt.”
You can help us preserve Hashem's resources and create a better world for our children. Support our Work.
Would you like to bring Torah and environment education to your shul or day school? Contact us for more information.
When I was a kid, my parents gave me Chanukah presents each night. I know that many people don't do it that way. They consider it the height of consumerism to give out eight gifts, one every night. But it's how I grew up and it's precious to me.
I'm an only child, and the nights of Chanukah were a special and intimate time with both of my parents. My father would like the Chanukah candles, proud to say the blessing. We would often play dreydl and eat potato latkes. And of course, the presents.
It wasn't so much about what was in the wrapping. Some of the Chanukah presents would be small, inexpensive things like a cute pair of socks or a few dollars. There were a few big presents. They gave me my choice and I'd survey the wrapped packages before choosing my gift for the night.
The presents were wrapped in newspaper. It wasn't so much that my parents were environmentalists. I think that they just felt it was ridiculous to spend money on paper that was just to be ripped into pieces and thrown into the trash. I very much agreed with them, always hating to throw away the beautiful ribbons from other relatives.
So my presents were wrapped in newspaper: the news of the day, and often the Sunday comics. It just seemed this was the obvious way it should be done.
Not so my husband. In his family, you buy wrapping paper from Costco. The idea of wrapping in newspaper is something between silly and profane.
This weekend, we had the conversation. A long-used stash of wrapping paper has run out. We need to wrap presents not just for my son but for our nieces and nephew. He suggested a trip to Costco.
I said, "Why don't we just wrap in newspaper?"
His expression said it all. The slightly wrinkled nose. The surprised eyes. The bemused smile.
Still, it meant one less trip to the store, one less thing to buy. He shrugged.
Things are a little more complicated in my house because unlike when I was growing up, we do not receive a regular daily paper. We get the Washington Jewish Week. It's not shaped like a big tabloid. The pages need to be taped together to be effectively used for presents. And there are no comics.
However, I did it. I wrapped the Chanukah presents in newspaper.
Once the presents were wrapped, I sat and imagined my nieces and nephew confronting these packages. Would they understand that very cool presents hide inside the texty pages of the Washington Jewish Week? Or would they raise their eyebrows like my husband did?
It's too late now. The presents are wrapped. And when we all gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and Chanukah on one special day together, I just hope that they'll remember not to judge a gift by its wrapping.
From June 9 to June 13, I had the great privilege of participating for the third time in the annual ROI Summit, a gathering of 150 young Jewish innovators from around the world. The ROI Summit is the entry point into the ROI community, an ongoing resource for young Jewish innovators through regular gatherings, professional development opportunities and microgrants. The ROI Community includes nearly 1,000 members in 56 countries, and has already distributed over $400,000 in grants to its members.
Below is an excerpt of my diary from my week in Jerusalem with ROI.
DAY 1, SUNDAY
I hope I’m not the oldest person here. As one of 30 returning members, invited to help create bridges between this new group and the existing network, I’ve been grandfathered in, even though I think I’ve crossed the age cutoff. I hope I don’t seem like a grandfather to them!
Opening ceremonies. Justin Korda, director of the ROI Community, encourages us to find people to learn from who are different from us, and to make as many friends as we can. We’re here to build a strong, vibrant network for the Jewish people and for Israel.
After keynote Nancy Lublin , they pass out small shots of peach schnapps to everyone for l’chaim. I’ve never seen peach schnapps being passed to hundreds of people! Against my better judgment, I drink it. Then totally stumble through an icebreaker in which I have to throw a pretend ball from person to person in a small circle of strangers.
Read the rest of my article in the Washington Jewish Week!
Did you know? According to ENERGY STAR , most congregations can cut energy costs by up to 30% by investing strategically in efficient equipment, facility upgrades and maintenance. It's the perfect program for your congregation to join as part of the Year of Action.
On Sunday, I planted my first garden. We planted it in a little corner of our back yard, where we hope the sun will be strong enough and the fence will keep out the deer. It's a garden built on hope.
I’m not a gardener. When I was a kid, my mother would keep plants on her windowsill all year long, and when they were wilting would give them to a co-worker to nurse them back to health over the summer. She would say things like “I don’t have a green thumb,” and my experience showed the same – whenever I tried to take care of a plant it died. But I have stayed away from plants, feeling that they are better off without me.
But the Jewish environmental movement has a way of pulling you in to the special grace of planting. Two weeks ago I had the privilege of planting some beautiful little sprouts while at a meeting at Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Connecticut. Fingers in the rich soil, tiny little plants in my fingers. It was a precious experience.
I kept asking, am I doing this right? Afraid to make a mistake. Hasn’t that been the story of my life! I realized that whenever people garden or farm, they learn as they are doing. They make mistakes. Maybe I’ve avoided plants because I was afraid of failing them, of failing myself.
As with most situations, being afraid to risk failure can keep you from learning anything at all.
My eight year old son is undaunted. He’s spent this year at his Orthodox day school, learning how to plant a garden in his science class. Once he told me that he didn’t learn much in science that day, because “he was working in the garden.” I said, “Weren’t you learning how to plant things and how to make a garden?” He said, “I've already learned that.”
I said, “Well, maybe you were getting the chance to practice.”
Indeed, it was true. When we got to the backyard with our tools and our grass-covered plot of land, he knew better than me what he was doing. Together with my husband, we turned the ground and removed the rocks and weeds, smashing up the hard clumps of soil under his instruction. A few hours, and we had our first little garden – with a few rows of cucumber and green bean seeds planted.
As we continued digging, I heard him saying to himself, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!” He had been trying to get us to plant this garden for several years already.
I’ve warned him that I don’t know what’s going to grow in this garden. Will all of our sprouts be eaten by weeds and/or pests? Will anything come out of the ground at all? We can’t know.
That’s the thing about life. You have to plant without knowing how it’s all going to come up.
My son doesn't seem nearly as worried about this as I am. It's one of the many things that he is teaching me.
So, we made our first effort. Undaunted by the fear of failure, pushing past my desperate need to get it right, we’ve planted. Whatever comes of this garden, we will learn. And we will continue. As I’m learning, that’s life.
During the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot we count the Omer. With its connection to the land, this is also a great time to increase our connection with and commitment to the planet. Here's how it works.
Several years ago, Canfei Nesharim created materials to help us make the connection to the environment during the period of counting the Omer. These resources are still fully appropriate for learning today! I encourage you to take a look at the materials and use them during this special time of the Jewish year!
Last year, I got involved in a state level legislative campaign promoting wind power in Maryland. Working with our local Interfaith Power and Light, I had the opportunity to speak in support of this bill at a town hall meeting on November 3, 2011. My local Silver Spring Sustainability Circle also got involved, including sending a Tu b’Shevat card to our representative. Our efforts were successful in getting the bill passed through the Maryland House of Delegates last year, but the session ended without it becoming law.