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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!
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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.
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.
I’m not trying to save the world right now.
The Jewish holiday of Purim is a great time to add an eco-twist to your Jewish practice. The holiday includes sending gifts of food to friends , creating costumes, giving charity to the poor, and preparing the festive Purim meal. In all of these celebrations, there are many opportunities to conserve precious resources and share environmental education messages with your friends and neighbors.
It’s the end of another Tu b’Shevat season, a busy time for many of us in the Jewish environmental community. Despite all my activity this year, it actually felt relatively tame in comparison to some prior years, where I often led 2-3 seders per year. This year I only led one seder – with my husband and son at my house on Friday night.
Canfei Nesharim is seeking a spring intern. You can see the posting here: http://jewcology.jobthread.com/job/intern-silver-spring-md-canfei-nesharim-bb3ee9fa9a/.
While the process of acquiring, training and utilizing an intern can be a challenge, I'm a huge fan of interns. Perhaps that's because of the number of successful intern and fellowship experiences I had in my early career. As an unpaid intern I had the opportunity to edit books, as a lowly fellow I had the opportunity to lobby on Capitol Hill, and later on as a paid intern at EPA I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco to work with tribes and to Tblisi, Georgia to work on environmental issues there. So my own intern experiences taught me how much you can learn by giving a bit of yourself.
But I’m also a fan of interns because of the number of amazing young people who have worked with me over the years. I’ve had interns help me build a website, successfully create videos and podcasts, write articles, create perks for fundraisers, and generally keep our shoestring organization running when staff was short. Although we now have a little more staff capacity, I continue to seek interns because they bring new energy and ideas into Canfei Nesharim’s work, and of course, they do a lot of work which makes a difference!
Here are some things that I’ve learned from successfully working with interns over the last ten years.
The interview: When I interview interns, I trust my instincts. I’m more interested in enthusiasm, integrity and solid communications skills than I am in specific knowledge or experience. Specific skills and knowledge can be taught, but the intern I want is the one who is committed to making a difference and willing to put the time and energy into that. Several times I have taken a chance on young people who have not had any relevant experiences, and found them to be the most effective interns in my team.
Starting off right: When I start working with a new intern, my first goal is always to find out their interests and skills. The worst thing is a poor match between an intern’s skills and the projects they are assigned. While sometimes everyone has to do work that they dislike, I feel that interns should only have projects that they are at least theoretically interested in. If they are giving me their time for free, they should receive the experience and opportunity to work on something that helps strengthen their own skills and knowledge. I express this up front with the intern when we start working together, so that they know I have their interests in mind as well as my own. This helps us build a meaningful working partnership.
Professional expectations: Interns don’t always know what they will be able to do and what they won’t. So I also give interns a gradual progression of tasks, as I learn what they are good at and what they enjoy. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to assign an intern a critical and time-sensitive project if they may not succeed at it. However, certain young people will really rise to the occasion with a deadline and a high-stakes situation. As I get to know my interns better, I adjust my expectations and the level of work that they receive. One important learning experience for an intern can be what they don’t like and what they aren’t good at.
Staff management: Interns typically require more management and hand-holding than more experienced staff. For that reason, I’ve learned to set aside specific times for check-in meetings, not just on work but to reflect on the general direction of the internship: what they are learning, what they are enjoying, and what they’d like to do more or less of . Many of my interns have worked from a distance, and this is especially important for them.
Gratitude: The most important thing I’ve learned about working with interns is to thank them. If an intern is going to give me their time and energy for a semester or a summer, they deserve a lot of gratitude. This is true especially if there are producing meaningful and helpful work! The most important way to thank an intern, of course, is in the reference that they receive at the end of the experience. If they have done good work, I’m fully expressive about that in my reference. Gaining a meaningful reference is one of the most important things an intern can get out of an experience, and I take that responsibility as seriously as I’d like them to take the internship.
By giving interns positive experiences, I’ve build a network of young people who have helped Canfei Nesharim and Jewcology thrive over the years. These young people are likely to refer others to our work and, hopefully, speak well of us in their communities. I consider internships incredibly important to a successful movement and I’m glad that the Jewish environmental movement offers so many of these types of opportunities!
To browse open Jewish environmental job opportunities, visit jewcology.jobthread.com. To apply for Canfei Nesharim’s spring internship, see http://jewcology.jobthread.com/job/intern-silver-spring-md-canfei-nesharim-bb3ee9fa9a/!
Yesterday I had the opportunity to update my personal CV, something I hadn’t done in quite a few years. There really was no excuse for not having done this. Everyone says you are supposed to do it regularly, and in fact there have been several times in the last couple of years when people have asked for my CV just as a way to learn about me. But with my relatively steady and hectic pace of life, I hadn’t made time for it. And it’s not like I was looking for a job! In fact, with my multiple roles , sometimes it feels like I have too many jobs rather than too few.
Dear Jewcology community,
So, tomorrow is my birthday. I'm turning 36! I've been having a lot of trepidation about this. A lot of my identity has been tied up in being a "young Jewish leader." Several years ago I was chosen as one of the New York Jewish Week's "36 under 36." So, it's a little scary for me to be "not under 36" anymore. I'm coming to the end of my generational box.
In honor of this significant birthday -- my transition to 36 -- I'm asking my friends and family to help me raise funds for Jewcology.
In the midst of Superstorm Sandy, I wrote a blog post entitled "An Open Letter to My Friends Who Are Climate Skeptics." After conversations with several of my friends, I have come to realize that this blog post was not a helpful contribution to the dialogue, and actually may have done more harm than good. I’d like to explain to you why, and what I’ve learned from this experience.
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.
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In the Torah portion of Naso, we learn of the treatment of
the Sotah, a wife who is suspected of adultery. Because her guilt cannot be
proven by witnesses, but her husband suspects her and cannot forgive her
without proof of her innocence, a miraculous test determines her innocence or
guilt. The woman is forced to drink “bitter waters that cause curse”, formed
of water, the dirt of the sanctuary, and the ink of an erased curse. If the
woman is guilty, she will die; if she is innocent, she will be cleared of all
Our world abounds with mistreatment of the earth. From
climate change and ozone layer depletion to urban sprawl and water pollution,
our misuse of resources is stunning. But should we be surprised, when ‘Western’
culture seems so heavily invested in the delusion that personal fulfillment can
come from just one more wide-screen TV or SUV?
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.