Jewish Identity Subscribe

A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on jewish identity.


Blogs

Jewish Environmentalism or Jewish Ecology?

As a member of the self described ‘Jewish environmental movement’, I find it necessary from time to time to ask myself what it means to be a Jewish environmentalist. Having covered that in my last blog post, I want to ask a follow up question. As Jewish environmentalists, are we operating ecologically? Do our organizations, institutions, and members observe, interact with, and learn from the multivalent relational systems present in the world? If we examine the biblical narrative of Abraham, it is clear that a careful, considered questioning of relatio...

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Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment

Core teachings on 18 topics linking Torah and the environment were released between Tu b'Shevat 5772 and Tu b'Shevat 5773 as part of Jewcology's Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment, in partnership with Canfei Nesharim and a host of other organizations who shared materials across the Jewish community. The materials were shared at least 145 times on the web, in at least 99 social media postings, and reached over 51,000 people during the course of the year, as part of a Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment. The materials comprise the most comprehensive set of ...

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Olives — the fruit of light and metaphor

As today is the first day of Chanukah, I think it a fitting time to reflect on the virtues of olives and olive oil; their benefits, and some of their hidden meanings. The story of Chanukah is the age-old struggle of the Jewish people to remain Jewish in a non-Jewish world. According to the Talmudic legend, when the Hasmoneans recaptured and cleansed the Temple following their victory over the Syrians, they were able to find only a single vessel of oil sufficient for one day's lighting of the Menorah. But, as the story goes, a miracle occurred, and it ...

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The Everyday Greening of Teshuvah

Dear Friends, I’d like to open a kettle of worms. To reveal the concealed. Though quite honestly, I’m feeling a little guilty about sharing it. I’d like to dig into the anguish and sometimes near crushing feelings that writing about tremendous mountains of electronic waste stir up (see my past blog here). Living in America in the new millennium, I’m aware that even the most “virtuous” of green paths cannot escape deep impacts and repercussions. After all, the problems are so large, and my everyday life is intimately ...

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What is Jewish Environmentalism?

When I try and answer the above question, I find myself dizzy with axioms and assumptions. This intellectual limbo is at time frustrating, however it is also liberating. Whereas I am without a definitive answer, I am free to entertain the endless possibilities of the question. There are a myriad of ways to practice Judaism – orthodox, conservative, reform, reconstructionist, renewal to name just a few. Environmentalism is similarly diverse. Within the environmental movement there are branches focused on conservation, preservation, restoration, sustainable develo...

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“Simple Actions for Jews to Help Green the Planet”

WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF JEWS TO SAVE OUR PLANET? Thousands of years ago our ancestors lived with a keen awareness of their dependence on the natural systems that support life. Through their daily interactions with soil, water, and air, they developed a great respect for the Earth and sensed the presence of the Divine within all of Creation. Although many Jews today have lost this connection, our ancient relationship with nature is nevertheless reflected in Jewish law, in our prayers, in the celebration of our holidays, and in the core values of our tradition...

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Here I Am: Responding to the Call in Creation

Some years ago I was leading an interfaith environmental spirituality retreat near Seattle. My co-leader and meditation teacher, Kurt Hoelting, asked us to do a “walking meditation” where we would mindfully walk. This meant that while we were walking (and we were not to try to direct where we were walking) we tried to be mindful of each step, focusing on the place where we put our foot down and trying to be in the present moment of each step. In practice, this kind of walking is much slower than regular walking but is wonderful to focus the mind on a sense ...

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The Sacred Trees of Betar

Dear Friends, I love how stories contain so much more than just what they are “about”. Like seeds from an ancient world, they have the ability to surprise and grow in unpredictable ways. Check out this obscure story from the Talmud (Gittin 55a, from Ein Yaakov, 1999 English translation): “Because of a (broken wheel) from a carriage, Betar was destroyed. [How did that happen?] It was the custom in Betar that when a boy was born the parents would plant a cedar tree, and when a girl was born they planted a pine tree. When they got married the ...

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This Ecofeminist Doula’s favorite Jewish practice? Mikveh!

There are so many reasons to love the mikveh (Jewish ritual bath). My love for mikveh inspired me to keep kosher, observe the Jewish Sabbath, and cover my hair as a married woman. Here are a few of my personal favorite things about the mikveh: 1. Immersing into the Earth’s waters Mikveh water must meet certain requirements of being naturally existing, as from a natural body of water or harvest from the rain. Any large enough body of naturally occurring water can be a mikveh. The ocean is the largest mikveh in the world. When a woman immerses ...

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What’s this Rosh HaShanah thang?

Dear chevra, When the Talmud takes up Hanukkah, it begins, “Mah zot Hanukkah, What’s this Hanukkah, anyway?” The ancient Rabbis did not like its military overtones. But they took great delight in Rosh Hashanah. It’s more than a “new year”: “Rosh” means “head” or top,” but “shanah” is from a root that means both “change” and “repetition.” Only makes sense if you think of a spiral, where a new turning grows from an older reality. Transformation. We ...

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Clean Earth to Till: An Environmental Vision of Redemption

The concept of Tikkun ‘Olam (the repair or healing of the world) in a contemporary form has been extensively used in Jewish social justice ethics over the last 50 years. In this iteration of Tikkun ‘Olam, there is a high degree of human freewill, instead of divine intervention, as the chief means by which the world will be perfected. But what do Jewish environmentalists imply when they use Tikkun ‘Olam? What kind of Jewish environmental perfection are we seeking? This is an important question because even if we are seeing the repair or perfection of ...

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Radical Judaism Book Review

Shalom, I’d like to dedicate my first Jewcology blog to Rabbi Arthur Green and his latest book, Radical Judaism. I believe this an extremely valuable and important book as we head into the next centuries of Jewish life. What do you think? What books would you recommend? I look forward to the conversation. David Arfa, Maggid (Mah-geed; Storyteller)/ Environmental Educator Radical Judaism is written for all of us who are exploring fresh relationships between mind, forest, earth, cosmos and religious life. It is not a how-to ...

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I am not an Environmentalist

My name is Noam Dolgin. I am environmental educator, activist, organizer, advocate, campaigner, crusader, agitator, professional, and I aspire to someday play the role of envrio-guru. But I am not an environmentalist! I do not ascribe to a ‘distinct doctrine’ known as environmentalism. It is not my ‘belief’ that I exist due my relationship with the Earth, I know it to be true. The fact is, each of us breaths eats and drinks from the Earth. We utilize Earth’s minerals, fossil fuels, and land in every moment. Our carbon footprint, our ...

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The Renewal of Jewish Life in Germany

This past week I had the pleasure of being an invited presenter at Limmud Germany, which took place about 1 hour East of Berlin at a former East Germany workers retreat. Being one of 500 German Jews in attendance, (the rest actually live in Germany; I just carry the passport) was an amazing and eye opening experience, and since the end of the conference, I have not been able to get the song ‘Am Israel Chai’(The Jewish people live) out of my head, and I have always hated this song. For most Jews in Israel or North America, Germany represents death and ...

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A Sustainable Jewish Nation

This week we celebrated Lag B’Omer, the Jewish “bonfire” holiday. Many of my environmentalist friends oppose Lag B’Omer celebrations due to the heavy air pollution caused by the large and numerous bonfires. Yet I actually like this holiday, despite its negative environmental impact. I find great value in sitting together under the stars, around the fire, sharing song, food, and conversation. Perhaps it’s the proximity to natural warmth, or maybe it’s the essence of sitting together in a circle…but time after time, when I ...

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A People of Two Lands

The Jewish people were, for much of the last century described as “a people without a land,” but that is not totally accurate. Many would say that in fact that many Jews were and continue to be “a people of two lands.” Even before the founding of the modern State of Israel, Jews around the world found themselves with torn allegiances. As Diaspora Jews we have always found ourselves with emotional, spiritual and historic ties to the land of Israel, while simultaneously possessing physical, economic, and societal ties to our resident countries ...

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Generation of Change: How Leaders in their 20s and 30s are Reshaping American Jewish Life

In September 2010, the Avi Chai Foundation put out a report “Generation of Change: How Leaders in their 20s and 30s are Reshaping American Jewish Life.” The report elicited responses from 4,466 Jewish leaders of all ages, myself included, and after thorough analysis of the data came up with a range of interesting results that I believe relate directly to our work as Jewcologists. The survey divided respondents into a number of categories, based on 2 main factors. Establishment vs Non-establishment Jewish leadership, and Young (20s& 30s) vs Older. ...

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Our Leaders Today: Interview with Lee Wallach of Faith2Green

Jewcology’s “Our Leaders Today,” is a monthly colum interviewing environmental leaders and activists in Jewish communities near and far. Through personal stories, the columnm, like Jewcology.com, serves not only to generate exposure for important initiatives, but in helping you and I reflect, re-invest, and connect our own efforts, values and goals among our communities. As both a business leader and non-profit professional Lee H. Wallach is active in his community. He is a founding board member and President of the Coalition on the ...

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The Inspiration of Engaging Judaism

As a Jewish environmental educator, people often ask me if my work more Jewish or more environmental. I usually refuse to answer the question in the simplistic form in which it’s asked, and instead offer an answer about the complete interconnectedness of the material... But, today, just for you, Jewcology readers, I will answer the original question with a little secret. While at my core, the cause I am working toward is environmental sustainability, the work is primarily Jewish education. Nature, ecology, environmental responsibility, are all tools to ...

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Chochma & Bina, Wisdom & Understanding

This week my wife and I are on Hornby Island, on the coast of beautiful British Columbia. It’s here, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean that I feel most in awe of the natural world and all its creatures. A walk on the beach is a lesson in nature’s complexity. Whitecaps give way to waves churning onto the shore, where winter storms have deposited a year’s worth of driftwood and sea weed. Seals and sea lions maintain an ongoing truce as they patrol their respective aquatic territories for fish, and eagles soar and dive against a ever-changing ...

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