Sustaining Community – the Jewish Baltimore Way

(By Ben Greenwald: Ben Greenwald is the founding chair of THE ASSOCIATED’s Green Task Force. To learn more about THE ASSOCIATED’s efforts, visit

When our parents, grandparents and the founding leaders of our community first established communal priorities and identified pressing issues to address, it is unlikely that they envisioned a day in which gasoline would cost more than $4.00 a gallon and that in some parts of the world, the scarcity of water would have profound economic and political consequences.
The role of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has remained a constant since its founding 90 years ago: providing a communal safety net, meeting the urgent needs of families and individual and stewarding our community toward a vibrant future for our children and grandchildren.
Throughout these decades, the leaders of THE ASSOCIATED have never rested on their laurels. They have continued to meet the challenges of a changing world and adapt to the global changes occurring around us. In the 21st century, it is abundantly clear that, in addition to caring for people in need, we must also care for our planet.
To that end, in 2007, THE ASSOCIATED launched a Green Task Force to promote environmental preservation throughout its system of agencies and programs. Comprised of professionals and lay leaders, the task force worked with the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network, founded here by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, to identify opportunities to make operations throughout THE ASSOCIATED system ecologically-friendly.
THE ASSOCIATED’s green initiatives, which included conversion to compact fluorescent bulbs, biodegradable paper products and the elimination of plastic water bottles, began at its headquarters on Mount Royal Avenue and eventually spread throughout the system of 14 local agencies. These efforts garnered THE ASSOCIATED the title Green Nonprofit of the Year in the Baltimore Business Journal in 2008.
The initial greening efforts now include several new initiatives which position Baltimore as a model for communities across the country:
The new building housing Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., (CHAI) was designed in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system which evaluates buildings based on energy performance, water efficiency, material consumption, indoor environmental quality and integration with location. (CHAI will receive its LEED Silver certification at See the Green @CHAI on May 17.
The Green Loan Fund, established by a stipend from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation, provides a $100,000 line of credit, of which a portion can be borrowed by any Jewish organization for a greening project at its facility.
Generous grants from The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund of THE ASSOCIATED, The Charles Crane Family Foundation and The Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Awards Committee enabled THE ASSOCIATED to hire a Green Coordinator. Aleeza Oshry is currently helping 35 Jewish institutions join the sustainability movement and incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into their day to day operations.
Throughout its greening process, THE ASSOCIATED has also benefitted from the presence of Kayam Farm, which is based at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center. One of the first Jewish organic farms in the country, Kayam is a living laboratory for our community and a pioneer in Jewish environmental education.
Kayam recently received a two-year, $50,000 grant from the Covenant Foundation to create the nation’s first Jewish Community Gardening Collective, a project that will establish six local community gardens at Jewish institutions which will utilize Jewish garden education to teach their constituencies about practicing a more sustainable Jewish lifestyle.
THE ASSOCIATED is committed to greening our system and helping other organizations follow suit. The practices being implemented make sense on many levels. Jewishly, we must all care about our natural world and make every effort to preserve it. From a business perspective, minimizing waste and lessening our impact on natural resources makes fiscal sense. And, perhaps most importantly, if we are to ensure the strength of our community for decades to come and leave our children and grandchildren a vibrant world, we must do all we can to protect it.

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