In the days before Passover, Jews around the world traditionally spend time cleaning and checking our homes for “chametz” – leavened foods forbidden during the holiday. It is also traditionally a time for soul searching, for clearing out old “stuff” and ways of doing things. During this season of renewal, we at Teva Ivri are finding ways to check not only our homes but also our “houses of prayer.”
Along with the Council for a Beautiful Israeland Green Now, Teva Ivri has just announced the first “Greenest Synagogue Contest” ever held in Israel. By launching the contest during the pre-Passover season, we encourage Jews throughout Israel to examine our houses of prayer – synagogues – to see if they are conducting themselves with a sense of communal responsibility and a sense of protecting G-d’s world.
Although greening synagogues has become a popular way for Jewish communities in the United States and Europe to engage in environmental action, this is the first campaign of its kind in Israel. The contest aims to raise Israelis’ awareness about the links between Judaism and the environment and to encourage concrete change in Jewish institutions. Teva Ivri will provide information and guidance to synagogues starting out on the path to sustainability. Over the course of several months, participating synagogues will be evaluated based on their actualization of environmental and social justice values.
So what makes a synagogue green?
A green synagogue strives to:
- conserve resources in its activities and in the maintenance of its building.
- develop an inviting outdoor space for secure play and inspiring learning.
- be accessible to people with disabilities.
- engage in study of social-environmental issues, in theory and in practice.
- serve as a model of how humans take responsibility for G-d’s Creation.
As deputy director of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, Weitzman Mashiach, expresses:
“A synagogue is a focal point of life for all of us, whether it is daily, on Jewish holidays, or for Jewish life cycle events. In some communities, especially in smaller Israeli villages, it is the center of all communal experience. In galvanizing communities to green their synagogues, we are emphasizing that the institution that has guided the Jewish people for over 2000 years can be relevant to our efforts toward environmental protection and better quality of life.”
The contest has generated interest from a number of prominent religious leaders and educators in Israel. HaRav Yisrael Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Chief Rabbi of Israel, will preside over the evaluation committee. The co-chair of the committee will be Professor Zechariah Madar, the head scientist of the Ministry of Education. The Association of Religious Councils in Israel will call upon religious councils throughout the country to actively recruit synagogues for the competition.
How can you get involved?
Teva Ivri is happy to provide guidance to any community in Israel looking to “go green.” We also invite Jewish communities from abroad to support their Israeli counterparts as they take on more environmental responsibility.
For more information on how to integrate sustainability values into your synagogue, or to share your synagogue’s “greening” experience, contact email@example.com.
Contest winners will be announced in October 2012 during Teva Ivri’s annual Shabbat Noach (Sustainability Shabbat) celebrations.