This past week, 1516 Jewish Young Adults from across North America descend on Las Vegas for a Jewish conference like no other. Most were focused on gambling, night clubs and meeting other Jews, but a small but dedicated group were there to find other eco-conscious Jews and get connected with the Jewish environmental movement.
Two sessions where held on environmental issues, with more than 60 people attending at least one of the sessions and hundreds visiting the Jewish environmental table and taking information. A good response considering participants had to choose between our topic and topics such as “She’s Wearing a Wedding Dress in her Dating Profile??”, “The Power of Social Media”, “Jews Batting Hunger”, etc. The interest proved once again that while environmental may not be the main topics of interest for 20 and 30 something Jews, it is centrally important to enough to some people that it needs to be present at every Jewish event. Plus, for many the environmental sessions sparked a passion in the participants, many of whom had not attending a Jewish conference before, studied Jewish texts, or heard about the Jewish environmental connection. Participants left these sessions excited to green their home communities and/or join the Jewish environmental movement.
In the first session, “Can Saving the Earth Save Judaism,” Rabbi David Seidenberg and I laid out the hypothesis that the Human-Earth relationship is the central tenet of Judaism and as such our attempts to protect the Earth are central to Judaism’s relevance in the past, present and future. Participants discussed the centrality of Earth in their relationships, and how a focus on environmental ethics can ‘save’ Judaism for them personally and for the Jewish community as a whole.
In the second session, “Forging a New Environmental Path for the Jewish Community,” Rabbi Seidenberg, Sarah Levinson from COEJL and I gave an overview of Jewish environmental ethics, and presented what is happening locally, nationally and internationally on these issues, and how each of us can get involved and make a difference. Through this session, participants were given the tools to get involved in the movement, and I know we will see a number of them appear on Jewcology.com or attend the Teva Seminar as their next step into this community.
While the issues such as dating, music and culture continue to outpace the environment in their appeal to most Jewish young adults. Tribefest proved once again, that for a small dedicated group, this is not just an area of interest, but central to their personal, spiritual and communal expression. I was delighted to be able be attend Tribefest again this year. What a joy to join those young adults on their Jewish journeys.