Jewish Eco Seminars (JES) engages and educates the Jewish community by revealing the powerful connection between modern Israel, ecological innovation, and Jewish values. It works to deliver dynamic, experiential educational programming to a wide range of Jews in Israel and North America. In particular, JES capitalizes on the ecological awareness of many young Jews as a point of engagement for strengthening Jewish identity and Israel awareness. Since its founding, JES has reached over 2,750 Jews on the dynamic connection between Judaism, ecology, and Israel.
The JES faculty team (full bios available by clicking here) offers direct programming for tourists, group participants, or congregants, as well as professional development training for Jewish educators, rabbis, camp staff, or others. JES offers a range of modules, which combine an Israel nature experience with experiential activities and Jewish teachings. JES educators command a mastery of Jewish teaching, deep familiarity with guiding groups in Israel, and extensive experience in outdoor experiential education. In caves, national parks, forests, solar facilities, hotel banquet halls, and community gardens, they have engaged a growing list of institutions in Israel and the United States, including Birthright, Masa Israel programs, BBYO, and Young Judaea.
JES is a branch of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, a registered non-profit organization in Israel, and is fiscally sponsored in the U.S. by Jewish Jumpstart, a registered 501(c)3. A team of staff and volunteers implement its vision, based in its Jerusalem office. JES launched in June 2010 through the PresenTense Institute in the chair sponsored by The Jim Joseph Foundation. JES emerged out of a successful 2008 pilot project of eight seminars for 140 Jewish educators in the greater San Francisco area. The project was implemented by Canfei Nesharim and the Bureau of Jewish Education, funded by the Gaia Fund, and initiated and managed by the founder of JES.
The Need for What We Do
Studies show that young people, and young Jews among them, are extremely concerned about environmental issues and the future of the planet. In an October 2008 poll of the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of U.S. voters under age 30 said the environment is “very important.” It could be said that ‘green is the passion of American youth,’ including young Jews. Jewish education and tour programs for Jewish groups in Israel have the potential to speak to the most burning issues that excite young Jews and the most pressing issues facing humanity.
Jewish education and programs in Israel have yet to capitalize on this core concern as a key engagement point for young Jews. In particular, the link between Israel and the environment has been under-emphasized. In an age where being Jewish is a choice, Jewish education often remains dissonant with the world we are a part of and uninspiring to many young Jews. Weak affiliation and disconnection from the Jewish people can follow suit.