News Articles about Jewish Eco Seminars
- Eco Seminars in Israel
By Michele Chabin and published in the spring, 2011 issue of Na’amat Woman Magazine
- Jewish Environmental Education Takes Root in the Bay Area
The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, May 16, 2008 by Stacey Palevsky
- Jewish Eco Seminars’ Approach
Published in Makom blog
- Tikkun Olam and Jewish Environmental Education
Published in the journal Jewish Educational Leadership
- Seeking The Ecological Market At Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem
By Miriam Kresh in Food & Health
1) Eco Seminars in Israel
Travelers looking for a half- or full day encounter with Israeli environmental issues can check out Jewish Eco Seminars, which offers a range of tours in both urban areas and rural settings.
One Jewish Eco Seminars tour takes visitors to one of the 10 Jerusalem elementary schools where students grow their own food. Visitors work alongside the elementary or middle-school kids as they plant and harvest, and briefly study Jewish sources that deal with agriculture.The organization’s full-day tour “An Ecological Lens on Modern Israel” combines a scenic hike through Ein Sataf, less than a half hour’s drive from Jerusalem with experiential and text learning. In addition to giving visitors the opportunity to touch, smell and occasionally taste along the trail, the tour underscores just how limited and vulnerable Israel’s water sources really are, and presents examples of green technology to fight the problem. Another tour takes visitors to an organic farm where they learn about the emergence of organic farming in the past 15 years and study learn how Jewish teachings and values are relevant to modern-day farming.
Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Jewish Eco Seminars’ young founder, took me on a private tour of the Mahane Yehuda market. It was a cold and rainy winter day and I met Neril at the Natural Choice Bakery on Agrippas Street, just behind the shuk, where I discovered healthy snacks like gluten-free, sugar-free carob brownies. I had been to the shuk hundreds of times but had never viewed it through an environmental lens. Walking through the main section of the market, where vendors were hawking an eye-popping assortment of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, hand-dipped chocolates, to name a few, Neril, who has a degree in environmental issues, explained how the food Israel imports and exports contributes to the country’s carbon footprint.
The good news, Neril said, “is that the food that is produced in Israel is very, very fresh because it’s grown relatively locally and doesn’t have to travel long distances.” The bad news : “Israel imports many things,” he said, pointing out the imported wines and cheeses at a Mahane Yehuda gourmet shop, “and also exports water-guzzling produce that Europeans want but can’t themselves grow in the winter.”
When we stopped every so often, to appreciate the aromal of freshly made kubeh soup and the vendors shouting out the special of the day, Neril began to discuss the many Jewish texts that deal with agriculture, famine and plenty, and how to find a balance.
Gazing around him, at the sheer volume of food all around us, Neril expressed gratitude. “It’s amazing how many varieties of things we have here in Israel.” The challenge, he said is finding a way to feed ourselves and our neighbors without destroying the environment in the process.
2) Jewish Environmental Education Takes Root in the Bay Area
Late last month, a group of Jewish educators sat in a breezy redwood grove in Golden Gate Park and discussed how to harvest wood from trees in a sustainable way. Much of their discussion centered on a midrash they had just studied: a Torah commentary that was essentially about — believe it or not — that exact topic. Yes, even thousands of years ago, Jacob considered the size of his environmental footprint by planting and tending to acacia trees so that future generations would have the resources to build a sanctuary.
This lesson is one of dozens assembled by the nonprofit Canfei Nesharim… Soon, children and teens around the Bay Area will be introduced to this and many other environmental lessons of Judaism thanks to a new partnership between Canfei Nesharim (“wings of eagles”) and the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education.
“Kids are looking for more than Bible stories,” educator Corinne Taylor-Cyngiser said. “They’re wondering: How does this matter to me?”
Taylor-Cyngiser was one of the people discussing sustainable forestry April 29 in Golden Gate Park, just a two-block walk from the BJE office on 14th Avenue and Balboa Street. She is the Bay Area regional director for Rosh Hodesh, a program for teenage girls…“It’s wonderful to make teens understand that Judaism has something to say about the things they care about,” she said.
That’s exactly what staff at Canfei Nesharim want to hear, said Toby Rubin, associate director of community and teen initiatives at the BJE. Canfei Nesharim “is unique in that it’s anchored in our tradition and provides a foundation for educators to bring it into their classrooms,” Rubin said.
“They’re filling a huge gap in the Jewish world.”
Canfei Nesharim was founded five years ago in New York. Its environmental curriculum of 54 Torah commentaries provides teaching resources to educators in day schools, synagogues and JCCs — and even to individuals who simply want to host an environmental-themed Shabbat dinner for friends and families.
“Perhaps more than any other, the Bay Area Jewish community is ready to access the wisdom of the Jewish tradition regarding the environment,” said Jonathan Neril, project manager for Canfei Nesharim.
Neril grew up in Lafayette, studied at Stanford University and currently lives in Israel. In late April, he led two workshops at the BJE — and in nearby Golden Gate Park — attracting a variety of Jews: educators, scientists, environmentalists, gardeners and rabbis.
During both workshops, participants engaged in chevrutah study, breaking up into small groups to discuss how Jacob planted acacia trees, and how those trees sang when they were eventually cut down and turned into planks for a sanctuary. Participants agreed the trees sang because they were used for their intended purpose, and that Jacob’s grandchildren took only what they needed, no more. Quite the contrast to the way most Americans live today, group members pointed out.
“When God created the world, he created a song for all of creation,” Neril said. “Would that aluminum or rubber sing with the way I’m using it? Am I using it to its fullest potential? Is there a holy purpose?” Today, most of us don’t have any idea how our consumer goods are produced, Neril added. “That gap is the source of a lot of environmental abuse,” he said. “A solution to environmental issues will have to involve bridging that gap.”
Canfei Nesharim and the BJE believe that the Torah — and educators’ ability to incorporate it into their teaching — can build that bridge.
3) Jewish Eco Seminars’ Approach
Understanding and Protecting the Land
How often have you walked through the streets of an Israeli city and noticed trash on the ground? Or heard about the shrinking water in the Sea of Galilee, or Dead Sea? Or met an Israeli who didn’t know what composting is? Probably too many times. Unfortunately, many Israelis have a ways to go when it comes to environmental awareness.
Environmentalism: A Jewish Issue?
Many Jewish texts point toward an environmentalist ethic. We have the value of “Bal Tashchit” – not wasting – from the Talmud; “hilchot schechenim” – not polluting the public sphere, or our neighbors areas; and of course, G-d’s mandate from Genesis to “L’ovdah ul’shomra” – to work and protect the land.
Want to Make a Difference?
For more information, please visit their website! www.jewishecoseminars.com
To arrange for a Jewish Eco Seminar in your institution or community, contact Rabbi Yonatan Neril, founder and director of Jewish Eco Seminars, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 054-723-4973 (Israel-line) or 973-433-3322 (US-line).
Jewish Eco Seminars’ Approach
Jewish Eco Seminars is a Jerusalem-based organization that engages and educates the Jewish community through inspiring seminars on Jewish environmental wisdom. It bolsters Jewish educators’ awareness and knowledge of Jewish environmental teachings and empowers them to teach Israel-focused Jewish environmental programming. In addition, it connects Jewish youth concerned about the planet’s future to Jewish teachings on the subject.
Published in the journal Jewish Educational Leadership. To read the article, click here.
By Miriam Kresh in Food & Health. To read the article, click here.