First National Jewish Sustainability gathering
This past week was a turning point for the American Jewish community. Quietly, without much fanfare, representatives from 17 national Jewish organizations gathered at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center to explore the compelling urgency of sustainability and what [more] they can do to move their organizations and membership to embrace it. The common element among these organizations is that their membership (JCCs, day schools, camps, Hillels, synagogues, and the like) own and/or operate millions of square feet of real estate across the country. Even more than being participants in this watershed moment, however, all the organizations were co-sponsors, underwriting not only their representatives’ travel and lodging expenses, but also the expenses of the gathering as a whole. This is a remarkable statement of engagement, recognizing that the sustainability train is leaving the station, and we all need to get on it.
It was also a recognition that through their collective actions, these organizations can both significantly reduce the ecological footprint of the organized Jewish community, and affect the attitudes and behavior of the millions of Jews and fellow travellers who are affliated with or otherwise connected to them.
These organizations spent 26 hours together, learning and imagining what a green, sustainable society could look like. And at the end, they developed a dream scenario for their own organizations.
Such visions included: energy efficient buildings powered by renewable resources; green transportation; reduction of all waste including paper, disposables, and food; buying, recycling and composting materials in the same way that nature reuses waste as energy; transforming fossil fuel- and water-intensive lawns into regionally appropriate landscaping, orchards and gardens; using green cleaning supplies; and engaging in membership education and motivational campaigns.
Several individuals who were at the gathering have already scheduled meetings within their organizations to share what they learned and explore how to begin to implement these ideas. This is a remarkable beginning, which we hope and expect will gather steam and move the American Jewish community as whole in a direction it has until now largely ignored.
For the record, and to acknowledge the commitment and vision of those who participated, here is a list of sponsoring organizations:
American Jewish Committee
Association of Jewish Aging Services
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
Foundation for Jewish Camp
Hillel: the foundation for Jewish Campus Life
JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs)
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
North American Association of Synagogue Executives
PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education)
Religious Action Center
Union for Reform Judaism
UJC (United Jewish Communities)
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
The gathering was organized by COEJL, with a little help from BJEN!
Thanks go to the wonderful folks at Pearlstone, who make it easy to put together a smooth, efficient and seamless gathering. And of course to all the participating organizations for their support. Kayn Yirbu - may this effort bring forth much fruit.