We work to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all.
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May 2014 | Iyar 5774
In this issue
Imagining a Different Israel in the Shmita (Sabbatical) Year
Greening Keeps Going at JGF Alumni Organizations
ReSources You Can ReUse!
The Jewish Greening Fellowship, a program of Hazon, aims to cultivate environmental change leadership, reduce the environmental impacts of Jewish organizations in the New York area and generate meaningful responses to global climate change while strengthening Jewish life.
Greening Fellows visited the Solar One Workforce Training Lab to learn about energy efficiency.  Teri Fields, Solomon Schechter School of Long Island, and Ariel Bailey, Abraham Joshua Heschel School, assembled a device used to test homes for leaks.  The Lab offers courses for building managers to learn green construction and maintenance skills.
From the JGF Director
Imagining a Different Israel
in the Shmita (Sabbatical) Year
Mirele B. Goldsmith, JGF Director

Ruth Calderon, a member of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), has a great idea for next year.  No fishing will be allowed in the Sea of Galilee in order to allow the fish to recover from years of over-exploitation. Why next year?  Because 5775, which begins this coming Rosh Hashanah, is a Shmita (Sabbatical) Year.


Ruth’s idea for the Sea of Galilee is a contemporary application of the biblical instructions for Shmita.  The basics of Shmita are straightforward:  Those fortunate enough to control the use of resources are commanded to let the land lie fallow and release all debts.  These commandments embody a profound truth, that unceasing work degrades both land and people.  This degradation will eventually lead to oppression and inequality.  The Shmita Year puts a brake on this process every 7 years, calling on us to invest in the sustainability of ourselves, our communities, and our society.


I heard about Ruth’s proposal at the Siach Shmita Summit, a gathering of social justice and environmental activists from Israel, Europe, and the US, that took place just before Passover.  All of the participants are finding ways to renew and reimagine the Shmita tradition.  I came back from the Summit with these inspiring ideas from our colleagues reimagining the Israeli Shmita:

  • The government of Israel will eliminate entrance fees at 15 national parks, reflecting the Torah’s commandment to restore the commons during Shmita by removing fences. 
  • People burdened by debt will participate in financial literacy classes.  At the end of the Shmita Year, Paamonim will pay off their loans, granting them a fresh start.
  • Employees of high-tech firms in Jerusalem will participate in a weekly course to explore the scientific advances of the past 6 years. The course is being organized by Yossi Tsuria.
  • The Marker, a business magazine, will publish a regular column about the economic implications of Shmita.
  • The Knesset discussed plans for Shmita in January, and the Minister of Education agreed that all children will learn about Shmita in school. 

In a previous JGF Update I wrote about what JGF organizations are already doing for Shmita right here in New York. After meeting the Israelis at the Siach Shmita Summit, we have so many more ideas! 


Shmita is addressed in Parshat Behar, which is read on May 10, 2014.  This is a great time to start a discussion in your community about how your Shmita Year will be different from all other years.

Greening Keeps Going at
JGF Alumni Organizations


Every day is a new opportunity to make choices guided by Jewish values of stewardship at JGF organizations.  Here are some ways that Senior Fellows and their colleagues are continuing to educate their communities and model how we can take practical steps toward a healthier, safer, and happier, world:

  • Community members prepared for Passover with Spring Cleaning at the JCC of Staten Island.  In addition to collecting textiles and electronics for recycling, the JCC distributed 200 trees donated by Million Trees NYC.  Senior Fellow JR Rich reports that the Green Team has been reinvigorated by an infusion of new volunteers.
  • Choosing green materials for the new Kings Bay Y preschool in North Williamsburg was a high priority for Daniel Zeltser and Ken Soloway, Senior Fellows.  They specified non-toxic paint, high quality furniture which has a small carbon footprint, high efficiency bulbs that give off natural light, foamed rooms to keep the temperature stable, and tons of green signage.  Families have flocked to Jewish holiday programs with environmental themes such as a rooftop Sukkot celebration.  Daniel is pictured left, with Preschool Director Linda Herman.
  • At Camp Jacobson, Director Marshall Kurland is reducing paper waste with a series of small changes that really add up.  Eliminating paper registration forms, reducing the size of the calendar sent home to parents, and cutting down on office supplies, saved over $6,000 last year. The savings were invested in on-line advertising and programs for campers.
  • The Educational Alliance recently completed construction of the new Manny Cantor Center, built to LEED standards (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).  Senior Fellow Tara Rullo was asked to advise the Green Team at the new facility, which will join the Educational Alliances’ two existing Teams at the 14th Street Y and the Sirovich Senior Center.

Monday, May 12, 2014
9:00 am - 12:00 noon
How to Make Lasting Behavior Change: An Introduction to Community Based Social Marketing
Workshop in collaboration with the Wiener Educational Center of UJA- Federation of New York


Wednesday, May 14, 2014
9:00 am 10:30 am
JGF Senior Leaders Breakfast with Guest Speaker George Sarrinikolaou, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Followed by JGF Training Day on Telling Your Strategic Story of Green Leadership from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.


June 9-13, 2014
Teva Seminar on Jewish Outdoor Food & Environmental Education
Get ready for camp with at the premier training program in gardening, wilderness skills, culinary arts, and experiential Jewish education.
Information and Registration

ReSources You Can ReUse!

Do you need funding for an environmental justice project?  Apply for a Jewish Social Action Month Grant from UJA-Federation of New York for a project to take place in Heshvan (October-November, 2014.)  The deadline to apply is May 9, 2014.

Chai Ve’Kayam Curriculum Guide from the Pearlstone Center features experiential lessons on the Jewish agricultural laws.  It includes the Hebrew Calendar Garden, a dynamic outdoor Jewish experience of time, space, earth, and spirit.

Thinking of planting perennial food plants this summer to prepare for the upcoming Shmita Year?  Gotham Orchards helps organizations in NYC plant fruit trees in public spaces.  Contact Erik Baard at gothamorchards@gmail.com.  And check out videos and books on the subject of perennials from Chelsea Green.


Many JGF organizations have hosted Bash the Trash, the group that builds musical instruments from ordinary stuff that you would normally throw away.  Spanning genres as well as generations, Think Big is their first album, with songs and music written during 25 years of non-stop performing.

Jess Gold’s Animated Earth Concert Tour is coming to the East Coast of the US from England in October, 2014.  Check the video here, the website here, and multi-media school resource here.

Jacob Siegel is a Jewish environmental educator available to teach your community about Judaism and sustainable food issues.  Jacob is certified as a shochet, able to slaughter his own kosher poultry; he offers workshops on shechita, sustainable agriculture, fermentation, and other topics.  He’s also a jazz pianist, biker, farmer, and camper.  Contact him at jacob.a.siegel@gmail.com.

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