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Become An Energy Maccabee

Hanukkah is a holiday about a small band of revolutionary activists who, against all odds, routed the Assyrian Greek Empire, retook control of the Temple in Jerusalem, and there witnessed an energy miracle: a vial of oil kept the Temple’s menorah aflame for eight days instead of one.  In short, Hanukkah is a holiday about energy use, rededicating our buildings, and rebelling against the established system — the perfect holiday for all of us dedicated to greening our institutions and our lives.

This Hanukkah we celebrate the rededication of buildings with cleaner and more efficient ways of using energy, like the following:

  • Temple Israel Center of White Plains uses solar energy to power its ner tamid, the eternal light at the front of the sanctuary that recalls the ancient menorah rekindled on Chanukah.
  • With the help of the JGF, staff members from JASA Brighton Beach, Friedberg JCC, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and Temple Israel Center of White Plains recently attended a GPRO training on how to retrofit and maintain a green building. For more information on future GPRO trainings, visit Solar One.
  • On November 20, JCC of Staten Island rededicated itself to using clean energy by installing a 103 kW solar panel installation, which is the largest on a Staten Island non-profit and one of the largest in New York City.
  • Consider offsetting your building’s carbon footprint and encourage your members to do the same. The Israel-based Good Energy Initiative allows individuals and organizations to purchase carbon offsets, which pay for clean energy projects in Israel, including installing solar water heaters for low-economy public housing.

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Solar panels on the roof of the Staten Island JCC

Gift-giving is a common custom on Hanukkah. But before you rush off to the store, consider buying greener gifts:

  • For the first time this year, you can buy OU-certified kosher, fair trade chocolate gelt. Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah have partnered with Divine Chocolate to offer retail andwholesale gelt packages. (Use promo code GUILTFREEGELT at checkout to assure that Fair Trade Judaica receives 10% of sales to support their educational work). Hazon offers a free curriculum about the fair trade gelt and the problems of chocolate production.

  • Fair Trade Judaica also offers fair trade menorahs, including bicycle and garden themed menorahs, as well as olive oil (which can be burned in your menorah).
  •  Hold a fair trade gift bazaar like the JCC on the Hudson.

  • Most Hanukkah candles are made of paraffin, a petroleum byproduct. Light a fossil fuel free menorah by using beeswax Hanukkah candles, for example from Big Dipper Wax Works.

Like the Maccabees facing the Assyrian Greek Empire, we, too, face a powerful system (the fossil fuel economy) and a moral challenge (climate change) in the face of which we sometimes feel helpless. But with every act of greening and advocacy, we rebel against the entrenched power of fossil fuels and the inevitability of climate change.

  • On December 7, citizens of countries around the world held “Lights for Lima,” a series of candlelight vigils to put pressure on world leaders meeting in Lima, Peru to create a serious international climate change treaty. At vigils in Washington, D.C., London, Jerusalem, and an inspiring faith vigil in Union Square that was co-sponsored by Hazon, we kept up the momentum sparked by the People’s Climate March in September.

  • New Yorkers use 5.2 billion disposable bags, or 625 per person, every year, and spend $10 million in taxpayer dollars to haul these bags to the dump. Plastic bags aren’t good news for the climate – they’re produced from fossil fuels – or for our oceans, which are covered with billions of pounds of plastic. A bill under consideration by the New York City Council would help solve the problem by instituting a 10 cent fee on plastic bags. Cities with similar policies have seen reductions of as much as 95% in plastic bag use.Let Mayor De Blasio know that you support the bill, or send your city councilperson a letter on behalf of your organization.

When you see Hanukkah candles burning this week, remind others that the holiday offers a powerful energy message for our time, urging us to rededicate ourselves to the fight for energy efficiency and a livable climate.