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5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva

We are in a global environmental crisis.
Jewish tradition compels us to respond.

 

 

What is teshuva?

Teshuva or “return” is a Jewish practice of turning inward and reflecting on the transgressions we make as human beings while acknowledging that what was done in the past does not have to be repeated in our future. The practice of teshuva offers us an opportunity to face our negative actions and create a new path forward.

Traditionally, we practice teshuva from the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul through the last day of Sukkot reflecting on how we can strive to be our best selves in the coming year. But Elul is not the only time we can embrace this practice. We invite you to continue your journey of teshuva throughout 5780.

What is environmental teshuva?

Environmental teshuva is the outward manifestation of our commitment to doing better for the planet. As you examine your individual impact on the planet, consider:

  • How do you relate to the planet or the climate crisis? What inspires you from the natural world?
  • Which of your behaviors do you know are less than ideal? Consider the implications of your diet and transportation habits.
  • What are one or two areas in which you will commit to do better?

In August 2019, Hazon had four video billboards displayed in Times Square. We debuted the message “5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva.” Watch the video. We invite you to join us.

We Are the Weather Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast

by Jonathan Safran Foer

We enthusiastically encourage you to read We Are the Weather and share it with your friends, families, and communities. It is a superb, readable, and very Jewish explication of how, why and in what ways our food choices matter. Hazon created a discussion guide for Jewish communities to accompany the book, which you can download for free here.

If you’re interested in hosting a book group or other program related to We Are the Weather, or anything at the intersection of Judaism, food, and climate, contact Becky O’Brien, Hazon’s Director of Food & Climate, becky@hazon.org. And don’t forget to download our free WATW Discussion Guide for Jewish Communities.

Download Our Discussion Guide

 

Greening Your Chaunkah Celebrations

Chanukah is a time of celebration and joy. Beginning on the 25th day of Kislev (December 22), over the course of 8 nights we light candles, sing prayers, and remember the dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem when a miracle allowed a small amount of oil to last for 8 full nights until the supply could be replenished. We celebrate this joyous occasion by burning candles or oil lamps, and eating fried food!

As you plan your holiday festivities this year, consider the impact our celebrations have on our planet. Check out the Hazon Chanukah Greening Guide or our Chanukah resource page for ways to minimize your impact and  be vocal about your choices!

Download Our Greening Chanukah Guide

Get Involved

December 6 – Global Climate Strike

As global leaders gather at the UN’s annual climate conference the momentum from Sept 20 will continue. Stay tuned to updates by visiting Sunrise Movement.

Joining a climate strike? Hazon created signs that you can print. Make it known that sustainability is a Jewish value. We recommend sending these to a printer and printing double-sided on recycled paper. The file includes crop marks and bleed.

 

December 22-29 – Hazon Meditation Retreat

As you embrace a practice of Environmental Teshuva consider taking some time to deeply reflect on where you have been and where you would like to go. This retreat offers a week of silence, awareness, and insight with Rabbi Jay Michaelson, Beth Resnick, Miriam Eisenberger, and Shir Yaakov Feit. Learn More.

 

December 22-30 – Green your Chanukah Celebrations

Chanukah is a time of joyous celebration but it is also a time to reflect on the impact our actions have. Use the Hazon Chanukah Greening Guide to make your celebrations have a little less impact on our world. Download here.

 

May 15-18 – Recharge: A Retreat for Rabbis and Spiritual Leaders

Join like-minded leaders from across North America for a time of connection, reflection, and rejuvenation as you lead your communities. This retreat focuses on giving back to spiritual leaders of all backgrounds and disciplines – the people who give so much to our community every day. The retreat is designed to promote deep rest and rejuvenation. Learn More.

 

JTree

What is JTree?
Hazon is proud to host the US site for JTree. JTree is an emerging international effort of Jewish organizations to mobilize Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world to plant trees as a response to the global climate crisis.

 

Join the Jewish Climate Coalition

What is the Jewish Climate Coalition?

  • The Jewish Climate Coalition was formed by Hazon, The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC, and The Jewish Theological Seminary of America about three weeks before the Global Climate Strike – it came out of a letter that was aimed at getting other Jewish organizations to sign on
  • To date we have over 30 organizations signed up
  • The current purpose of the group is to mobilize the Jewish community around the Global Climate Strike
  • After the strike, the goal is to call a meeting for member organizations to join, and decide what the fate of this coalition will be. The Global Climate Strike, which is very much ground-up, has coincided (we believe) with a greater desire in the Jewish community to step up. We’ve sent out materials to rabbis asking them to give sermons on “Environmental Teshuva” and it’s clear that a growing number are planning to do so

Become a member organization and help us help our planet and our children’s planet!

Join the Jewish Climate Coalition

Current Jewish Climate Coalition member organizations

  1. Hazon (steering committee)
  2. Jewish Climate Action Network NYC (steering committee)
  3. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (steering committee)
  4. The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (steering committee)
  5. Ameinu
  6. Ansche Chesed
  7. Avodah
  8. Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
  9. Based in Harlem
  10. B’nai Jeshurun
  11. Central Synagogue
  12. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
  13. Congregation Habonim
  14. Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center
  15. Fort Tryon Jewish Center
  16. Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
  17. Jewish Veg
  18. Kehillat Harlem
  19. North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
  20. Park Avenue Synagogue
  21. Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  22. Repair the World Harlem
  23. Riverdale YM-YWHA
  24. Romemu
  25. SAJ – Judaism That Stand for All
  26. Sid Jacobson JCC
  27. Society for Humanistic Judaism
  28. Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
  29. Torah Trumps Hate
  30. Town & Village Synagogue
  31. UJA-Federation of New York
  32. Union for Reform Judaism
  33. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  34. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Resources

Sustainability Tips

1) Eat a plant-rich diet.
Commit to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and eggs. The Worldwatch Institute’s research indicates that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Everyone is starting from a different place, so “less” is different for everyone. Any amount of reduction is a step in the right direction.

2) Waste less food.
Buy only what you need. Eat leftovers. Create an “eat me first” section in your fridge for food that’s running out of time. “Best by,” “sell by,” and other dates are not expiration dates; trust your senses to tell you whether food is still safe to eat. 50% of produce in the US is never consumed and globally, “a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.” (from Project Drawdown)

3) Get to know and buy from local farmers.
Give local farmers your money (in exchange, of course, for delicious food)! Sukkot is the harvest festival. Invite your favorite farmer into your sukkah for a meal and ask him/her how the harvest is going. Don’t know a farmer? Go to a local farmers market or farm stand and introduce yourself. And then, support these hardworking people by spending some of your food budget with them.

4) Reduce packaging, especially plastic.
Pay attention to how your food is packaged and aim for less packaging overall and for better packaging. Avoid plastics, especially single-use. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Buy in bulk. Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping – small ones for bulk products and produce, and large ones for all the groceries. Support companies that strive to reduce the amount of packaging they use and incorporate recycled content into their packaging.

Sermons and Divrei Torah

Hazon has collected close to 30 sermons and d’vrei Torah that focus on Environmental Teshuva. Take a moment to explore the ways that Jewish clergy and spiritual leaders across the country have engaged with Environmental Teshuva this holiday season. View the full list on our Resources For Rabbis & Spiritual Leaders page. If you would like us to share your words, please email Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein.

Learn Where Your Food Comes From

Most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition, but they’re far less aware that individual food choices are among the top anthropogenic drivers of climate change. Hazon has compiled these resources for you to make educated food choices.

Consider Your End of Life Decisions

It can be a difficult family conversation, but at some point we all must face the end of our time on this beautiful Earth. Surprisingly, the treatment of our bodies after passing has an incredible impact on the environment. Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips offers some insightful wisdom on not only dealing with this difficult time but making Earth friendly choices along the way.

Join Us!

Hazon Seal of Sustainability

The Hazon Seal of Sustainability is an annual program that provides guidance and support to advance sustainability-related education, action, and advocacy in your Jewish institution, organization, and community. Rooted in Jewish tradition, participation in the Hazon Seal program will, over time, make your community healthier and more sustainable, both Jewishly and environmentally!

JOFEE Programs

Over the past 5 years, JOFEE Fellows and JOFEE educators around the world have been creating thoughtful curricula for engaging participants from young to old. In particular, check out the resources on Food and Climate or Environmental Justice.

For inspiration and reflections on our weekly parsha, be sure to check out the D’varim HaMakom blog – each week JOFEE Fellows reflect on how their environmental work relates to the weekly Torah portion. We recommend Light in the DarkBlessing Family and the Earth, and Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser.

For more information about JOFEE or to find a JOFEE organization in your area, visit JOFEE.org.

Support Hazon

Contribute to our movement to lead the Jewish community to a more sustainable future. Give a one-time gift or set up a sustaining donation as you are able.