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Topic: Education

Judaism and the Environment 101

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel, Mishneh Avot, first century CE Like all peoples and faith communities, the Jewish people has had an evolving relationship with the physical world. Because we have traveled through time and place for more than thirty centuries, ours is a rich and diverse tradition. Right now we’re at an interesting moment in history. There is, on the one hand, a growing awareness of the need to manage our planet’s resources more carefully, and an intuition that as well as acting as individuals and as citizens, we also have the resources of Judaism and the Jewish people to draw upon. On the other hand, our postmodern perspective is a different one than a biblical one, and in its contemporary form, the conversation between Judaism and environmentalism is young – all sorts of issues, open questions and problems abound. (more…)

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Jews in the Woods

In the summer of 1998, I led a group of Jewish teenagers on a two week hiking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This is the story of how awful it was – the miserable weather, the arguments, the religious problems, the midpoint mutiny – and why, nevertheless, I think we should all get out in the woods a lot more often… This is the group: nine Jewish teenagers: seven girls and only two boys. Religiously most are observant, but not all: of those who are there is some difference between the strictly halachic and the conservadox. At the other end of the spectrum is a girl who attends a Conservative dayschool but has a Turkish Moslem father and and is proud of her Turkish heritage. Most are from the Boston area, but one is from the Midwest. The strongest character is a sixteen year old girl; the youngest, a thirteen year old boy who is big for his age and who seems to be present in consequence of familial “encouragement” – his cousin really wants the trip to happen and says that without him there’ll be too few people. (more…)

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