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August 30, 2015 | 15th Elul 5775

Greening Reform Judaism

Learn how to start a green team, and find other valuable greening resources.

Look at My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are! ...Be careful [though] that you don't spoil or destroy my world - because if you spoil it, there is nobody after you to fix it.

-Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

Greening Reform JudaismGreening is Jewish. On Greening RJ, URJ's website for all things green, there are tons of resources to help congregations and individuals in their greening and tikkun olam efforts. This month, as we celebrate Earth Day (the secular world's Tu BiSh'vat!) we offer Inside Leadership readers some tips for getting a green team or green committee going, often the first step in bringing congregations into this great green world.

Identify Committee Members
This committee should include representatives from various synagogue committees and groups including: the rabbi, a member of the Ritual Committee, the synagogue administrator, a member of the Building and Grounds Committee, a member of the Budget Committee, a religious school student, a member of the Social Action Committee and a NFTY representative. Don't forget to tap into your members' professional expertise!

Set the Jewish Context
Start with a brief study of Jewish texts. As the Ecclesiastes quote above notes, we must be careful not to destroy this earth beyond repair, and that mandate emanates from Jewish teaching. Visit Greening RJ's "Why is Greening Jewish?" page for insightful Jewish environmental quotes and ancient teachings dealing with environmental integrity and eco-justice.

GreenFaith PilotUse the Environmental Audit Checklist
Conduct an energy audit to investigate the present status of your congregation. Obtain accurate information about the up-front costs of a change, as well as the potential long-term savings. The changes listed in our Environmental Audit Checklist are designed to be no or low cost.

Set Priorities
Rank the changes your congregation is considering, keeping in mind the long-term benefits of some changes that may involve higher costs up front. For example, many resource-conservative products, such as compact fluorescent bulbs and energy-efficient computers, are more expensive initially but ultimately yield greater savings.

Implement, Evaluate and Reach Out
Once you have set priorities, it is critical that the changes and their effects can be measured. If the Green Committee can document concrete savings, it may find that it's easier to win support for future changes.

A crucial part of the evaluation process is publicizing the changes and their effects. This, too, will help the green team curry favor with congregants the next time changes need to be made. Plus, seeing the model of the congregation, congregants will be inspired to make similar changes in their homes and lives.

The last piece of implementation is working to ensure that the kind of environmentally conscience thinking that went into the audit and its subsequent changes becomes a regular part of your synagogue's decision making.

Visit to learn more about starting a green team and the Jewish perspective on the environment; to read about other congregations' replicable successes; and to follow up on the eight New Jersey congregations participating in Greening Reform Judaism's Pilot Program, a collaboration between the URJ & the RAC and GreenFaith.

For additional tools and resources you can use to take action on the most pressing environmental issues of our time, visit the RAC's Environment issues page.

To learn more about forming a committee in your congregation and engaging volunteers, download the following URJ publications:


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