Green Growth Going Mainstream

Jewish institutions in county pressing the sustainability issue as tikkun olam.

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 By: Merri Rosenberg Source: The Jewish Week
exist, like the funds available from utilities and New York State, the economic efficiencies work well.

“More than 60 diverse Jewish organizations, their lay and professional leadership, and their members have been touched by JGF’s environmental work,” said Melanie Schneider, senior planning executive at UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (CoJIR), in an email. “This has been done through energy usage audits, savings, leveraging New York State incentives and funding of green capital improvements, shifting to environmentally friendly practices, launching green markets and CSA (community supported agriculture/farm shares), and raising awareness of the intersection of Jewish values and greener living.”

As Howard Chumsky, chairman of the House committee at the Community Synagogue of Rye, said, “UJA has helped us in evaluating a contractor. There’s zero out-of-pocket cost to the synagogue. We buy the power the solar panels produce. The solar company owns the panel. It’s the whole tikkun olam idea, of giving back to the planet, with the additional benefit of seeing the monetary benefit immediately.” The synagogue is building a nature trail on its ground, where students can go outside to pray, and is in discussions about building an outdoor classroom for its early childhood center.

Another environmental leader is Greenburgh Hebrew Center, which is a poster child for going green. This Conservative congregation in Dobbs Ferry turned on its solar panels the week before Chanukah, reflecting not only a commitment to saving money but more significantly, to doing its share in saving the earth.

“Our rabbi is passionate about this,” said past president Deborah Jagoda. “It fits into our core values. It’s about engaging with a changing world, and providing for our future. As our rabbi says, it’s about our religious stewardship of the earth.”

There have already been significant savings. The solar energy company owns the panels that are on the synagogue roof; the congregation buys energy from the company at an agreed upon rate. “It’s 20 percent lower than Con Edison,” said Michael Feinkind, the congregation’s vice president of management who had originally approached the board of trustees with the solar panel project. “This was a very easy, transparent process.” On the synagogue’s website congregants can track how much energy the solar panels have generated, and how much money the synagogue is saving.

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