Guiding Principles

This campaign is guided by the experiences of the Jewish community and the Jewish environmental sector. We recommend that Jewish leaders – professionals and lay leaders, religious and secular – keep these principals in mind to guide the campaign.

Plain language and clear thought best describe the vision.

Significant change is possible. It must be based on an honest assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. So think clearly and write plainly about what is possible and what can be done.

Significant change is possible.

The religious imperative for environmentalism should be rooted in central tenets of Jewish tradition.

The Jewish conversation on the environment should focus on the connection of central concepts of Judaism, like Halacha2 and Shabbat3, to the Earth and environmental sustainability in addition to some of the practices that were historically more marginal to Jewish life like bal tashchit and tu b’shvat5. This dual-strategy can broaden the popular appeal of the concepts and assure resonance across diverse people. We need to recover and restore the knowledge of how core Jewish beliefs and practices teach us to live in harmonious interconnectedness with the physical world. The tenets are discussed in detail in the Theology, Tradition and Wisdom section of this document.

Jewish environmentalism should be mainstreamed.

Environmental issues have been detached from the rest of contemporary Jewish life; they need to be reconnected with it. We need to stop thinking about the environment as a separate category and focus on creating a healthier world and in the process strengthen Jewish life, communities and identity. Jewish environmental leaders will accomplish more by seeing themselves as part of a broader community. Mainstream leaders will gain by seeing Jewish environmentalism as part of the solution for how to accomplish their broader goals.

The broader goals and central contemporary concerns of Jewish organizations and leadership can be addressed through sustainability and environmental topics.

Jewish organizations are most focused on fundraising and financing, topics related to Israel, anti-Semitism and Jewish education. Each of these concerns can be addressed through an environmental lens; in fact, sustainability is an opportunity to address each one.

• On Budgets: Sustainability as efficiency. Greening is both efficient and economic: good for the planet and good for the bottom line. Many green measures present an opportunity to reduce inefficiency, save money, rationalize and avoid duplication – while reducing an organization’s impact on the planet.

• On Israel: While Israel has been at the center of the Diaspora’s educational model, some communities are finding it harder to motivate strong connections with Israel, particularly among youth. Taking active responsibility for conservation and environmental protection in Israel can be a powerful alternative model for inspiring a relationship to Israel particularly among youth.

• On Anti-Semitism: With many Jewish communities feeling increasingly nervous about anti-Semitism, environmental issues provide an opportunity to build partnerships with other faith-based and minority communities around shared interests and values.

• On Jewish Education: Environmental education provides opportunities to Jewish education:

  • It makes available and relevant a range of existing Jewish education resources.
  • It inspires a connection to Judaism through an issue that people already care about.
  • It inducts and integrates ecologically conscious Jews into Jewish institutions.
  • It creates diverse leadership opportunities in the Jewish community.
  • It enlivens Jewish practice and spirituality through a stronger connection to creation.
  • It enriches Jewish education through classic environmental education methodologies that are experiential and informal.

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