On the night of Shabbat Hanukkah this year, December 7, The Shalom Center presented its annual Green Menorah Award to Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland (on the outskirts of Washington, DC).
The Green Menorah Award each year honors one congregation that has pioneered in efforts to reduce the dangers of the global climate crisis. Rabbi Jeffrey Sultar, director of The Shalom Center's Green Menorah Covenant campaign, explained that, "We decided on Temple Emanuel this year because the synagogue has capped nearly two decades of environmental actions by recently going 'carbon neutral' -- committing itself not to emit any net carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That's offsetting 200,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually – a giant step of "tikkun olam," literally healing the wounded earth we live in. We expect that Temple Emanuel's dramatic and vigorous step will become a model for many others."
Temple Emanuel is a Reform congregation, led by Rabbi Warren Stone – who founded and is co-chair of the Environment Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
The Shalom Center, founded in 1983 to speak a prophetic voice in Jewish and American life for peace, justice, and healing of the earth, initiated the Green Menorah Covenant to address the global climate crisis from a Jewish perspective. The covenant partners agree to change personal and congregational practices, as well as pursue changes in public policy.
Last year’s recipient of the Green Menorah Award was Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York City. In addition to receiving an actual “green menorah,” awardees are given $900 to match the synagogue’s contribution toward a youth environmental project.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center, explained, “We give the grant to the synagogue’s youth because we intend to empower the next generation in order for us all to take on the biblical task of Elijah the Prophet: turning the hearts of the younger and older generations toward each other, lest the earth be utterly destroyed.”
When asked, “Why a green menorah?” Rabbi Waskow said, “Because the first menorah was modeled on a living tree, and because the menorah and Hanukkah remind us of the ancient miracle: we were able to use just one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs.
“If we are to heal the earth from the global climate crisis, we must renew that miracle. We must end our addiction to the over-use of oil and coal. We must – as in the Hanukkah story – change our energy sources so that we need to use only one-eighth the amount of oil and coal that we use today.”
Rabbi Sultar noted that in addition to making the synagogue carbon neutral, Temple Emanuel is also organizing members to offset the climate impact of their individual homes. The synagogue is an Official Partner of the Energy Star Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Temple Emanuel recently renovated its building to put the Administration wing partially below ground level and oriented its new addition so as to minimize the need for heating and air conditioning; maximized its insulation; installed double-glazed windows; replaced almost all its lights with fluorescents; and used recycled building materials.
Temple Emanuel's Green Shalom Committee works closely with Rabbi Stone, who has just celebrated eighteen years of service as the congregation’s spiritual leader. In 1997, he represented many national Jewish organizations as the sole Jewish delegate at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, where he blew shofar and led a number of interfaith programs and prayer vigils.
"Indeed," said Rabbi Sultar, "Rabbi Stone's record of public advocacy also weighed in for us in making the Green Menorah Award. He serves as co-chair of the Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation and has led delegations on environmental issues to the Congress and White House. He co-chaired a Senate conference with Senator Joseph Lieberman and members of the native Gwinchin people calling for protection of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. And he has spoken several times at rallies at the United States Capitol on environmental issues. We view public advocacy for serious policy change as crucial, along with hands-on shifts in our daily lives, in facing the climate crisis."
The Shalom Center thanks the Arnow family foundations, the Rita Poretsky Foundation, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Hazon, the New World Foundation, and many Shalom Center members for support of the Green Menorah Covenant campaign.
# # #