Boston, MA — Boston COEJL, coordinated by Susie Davidson and Amelia Geggel, began a statewide “Pledge to Green" synagogues in Massachusetts. The Pledge, a nonbinding promise to practice more environmentally-conscious measures, is viewable on BostonCOEJL.org, which will post progress reports of individual synagogues. Over 15 Boston-area synagogues have signed on to the pledge.
Boston COEJL members, who are available for consultations and Basics of Greening talks for children and adults, have also posted a Green Guide for Massachusetts Synagogues, with information on lowering energy bills, obtaining state energy company rebates, cutting down on waste, purchasing energy-efficient products, green cleaners and landscaping items, and on conducting “green” events and educational programs.
While many state synagogues have already been promoting and practicing green efforts, Davidson says that this pledge represents a unified, environmentally-conscious statement from the local Jewish community along the lines of alliances such as the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and the Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) of Northeastern States.
“Boston COEJL believes it is ethically imperative for Jews to work toward lessening our environmental impact and thus uphold the Jewish ideals of tikkun olam, tzedek (justice), and bal tashchit,” says Geggel.
Boston COEJL has been working on the following initiatives:
- The Statewide Pledge to Green - this is an effort to unify to green all Massachusetts synagogues. COEJL's suggestions are nonbinding - synagogues can just sign and pledge to commit to practice more green methods.
- The Green Guide for Massachusetts Synagogues - The Green Guide is a comprehensive guidebook with suggestions for "greening" various aspects of synagogue operation.
- Basics of Greening talks (with props) COEJL affiliates speak to either adults or kids at Massachusetts synagogues and organizations. Boston COEJL members are also available for on-site consultations.
Boston COEJL has also joined with the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR) and Synagogue Council of Massachusetts in their environmental efforts. In June 2008, the MBR unanimously endorsed a “Statement on the Environment," while Boston COEJL, listed on the MBR and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts websites, has been signing Massachusetts synagogues on to their statewide “Pledge to Green.”
The MBR statement was proposed by the Public Policy Committee of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, a group of seven appointed Rabbis who study social issues and submit proposals to the Executive Committee and the membership.
If approved, the proposals become official positions of the MBR. With the statement’s passage, the MBR commits to supporting activities that protect and preserve the environment in the areas of advocacy, education and action, as it calls upon its members and their communities to do the same. The document cites ancient Jewish texts pertaining to the relationship between human beings and the earth, passages that protect animals and trees, and the concepts of tikkun olam (repair of the world) and of bal tashchit, which warns against wanton destruction and waste of resources. MBR leadership has signed on to the Massachusetts Interfaith Pledge for Climate Action, which urges Massachusetts elected officials to support legislation that fights climate change. In the 1970s, the MBR supported the farm worker boycott of non-union lettuce and grapes.
Rabbi Eric Gurvis, president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, stated, “This is an important step for the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis. Our 120 members represent a broad spectrum of the Jewish community. Through the leadership of our Public Policy Committee, we have organized ourselves to speak out on important issues that face our world, using our rich Jewish heritage as a prism through which to see our world as it is, and as we might wish it to be. We see this statement on the environment as the first of many steps in engaging as a Board of Rabbis in some of the important issues of our day.”
In addition to the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and the Synagogue Council, Boston COEJL is allied locally with the Jewish organizations Gesher City and Moishe House Boston, Kavod Jewish Social Justice House, as well as with the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Clean Water Action, the Interfaith Alliance of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light.
“We view signing the Pledge and interacting further with COEJL members as a way that local synagogues can increase environmental awareness as they implement more earth-friendly practices,” said Davidson, who is a correspondent for the Jewish Advocate and an Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow board member. “The Green Guide will clearly and concisely detail financially efficacious ‘green’ steps that synagogue staff can adapt and incorporate into their building and landscape structure, their energy operations, and their educational and other programming.”