In order to fully transform your community in a world-sustaining way, Jewish Climate Action Network suggests the following eight areas of assessment and examination for making incremental changes over a period of time. Jewish texts are provided for each one.
The JCAN Bentshmarking Campaign, launched in 2015/5776, begins by focusing on an institution’s energy usage and education. If it doesn’t work for your organization to start with energy, the holistic approach to benchmarking offers additional opportunities.
What is your institution’s current carbon footprint in terms of the energy consumption of the building? How much gas, oil, and electricity do you use each year?
When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? (Deut. 20:19-20)
R. Zutra said: He who covers an oil lamp or uncovers a naphtha [lamp] infringes the prohibition of wasteful destruction. (BT Shabbat 67b)
Get started with JCAN’s energy benchmarking campaign.
Find out how to switch to renewable energy.
Learn about Hazon’s Seal of Sustainability, now in the development and testing phase.
Where are your assets invested? How much of your financial portfolio is invested in the fossil fuel industry, whether it is your own institution’s investments or the larger community’s?
The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds, the world and its inhabitants. (Ps. 24:1)
Raba said: When a person is brought for judgment on Judgment Day he is asked 'Did you do your business honestly…’ (BT Shabbat 31a)
View information and resources from Jews for Fossil Free Investments.
Download the Shalom Center’s Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet action handbook.
View Jewish discussion and education resources related to divestment from fossil fuels collected by GreenFaith: Interfaith Partners for the Environment.
Food and Waste Stream
What is the carbon footprint of your food consumption and waste production? How close to being a zero waste production institution are you?
See above regarding energy usage.
Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai taught: This may be compared to the case of men on a ship, one of whom took a borer and began boring beneath his own seat. His fellow travellers said to him: "What are you doing?" He replied, "What does it matter to you - am I not boring under my own seat?" They said, "[It matters to us] because the water will come up and flood the ship for us all." (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6)
View Waste Reduction and Recycling information from GreenFaith, including a waste audit.
How do people get to and from your synagogue? How widespread is carpooling? What encouragement is given to using public transportation, walking, and bicycling to and from events?
What is the reason [olive trees and grapevines were not burned in the Temple fires]? It is not because they are ash producing. It is because they make too much smoke. (Rabeinu Gershom to Babylonian Talmud Tamid p. 29b)
Ten things were said in Jerusalem: One cannot make [large] ovens in the city...because of smoke... (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Kama, p. 82b)
Carcasses, graveyards and tanneries (which are all sources of noxious odors) must be distanced from the city at least 50 cubits… (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra, p. 25a)
View the Green Streets Initiative, based in Cambridge, MA.
How viable and diverse is the ecosystem surrounding your building(s)? To what extent does your property provide a carbon sink to offset your carbon usage? To what extent does it contribute to your sustainability?
If along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother with her young. Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life. (Deut. 22:6-7)
You shall not kill the mother and its young both in one day (Lev. 22:28). The reason for both [commandments] is that we should not have a cruel heart and not be compassionate, or it may be that Scripture does not permit us to destroy a species altogether, although it permits slaughter [for food] within that group. Now the person who kills the mother and the young in one day or takes them when they are free to fly, it is as though they have destroyed that species. (Ramban, Moses ben Nachman, Nachmanides)
Learn more about carbon sequestration and the work of Biodiversity for a Livable Planet.
Connect with Ganei Beantown, Beantown Jewish Gardens.
How frequently do members of your community engage in advocacy around issues related to climate change? How frequently do they advocate or take other political actions related to climate change together, as a community?
All who can protest against [something wrong that] one of their family [is doing] and does not protest, is held accountable for their family.[All who can protest against something wrong that] a citizen of their city [is doing and does not protest], is held accountable for all citizens of the city.[All who can protest against something wrong that is being done] in the whole world, is accountable together with all citizens of the world. (BT Shabbat 54b)
Connect with the Massachusetts Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action.
Learn about 350MA.org's Better Futures Project for Massachusetts action and advocacy opportunities.
Learn about the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a national climate lobbying organization.
How knowledgeable are members of your community and your community as a whole about the climate crisis? How often is the climate crisis discussed within your community? What connections can community members make between Jewish teachings and climate change?
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut. 6:5)
When a person observes God’s works and God’s great and marvelous creatures, and they see from them God’s wisdom that is without estimate or end, immediately they will love God, praise God and long with a great desire to know God’s Great Name. (Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madah, Hikhot Yesodei Ha-Torah 2:1-2)
Teach them to your children. (Deut. 6:7)
Just as a person is obligated to teach his child, so, too, is he obligated to teach his grandchild, as (Deut. 4:9) commands: "And you shall teach them to your sons and your grandsons." [Furthermore, this charge is not confined] to one's children and grandchildren alone. Rather, it is a mitzvah for each and every wise man to teach all students, even though they are not his children, as (Deut. 6:7) states: "And you shall teach them to your sons..." The oral tradition explains: "Your sons," these are your students, for students are also called sons, as (II Kings 2:3) states: "And the sons of the prophets went forth." (Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madah, Hikhot Talmud Torah 1:2-3)
- Compare climate myths to what the science says.
- Study climate education from Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, U. of Texas at Lubbock.
- Read recent articles from The Guardian on climate change.
- View a wide variety of environmental resources from Rabbi David Seidenberg.
- Read Jewish teachings on the environment from Green Faith.
- View the Shalom Center’s Curriculum/Ceremony on Climate Change for Teens.
- View Jewish resources on climate change from Canfei Nesharim.
- Find out about the 2012 Jewish Year of Learning on the Environment from Jewcology and Canfei Nesharim.
- View Jewish resources on climate change from COEJL, including resources for youth.
- View writings by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman.
On the spectrum from denial to activism, where do members of your community and your community as a whole stand? What is being done to support members spiritually, to help them avoid or emerge from eco-despair?
All of Israel are responsible for each other. (BT Shevuot 39a)
Know that when a person prays in a field, all of the plants together come into the prayer, and they help the person and give the person strength within the prayer. (Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav)
View information from the Resource Innovation Group, which addresses the human causes, impacts, and solutions to complex socio-economic-ecological challenges, with a special emphasis on climate change.
Enfold yourself in spiritual wisdom from Earth and Torah from Ma’yan Tikvah, including an annual series of Earth Etudes for Elul.