Inside Hadassah: It’s So Easy Being Green
Samuel Ha-Nagid, Jewish poet of the Golden Age of Spain, wrote: “I look up to the sky and its stars, and down to the earth…/ And I understand in my heart how their creation was planned with wisdom in every detail….” a Hadassah, too, understands the importance of planning, tending and tilling the earth. Young Judaea’s campers and alumni as well as the Merkaz and Hadassah College in Jerusalem are engaged in environmental projects. Our regions and chapters are also working on green activities. Let’s do our part in restoring the earth—with wisdom and dedicated hearts. —Ruth G. Cole
Families in Jerusalem concerned about their carbon output and wasteful habits now have a solution: a green audit. James Murray-White, originally from England, surveys people’s homes and lifestyles, assesses problem areas and suggests improvements.
Murray-White, 40, began the initiative as a participant in Jerusalem of Green, the latest program of Atid Yarok, the environmental group at the Merkaz. JOG provides resources and a small budget to individuals working on projects that raise awareness of environmental issues.
“I’m trying to develop the project, to train and work with others, even making it into a viable green business here in Jerusalem and possibly across Israel,” said Murray-White. He has so far performed more than a dozen such audits in the city.
Another exciting JOG project under way is the Jerusalem Recycling Initiative, a competition for students studying in Israel to collect as many plastic bottles as possible over a specific time period.
The Merkaz (formerly Merkaz Hamagshimim) is a combination absorption and community center for young English-speakers in Jerusalem.
Atid Yarok was started about six years ago, and it succeeded at its initial goal of lobbying the Jerusalem municipality to place recycling bins around the city.
To Study and to Teach
Hadassah College Jerusalem is at the forefront of environmental work in Israel. Its environmental health sciences department—with 150 students—offers the only degree of its kind in the country.
Last year, HCJ began a program in conjunction with Green Course—Israel’s nationwide campus environmental group—and Jerusalem elementary schools.
“When we educate people it is important to give them the key to open doors in the workplace but also to be a human being within a community,” says HCJ President Nava Ben-Zvi.
With that value in mind, college students prepare workshops on recycling and environmental studies to present to the children in biweekly, two-hour sessions throughout the school year. The program was a great success last year and has expanded to involve more schools, including a haredi and an Arab school.
One of the workshops explores issues of water conservation in Israel, and students have the opportunity to visit a reservoir.
Across the country, Hadassah is going green.
Last May, the Florida Atlantic Region initiated an environmental campaign. The team recently formed a coalition with the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, which does invaluable conservation work in the Everglades. Last November, a small Hadassah group volunteered to help plant 180 trees in a park in Wellington.
This month, members are going to a local public school in Boynton Beach to help 2nd graders plant a butterfly garden. “It will look beautiful in front of the school,” explained Myrna Rodkin, region president, “and it’s a wonderful thing for kids to see happen.”
To raise funds for these programs, chapters have sold more than 400 “Go Green” bracelets, handmade of green crystals and pewter beads, for $18 each.
In the Desert Mountain Region, the Southern Arizona chapter in Tucson has been participating in an adopt-a-highway program for over 10 years. Twice a year, members gather to clean up about four miles of city streets.
The Southern Nevada chapter in Las Vegas sold reusable canvas shopping bags from the Hadassah national convention in the summer to encourage people to cut back on disposable plastic bags from stores. They quickly sold out, and chapter members are thrilled to be helping the environment while gaining public awareness for Hadassah, according to Kacy Spivack, region president.
Other chapters and groups are cutting down on mailings and switching to e-bulletins to reduce waste. Some regions have made an effort to reduce the use of paper goods and disposable plastics at events and meetings.
“Everyone here is looking toward going green,” Spivack said. “It’s a national initiative, a regional initiative, and the chapters and groups are taking up the challenge.”
This summer, Young Judaea’s Camp Tel Yehudah in Barryville, New York, is initiating a program called Kayamut: Jewish Environmental Learning and Leadership for the 21st Century.
The two-week seminar for teens will be directed by Eilon Schwartz, a former Young Judaean and cofounder of Israel’s Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to engage the next generation of Jewish leaders in the most pressing issue today: the survival of the planet,” said Tel Yehudah Director David Weinstein.
In addition to studying Jewish texts and understanding the link between Jewish, Zionist and environmental ideas, campers will map the local area of the Delaware River Valley, learning its ecology. They will also research and implement a camp-wide sustainability audit.
Participants will receive credit for having completed an academic college preparatory program.
A Fruitful Partnership
One of Hadassah’s longest-standing environmental efforts is its partnership with the Jewish National Fund, which began in 1926. Hadassah has consistently been lauded as one of JNF’s largest organizational contributors.
In honor of Israel’s 60th birthday last May, Hadassah kicked off its Forests of the Future campaign, encouraging each member to plant at least one tree in Israel for the occasion. The aim is to plant two forests: one in the Negev Desert, near Beersheba, and the other in the north of the country, to replace thousands of trees destroyed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
“The partnership of JNF and Hadassah has been and remains a vital one,” said Deborah Kaplan, Hadassah’s JNF chair and past national president, “and Hadassah is committed to turning vision into reality.”
Ketura, the kibbutz in the Negev Desert founded in the early 1970s by Young Judaea alumni, is at the forefront of Israel’s renewable energy research and development. It is the home of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and is soon to be home to Israel’s first commercial solar energy plant. a The Arava Power Company is getting ready to build a photovoltaic power plant—converting sunlight to electricity and hooking it up to the national power grid. The company’s ultimate goal is to provide 10 percent of Israel’s energy needs while reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs beyond the center of the country.
“Israel has no commercial solar energy,” explained Yossi Abramowitz, the company’s president and cofounder. “And here on the kibbutz, for years people have been looking out at wide-open spaces and intense sunlight and wondering, ‘why not.’”
So far, 15 Negev kibbutzim, in addition to Kibbutz Ketura, have agreed to contribute land—totaling about 5,000 acres—for the solar energy fields. This area is enough to generate 500 megawatts, which is roughly 5 percent of the country’s energy needs.
The APC was cofounded in 2006 by Abramowitz, Ketura member Ed Hofland and David Rosenblatt of Tenafly, New Jersey. Abramowitz, 44, first came to Ketura with Young Judaea’s Year Course, in 1983, and returned with his family in 2006.
While working to attain necessary permits for the plant, APC has been raising funds; solar energy fields require very high capital, though the returns are guaranteed, according to Abramowitz, since the law in Israel requires the Israel Electric Company to buy the energy produced at the plant for 20 years at a fixed rate linked to inflation.
Also at Ketura, the Arava Institute is the premier environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East. It is dedicated to education, research and international cooperation, with the objective of preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges.
Students—who come to Arava for a master’s degree, a summer or a semester—explore a range of environmental issues from an interdisciplinary perspective while learning peace-building and leadership skills.
In February 2008, the Arava Institute founded the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation and established the Bryan Medwed Renewable Energy Park, also located on Kibbutz Ketura. Last summer, Tareq Abu Hamed, Ph.D., became the center’s director.
“The Arava Institute is an ideal place for the center [because] we are located in the Arava Valley…in an extreme desert climate with some of the highest solar radiation in the world,” explained David Lehrer, the institute’s director. “The availability of land that is not appropriate for growing food makes the area appropriate for growing biofuels. The extreme climate also makes it an interesting testing ground for other renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines as well as building technologies that can conserve energy.”
The center has recently approved the curriculum for a master’s degree in renewable energy, which it hopes will become a joint program with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev soon. BGU has partnered with the Arava Institute to conduct research at the center.H