Acts of Kindness

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"Green" Shomrei -- Shomrei Haaretz (Guardians of the Earth)

As a community, we at Shomrei Emunah recognize that our words and deeds directly affect the natural world we live in and depend on. If we are to be a kehillah kedusha – a holy community – we believe we have a responsibility to express our concerns and to take meaningful action in ways that reflect Jewish values and teachings.

With that in mind, Shomrei has set its sights on reducing our consumption of energy and enhancing our relationship to our environment. We are reevaluating how we use our building and where we obtain our food (both at synagogue and at home), and examining how we can weave elements of environmental education into nearly everything we do – from our religious school to the bimah.

At shul, the possibilities we are weighing include an energy audit and retrofits, a new recycling program, switching to only recycled-paper and biodegradable products, expanding our use of compact-fluorescent bulbs, even painting our roof white.

One initiative already under way is a congregation-wide sneaker drive that collected used shoes to be dismantled and made into raw material for the construction of athletic fields in underprivileged communities.

Another, which has had a visible result quite literally in our own back yard, has been the cultivation of fruit-bearing plants and trees on the grounds surrounding our synagogue: pears, blueberries, grapevines and figs. So far.

We also are studying the ways that kashrut, and Jewish tradition and law, lay the groundwork for thinking about the environmental impact of growing and distributing our food, and about how laborers and animals are treated in the making and delivery of what we eat.

Among the producers and providers we are focusing on are Negev Nectars, a cooperative that purchases dates, olive oil, herbs and other products grown on small-scale sustainable farms in the Israeli desert; Peace Coffee, an organic, kosher, fair-trade brand that is made by Jews, Muslims and Christians working side-by-side; local farmers supported by community-supported agriculture; Equal Exchange, a fair-trade wholesaler and co-op whose products include teas and sugar; and Mitzvah Meat.

It isn’t just where we worship or what we eat that matters: we also hope to add an environmental – or at least an outdoorsy – dimension to our congregation’s penchant for social action, with an emphasis on the action: bike rides, hikes, walks, runs. And we wish to identify Shomrei Emunah with an explicit concern for the natural world – whether by enlisting in the Jewish Climate Change Campaign, or by committing ourselves to Jewish or interfaith organizations, like Hazon, that are working on these issues.

This effort is still in its early days. But as a first step, Shomrei Emunah has been certified with the National Wildlife Federation as a habitat friendly to both people and animals.

We welcome all who wish to lend their own energy, and their ideas, to this important initiative.

Information: Sharon Freedman,