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Spiritual Practices for Jewish Environmental Leadership

Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Adriane Leveen led “Spiritual Practices for Jewish Environmental Leadership” from May 28-31, 2013. The intensive was designed for students and alumni interested in developing a Jewish approach to environmental activism in their communities.  The intensive course introduced tools of study and prayer as well as more concrete environmental actions that could be employed effectively in synagogues, schools, camps, and other Jewish settings.

Guided by Jewish texts and practices, they investigated the New York City area as an urban environment with the aim of exploring the deep interconnection that links the wildness within each of us to the natural world outside, even in its most urban manifestation. It is from this place of deep connection that we can act most wisely to sustain our surrounding, the human lives that are part of it, and our own commitment and capacity to bring about change.  Over four days, they combined Jewish text study, prayer, and meditation with field trips to environmental sites in the city and environs. They visited loci of environmental justice activity as well as urban natural beauty, and spent time in the ex-urban Hudson River basin.

Jewish Roots of Sustainable Living

Sustainable living is characterized by a concern for the environment, striving to have as small an impact as possible on nature, and using the minimal number of natural resources necessary. A sustainable approach to living is based upon certain beliefs about the importance of preserving the environment and minimizing the human impact on it. This Spring 2015 course with Dr. Michael Pitkowsky will examine the Jewish roots that support a sustainable living lifestyle. Students will look at the theological and textual sources of Jewish sustainable living, beginning with Biblical literature and continuing through to modern Jewish thinkers, exploring how different types of Jewish literature can provide guidance for the construction of a sustainable lifestyle.