The HUC-JIR/New York Greening Initiative Receives Generous Grant from the Gendler Grapevine Project to Reimagine Campus’s Food System

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The HUC-JIR Green Team, from left to right: Vladimir Lapin, Rayna Green, Lilah Sugarman, Elana Rosen-Brown, Liz Piper-Goldberg, Rachel Rhodes, and Danny Moss

Thanks to a generous grant from the Gendler Grapevine Project, the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) will lead an effort to go green by practicing and teaching environmental awareness to the next generation of rabbis, cantors, and educators.  The HUC-JIR/New York Greening Initiative seeks to reimagine the New York campus’s food system through a campus compost project and environmental education series.  The Initiative is spearheaded by rabbinical student Liz Piper-Goldberg working together with Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Ph.D., Dean, HUC-JIR/New York, Harriet Lewis, Director of Operations, and a student-run Green Team.

Rabbi Shirley Idelson stated, “Addressing the environmental crisis is part of our Jewish mandate to prevent senseless destruction of our planet. We must draw upon the wisdom of our ancient Jewish teachings related to environmental stewardship, and at the same time we must act with a sense of urgency. We are grateful to the Gendler Grapevine Project for providing us with resources to do both in significant ways in the year ahead.”

Liz Piper-Goldberg recently completed her fourth year of rabbinical school at the New York campus. Prior to matriculating at HUC-JIR, Piper-Goldberg majored in Environmental Studies at Brown University.  She spent summers at the Union for Reform Judaism Eisner Camp, where she transformed the teva (nature) program to augment its Jewish educational environmental focus. "Environmental stewardship and sustainable practices have always been an important part of my personal Jewish theology,” Piper-Goldberg said. “I believe we were placed on earth as partners with God to till and to tend the land, to protect our planet. I am honored and excited to be able to work with fellow students, faculty, and staff to implement these value-driven practices at HUC-JIR.”

Through the Greening Initiative, HUC-JIR/New York will pioneer new programs and initiatives on campus that support clergy and community understanding of environmental concerns, beginning with the New York campus’s food system.  Food is an essential and significant element of Jewish communal life. By starting with the school’s food system, HUC-JIR/New York will highlight a tangibly present element of its communal gatherings, expanding the environmental consciousness and actions of students, staff, faculty, and administration. Thanks to the grant from the Gendler Grapevine Project, HUC-JIR/New York will create and implement these environmentally-friendly practices:

  • Food-related materials purchasing: The New York campus will adopt a policy of environmentally-sustainable purchasing for food-related materials, including plates, utensils, cups, napkins, switching to use recycled, compostable, and biodegradable items rather than disposable plastic or Styrofoam materials.
  • Food waste: The campus will develop a relationship with an urban composting company, enabling removal of both food and food-related materials from the waste stream. As an ultimate goal, HUC-JIR/New York will aim to achieve a waste-neutral food system, working toward true fulfillment of bal taschit, the prohibition against wastefulness. 
  • The Rabbi Everett Gendler Environmental Education Series: Students and faculty on the New York campus will study traditional Jewish texts pertaining to food systems, waste, and eating, and will bring in leading experts who can share best practices. In the spirit of dor l’dor, College-Institute alumni will be provided access to the strategic plans, resources, and educational materials compiled at HUC-JIR/New York for use in their communities. The aim of The Rabbi Everett Gendler Environmental Education Series is to create a cadre of environmentally knowledgeable clergy for a new generation.  It is the College-Institute’s hope that its students, future leaders of the Reform Movement, will develop an enthusiasm for Jewish environmental education and practice.

Through the Greening Initiative, the College-Institute will bring these Jewish environmental programs and concrete practices into synagogues, Hillels, day schools, and communities where its students and alumni serve.

About Rabbi Everett Gendler and the Gendler Grapevine: Rabbi Everett Gendler, who has been described as the "grandfather of Jewish environmentalism," has been a pioneering and visionary figure in the Jewish ecological movement for more than half a century.  The Gendler Grapevine Project was designed to celebrate and perpetuate Rabbi Gendler’s inspiration life’s work by establishing roots of change in the Jewish community which – like grapevines – will grow and connect, providing sustenance and inspiration for future generations. The Gendler Grapevine funds projects within the Jewish community that honor and support the values that Rabbi Gendler has maintained throughout his life: recognizing and celebrating the deep connections between the Jewish tradition and the natural world, and empowering individuals to spiritual and practical appreciation of these values. Learn more >


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu