Thanks to a generous grant from the Gendler Grapevine Project as well as the gift of an anonymous donor, 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.
Rabbi Everett Gendler, 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 is designed to perpetuate Rabbi Gendler’s life’s work by establishing roots of change in the Jewish community toward recognizing and celebrating the deep connections between the Jewish tradition and the natural world.
The Greening Initiative has been spearheaded by fifth-year rabbinical student Liz Piper-Goldberg, who majored in Environmental Studies at Brown University and worked on the teva (nature) program at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Eisner Camp to augment its program with a environmental education.
"Environmental stewardship and sustainable practices have always been an important part of my personal Jewish theology,” explains Piper-Goldberg, who is working together with Dean Idelson, Director of Operations Harriet Lewis, and the student-run Green Team. “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.”
Starting with the school’s food system, the campus is adopting a policy of environmentally-sustainable purchasing for food-related materials, including plates, utensils, cups, and napkins, and switching to recycled, compostable, and biodegradable items rather than disposable plastic or Styrofoam materials. In addition, the campus has developed a relationship with an urban composting company that works on removing food and food-related materials from the waste stream. The ultimate aim is to achieve a waste-neutral food system, in fulfillment of bal taschit, the Biblical prohibition against wastefulness.
In addition, the New York campus’s Rabbi Everett Gendler Environmental Education Series will engage students in the study of traditional Jewish texts pertaining to food systems, waste, and eating with leading experts who can share best practices. In the future, the aim includes providing alumni with access to strategic plans, resources, and educational materials compiled at HUC-JIR/New for use in their communities.
During Sukkot 2014, the Gendler Environmental Education Series offered “An Earthy Sukkot: A Shiur on Eco-Judaism for Jewish Professionals" with Rabbi Fred Dobb, Chair of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and leader of Adat Shalom Congregation in Bethesda, MD. Faculty, students and staff gathered in the rooftop sukkah for text study exploring Sukkot and shmita (the sabbatical year in the seven-year agricultural cycle), web resources, and best practices in synagogue and Jewish communal environmental efforts. Listen to Rabbi Dobb's lecture: