How Green is Your House of Worship? Since 2005, the Green Team at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (“TSTI”) has been integrating environmental awareness and activities throughout the synagogue’s physical plant, education programs, worship and rituals and community involvement.
TSTI’s commitment to environmental awareness and education qualified the synagogue to be selected as one of eight Reform congregations in New Jersey, the only synagogue in Essex County, to launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program. The comprehensive Certification Program helps houses of worship across North America become environmental leaders through initiatives in facilities management, religious education and worship, and environmental justice.
The eight congregations participating in the Pilot Program are Temple Shalom (Aberdeen), Temple Emanu-El (Edison), Barnert Temple (Franklin Lakes), Temple Shaari Emeth (Manalapan), Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple (New Brunswick), Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (South Orange), Temple Shalom (Succasunna), and Temple Sinai (Tenafly).
Rabbi Dan Cohen explains, “As one of eight congregations chosen for this program, it is an opportunity for us to do our part in making sustainable changes. We will continue to ‘green’ our synagogue facility and educate our community on as many issues as possible. And perhaps this will encourage us to take action and lobby our administration to push for real change in our approach to energy and environmental policy.”
TSTI is taking part in a wide variety of activities as part of the two-year Certification Program. Upon completion, TSTI will become certified as a GreenFaith Sanctuary and will be looked to as leaders in the Reform Movement’s greening efforts. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and GreenFaith have joined together to launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program
The team, which is co-chaired by the synagogue members Sue and Phil Hoch, is currently working on an action plan with activities that include:
- Continue to green the TSTI facilities’ operations
- Conduct environmental justice education and advocacy
- Offer environmentally-themed worship services and education programs for all ages
- Communicate our work to local media outlets
- Take on the additional responsibility of serving as mentors to other Reform Jewish communities nationwide seeking to deepen their engagement with environmentalism.
- Send congregational leaders to social action programs at The Union for Reform Judaism to share their experiences with the Reform Movement.
Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation in South Orange, has long been the spiritual home to a diverse community that welcomes and includes Jews of traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, young families, singles, empty-nesters, multi-generational households and families with non-Jewish spouses or parents.
Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel offers a wide range of programs and opportunities, from its thriving pre-school and well-regarded elementary, middle and high school religious education to its social action and “Green Team” activities. We welcome all who wish to participate in the traditions and rituals of the Jewish people. Our goal is to perpetuate the religious principles and moral values of Judaism by providing an environment for worship, education, spirituality, and service for our members and the larger community.
GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992. They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.