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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why am I the Adventure Rabbi and not the Environmental Rabbi?

People often ask me why I am the Adventure Rabbi and not the Environmental Rabbi. The first and most obvious reason is that I doubt the Enviro Rabbi gets to wear a cool cape.

But the reality is that most of my community lives the environmental message and so does our organization. Eco-Judaism (as they call it today) is completely intertwined with our lives. Eco-Judaism is an integral part of what I do. So much so that I feel like it doesn’t need to be named.

The participants in the Adventure Rabbi program are well aware of the connections between Judaism and nature, even if we don’t call our Shabbat services “Eco-Judaism Shabbat, ” our High Holidays “Eco-Judaism High Holidays,” or our classes “Eco-Judaism classes”. Our prayer books are filled with Jewish texts about nature gleaned from our ancient and modern sources (i.e. Eco Judaism.) My teachings, sermons and services abound with references to the sacred relationship between Jews and the earth, more Eco-Judaism.

I think that Eco-Judaism is simply such an integral part of what we do that it wouldn’t have occurred to us to call it that any more than it would have to call it Jewish Rabbi.

I will admit that when I travel, I am amazed to realize what an environmental and health conscious bubble I live in here in Boulder. As the distance from Boulder increases, the number of Priuses on the road decreases proportionally. So too it seems, does access to healthy foods.

Those of you who live in Boulder may be as shocked as I was on a recent trip to learn that most of the country does not eat organic food. “Free range? What is that?” Their milk does not come from happy cows! Their vegetables are gown with insecticides! And check this out. Not only do people not compost, but they actually throw things in the garbage. And their toilet paper is not made from recycled fibers. (But it sure is soft and white. They might be onto something there.)

I was at an event out of state and was shocked to learn that Styrofoam cups still exist! And here we at Adventure Rabbi Council meetings debating if we should supply compostable cups or have everyone bring their own as we strive to create zero waste events. How silly of us.

Here in Boulder the idea of serving dinner on paper plates sounds as crazy as throwing out a brand new, unopened pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Why would you do that? It would not even occur to us.

I chose to live in Boulder because of the preeminence of values that are important to me. Our community stresses the importance of taking care of the earth, each other (social justice) and ourselves (health). But I suppose it might be good for me to remember what is going on in the rest of the country and see if we can share a bit of our Eco-Judaism message beyond the Prius Perimeter.

Eco-Judaism is important and I am glad that it has become so popular as of late. How do you feel about it? Do you think we should emphasize the environmental message more? Or is it just such an integral piece of what we already do?

Hey… I wonder if my friend Alison Rabinoff could sew me a cool Enviro Rabbi cape.

Speaking of Alison, Alison Rabinoff is one of our Leadership Council. She has taken the lead in making Adventure Rabbi events as green as possible. Putting Eco-Judaism into action, she helps us keep our events as close to Zero-Waste as possible. I know we don’t always reach the goals she sets for us, but with her at the helm of our Eco-Judaism action squad, we are continually trying to lessen our impact on the earth.

I’d like to share with you an email I recently received from Alison about some great work she is doing for the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Alison puts Eco-Judaism into practice everywhere she goes. Go Alison!

From Alison:
Last weekend I ran a green program for the Rocky Mountain Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. As a walker in 2007 & 2008 I was disappointed by the amount of event waste – so this year I stepped up and designed and ran a green program. The program included composting, recycling and food donation.

I was part of the Pack Up Crew (really the trash team) who’s 10 members were in charge of keeping the event site spotless, and this year also learned about composting. I’m excited to report that my homemade green program was a huge success - even winning over some big, national, skeptics.

At final count the walk raised 2.7 million to fund research, prevention programs and support those with breast cancer. And my green program impacted approximately 2,200 people; composted and/or recycled 75% of the event waste; and donated 1,700 lbs of food and 500 gallons of water.

Of our 10 team members, 8 of us have already signed up to do it again in 2010. So I’m already planning the program’s improvements and expansion!

Send us your eco-Judaism stories and we’ll post it here as well!
- Jamie

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