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Union for Reform Judaism and GreenFaith Launch Congregational Greening Pilot Program


NEW YORK, NY, June 3, 2010 | 21st Sivan 5770 - Today the Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and GreenFaith join together to launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program. Through the Pilot, eight Reform congregations in New Jersey will take part in the rigorous GreenFaith Certification Program, with the Union and GreenFaith underwriting the cost of their participation. 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. Upon completion, the synagogues will become certified as GreenFaith Sanctuaries and will be looked to as leaders in the Reform Movement's greening efforts.

The eight congregations participating in the Pilot Program are Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, Temple Emanu-El in Edison, Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, Temple Shalom in Succasunna, and Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly. Although the Certification Program is national in scope, the Union chose New Jersey as the focus of its Pilot Program so that its New York-based staff can visit each of the participating congregations and see their efforts firsthand.

"I am thrilled to partner with GreenFaith to launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot, and look forward to working with these outstanding congregations to help them become leaders in the urgent moral challenge of protecting our environment," said Mark Pelavin, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. "Our Movement has focused intensely on our long-standing commitment to environmental issues in recent years and we are inspired by the enthusiasm of the congregations that jumped at the chance to participate in this Pilot Program."

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, said, "GreenFaith is excited to partner with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center to invest in this pilot effort, which is the first of its kind among North American denominations. We look forward to welcoming these eight outstanding congregations into the Certification Program's interfaith community and to helping them become exemplary environmental leaders in the coming two years."

Each participating synagogue has formed a "Green Team" and passed a Board Resolution endorsing the Certification Program. In addition to extensive support from GreenFaith and Union staff, the congregations will receive access to over 200 resources, six webinars and an online community - all organized by GreenFaith - where they can share questions, resources and events with fellow participants.

The Pilot Program congregations will take part in a wide variety of activities as part of the two year Certification Program. They will create an action plan based on a comprehensive audit, green their facilities' operations, conduct environmental justice education and advocacy, offer environmentally-themed worship services and education programs for all ages, and communicate their work to local media outlets. They will take on the additional responsibility of serving as mentors to other Reform Jewish communities nationwide seeking to deepen their engagement with environmentalism. Congregational leaders will attend Union social action programs to share their experiences with the Reform Movement.

As Pelavin adds, "Our Jewish tradition, beginning with the Book of Genesis, commands us 'to till and to tend' our earth, and our synagogue communities take this mitzvah seriously. I look forward to seeing our Pilot Program congregations put these words into action as they lead the way to a greener and stronger Reform Movement." Certification Program Director Stacey Kennealy said, "GreenFaith is encouraged to see the Reform Movement make such a strong public commitment to the protection of creation, and we are excited to see the many ways these synagogues will put their beliefs into action for the earth."

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The Union for Reform Judaism provides vision, direction and leadership to Reform Jews and congregations on spiritual, ethical, social justice and management issues, offering programming support to Reform Jewish congregations and strengthening individual Jewish identity and growth. www.urj.org

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. www.rac.org

GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment. Founded in 1992, GreenFaith inspires, educates and mobilizes people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership. www.greenfaith.org



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