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Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester
- Provide a forum to address the climate crisis with elected officials
- Educate about the climate crisis and its impact on environmental justice
- Educate about our religious obligation to take action to protect the earth
Temple Beth El held an Environmental Advocacy Forum with public officials from federal, state and local levels as guest speakers. The congregation sought to reinforce the religious obligation to protect the environment, and to highlight possible action and advocacy efforts, as well as educate congregants about Jews’ religious responsibility on climate change and effective advocacy for environmental justice.
The tikkun olam council collaborated with religious school and nursery school students, as well as the youth group, to create a "Guide to Green Living," which was distributed at the event.
The event was publicized with fliers, congregational notices, newspaper coverage, and personal phone calls. The council targeted the congregation and broader community, welcoming youth from the local middle schools and high school.
Materials and the "Guide to Green Living" were made available at the Forum. To signifiy the importance of the forum, the speakers sat as a panel on the temple bimah. The rabbis commenced the program with a discussion about the Jewish values that require us to protect the earth and the social and economic justice issues involved with climate change. A lively discussion followed about what actions our lawmakers must take to curb global warming. The brotherhood hosted a reception afterward with refreshments, where congregants had an opportunity to speak with the public officials.
To further the advocacy effort, the Tikkun Olam Council collected dozens of letters to send to Senators and the President to demand stronger action on the environment. As follow up, all members of the temple received by mail a copy of the collaborative "Guide to Green Living" as a reference source on what actions each individual can take in their daily lives.
Congregants, students, and many from our community came to hear and address the high-profile government representatives who were part of our forum. Congregants were very receptive to the Guide To Green Living, and the Guide set a precedent for the larger community. The synagogue was approached by a coalition of local religious organizations asking for permission to use the "Guide to Green Living" as a template for their own work with the environment.
By giving the youth voice, we sought to empower them in a dialogue that may have the most dire impact on their future. The program was also a hugely successful advocacy program, teaching our congregants to use advocacy through dialog with elected officials and through our on-going letter writing campaigns.
Excitement from the event resulted in numerous other temple initiatives, including several additional letter and petition campaigns, beautification projects at local parks and community centers, and internal evaluations of energy efficiency in the temple's imminent construction project.
This program received a Fain Honorable Mention in 2009.