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Fain Honorable Mention: Sustainable Sinai

Sustainable Sinai

Mar. 29, 2013

Struck by the urgency of climate change and ending our use of fossil fuels as a prime act of tikkun olam, we sought to reduce our carbon footprint by changing our lights, our A/C and by installing a large (30KW) solar photovoltaic system.


Community Contact Information:

Temple Sinai of Glendale

Glendale, CA




  • Reduce our carbon footprint and our reliance of coal, which seriously impacts the health of our nation.
  • Reduce our energy costs
  • Facilitate other temples' "green" efforts by welcoming questions, "advertising" in media.



Our finest universities and all national science academies throughout the world unanimously urge us to act to prevent the worst effects of climate change. By reducing our carbon footprint Temple Sinai has responded to this plea. All other forms of tikkun olam will be swamped by the consequences of doing nothing. As a result of climate change there will be a sharp increase in poverty, hunger, disease, and homelessness, but we can minimize this by strongly pivoting to low carbon fuels. Just as with civil rights, Judaism must step forward.



Many low carbon improvements (lighting, etc) had already been underway in our congregation. After some exploration and research, a temple member was asked to fomally present the "Solar Sinai" concept to our President. Next, a meeting with the Temple Sinai Board was scheduled: the idea was presented to the Board. Of course, a large investment such as this was met with considerable skepticism, but also encouragement. A "Solar Sinai" committee was formed of four other members to collect proposals, evaluate their merits, discuss doubts and objections raised by the Board, analyze the financial impacts, plan presentations to future Board meetings, etc. Prior to officially launching the program a major fundraiser was initiated, and more than half the congregation contributed to fully fund the down payment.


Project Implementation:

We celebrated at an event with music, dignitaries, speeches, and a play put on by the little ones. The 30KW Photovoltaic System was installed over a period of a few weeks. A major effort to "spread the word" in the media was made by many members of TSG. Outreach efforts to other Synagogues is still underway. We hope to be a resource for low carbon solutions in the Jewish Community - and in others, as well. Further improvements, such as a new A/C continue to shrink our usage of electricity. A Xeriscape garden is installed by members to lower water (and energy ) use.



We reduced both our use of electricity and reliance on polluting coal by installing improved lighting, renovating our A/C and installing a 30KW solar panel (photovoltaic) system. In the process our electricity bills were reduced from $34,000/year a few years ago to about $14,000/year. In six years (when the lease expires) the bill will drop to about $5000/year.

By using less coal energy we have also avoided the release of many tons of CO2, as well as preventing the release of mercury, particulates, sulfur and nitrogen oxides from coal plants. We are in the process of exploring purchase of a second system that would, in a few years, almost eliminate our production of coal pollution and completely zero out our bills. We, at Temple Sinai, are members of California Interfaith Power and Light. This is an organization that supports all faith groups striving to be "good stewards" of our environment. Recently, out of about 560 member faith groups, we were awarded the "Green Building Oscar" for our work. We have reached out to the greater community by telling our story and encouraging others to benefit as we have.

We are currently in negotiation for a second system of 30KW, which will double the benefits. Rabbi Schecter's teaching on Judaism and the environment and Eddie Polon's efforts resulted in the complete funding of the down payment. Our membership showed great enthusiasm for the project. For example, one young man had saved his Tsedakah money for several years and went "all in" for Solar Sinai. Our story has been published in at least half a dozen news articles; some are attached. Awards: We were awarded an "Energy Oscar" for Green Building from California Interfaith Power and Light, an interfaith group of 15,000 members nationwide. Rabbi Schechter tells of a Rabbi who once said, "good deeds are, in fact, prayers". It is as if our building is praying every day, through the generosity of our members and the open mindedness of our temple administration.