In 2011, Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York made the choice to invest in environmentally friendly LEED certification. “The idea was this was pretty much going to be the standard in the future and we were ahead of the curve,” former congregational President Amy Lemle said of the switch.
In North America, a growing number of congregations like Westchester Reform have embraced the Jewish roots of sustainable practices and have made green renovations a priority. “Rabbi Jacobs pretty much thought that it was a moral imperative,” Lemle said of Westchester’s Rabbis commitment to sustainable building.
Yet, while the green trend is catching on in the US, in Israel, few synagogues in Israel have shown interest in environmentally friendly building or practices. To help encourage Israeli synagogues to launch their own green initiatives, Teva Ivri and the Council for Beautiful Israel are sponsoring a contest to find the greenest synagogue in all of Israel.
Currently, 80 centers of congregational life in Israel are in the running for the prize, which will be awarded in October. The goal, however, is not just to crown a winner, but to help secular and religious Israelis see the link between the environment, their synagogues and Jewish life.
“In galvanizing communities to green their synagogues, we are emphasizing that the institution that has guided the Jewish people for over 2,000 years can be relevant to our efforts toward environmental protection, Weitzman Mashiach, deputy director of Council for a Beautiful Israel said.
Teva Ivri is also hoping Jewish communities abroad will support their Israeli peers in their efforts. On the website announcing the green contest Teva Ivri invites, “Jewish communities from abroad to support their Israeli counterparts as they take on more environmental responsibility.”