Some thoughts for Rosh Hashanah: If we took a vote on what trait we human beings most value, goodness would undoubtedly win. Certainly goodness is the trait that we most want everyone else to possess. But if we say we value goodness above everything else -- and surely Judaism does -- why aren't there more good people? A big reason is that it is easier to value other things -- including, and especially, positive things -- more than goodness. So it's much easier to be just about anything rather than good. It’s easier to be religious than to be good.
As scientists continue to warn us that our over-consumption of natural resources is putting too great a strain on our planet, the idea of sustainability — of reducing one’s carbon footprint, recycling and finding a cleaner, greener future — has never been more popular.
Holidays like Passover are a difficult time for Jewish vegans and animal activists, a time of mixed emotions. As much as we love and find relevance in the meaning of the holiday, it’s difficult to be confronted by a table full of the body parts of animals that we love and fight for daily. Some vegans forgo Passover entirely, and some who celebrate with their families feel pressured to defend their ethical choices, or pressured to eat things that conflict with their values. Some are no longer invited to their family’s tables at all.
It’s easy to spot Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz at a Jewish food conference, an environmentalist gathering or any of the other progressive-minded confabs he frequents. Just look for the Chasid in the room.
Dr. Alon Tal, 2005 recipient of The Charles Bronfman Prize, is dedicated to challenging and reshaping Israel’s environmental policies. From his trailblazing advocacy work, to founding the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, to his work on desertification, Tal has established Israel as a model in environmentalism.
What are you focused on today?
Judaism has a lot to say about how to create a balance between using the resources we have and abusing or destroying them.
" . . . It is troubling that some Orthodox rabbis have joined with the Christian right to eliminate same-sex civil marriage. Banning same-sex civil marriage is about as relevant to Orthodox Judaism as banning the sale of shellfish . . . "
The Dead Sea's rapid disappearance has become a grave concern for environmentalists, industries that profit from the sea and Israel's tourism sector
The World Bank is conducting a $14 million study of a plan to build a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Environmentalists say the canal idea is a risky proposition to save the Dead Sea, which is rapidly shrinking.
The way to save the Dead Sea is by restoring freshwater flow from a rehabilitated Jordan River, not building an ecologically risky channel from the Red Sea
A Major Documentary on Current Environmental Threats and How Jewish Teachings Can Be Applied in Responding to These Threats.
Last week's emotion-packed visit to Sderot by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with a delegation of senior city officials, leaders of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Israel Leadership Club and several Los Angeles clergy might have received much of the trip's media coverage during the group's weeklong stay in Israel. However, it's the meetings between city and Israeli experts in homeland security, counterterrorism and green technology that could have a significant effect on the way Los Angeles and Israel protect their citizens, institutions and natural resources.
Two years ago, Camp Ramah in California embarked upon a major solar energy project, effectively becoming the first Jewish overnight camp west of the Mississippi to adopt greener energy options. With the installation of a solar energy system atop the dining hall of our 75-acre Ojai campgrounds, Ramah has become a leader in the Jewish community when it comes to reducing environmental pollution and dependence on foreign oil. The system purchased by Ramah is designed to reduce toxic emissions by approximately 4.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 11,000 pounds of nitrous oxide and 35,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the life of the system.
Joy Horowitz's "Parts Per Million: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High School" (Viking) is a dense 350-page book detailing a four-year fight between 1,000 litigants who claimed oil wells at the school caused diseases, such as cancer, and defendants -- including the oil companies, the city of Beverly Hills and school officials -- who said there had been no harmful effects from the (profitable) derricks.
These are the times for which Tu B'Shevat was created. The rabbis who envisioned this holiday were prophetic: They knew we would need to be reminded on a regular basis about howimportant trees are to our lives. And trees have never been more important to our survival than they are today.
Quick, name one thing that 99 percent of all American Jews agree on. Impossible, right? We are the People who pride ourselves on our contentiousness, who revel in our stiff-neckedness, who love to remind the world that where there are two Jews, you'll find three opinions.
But it's not always so.
There are three levels of wisdom through which Chanukah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis -- what some of us call "global scorching," because "warming" seems so pleasant, so comforting. We can encode these three teachings into actions we take to heal the earth each of the eight days.
One of the Jewish calendar's most widespread and public observances, the Chanukah holiday has traditionally emphasized two miracles: the military victory of Jewish rebels over Greek invaders and the one vial of oil that lasted for eight nights. However, just as other holidays have seen their historic purpose shaped to contemporary narratives, Chanukah is increasingly being used as a vehicle for other Jewish agendas that seem to stray far from the holiday's original meaning.
As a result, the industry is highly fragmented with numerous regional participants who provide customers with a limited range of solutions to control different pollution subproblems. That's why the simple and cost-effective Israeli solution developed by Vortex Ecological Technologies, which cleans both pollutant gases and fine particles, is being touted as a breakthrough.
Standing at Israel's Alumot Dam, a 30-minute walk south from the Sea of Galilee, it's a typical midwinter day: deep blue sky, birds everywhere and a brisk breeze that carries a nauseating stench. Reduced to a thin stream by this point, the Jordan River stops. A few feet south of the dam, untreated sewage gushes directly into the riverbed.
Biodiesel itself has the consistency, smell and, yes, taste of Mazola. Made from food oils and alcohol, it disintegrates into harmless organic matter when spilled. It's as toxic as table salt.
The segment begins with host Jimmy Smits providing a quick overview of a familiar litany of problems besetting Los Angeles. There are traffic-choked interchanges, vast tracts of unchecked development, a trickle of water to slake a thirsty city and brownish air.
Jewish camping, particularly overnight camping, has been documented to be one of the most effective ways to build a lasting and active connection to Jewish living.
Many rabbinic texts detail our long tradition of ecotheology, explicitly supporting the idea that caring for the Earth is a distinctly religious imperative.
As the people of northern Israel finally return to their homes, they're going back to more than empty streets, freshly dug gravesites and a beefed-up military presence. They're also coming home to a radically altered physical landscape.
At 7 a.m., after a long, grueling red-eye journey from Los Angeles, our plane landed on a narrow runway carved out of the lush rainforest deep in a remote island area of the Panamanian outback. As my son, Adam, 13, and I trudged off the plane, 40 smiling Kuna natives eagerly welcomed us to the exotic island of Playon Chico. With vivid memories of Adam's bar mitzvah just a fortnight prior replaying in my mind, I couldn't help but think that this would be the adventure of a lifetime. Indeed, it was.
Selecting an environmental mitzvah project is a good starting point. But consider adding eco-friendly substitutes for white plastic tableware, Styrofoam centerpieces, Mylar balloons and elaborate banners. Are your invitations printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks?
My act of civil disobedience -- refusing to consume the flesh of once-living, breathing animals -- has virtually no effect, perhaps none whatsoever. Agribusiness decides far in advance how many cows to raise and then slaughter without regard to my individual case.
No one deserves a spa experience more than you do. Just picture it -- warm tubs scented with essential oils, invigorating body scrubs, refreshing botanical blend face masks smoothed on in soothing circular massaging motions and misty showers with luscious gels.
A number of Jewish leaders say their efforts to change the Air Force Academy's position on Christian proselytizing were overmatched by the evangelical community, which fought any move to restrict religious discussion on campus.
At Temple Beth Israel, the planting project, which is being done in phases with funding and physical assistance from a Jewish environmental group, has transformed congregants' preconceived notions of drab native plants.
Ten ways to begin greening your synagogue from Barbara Lerman-Golomb, associate executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life:
Competition for postings to Los Angeles is fierce within the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and two young diplomats who made the grade, Yaron Gamburg and Gilad Millo, have joined the staff of the consulate general here.
Though Jews make up a small proportion of the prison population, they often are discriminated against and denied religious materials, such as kosher meals and tefillin, advocates for Jewish prisoners say.
Then, after a summer studying in Israel, she decided to transfer to Maalot, an accredited college program for Orthodox women who want a traditional Jewish environment and also wish to study Judaic topics while earning their bachelor's degree. Maalot, a branch of the Maalot Aidner Institute in Jerusalem, on Third Street just west of La Brea Avenue, has granted approximately 35 bachelor's degrees since it opened in 2000. There are currently 60 women enrolled.
Well, no. Tu b'Shevat is an annual celebration for a reason.
Thousands of years ago, our rabbis knew that we would need to be reminded on a regular basis about how important trees are to our lives. We must always remember to protect, plant and care for more of them.
"This project marks the convergence of two traditions, without detracting from the integrity of either one," said Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Sholom, the "Progressive Reform" congregation long active in interfaith relations. "In both traditions, trees symbolize new life and hope."
We know that Chanukah is all about the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days, right? Well, we have a new miracle driving around our streets. And, just like the little bit of oil that kept on going, these electric/hybrid cars use much less gas than a regular car.
Zager started out as a reporter, working for a short stint after college at a community newspaper in her hometown, Detroit. After getting married and having children, she turned to comedy. She spent 14 years as a stand-up comedian, entertaining at clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
But being a journalist was her lifelong dream.
Although there are no formal studies conducted as yet, it is clear that the number of Jewish families with special-needs children is growing, just as the number of cases grow nationwide.
The wildly best-selling apocalyptic adventure novels involve, among other things, vivid scenarios in which the Jews neatly fulfill their function in the Christian narrative by converting en masse as Armageddon nears.
As a couple, they bonded over their shared disabilities, their commitment to religion (they are both Orthodox) and their desire to have children.
"When Shmuel and I were dating that was one topic we discussed," Rivkah Klein said. "We both wanted children, and it wasn't a question of whether we would be able to, but rather finding the right way to have them."
What was that all about?
Those on the left will say the recall election we just survived was a sneaky Republican power grab. Those on the right will say it was a citizen revolt against a sleazy and ineffectual governor.
Those in the middle will say, "Are we done yet?"
It's not clear, this early on, who wins and who loses in this process. If Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger succeeds in balancing the state budget while improving California's business climate, educational system and environment -- just as he promised -- then we all win.