Jewish Holidays and the Environment

Our Shomrei Ha’Aretz Committee is please to present ideas for programs throughout the Jewish calendar, including for:

  • Bereishit/Genesis
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Sukkot
  • Hanukkah
  • Tu B’Shevat
  • Purim
  • Passover
  • Month of Elul

AnchorThe Stewardship Paradigm in the Torah Portion of Bereishit/Genesis

Thoughts on the impact of our generation’s actions on G-d’s Earth that we leave to our children & grandchildren.

Compiled by Michael W. Miller, from Jewcology website.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates G-d’s creation of the world. The “Ten Days of Repentance” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is a period to evaluate our deeds and to do teshuvah (repentance) for cases where we have missed the mark. Hence, the upcoming weeks provide an excellent time to consider the state of the planet’s environment (ecology) and what we might do to make sure that the world is on a sustainable path for the next generation.  The condition of the environment directly impacts Public Health.

In the fall, we read Bereshit.  When G-d created the world, He was able to say, “It is tov meod (very good).” (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as G-d had planned, the waters were clean, and the air was pure.  The Midrash says that G-d showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are” how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy my world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”  (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)

What must G-d think when the rain’ He provided to nourish our crops is often acid rain containing toxic chemicals, due to the many chemicals emitted into the air by industries and automobiles; when the abundance of species of plants and animals G-d created are becoming extinct at such an alarming rate in tropical rain forests and other threatened habitats; when the abundant fertile soil G-d provided is quickly being depleted and eroded;” when surface and groundwater are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollution; “when the climatic conditions that G-d designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming? This is what our children and grandchildren will inherit.”

“Ingrained in the process of creation and central to the life of every Jew is a weekly reminder that our dominion of earth must be l’shem Shamayim- in the name of Heaven. The choice is ours. If we continue to live as though G-d had only commanded us to subdue the earth, we must be prepared for our children to inherit a seriously degraded planet, with the future of human civilization put into question. If we see our role as masters of the earth as a unique opportunity to truly serve and care for the planet, its creatures and its resources, then we can reclaim our status as stewards of the world, and raise our new generations in an environment much closer to that of Eden”. (Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus of the College of Staten Island.) 

Today’s environmental threats that endanger the health and safety of our children and grandchildren:

*  When we consider the threats to our land, water, and air due to pesticides and other chemical pollutants, resource scarcities, acid rain, deforestation, desertification, threats to our climate, etc., we can easily enumerate ten modern “plagues.”

*  The Egyptians were subjected to one plague at a time, while the modern plagues threaten us simultaneously.

*  The Israelites in Goshen were spared most of the Biblical plagues, while every person on earth is imperiled by the modern plagues.  

*  Instead of an ancient Pharaoh’s heart being hardened, our hearts and the hearts of our political leaders today seem to have been hardened by the greed, materialism, and waste that are at the root of current environmental threats.

* God provided the Biblical plagues to free the Israelites, while today we must apply God’s teachings in order to save ourselves, relatives and our precious but imperiled planet.”

Israel’s safety is always on our mind. Will a sustainable Israel be available for our children and grandchildren?  Israel is affected by climate change and already suffering from one of the worst droughts in its history, with below average rainfall in each of the past five years, and the Kinneret, a major water source, at dangerously low levels.

Israeli climate experts are  concerned with additional climate threats, each and all of which would heighten  political tensions and suffering in and around Israel: (1) a rise in temperature causing many severe heat waves; (2) a significant increase in the Mediterranean Sea level, which would threaten the narrow coastal strip of land which contains most of Israel’s population and infrastructure; and (3) a significant decrease in rainfall, estimated at 20-30%, which would disrupt agricultural production and worsen the chronic water scarcity problem in Israel and the region. Making matters even worse, much of that rainfall would come in severe storms that would cause major flooding.

Fortunately, there are many Jewish teachings that can be applied to shift the earth to a sustainable path. Briefly, these include:

* Our mandate to be shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth), based on the admonition that we should “work the earth and guard it” (Genesis 2:15);

* The prohibition of bal tashchit, that we should not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (Deuteronomy 20:19. 20); 

* Teaching our children that,” The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalms 24:1), and that the assigned role of the Jewish people is to enhance the world as “partners of G-d in the work of creation.” (Shabbat 10a); 

* The ecological lessons related to the Shabbat, sabbatical, and jubilee cycles.

There are several branches of the Jewish community who excel in acts of kindness, charity, and learning. However, they are generally in denial about climate change and other environmental threats and are increasingly supporting politicians who promote the removal of regulations (toxic chemicals, air, pesticides and waste water discharge)  that protect the Public Health,. This action benefits highly profitable corporations, at the added health care costs for thousands of Americans.   While these Jews generally know far more about Judaism than less religious and secular Jews, they are far less involved in applying Jewish values.

In 2016 the federal Environmental Protection Agency published a study comparing (ten years #37) the cost to industry for implementing Environmental regulations and the benefits in Public Health and industrial savings.  The savings ($175- 678 Billion) far exceeded cost ($43.2 -50.9).

“As co-workers with G-d, charged with the task of being a light unto the nations and accomplishing tikkun olam (healing and restoring the earth), it is essential that FJMC take an active role in applying our eternal, sacred values in struggles to reduce climate change, pollution and the waste of natural resources. Based on the central Jewish mandates to work with G-d in preserving the earth, we must work with others for significant changes in society’s economic and production systems, values, and life-styles. So at the start of a new year, we should seek to reduce our environmental impact and convince our representatives at all levels of government to support and enforce the EPA regulations that protect public health and G-d’s Earth. The fate of humanity, our children and grandchildren and   G-d’s precious earth are at stake, and if we fail to act properly and in time, there may be “no one after us to set it right.”  Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus of the College of Satan Island; Author of “Who Stole my Religion”

Material from Jewcology and FJMC web sites


Bereishit Chapter 1 and 2 are the Jewish roots of environmentalism. The honor and glory that crowns the human race is possession of the earth, which is granted as the culmination of God’s creative work: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”(Genesis 1:28) This notion is fortified in Psalm 115: “The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth God has given to humanity.”  While the creation narrative clearly establishes God as Master of the Universe, it is the human being who is appointed master of the earth. A literal interpretation suggests a world in which people cut down forests, slaughter animals and dump waste into the seas at their leisure, much like we see in our world today.

Genesis chapter 1 is balanced by the narrative of Genesis chapter 2, which features a second Creation narrative that focuses on humans and their place in the Garden of Eden. The first person is set in the Garden “to work it and take care of it.”  The two Hebrew verbs used here are significant. The first– le’ovdah—literally means “to serve it.” (Genesis 2:15) The human being is thus both master and servant of nature. The second—leshomrah–means “to guard it.” Humans the guardian must exercise vigilance while protecting, and are personally liable for losses that occur through negligence. We do not own nature–“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Plasm 24:1) We are its stewards on behalf of God, who created and owns everything.  The Men of FJMC ignore this Stewardship at their peril and the peril of their children and grandchildren.

Source; Canfei Nesharim, Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks,  Retired Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth

The mandate in Genesis 1 to exercise dominion is, therefore, not technical, but moral: humanity would control, within our means, the use of nature towards the service of God. Further, this mandate is limited by the requirement to serve and guard as seen in Genesis 2. The famous story of Genesis 2-3— the eating of the forbidden fruit and Adam and Eve’s subsequent exile from Eden—supports this point. Not everything is permitted. There are limits to how we interact with the earth. The Torah has commandments regarding how to sow crops, how to collect eggs and how to preserve trees in a time of war, just to name a few.  When we do not treat creation according to God’s Will, disaster can follow. We see this today as more and more cities sit under a cloud of smog and as mercury advisories are issued over large sectors of our fishing waters.  Deforestation of the rainforests, largely a result of humanity’s growing demand for timber and beef, has brought on irrevocable destruction of plant and animal species.  We can no longer ignore the massive negative impact that our global industrial society is having on the ecosystems of the earth. Our unbounded use of fossil fuels to fuel our energy-intensive lifestyles is causing global climate change. An international consensus of scientists predicts more intense and destructive storms, floods, and droughts resulting from these human-induced changes in the atmosphere.  If we do not take action now, we risk the very survival of civilization as we know it.

The Midrash says that God showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are — how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” Creation has its own dignity as God’s masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have none to destroy or despoil it.

The Midrash says that God showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are — how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”  Creation has its own dignity as God’s masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have none to destroy or despoil it. Rabbi Hirsch says that Shabbat was given to humanity “in order that he should not grow overweening in his dominion” of God’s creation. On the Day of Rest, “he must, as it were, return the borrowed world to its Divine Owner in order to realize that it is but lent to him.”  Ingrained in the process of creation and central to the life of every Jew is a weekly reminder that our dominion of earth must be l’shem Shamayim- in the name of Heaven. The choice is ours. If we continue to live as though God had only commanded us to subdue the earth, we must be prepared for our children to inherit a seriously degraded planet, with the future of human civilization put into question. If we see our role as masters of the earth as a unique opportunity to truly serve and care for the planet, its creatures and its resources, then we can reclaim our status as stewards of the world, and raise our new generations in an environment much closer to that of Eden.

Suggested Action Items:

1a. To get started with your commitment to learn and act on our Torah responsibility about the environment, Men’s Club members calculate their ecological footprint, that is, how many acres of bioproductive space are devoted to supporting their lifestyle. This can be done at

1b. After they complete the quiz, click the “Take Action” link to consider ways of living more sustainably and with less of an ecological footprint at home and in the shul.

2. Combine Torah debate with a family activity. Beth Torah Men’s Club invited young people from the congregation to visit Oleta State Park for a fun day of outdoor kayaking.  Our congregational Rabbi Mario Rojzman challenged us to bring some meaningful learning into the program; thus our kayaking outing became “The Torah Walk.”  We included two environmental learning sessions – one study session from the Torah created a Berishit debate – click here – and the other taught us about our natural surroundings. We added food and kayaking fun for a well-rounded Shomrei Ha’aretz program. Beth Torah, North Miami Beach, FL. Ed Margolis, 

As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we read the Torah portion called Nitzavim, which includes the verse, “Life and death I set before you, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, in order that you and your seed will live!” (Deut. 30:19) The climate and ecology of the earth is changing.  Israel is in the cross hairs. Will your club stand up?

Hayom harat olam.” “Today,” the day of Rosh Hashanah, we birth new intentions and conceive new possibilities. Today is our day, today we are alive on this planet, as we say in the liturgy, “All of you alive today / Chayim kulchem hayom.” Today our choices will gestate the future, for our children, and for the children of every species upon the Earth.  The climate and ecology of the earth is changing. The United Nations Comprehensive Agreement on Climate Change has been signed by the major governments on every continent, including the USA, Canada and Israel.  The citizens and governments must cooperate to make an impact.

Shomrei Ha’Aretz – Stewards of the Land

And the Psalms say: “Hayom im b’kolo tishma’u.” “Today, if you will listen to the Voice.” Let us listen to all the voices crying out, the voice of the Earth, and the voices of every creature, and hear in them the divine Voice.

Yet for many Jews, climate change is still not seen as a “Jewish issue”. The decimation of life on our planet is as fundamentally important to Jews and Judaism as any explicitly Jewish issue. And the possible extent of impoverishment, disaster, and famine that could be brought on by climate change must be a Jewish issue if justice is a Jewish issue. But in case that simple logic doesn’t work for you, let’s be absolutely clear about what the specific Jewish implications might be.

According to a Ben Gurion University study, if we enter an era of what scientists consider extreme climate change – meaning an increase in average global temperature of more than 2 degrees – the Negev desert will expand northward all the way into Lebanon. Almost all of the agriculturally productive lowlands – could be gone. On top of that, Tel Aviv will be under water due to rising sea levels. If that’s not an existential threat to Israel than nothing is.

Will your FJMC Men’s Club step up and sponsor programs and activities that reduce your congregation’s impact on Climate and Ecology?    Will you educate your elected official?

References:  FJMC Shomrei Ha’Aretz web pages,

by Owner of Jewish Environmental Initiative, a committee of the JCRC of Saint Louis

October 18 , 2016

Sukkot, the harvest holiday that takes place on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, marks the end of the agricultural year.  Jews give thanks for the bounty of the Earth.  We commemorate the holiday by decorating our sukkah with fruits, vegetables and harvest items.  We shake the lulov and the etrog to connect ourselves to the Earth as we eat and spend time outside.

It is fitting during the traditionally agricultural holiday of Sukkot to think about our food choices. Industrial agricultural practices are a major contributor to degradation of the Earth.  Here are a few ways we can be more eco-friendly in our eating and food purchasing habits:

  • Buy local:  Plan to buy as many fruits and vegetables as possible from local sources.  Most area farmer’s markets stay open weekly until late October. You also can find monthly indoor winter farmer’s markets and locally grown foods in conventional supermarkets. By buying locally and learning to eat what is in season, you will be supporting foods grown close to home.  Locally grown food is healthier and has better nutritional content than food flown in from hundreds of miles away.  You also will reduce your carbon footprint and support the local economy.
  • Buy organic:  Traditionally grown vegetables likely contain pesticides that are harmful to your health and to the environment.  Organic vegetables both taste better and are better for you, while helping the planet.
  • Eat less meat:  It takes 100 pounds of grain feed to produce a pound of meat.  Less meat eating allows more soil to be used for plant-based foods while causing less water and soil contamination.  It’s simply more ecological.
  • Look for eco-friendly restaurants when dining out:  When you do eat out, plan to make sure that the restaurant you choose has earth-friendly practices,  such as buying food from local growers and composting and recycling as much as possible.  In the St. Louis area, look for restaurants designated as members of the Green Dining Alliance. Find out more at

Chag Sameach and happy eco-friendly eating!

The holiday of Chanukah revolves in large part around a miracle related to olive oil.  In Biblical and Talmudic times, olive oil, used for light, heat, fuel and food, was a very important resource for energy. The limitations on this resource often posed problems in ancient times — just as modern limits on availability of energy resources that do not threaten Public Health, pose a problem today.  The traditional Jewish relationship to olive oil can teach us much about how we can relate to energy today.  

The Men’s Club should sponsor programs and activities that conserve energy and save the Shul and congregation dollars.  Create a Hanukkah Challenge

  1. Environment Menorah Lighting Ceremony

(source: Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life)

Reduce Your Own Carbon Footprint.

Take action as you light the menorah. Please consider using this candle lighting ceremony as you light your personal menorah or as you light the Shul menorah. After you recite the prayers please read aloud one way (one for each night) that you will make a difference for the environment and conservation.  Have each club member track their eight pledges and report the Club total until FJMC 2017 convention.  Add your own ideas

First Night:

Change a light Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent or LED light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. I can and will do this for the environment!

Second Night:

Drive less Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. Save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile I don’t drive! I can and will do this for the environment!

Third Night:

Recycle more I can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of my household waste.  Increase total compost food waste. I can and will do this for the environment!

Fourth Night:

Check your tires Keeping my car’s tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere! I can and will do this for the environment!

Fifth Night:

Use less hot water It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of carbon dioxide saved per year) and washing clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year). I can and will do this for the environment!

Sixth Night:

Adjust your thermostat Moving the thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer saves about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. I can and will do this for the environment!

Seventh Night:

Turn off electronic devices Simply turning off the television, DVD player, stereo and computer when not using them will save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year. I can and will do this for the environment!

Eighth Night:

Contact your elected officials Whether it’s on the local, state or national level, let the people who represent me in government know what I think – and what I expect – concerning issues that are important to me. Write, phone and e-mail the mayor, governor and state and national legislative representatives to let them know I am watching – and that I vote. I can and will do this for the environment!

Source: The information above was found at and

  1. A Hebrew School project; Make an Ice Menorah!

How to make an ice menorah:

(from Jewcology and

First, here’s what’s cool about an ice menorah: reflections in the ice; it floats – water is amazing and awesome; renewable resource – and if it’s cold enough where you are, just freeze it outside; meditate on climate change and melting glaciers, and resolve to do something about it!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Set candles in cardboard brace.
  2. Fill loaf pan or any container part way and set brace over it — see diagram. Candles should be immersed half inch or more in water.
  3. Shamash (not pictured) — fill dixie cup or any small cup or jar with a few inches of water and set shamash candle in that.
  4. Freeze it all.
  5. Remove ice with shamash, put it on top of ice in loaf pan. add another half inch or more of water to freeze the shamash to the rest of the menorah.
  6. You can carve a little channel for melted water to flow away from the shamash

(idea and execution – Heidi Creamer; diagram and instructions – David Seidenberg;

For pictures of a real ice menorah, before and after it’s lit, see above or go to

You’ll notice while the menorah is burning that the melted ice warms up and creates its own channels (see pic above), sometimes making holes through the ice. Among other things, that’s a great moment to talk about melting glaciers. Let us know what you do and how it goes!

You can design meditations on water, on climate change and glaciers, on renewable resources, on science, using this project.

  1. Guilt Free Gelt


  • Delicious
  • Fair Trade
  • Kosher Dairy (OU)
  • Dark & Milk Chocolate


The gelt we eat on Chanukah is a reminder of the freedom our people won many years ago. Today, however, young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms with no pay and in unsafe conditions in the Ivory Coast, where more than half the world’s cocoa is grown.

The Fair Trade citation means the farmer receives a fair price for the Cocoa, workers have safe conditions and a fair wage, no child or slave labor.  Judaism has a deep tradition of pursuing justice, helping those who are poor, hungry, or are in need. Fair Trade values connect to Jewish values of helping others and working to overcome poverty. To Purchase Fair Traded Hanukkah Gelt  Visit: to buy online or look for it at your local stores.

Below is an example of a Jewish Fair trade project:

You can support the 85,000 member farmers of Kuapa Kokoo, a Fair Trade cooperative in Ghana who are co-owners of Divine Chocolate.  Fair Trade standards prohibit the use of child labor.   The organization is democratically run, and their children attend school rather than work in the fields.

Fair Trade Judaica is pleased to be partnering with T’ruah on our Guilt-free Gelt Campaign.  Along with your gelt order, you’ll receive a table tent with inspirational information and a kavana (prayer) to say before eating the gelt.

Divine Chocolate is donating 10% of all sales to Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah to support their efforts in ending child slavery in the cocoa fields.

Each box of gelt will include an envelope with Guilt free Gelt stickers to attach to the bags, a kavannah to say, and a recipe for chocolate filled sufganiot.

Retail Orders

We have put together a special Chanukah gelt page for you this year!! You can purchase 1 bag of 13 coins, a 10 pack or a 30 pack. No promo code required; just order your gelt from our new page and we receive the 10% donation.

Wholesale and Bulk Orders

You can place your order at Please use promo code GUILTFREEGELT at checkout to assure that we receive 10% of sales.


Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish New Year of the trees.  Trees are a metaphor for nature and the environment.  The celebration and blessings give thanks for the sustenance and material provided to humans.  Originally a time for farmers to record the age of their trees so they would know which trees were old enough to harvest, it has become a time to connect Jewish values of taking care of the earth with contemporary concerns about pollution, climate change and the preservation of the environment.  Do you have an original program for the next Shomrei Ha’Aretz Torch Award?

Program Ideas

  1. Establish program to encourage conversation of the forests by reusing paper (print on both sides) and cardboard boxes before recycling.  Purchase paper goods/containers with 80%+ consumer recycled material or “sustainable forest certification.”  Paper goods that contain or serve food must be made of paper not containing consumer recycled content.  Purchase paper goods that are compostable. These items may be available from a local super market.  FJMC has completed a discount purchasing agreement with World Centric Inc., a large supplier of sustainable, compostable dinnerware.
  2. Sponsor Hebrew School ACTIVITY: What happens to the paper you recycle? Making your own “recycled paper”.  Time: 1 and ¾ hours (including soaking and drying times).  As a kickoff to your recycling project at a school or in a home, you can teach your students or children how to make their own “recycled paper.”  Details under 2015 Shomrei Ha’Aretz Torch awards(must be logged in to view).
  3. Sponsor a Composting–Recycling program with speaker, and Hebrew School makes soda bottle composting containers. Refer to the Shomrei Ha’Aretz composting page.
  4. Ecological Warning Signs Scavenger Hunt; A Program for Children Ages 8-12 presented by your Men’s Club. An excellent program for warmer climates in February. The program was also offered for Elul, for the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah.  Follow link to below.
  5. Sponsor a program to encourage more sustainable lawn & landscape care practices for Shul and home, such as using native plants, water conservation and avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Contact your local, county, state or University Co-Operative Extension.  Also, look for a Master Gardener program.
  6. Organize a Men’s Club Shabbat for Tu B’Shevat.  Use environmental themes for sermons and Torah discussions.  Invite a guest speaker.  Use recyclable utensils etc.
  7. How Old is your Tree?A Program for Children Ages 8-14 presented by your Men’s Club.  Knowing the age of a tree can help us all appreciate trees. Normally a forester will take a core-boring into a tree and count the annual rings if he or she would like to know the age of a tree. Unfortunately, this method can be very harmful to a tree, since the boring will leave a hole in the tree which insects may enter. The method for aging trees described below was developed by the International Society of Arboriculture. This method will give a good estimate of a tree’s age. 

Try This!

  • Pick a tree and collect a leaf, helps identify tree (sandwich bag)
  • Draw an age ring diagram of your tree. (concentric rings with increasing diameter from a center point)
  • Mark the rings of your tree by writing in the year on various lines (i.e. mark the lines corresponding to the decades…1990, 1980, 1970, etc.)
  • Find years of historic importance–both nationally and locally in your own city–and mark it on your diagram next to the year it occurred.
  • Students could ask their parents for the year of a significant event in their past, or for a significant event that occurred in a specific year plotted on your tree line.
  • Next, students could ask their grandparents for the year of a significant event in their past, or for a significant event that occurred in a specific year plotted on your tree line.
  • How does your rate of growth (human growth) compare to the rate and direction of tree growth? What factors can influence both of these rates?

How to Estimate Age:

  1. Students should work in groups of 3 or 4.
  2. Determine the species of your tree. Make sure it is on the list below. (library book on local trees)
  3. With a tape measure, find the circumference of the tree (in inches) 4 1/2 feet above the ground.
  4. Determine the diameter of your tree:

Diameter = Circumference divided by 3.14 (pi)

  1. Calculate the age of the tree:

Formula: Diameter X Growth Factor

Tree Species

Growth Factor

Tree Species

Growth Factor

Red Maple


White Oak


Silver Maple


Red Oak


Sugar Maple


Pin Oad


River Birch


Linden or Basswood


White Birch


American Elm


Shagbark Hickory




Green Ash




Black Walnut




Black Cherry








Credits:  Lesson provided by Jim Gilbert & Cathie Plaehn, Drawn from the International Society of Arboriculture; Compiled by Hazon

Additional Resources

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life,

Canfei Nesharim, Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah,

Hazon, Jewish Inspiration, Sustainable Communities,

Jewcology, Jewish Environmentalism,

GreenFaith, Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth, FJMC Partner,

Purim is a wonderful time to integrate eco-friendly themes into your celebration. Whether sending gifts of food to friends, creating costumes, or preparing the festive Purim meal, there are many opportunities to conserve precious resources and share environmental education messages with your friends and neighbors.

The custom of giving Mishloach Manot during Purim is widely practiced at synagogues.   Men’s Club Members should pitch in to make Purim Eco friendly with programs, activities and home practices. 

Designing Eco-Friendly Mishloach Manot


  • Avoid individually wrapped candies. No one needs 50 Reese’s peanut butter cups and 65 Kit Kats a month before Pesach.
  • Make smaller Mishloach Manot with fewer or homemade goodies. It costs the same or less as a lot of junk, and is often appreciated more.
  • Sending organic food (free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers) reduces the contamination of the land and water.
  • Replace the candy and chocolates with fresh and dried fruit or fruit leathers, unsweetened fruit juices and other healthy products.


  • Use inexpensive reusable containers to hold Mishloach Manot. It looks nice, and will keep your baked goods fresh without using plastic bags. Check Odd Lot or your local 99 cent store.
  • Follow the fashion trend and give your gifts in eco-friendly cloth or made from recycled plastic bags that your friends can reuse for shopping.
  • Use wrapping paper and containers made from recyclables.
  • Use paper decorated by your children, comics, and old wrapping paper to package your treats. Your kids can even decorate the paper while you cook and prepare. It will keep them busy, add a personal touch, and reuse resources.


  • Divide all packaging material received into paper, plastic, and tin. Whatever cannot be reused should be recycled appropriately. Check with your local municipality for what can be recycled.

Purim ideas and supplies are available from

Men’s Club Purim Swap Shop

  • Your son/daughter doesn’t want to wear last year’s cowboy/queen Ester outfit? Many costumes are perennial favorites. Create a Synagogue swap shop with everyone’s unwanted, worn-once Purim costumes.

Men’s Club Eco-Friendly Purim Carnival

  • Serve individual drinks in recyclable cups, aluminum cans. Reduce the use of plastic. Food contaminated Styrofoam cannot be recycled, lasts forever in a land-fill and is an air contaminate when incinerated
  • Give gifts and prizes which are made with recycled content. is a resource
  • Create games with an environmental theme
  • Bring in an entertainer with an eco-friendly twist
  • Compost your organic food waste
  • Share the Spoils – Purim is over and you find yourself overloaded with unwanted food gifts?  Bring (unopened) food items to a local charitable organization to distribute to needy families.

Purim and Vegetarianism 

There are connections between vegetarianism and Purim.  According to the Talmud, Queen Esther was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverus.  She was thus able to maintain the kosher dietary law while keeping her Jewish Identity secret.  During Purim it is a mitzvah to give “mat’not evyonim” (added charity to poor and hungry people). In contrast to these acts of sharing and compassion, animal-based diets involve the feeding of over 70 percent of the grain in the United States to animals, while an estimated 20 million people die of hunger and its effects annually.  During Purim afternoon, Jews have a “seudah” to rejoice in the Purim spirit. Serving vegetarian food at this occasion would enable all who partake to be consistent with Jewish mandates to preserve health, protect the environment, conserve resources, and treat animals with compassion.


Additional Purim ideas are available at

Wishing everyone a Chag Sameah, and an enviromentally-friendly holiday

Men’s Clubs Create an Earth Friendly Passover – The lessons of Passover are freedom from slavery, responsibility for our actions, and sustainable living.   Present action ideas for your members and congregation.  Activities include:

Passover and Earth Day Special: Magid – Four Children

By COEJL Environmental Haggada

We often talk at the seder about the Four Children: the Wise, Wicked, Simple, and the One Who Does Not Know How to Ask. We see a little of ourselves in each child as we discuss their place in the seder and how we explain to them the story of Passover. Do we tell them that we were there together at Sinai, including them in our legacy, or do we exclude them and criticize their apathy?

This year, as we consider Passover’s Four Children around the seder table, let us discover and discuss the tension between our Jewish community’s obligation to “till and tend” the earth as God told humankind in the Garden of Eden, and the spectrum of beliefs that many may hold about climate change.

The Wise Child: This child knows that climate change is real and that they must act to combat its effects. The Wise Child has read that global temperatures and sea levels are rising every year, that more species are becoming endangered, and that more communities are experiencing extreme weather events and decreased crop viability. The Wise Child sees all this and is motivated to combat climate change in any way they can.

The Wicked Child: The Wicked Child has read about climate change and is aware that scientists predict a whole range of negative effects if we don’t reduce global carbon emissions. But the Wicked Child doesn’t think the issues caused by climate change apply to them. They believe climate change will only affect the poor and the vulnerable in places they will never visit. They remain unconcerned.

The Simple Child: The Simple Child is overwhelmed by the idea that humankind could be radically altering the entire face of the earth. They don’t believe it’s possible that scientific predictions are accurate. This child simply ignores the evidence that the problem is real at all.

The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask: This child is much more like The Wise Child than we may typically imagine. The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask has also read about climate change and knows that environmental degradation and the effects on the global population are a real and present threat. Unlike The Wise Child and much more like the Simple Child, this child is overwhelmed. How is this possible? This child might ask, How can I, alone, prevent this global catastrophe?

Purchase Fair Trade Labeled Products

A large percentage of human trafficking is made up indentured adults, child laborers and field workers who are forced to live in harsh conditions and subject to wage theft and sexual harassment.  These conditions also exist for some migrant works in the U.S.A.  Two import examples follow. Cacao obtained from the African fields to make chocolate is problematic (child labor).  Fish and seafood caught and processed by the fleets in Southeast Asia are problematic (crews contain indentured migrants).

The Fair Trade Label means child labor is forbidden, education is provided.  Workers receive fair wages, safe working conditions, water, bathroom breaks, clean living conditions.  The local farmers are supported in obtaining a fair price from the brokers. The Label is assured by third party inspections.


You don’t have to douse your house in poisonous chemicals—noxious to both you and the people who work in the factories that produce them—to get rid of your chametz (bread products and crumbs which are literally, and ritually, cleared before Pesach). Try using natural, non-toxic cleaning products, and scrub away; Eco-cleaning products such as Seventh Generation and Ecover.

Plan ahead

You can get rid of chametz in the most sustainable and cost effective way by planning ahead in order to use up as much as you can of what you have before the start of Pesach. Be mindful of what you buy. Try to finish those “almost empty” containers in your fridge, and half empty bags of bread, rather than automatically resorting to buying new.  Plan meals around the prepared food in your freezer.

Invest in Passover Dishware

Pesach is a time when many families break out the fine china and heirloom silverware. It is a good investment, cost effective, and a sustainable method to invest in a set of Pesach dishware, that way you do not need to buy disposables every year.  However, if you’re using disposable plates this year, use post-consumer waste paper or plant-based ones. For some great compostable disposable dishware products, check out LeafwareGo Green in StagesLet’s Go Green, and World Centric.

Enjoy your flowers on Pesach—and all spring

Fresh bouquets make beautiful centerpieces, but only last a few days, and are often grown with pesticides. Try a sustainable alternative like potted tulipscor other native spring flowers. Potted herbs also make a beautiful, inexpensive centerpiece, and make your table smell great! You can buy potted thyme, rosemary, and lavender etc., at garden nursery or farmer’s market. At the end of the Seder, give your centerpieces as gifts to your guests. If you definitely want cut-flower centerpieces, go organic!

Buy vegetables at your farmer’s market

Go a few weeks early and chat with the sellers to see what they’ll have available the first week of April. In many parts of the country, green options will be slim, but you may find salad greens, cabbage, fiddleheads, spinach, as well as root vegetables in cold storage (carrots, potatoes, onions, squash, beets) and apples and pears. Consider making at least one dish all local and feature it at your seder.

Every Charoset Tells a Story – Lean More about Charoset!

Charoset’s mixture of apples and nuts is already healthy and delicious and, when made with local apples, sustainable. Charoset also offers you the chance to explore other cultures within the Jewish Diaspora. Check out the Jew & the Carrot to find recipes from Russia, Spain, Holland, Yemen, Turkey, Surinam… – or ask your guests to bring their own favorite charoset recipe and have a taste-test.

Sprout Your Own Karpas

If you can’t find locally grown greens to dip for karpas, sprout your own! Although many sprouts come from corn, soybeans, and other chametz or kitnyot, in just 2-3 days, you can have fresh, delicious quinoa sprouts that you “grew” yourself!

Buy Fresh or Make Your Own Horseradish

Buy and grate fresh horseradish root for maror on your Seder plate. When it comes time for the Hillel sandwich, hold up an un-grated root so your guests know where that bitter stuff comes from. Or learn how to grow your own horseradish.

Use Free Range Eggs

Buy organic, free-range eggs, and be willing to pay slightly more for them. They taste better, didn’t cause suffering to the animals who laid them, and support farmers who are making it possible for you to eat good food.



Elul a Month of Self -Evaluation: Ecological Warning Signs Scavenger Hunt
A Program for Children Ages 8-12 presented by your Men’s Club

This program is an opportunity for the Men’s Club to partner with the families of Hebrew School age children. During the month of Elul (beginning September 3 in 2016), Jews undertake a period of self-reflection before Rosh Hashanah. This period serves as a time to wake up and evaluate how we can improve our character and our actions.

The purpose of this activity is to have the children develop a greater sensitivity to environmental concerns and to develop an action plan so that they can help to make a difference.  This activity may be presented in connection with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur after Hebrew School opens in September. 

Discussion before Activity:

Tell the children that the month of Elul is not a mourning period but a period of personal evaluation of our activities of the past year to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.   Solicit examples and corrective actions.

Today we are facing an environmental crisis that presents us with numerous warning signs. These warning signs are a call for us to wake up and change our ways before we cause irreparable harm to our planet.  We are in danger of over-using the precious resources (such as clean air, clean water, trees, fish, and healthy foods) that God has granted us, which would make life much more difficult for us and especially for people who already live in poverty. 

This exercise is an opportunity to identify warning signs and develop a response to the warnings, as it relates to protecting the environment. 

Have the children think of “warning signs” they have seen in the environment and write answers on a chart.  Answers should include signs of pollution by man.  Next, have the children think of environmentally friendly things they have seen in the environment and write the answers on the other side of the chart.  This second category aims to give the children hope that many people are in fact changing their environmentally harmful ways and may serve to encourage them to do the same.  (See scavenger hunt activity below for ideas of answers to encourage for the chart.)  Based on the children’s response you may want to expand the list.


Go over the list of items (see link) for the scavenger hunt with the children.  Discuss with them the significance of the items. Why is it bad to find aluminum cans?  Some of the items may require or initiate further study.  Children also get credit for finding environmentally friendly “signs” that indicate that our society is doing teshuva, finding its way back to our Jewish and collective responsibility to respect nature and take care of the environment.  Have the children either split up into small groups or pairs to complete the scavenger hunt with adult supervision or participation.  The groups should split up at an outdoor area where they are most likely to find the list of items for the game.  The group at the end of the allotted time period (30 to 45 minutes) that has found the most items on the list is the winner.  You may want to provide eco-friendly door prizes for the winning group(s).


This activity was developed by Miri for Canfei Nesharim, Sustainable Living Inspired by Torah.

Thank you to Cantor Seven Stern Temple Beth O’R – Beth Torah, Clark NJ for proofing and editing the above program information.