What is Jewish Sustainability – Jewish Agency for Israel Assembly Session
Teva Ivri led a round table discussion on Jewish Sustainability at the Jewish Agency Annual Assembly – below is the introduction that was given by Einat:
Introduction & celebration
Hello, My name is Einat Kramer. I am the founding director of Teva Ivri – an organization promoting Jewish sustainability in Israel.
I am here with my friends & colleagues from the environmental movement in Israel that will facilitate the round tables sessions. Together, we are part of a far-reaching movement – the Jewish environmental movement.
This movement is spread all over the world and getting bigger every day.
This movement is made up of thousands of individuals from all streams of Judaism, from Israel and around the world, from a variety of professions.
All these people are working around the clock out of a deep belief that the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam” should actually refer to the Olam” – our beautiful and only planet.
We all like to talk about Peoplehood. - The exciting thing about the Jewish environmental movement is that it is a shining example of Peoplehood . Jews from all over the world, are rediscovering their Jewish identities and coming together with other Jews to make the world a better place.
When Jafi contacted me to arrange and chair this Round Table Discussion I knew that we had reached a real breakthrough. Having all of you here – both people from the environmental movement in Israel, from JAFI, and from other Jewish leadership organizations – is a real celebration for me and an important milestone. Here we come to the mainstream.
So, thank you for coming.
What is Sustainability
the title of this session is “Jewish sustainability”- what does it mean?
According to Wikipedia the definition of sustainability is this. You may read it for yourselves. By definition, Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.
But I would like to take us for a short trip in history, to the first time this term was used as we know it today. At 1983, Gro Bruntdland, the prime minister of Norway was asked by the United Nations to chair a committee that will find the solution for all of this “environment stuff” that was beginning to trouble the world.
She took it quite seriously, as Europeans tend to do and after 4 years of work they published a report under the name “Our Common Future”. The report recognized the human responsibility for the increasing environmental degradation of the planet.
But, the real importance of this report was different.
According to this report, the question humanity should ask itself, is not how to solve the environmental problems, but how it is appropriate to live in this world.
The reason for that is simple:
When one has nothing to eat, he don’t care for the environment.
When women have no rights they don’t care for the environment.
When people live in a culture that encourages them to live” in the here and now”, without thinking about anyone but themselves, they don’t care for the environment.
Everything is connected.
That’s why the change has to include all of our living dimensions – society, environment, economy & culture. It should consider, not only our immediate needs but also the right of future generations to enjoy a good& healthy life.
This is sustainability.
What is Jewish Sustainability?
Now that we are clear about what sustainability is – you might ask me what does it have to do with Judaism?
For me, the answer is – with everything!
We have just agreed that sustainability begins with the question how it ‘s appropriate to live in this world for the well being of ourselves and the future generations – isn’t that what Judaism is all about?
But there is more -
In the attempt to translate this big idea into action, the concept of Local Sustainability was born. The idea behind the concept is that there is no one general solution for sustainable living – in fact, it would be a disaster if we tried to form one solution for everyone.
Just as I want to pass on to the next generation clean air& water, I want to pass them a meaningful identity and tradition.
Doing this is promoting one aspect of sustainability- the cultural one. So, dear friends, even if you have just heard this word for the first time – you are probably doing it anyway.
So, going back to Judaism is an act of sustainability in itself, but Judaism is also a path to get these environmental ideas to the Jewish people in a way it can be heard, not just forced from the outside.
The environmental slogan –“think globally, act locally” – understood this. Think globally –fix the whole world – but act locally – in the place where you live – your geographic, cultural, spiritual, and social environment.
So as Jews, our solutions to the environmental crisis should be specifically “Jewish.”
Luckily for us it seems that this goal is pretty easy. When we look at our own tradition, we see that it holds some beautiful & fundamental ideas and in this field.
Tora – The Jewish tradition holds the unique world view that while humans have control over the world, we also have the responsibility to take care of it.We are given the world, but are expected to interact with it in a spirit of humility and understanding that we are part of one Creation, with G-d as the Creator.
Shabat – Judaism has given the world the concept of Shabbat – a day of rest, A day without shopping, a day of peace between man & nature.
Mitzvot – Judaism also contains practical ideas about the prevention of waste, about the ethical treatment of animals, about social justice, and not to forget our ten’th commandment– “You shall not covet” – Do not be greedy.
Communities – In the social field, The environmental movement is working these days on recreating strong and lasting communities in order to rebuilt solidarity among people and a concept of lacalisation. I believe that we, Jews are the world experts in community building.
There is more, but we are short in time, so I would like to finidh with a little vort – a Jewish teaching about sustainability.
In the Midrash Tanhuma, on the Torah portion Kedoshim, it is written(In a very free translation):
“When you come to the Land [of Israel], plant” (Leviticus 19:23).
God said to the Jews, “Even though you’ll find the Land filled with every sort of good, don’t say to yourself, ‘Well, since everything’s already here, we can sit back.’ No! Make sure you plant! Because just as you found trees planted by others, you should plant for your children.”
The Midrash directs us to take long-term responsibility for the existence of the world. It is encouraging as to plant – even if we found the land full of trees. Even if we think things are going well, we must strive to preserve the beauty we have found here – and even make things a bit better for future generations. In doing so, we are partners with God in the ongoing care of Creation.
So enjoy your time, Ask questions, add your piece, and welcome to one of the most exciting movements in the Jewish world!