After The Flood

published on: 16-03-2011

A Summary of Shabbat Brit Olam Celebrations

The Call to Action

In the past weeks, Teva Ivri was proud to join Jews around the world in the observance of Shabbat Noach as a time to raise awareness about environmental challenges and to inspire effective change in Jewish communities.  In Israel, Teva Ivri led the initiative to designate Shabbat Noach as an annual Sustainability Shabbat in Israel.  Months in advance, we issued an open invitation to the Israeli public to join in the celebration of “Shabbat Brit Olam,” encouraging educators and leaders from all points on the Jewish spectrum to plan programs to mark the special day.  We were immediately flooded by requests from communities, individuals, and organizations for materials and guidance.

Shabbat Noach Study Guide

To facilitate learning and activities, Teva Ivri published a beautiful 75-page Shabbat Noach study and action guide and distributed it to schools, organizations, and communities throughout Israel.  The guide contained source sheets, lesson plans, and ideas for practical action, as well as articles on Judaism, environment, and society by some of Israel’s most influential thinkers and educators.  You can view the study guide (Hebrew only) here

Shabbat Brit Olam Activities Included:

Jerusalem

The Flood is Before Us

The central event of Shabbat Brit Olam, “The Flood Is Before Us,” took place on Friday morning in Jerusalem.  It included information booths, tours, environmental lectures, Torah learning, craft fair, and workshops for the whole family.  Hundreds of Jerusalem residents enjoyed the various activities.  Visitors were also treated to a guest appearance by Jaime Lerner, the legendary former mayor of Curitiba in Brazil, who shared his own personal way of fusing his Jewish identity with his work in the field of sustainability.  The event was held in partnership with the Sustainable Jerusalem Coalition, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ginot Ha’Ir Community Council, and many others.

On the Nature of Spirituality and the Spirituality of Nature

On Thursday, the SPNI and Teva Ivri co-hosted an evening panel discussion with Dr. Jeremy Benstein, co-director of the Heschel Center, and Amir Balaban, director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory.

Environmental “Kalabat Shabbat”

On Friday morning, media personality Jackie Levy hosted a special “Kalabat Shabbat” show, which explored Parshat Noach through humorous sketches, interpretations and discussions, and a chat with naturalist Amir Balaban.

G-d, Adam, and Adama (G-d, Man, and Earth)

Beit Kolot hosted a Friday morning study session in honor of Shabbat Noach.

Consumerism and Environment

Former advertising mogul Rohan Shneer lectured on the topic of consumerism and sustainability in the Yaar Ramot congregation.

In the Center and Periphery, in the Country and City, in Synagogues and Community Gardens

The Efrat Local Council adopted Shabbat Brit Olam as a basis for a week of activities for adults and youth that culminated in an environmental happening that attracted over 500 residents and included the signing of a “Green Efrat” declaration; HaRav Shlomo Riskin, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, instructed all local synagogues to mention the topic of sustainability in Shabbat sermons and classes.  The community of Alon Shvut hosted a Shabbat evening panel on the topic of Judaism and the Environment, and published a Shabbat newsletter on the topic (printed on recycled paper).  In Maalei Adumim, activities for Shabbat Brit Olam were held for all youth movements.  In Kfar Adumim, an open house activity titled “The Next Flood” was held in the school to educate about climate change.  Families of Nofei Prat spent a communal Shabbat in nature exploring the topic of Judaism and the Environment.  Members of Ofra participated in a tour to the waste treatment site was held, along with a panel that included Itcha Meir, the Director of the Environmental Council in Yehuda and Shomron.  Yeshivat Susiya hosted a Shabbaton on the topic of “Environment through a Jewish Lens” that was the culmination of a week of workshops for students.  The Galil community of Eshchar hosted HaRav Michael Melchior, the president of Teva Ivri and past head of Israel’s Social-Environmental Lobby in the Knesset, for a communal Shabbaton on the topic of sustainability, Judaism, and education.  Midreshet Hagolan in Hispin dedicated Shabbat Noach to the topic “To Be Jewish is to Be Green.”  In the community of Mitzpeh Netufa, a Shabbaton on the topic of sustainability was hosted by Eran Ben-Yamini, the chair of the Green Movement Party.  The Community Garden in Maoz Aviv hosted a Jewish Environmental Fair.  In Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, a lecture on the topic of sustainability and Parshat Noach was given.  Congregation Yachad Modiin hosted an evening program for the general public with Einat Kramer, director of Teva Ivri.  Congregation Hod V’Hadar in Kfar Saba organized a communal Shabbaton on the topic of Judaism and Environment.  Kiryat Gat held an evening program for the general public on the topic of Judaism and the Environment with HaRav Haim Mimran, along with many classes and sermons in local synagogues.  In Kramim, an environmental seminar was held for youth leaders of the Zameret movement.  In Yerucham, a week of events culminated in a Shabbaton that included tours, study groups, and activities on the connection between Judaism and environment.

Shabbat Noach in Print

Shabbat Brit Olam was covered by the Hebrew press, with articles appearing in several major newspapers and online forums.  Several Shabbat newsletters, with distribution in hundreds of synagogues throughout the country, dedicated the Parshat Noach edition to articles about Jewish environmental values.  In English, you can read about Teva Ivri and Shabbat Noach in The Jerusalem Post.

Other communities and institutions that participated in Shabbat Noach included Maalei Gilboa, Kibbutz Gaton, Mevo Modiin, Ateret, Mevo Horon, Yeshivat B’nei Akiva Kfar Haroeh, Golan School (Hispin), Golan and Hermon Field Schools, Mazkeret Batya, Noam School (Kiryat Ata), Beer Sheba Center for Urban Sustainability, Pisgat Ze’ev School, Kol Haneshama Synagogue (Jerusalem), Shimshit, Midreshet Oranim, Congregation Nigun Halev (Nazareth Ilit), Gan Yavneh, Ram On, Shira Chadasha, Midreshet Bruriah, Torah Ohr Educational Network, Pre-Military Academy Tzviat Beit Yisrael, Katif, Hoshiah, Nir Etzion, Alon, and Elkana.

The 350 Initiative

Coincidentally (or not), Shabbat Noach corresponded to the date chosen by the 350.org initiative for an international day of climate action.  The Shabbat Brit Olam celebrations in Israel and abroad lent a Jewish voice to the 350 activities.  We hope this voice will continue to speak in response to global climate issues both within and beyond the Jewish world.

After the Flood

Israel

The interest and commitment by communities and organizations all over Israel on Shabbat Noach demonstrate that the connections between Jewish identity, Israeli society, and environmental responsibility beg further exploration.    We look forward to working together with leaders and laypeople alike to bring values of Jewish sustainability to the forefront of Israel’s social and cultural agenda. 

International

Many new opportunities for collaboration were forged by the collective observance of Shabbat Brit Olam.  In the near future, Teva Ivri will publish a post-Shabbat Noach newsletter representing a variety of Jewish environmental organizations from around the world.   We look forward to working with Jewish leaders and educators abroad to promote environmental awareness and responsibility in Jewish communities everywhere. 

Reports from Abroad

In the US, Shabbat Noach (Global Climate Healing Shabbat) was initiated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center.  Click here to watch Rabbi Waskow as he discusses the story of Noah, the promise of the rainbow, and the need for individual and collective action to address Global Scorching.

The following organizations actively encouraged their constituents to celebrate Shabbat Noach as a Global Climate Healing Shabbat:

•    Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

•    United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

•    Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

•    ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

•    Tikkun & Network of Spiritual Progressives

•    Hazon

•    Canfei Nesharim (*participating through the     Parshat Noach Sustainability Project)

•    Jewish Vegetarian Society of North America

•    Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life   (COEJL)

•    Teva Learning Center

•    Kayam Farm at Pearlstone Center

•    Southern Arizona COEJL

Some Shabbat Noach highlights from Jewish communities in the US:

  • Canfei Nesharim’s website hits spiked to over 12,000 in one day during the week before Parshat Noach, from an October monthly average of 6,000 hits per day. 
  • Nigel Savage, director of Hazon, writes about Noach and the Jewish Climate Campaign in the Jewish Week.
  • The Beit Haverim Congregation in Atlanta, GA sponsored a potluck called “Eat Thoughtfully To Help Heal The World’s Climate.”
  • Temple Beth El, in Stamford, CT unveiled plans for a new community garden.
  • In Evanston, IL, a dynamic, family-oriented interreligious celebration titled “Renewing the Rainbow” created a forum for religious congregations to identify and share their plans to increase awareness and sustainability in the coming year.
  • Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York recited a special blessing for the animals,  held a Global Climate Healing limud, screened the documentary Renewal, which chronicles environmental advocates from eight religious and spiritual communities, and recited 350 words of Parshat Noach to commemorate the 350 initiative.