Jewish environmental engagement is characterized by a consciousness of the universal human responsibility to care for Creation and the distinctive ways in which the Jewish community has historically embodied a special relationship with God the Creator. Central to that relationship is the divine gift of the Torah, and the whole body of divine wisdom and law handed down from generation to generation. Jewish communities today have found a rich variety of ways to weave care and appreciation for Creation into the religious life of families, individuals, congregations, and communities. Whether through worship, service projects, education programs, advocacy, or the design and operation of their facilities, they have found ways to bring to light the significance of traditional Jewish teachings, celebrations, and practices.
In recent decades, Jewish rabbis and scholars have shown that traditional Jewish teachings about God, humanity, and nature contain wisdom that can inform a spiritual and ethical response to present-day environmental concerns, particularly the principles of tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Serious and careful study of both Torah and environmental degradation has informed recent initiatives, programs, and scholarship.
Playing a key role in stimulating and supporting environmental work in the Jewish community is the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL). As part of its mission, COEJL deepens and broadens the Jewish community's commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism, and Jewish learning. Through a network of Jewish leaders, institutions, COEJL is mobilizing the Jewish community to conserve energy, increase sustainability, and advocate for policies that increase energy efficiency and security while building core Jewish environmental knowledge and serving as a Jewish voice in the broader interfaith community.
Camps, Retreat and Conference Centers, and Outdoor Programs
- Teva, a part of Hazon, has programs that combine ecology, Jewish environmental ethics, and environmental activism.
- Shalom Institute Camp and Conference Center, Malibu, California, with the Marla Bennett Israel Discovery Center and Garden, an interactive hands-on learning center that teaches about the history and ecology of Israel as well as organic gardening and farming and the relationship between Judaism and the environment.
- Jewish nature retreats include the Isabella Freedman Center, a part of Hazon, and the Pearlstone Center, a retreat and conference center in Maryland.
- Torah Treks explores the connections between Jewish spirituality and the experience of wilderness through a variety of backcountry adventures such as hiking, camping, kayaking, and skiing.
Jewish Statements and Teachings
The Jewish community has issued various statements. For additional statements visit the COEJL website.
Jewish Energy Guide: Taking Action
COEJL's Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change. The Guide offers a blueprint for the Jewish engagement on energy issues. For a copy of the Jewish Energy Guide, click here. For additional Jewish educational and worship resources click here.
Jewish Organizations Take the Lead
Numerous Jewish organizations have taken a strong lead in addressing environmental concerns.