In the first part of this article, the author makes a case for why Jewish environmental education should be an important part of Jewish education. The second part of the article explores what organizations are currently providing resources and training to empower Jewish educators to teach this topic. The third part of the article provides an example of a Jewish environmental teaching, on the topic of reuse of resources.
What are the resources available to Jewish educators to further engage in Jewish environmental programming?
First, Jewish Eco Seminars. Its Israel-based programs deliver Israel-focused Jewish environmental programming to U.S. groups and educators visiting Israel, including day and Hebrew school teachers, and offer follow-up programming upon their return to the U.S. Its North American-based programs present professional development workshops for Jewish educators to deliver new educational materials and practical tools to integrate the teachings.
Jewish Eco Seminars also facilitates dynamic seminars in the U.S. on Jewish environmental education for education directors, rabbis, and teachers at congregational and Hebrew schools, and JCC staff. The seminars provide access to curriculum modules plus a teacher's resource manual with lesson plans, articles, experiential activities, source sheets, and background materials on a wide array of Jewish teachings on the environment. Jewish Eco Seminars also offers follow-up support to interested educators to assist them in teaching topics on Judaism and the natural environment in the term following the seminar, including consultation from Jewish Eco Seminars staff and regular conference calls prior to each curriculum module on the Jewish calendar.
Second, Canfei Nesharim, which connects traditional Torah texts with contemporary scientific findings, educates and empowers Jewish individuals, organizations and communities to take an active role in protecting the environment in order to build a more sustainable world. It offers leadership training which utilizes new tools to empower the Jewish environmental community. It has also produced robust Jewish environmental materials on a range of topics, including Jewish holidays, each of the 54 weekly Torah portions, and key Jewish environmental topics.
Third, Jewcology is a new web portal for the global Jewish environmental community. It has created a comprehensive set of core Jewish resources on teachings from the Torah regarding environmental sustainability This set of resources on eighteen core topics is an in-depth Torah-based exploration of Jewish-environmental laws and values, and is being used by Jews of all denominations and affiliations to understand the relevance of Jewish tradition to current environmental challenges.
Fourth, the Teva Learning Alliance works to fundamentally transform Jewish education through experiential learning that fosters Jewish and ecological sustainability. Their annual Teva Seminar on Jewish Environmental Education is held at Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Spring, NY. It is described as “the premiere professional development opportunity for adults of all ages to explore Jewish environmental education, environmental sustainability, camping, gardening, or simply enjoying nature with others.”
Fifth, Hazon’s Jewish Food Education Network (JFEN) is a way for educators all over North America to connect with, share and learn from each other with the help of Hazon’s innovative food education resources and support. Hazon has developed a diverse library of curricula and source books that can be used in the classroom, at home, or as experiential programs. Its tools are geared towards various age groups and have been used in Synagogues, Day Schools, JCCs, and camps around the world.
Read the entire article in Jewish Educational Leadership.