Justice, Religion

Rising Eco-Orthodoxy?

It’s a common complaint about Orthodox Jews from their non-Orthodox MOTTs: Orthodox Jews are not concerned with anything outside of their own spheres of influence. Social justice, the Third World, and the environment are bypassed, with ever-strengthened insularity as the priority of the day.
However, this seems to be changing. YU was notably present at a Save Darfur rally this summer, and students from the Bat Ayin yeshiva were active not only at events but also in rhetoric following the Israel-Lebanon war.
Another nugget of Orthodox global consciousness graced the pages of the Jerusalem Post a few days ago:

Orthodox conservationists
While many Israeli government organizations and private groups profess their commitment to multiculturalism, truly multicultural approaches to issues – especially with respect to engaging the haredi community – are few and far between. That is why a Torah essay competition on the environment in Jewish law and thought is being seen as such a welcome endeavor by both environmentalists and the haredi community.
Now in its third year, the competition solicits Torah essays on environmental topics in a contest open to yeshiva and rabbinical students, scholars, educators and authors from the Sephardi, Lithuanian and Hassidic communities in Ramat Shlomo, a 12-year-old neighborhood in northern Jerusalem with some 20,000 residents.
The competition is sponsored by Shomera Lesviva Tova (Guardian for a Good Environment), a non-profit organization founded in Har Nof in 1998 known for its initiatives in environmental education and activism, the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood administration, the Environment Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. Out of hundreds of entries, 28 were selected for publication in this year’s journal…
“This project is a unique way of working with the haredi community which is not being done anywhere else,” states Carmi Wisemon, director of Shomera Lesviva Tova. “It involves speaking to a public to whom the issue of environment is new, in their own language – that of Halacha and Torah – and providing avenues compatible to the community’s cultural needs. It is to the Ministry of Environment’s credit that it was so open-minded about new ways of getting the haredi community involved in environmental activities.”

Ken yirbu. And it is commendable that an Israeli governmental agency thought it fitting to reach out to Charedi communities in such an initiative. (Likewise commendable is charedi inclusion being included in a definition of “multiculturalism” and said inclusion being lauded in an Israeli media outlet.)
“Hundreds of entries” means, potentially, thousands of interested people.
Are we seeing, perhaps, the seeds of a trend in rising global consciousness beginning to sprout in the Charedi world?
Wow! Maybe liberal Judaism really doesn’t have the monopoly on tikkun olam!

13 thoughts on “Rising Eco-Orthodoxy?

  1. I am forwarding this from my friend, Evonne Marzouk.
    Dear friends,
    Hello! I hope this note finds you well and preparing for a festive Chanukah season. I am writing to you today on behalf of Canfei Nesharim, an important organization that is educating about the importance of protecting the environment from the perspective of Torah and Jewish law. While Canfei Nesharim’s main focus is the Orthodox community, by sharing the wisdom of the Jewish tradition on this important and pressing issue, we have a significant contribution to offer the entire Jewish community and the environmental movement as a whole.
    As you know, I am one of the founders, and currently the only staff member, of Canfei Nesharim. Because I believe that the environment is a critical issue that requires a Torah-based response, for several years I have been giving my time and energy, as well as my personal resources, in order to make this effort a success. To help Canfei Nesharim continue to flourish, for the first time I am sending a broad email request to my friends and colleagues to ask you to make a donation to support Canfei Nesharim’s work.
    This year, among other things, I will be helping Canfei Nesharim in the “Jewish Environmental Parsha Initiative” by preparing an environmentally-related dvar Torah (teaching) related to one of the weekly Torah portions, for a collection which will include a dvar Torah for each Torah portion of the year.
    I am asking you to participate by sponsoring an individual dvar Torah in the Parsha Initiative, or other upcoming materials through Canfei Nesharim’s “Learn-a-Thon” Fundraising Campaign. Donations of $100 or more earn named dedications, in honor or memory of a loved one, for the different products created. School presentations, monthly e-newsletters, and holiday programs can be dedicated for $200-300. An individual dvar Torah for the weekly Torah portion, like the one I am writing, can be dedicated to a loved one for $500. More information about donation opportunities, and a secure link to contribute, can be found at http://www.canfeinesharim.org/donate.shtml.
    As you make your final donations in the fiscal year, please consider Canfei Nesharim as a meaningful, important organization that is making a difference to educate the Orthodox Jewish community and protect the environment. If you’d like to hear more about Canfei Nesharim, please let me know.
    With love and best wishes,

  2. dovbear.blogspot.com does a pretty good job of being orthodox and liberal. There’s plenty of orthodox liberal people out there, I was raised surrounded by them. Unfortunately it’s the right-wing ones that keep grabbing the attention and trying to convince the rest to switch sides.

  3. I consider myself a liberal othrodox, not knowing if im completly alone in that. I have hopes for the future with a growing left-wing/liberal orthodox stream to emerge strongly. Kinda as an inevitable respone to right wing extremism.
    With the great-big-right wing-orthodox-superpower its seems a sturggle sometimes to try and reconcile the two.
    Alot of the people i know tell me flat out its impossible.

  4. I’m quite left-wing and I consider myself charedi (i.e., most of my shirts are white, most of my pants are black, cholov Yisra’el is a standard, even if I’m lazy and miss davening) — I think that the words of Chaza”l and poskim themselves, without any spin, project an ideology that is centrist at its most conservative points.
    As with any text, a line taken “from here and there” in the Talmud and treated as if they were in a vacuum can produce any number of results.

  5. “You might have to make him” ha! Im already working on it, but it seems a little selfish. Also does you rabbi have to still be alive?
    I could always also make MYSELF into a Rabbi, but that might take a while…

  6. Hi. I’m the newsletter editorial intern for Canfei Nesharim. We send out monthly newsletters to an email list of over 500 Orthodox Jews who are just beginning to explore the environmental problem. We are looking for any of the following types of articles: a dvar Torah to describe the connection between Torah and environment, a science piece describing an environmental issue, an action piece with suggestions to make personal or community changes, or an “inquiries for the eagle” article which addresses a question of interest to our audience. The upcoming themes and deadlines for the newsletter are:
    Tu B’Shvat-Trees (Deadline: January 17th)
    Purim (Deadline: February 16th)
    Passover (Deadline: March 18th)
    Omer/Shavuot (Deadline: April 17th)
    Would you be willing to contribute a short article for our newsletter? We also accept already-written pieces. Please let me know whether you would be able to prepare an article, and on what topic and for which issue.
    Kol tuv,
    Daniel Kronengold
    [email protected]

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