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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Congregation Believes in Importance of Going Green

Congregation Believes in Importance of Going Green

By Julia Hayes
The Courier Post


Cherry Hill synagogue M'Kor Shalom is working hand-in-hand with New Jersey interfaith
environmental coalition GreenFaith to go green, and it is encouraging other religious institutions to do the same.

GreenFaith conducted an energy audit to determine energy use and energy waste in the synagogue and school, and developed a plan to reduce M'Kor Shalom's carbon footprint.   

"The impact that it would have if they made the changes suggested would be equivalent to taking 22 cars off the road," said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith. "It would cut their energy usage by over 220,000 pounds of CO2 gases per year."

Since the audit, M'Kor Shalom has installed a new computerized heating and cooling system to regulate the temperature, and it is awaiting bids to retrofit its lights. It also is considering the possibility of installing solar panels. M'Kor Shalom has hosted several educational events to address the issue of climate change.

"This is common ground for all of us," said Rabbi Barry Schwartz of M'Kor Shalom. "We're all together on this planet, and as residents of southern New Jersey. I cannot think of another issue more common ground than this."

M'Kor Shalom first began integrating the environment as a core issue in its community in 2006 with the formation of the Green Council, a subcommittee of the Social Action Committee.

"We felt it was our obligation to make the community aware of global warming," said Anne Simonoff, a member of the synagogue's Green Council. "We could have a huge impact," said Simonoff, of Cherry Hill. "We're doing our share."

Their kick-off event was Hanukkah 2006, when the synagogue hosted a viewing and discussion of Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Because Hanukkah is the festival of lights, M'Kor Shalom also took the opportunity to have a light bulb campaign, to encourage congregants to switch to energy efficient bulbs.

The efforts have grown since then, and the response has been apparent.

"This Hanukkah, this past December, I bought carbon compact fluorescent lights for every student in the high school and handed them out while we were lighting the candles," said Schwartz. "The young people were so moved by this that they took it home to change one light bulb and to tell their parents to change other light bulbs in their home."

Schwartz plans to continue involving young people in this campaign, and would like for families to calculate their own carbon footprints, to begin making changes at home.
Harper says he encourages "a real commitment on the part of clergy to preach and teach on this topic, not only as a political issue but as a moral issue."

Harper urges religious institutions to take action in their own churches, synagogues and mosques to decrease their carbon footprint. "We believe it's becoming increasingly clear that we're not taking care of our environment," said Harper. "God wants us to protect life and that's the basis for our work."

Schwartz has been happy to see members of several religious institutions attend M'Kor Shalom's environmental functions, and seeks to assist and encourage other local places of worship to take action.

"It's so important to network," said Schwartz. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel by yourself. Be in contact with our Green Council, various churches and synagogues and GreenFaith. We're blessed in this state to have a faith-based organization dedicated to going green. Generate allies and ideas."

Harper sees global warming as an issue that can form a bond between many faiths and religious institutions.

"We all share one earth and we all live on one planet so we need to get along to live on the same planet and work together," said Harper. "There's a great desire on the part of many people to see different religions work together productively. We see it every day to protect the planet. We see a lot of positive energy emerging around this issue."

Founded in 1992, GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition in New Jersey that inspires and educates religious institutions through spirit, justice, stewardship and by putting it all together. It is based in New Brunswick.

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