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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Deerfield’s B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim makes earth-friendly efforts

Deerfield’s B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim makes earth-friendly efforts

By Phil Rockrohr
Deerfield Review

Article about BJBE's Certification initiatives

Deerfield’s B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim makes earth-friendly efforts

Karee Bilsky, left, director of the early childhood program at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohi in Deerfield,checks out tomatoes in the garden in the preschool


Leaders of B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim are modest when they discuss the Deerfield synagogue’s membership in GreenFaith Interfaith Partners for the Environment.

But their efforts to educate congregants to take care of the earth and to make choices with environmental impact within the congregation are apparent throughout the sprawling 70,000-square-foot complex at 1201 Lake Cook Road.

Just inside the front door, sunlight spreads through skylights across the village center and through glass walls along various hallways. The open-air courtyard anchors the building from its center, with the brightly lit Chava Center preschool attached.

The Greenfaith Committee, on which 35 congregants have served, aims to inspire people to take care of the earth, said Laura Singer, who co-chairs the committee with Todd Katz.

“It goes back to the Bible and God leading us to the Garden of Eden and asking us not to spoil his world,” Singer said. “Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase meaning repairing or healing the world. That is one of the core beliefs of our synagogue.”

For Singer, the reading coordinator for Northbrook School District 27, the committee’s purpose strikes especially close to home.

“It’s important to me that I live a life that is based on taking care of the earth in my personal life,” she said. “Each of us needs to assume responsibility for the earth. I try to teach this through school and personal modeling. The committee is another strand where I can educate people on it.”

GreenFaith offers certification for interfaith organizations bringing together members of diverse religious backgrounds to become environmental leaders, Singer said.

B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim is among 10 members of a cohort that spreads from the North Shore to communities across the United States, she said.

In May the synagogue earned a two-year certification by addressing “significant requirements” in four areas of green initiatives, including spirit, stewardship, environmental justice, and communications, Singer said.

Those initiatives include items as simple as installing dual flush toilets to reduce water use, converting to LED lights triggered by motion detectors to reduce energy use, and utilizing natural light as much as possible throughout the building, said Arlene Mayzel, executive director of the synagogue.

“It’s also about service and social justice,” Mayzel said. “For example, our members have worked on clearing non-indigenous species from the forest preserve.”

Meanwhile, a garden in the preschool is used to grow vegetables and educate young students about the earth, she said. Those same students will decorate the Sukkah, a symbol of bounty and agriculture, in the courtyard.

Singer’s favorite is perhaps the Wisconsin-based Primrose Valley Farm, owned by a congregant in Wisconsin and used to grow and sell organic produce untouched by pesticides.

“We’re supporting locally-grown farms,” she said. “It reduces transportation pollution of production suppliers that have to travel 1,500 miles to get to our grocery stores.”

The farm not only supplies fresh food to the synagogue’s congregants, but donates up to 5,000 pounds each year to a Jewish food pantry in Chicago, Singer said.

“That is supporting a lot of values that are important in Judaism,” she said.

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