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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Going Green Without Walls

Going Green Without Walls

By Suzanne Pollak
Washington Jewish Week

An article about Kehila Chadasha's involvement in our Certification Program

Going Green Without Walls

Rabbi David Shneyer conducts an outdoor service


It may be small in number and not have a building of its own, but no one can question Kehila Chadasha's commitment to go green.

It is the only synagogue in this area to have completed the first year of a two-year program that will end with it being certified by GreenFaith, an interfaith organization working to ensure that places of worship are environmentally friendly.

St. Francis of Assisi Parish, a Catholic church in Triangle, Va., began the certification process two months ago and is the only other house of worship in the D.C. area working toward certification.

Showing churches and synagogues how to consume less energy and spread the "green" way of life to its constituents is the main goal of GreenFaith, of Highland Park, N.J.

The synagogue, which is 34 years old and has about 100 families, "has always been a very socially conscious community," said member Susan Holliday.

"When we learned about GreenFaith, we thought it's a natural," she said.

Often the first step in obtaining this certification is to conduct an energy audit of what is often a very large building. But in the case of Kehila Chadasha, there is no building at all.

It is the first religious group to work toward GreenFaith certification without having a building of its own. Instead, the group holds services and Hebrew school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Therefore, explained Holliday, "It's been a learning experience as we go."

Stacey Kennealy, GreenFaith certification program director, acknowledged that Kehila Chadasha "is the first institution without walls" that it has worked with. She estimated that about one-third of the group's requirements revolve around making a building more energy efficient.

Therefore, she said, GreenFaith adjusted the certification program, requiring the shul to have more educational programs and become more involved in knowing about the food and paper products they purchase.

"They have a strong social action record. For them, this is just kind of an extension," Holliday said.

Rabbi David Shneyer agreed, noting, "Since our founding, the members of Kehila Chadasha have engaged in various efforts to change our homes and daily routines to become greener. Working with GreenFaith this past year has certainly helped in this process."

The congregation actually had energy audits done, only these were conducted at the homes of individual members. As an audit can be expensive, designed with the idea of saving money in the long run, Kehila Chadasha got a company to conduct these audits at a group rate.

About five of the 100 families in the congregation signed up, Holliday said.

The synagogue also did many energy-saving activities as a group. Twice in the past year, it held bike days, convincing many of its members to ride their bikes to services. They even planned two separate routes, and assigned a captain to each route, so that people could ride together, Holliday explained.

Some members joined a community-supported agriculture program following a presentation by a farmer. Under this program, members pay about $30 a week and a fresh box of locally-grown fruits and vegetables are delivered to their door. They pay the money during the winter, thereby helping the farmer when he has no crops to sell, and then get their food in the summer.

Kehila Chadasha members also are learning about the Anacostia watershed area and are helping clean it up.

"That's another kind of mitzvah," Holliday said.

During Sukkot, some members went and gleaned apples, "picking up the fallen fruit and donating to Shepherd's Table," a nonprofit in Silver Spring that helps the homeless.

They also conducted their service outside "in a field," she said.

In another environmentally friendly program, members invited someone from Echo City Farms, an urban farm in Prince Georges County, to come speak and demonstrate how to use worms to cultivate the soil.

"He brought a boxful of dirt and worms to our congregation," Holliday recalled.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Shneyer has been an active participant, giving sermons on the environment. As part of the certification, "he speaks from the bima, and he writes essays in our newsletter," she said.

Some of the topics GreenFaith covers include energy waste, groundwater pollution, the best foods and kitchen products to buy and learning how to become more aware of the energy used.

Kehila Chadasha surveyed its members to learn about their energy use and had members sign a pledge to live a more "green" life, Holliday explained.

The synagogue may not have a building, but "the members are the community," and they are proud to step up to improve the environment, Holliday said.

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