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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » GreenFaith Partners with Reform Jewish Temples to Create Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program

GreenFaith Partners with Reform Jewish Temples to Create Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program

By Rachel Meisel
The Alternative Press

GreenFaith partners with the Union for Reform Judaism to bring 8 synagogues into the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot program. Highlights Sharey Tefilo-Israel and quotes Rabbi Daniel Cohen.


SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental organization, has partnered with the Reform Jewish Movement in creating the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program. Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange is one of eight temples in New Jersey to be selected for the rigorous two-year GreenFaith Certification Program set to begin this month.

In order to become certified as GreenFaith Sanctuaries the synagogues will spend the next two years creating and implementing an action plan to reduce their carbon footprint by conserving energy and other resources within their facilities, providing environmentally-themed education and worship and environmental justice programming and advocacy. Each temple’s committee will consist of their clergy and congregants. The goal is to teach and engage their congregants on sustainability as well as the community at large.

Rev. Fletcher Harper, the Director of GreenFaith, said these temples were selected out of the close to 50 reform temples that applied because they demonstrated a high degree of willingness and were ready to commit the time.

Originally known as Partners for Environmental Quality, GreenFaith was founded in 1992 by Jewish and Christian leaders whose mission was to connect diverse religious traditions with the environment. It changed its name to GreenFaith in the early 2000s when its efforts included energy conservation and the use of renewable energy in religious institutions. Since its inception, they have been responsible for greening houses of worship throughout New Jersey.

In a phone interview, Rabbi Daniel Cohen of Sharey Tefilo-Israel told The Alternative Press the environment is not an academic issue. He believes it is a spiritual one. To him religion is how you interact with people and the world. He pointed out that tradition says one cannot pray in a synagogue without windows. Rabbi Cohen interprets that as a reminder that prayers come to life when we can see and be aware of the world.

He recounted the old Jewish story of an elderly man in ancient Israel planting a fig tree. A Roman general passing by says to the man, "Don’t you realize it will take twenty years before that tree will grow enough to produce fruit, and you will be long dead by then?" The old man responded, "When I was a small child, I could eat fruit because those who came before me had planted trees. Am I not obliged to do the same for the next generation?"

Rabbi Cohen summarized, "We have to think outside ourselves and how the environment affects us. We have to think how it will affect other generations."

The seven other congregations participating in the Pilot Program are Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, Temple Emanu-El in Edison, Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick, Temple Shalom in Succasunna, and Temple Sinai in Tenafly.

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