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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel's Religious School Creates Prayer Garden to Raise Environmental Awareness

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel's Religious School Creates Prayer Garden to Raise Environmental Awareness

The Alternative Press

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a synagogue in the GreenFaith Certification program, creates a prayer garden to raise members' awareness about environmental issues.


As the early days of spring bring renewal and growth to the earth, members of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel’s Religious School have a new Prayer Garden where students of all ages will learn about protecting and caring for the environment.

The Prayer Garden, which was dedicated in the fall of 2010, is part of the synagogue’s GreenFaith certification program.  All members of the synagogue will have the opportunity to participate in a year’s worth of programs designed for the Prayer Garden.

Some of the highlights of the Prayer Garden’s physical design include:

  • A fruit and vegetable garden
  • Construction of multi-use structure that will serve as a sukkah and/or a huppah for weddings
  • Sculptures
  • Stepping stone inscribed prayers
  • Plantings to attract butterflies and other garden friendly wildlife

According to Pia Kutten, Director of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel’s Linda and Rudy Slucker Religious School, “Protecting the Earth is an important Jewish value we must convey to our students if we are to protect our planet from further harm. Teaching our students to love and care for the planet becomes more relevant when they have opportunities to interact and experience the natural world regularly. Moving our lessons outdoors allows our students to explore and develop an appreciation for God's Creation and understand the complex connection between Judaism and our natural environment and resources.”

The garden will also serve as a meeting place for intergenerational programming throughout the year.

Since October 2010, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel has been one of seven Reform congregations in New Jersey to participate launch the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program.   The comprehensive Certification Program helps houses of worship across North America become environmental leaders through initiatives in facilities management, religious education and worship, and environmental justice.

TSTI is taking part in a wide variety of activities as part of the two year Certification Program.  Upon completion in May 2012,  TSTI will be certified as a GreenFaith Sanctuary and will be looked to as leaders in the Reform Movement’s greening efforts. The team, which is co-chaired by the synagogue members Sue and Phil Hoch, is currently working on our action plan, with activities that include:

  • Continue to green the TSTI facilities’ operations
  • Conducting environmental justice education and advocacy
  • Offer environmentally-themed worship services and education programs for all ages
  • Communicate our work to local media outlets
  • Take on the additional responsibility of serving as mentors to other Reform Jewish communities nationwide seeking to deepen their engagement with environmentalism.
  • Congregational leaders will attend Union social action programs to share their experiences with the Reform Movement.

GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992.  They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation in South Orange, has long been the spiritual home to a diverse community that welcomes and includes Jews of traditional and non-traditional backgrounds, young families, singles, empty-nesters, multi-generational households and families with non-Jewish spouses or parents.

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel offers a wide range of programs and opportunities, from its thriving pre-school and well-regarded elementary, middle and high school religious education to its social action and “Green Team” activities.  We welcome all who wish to participate in the traditions and rituals of the Jewish people.  Our goal is to perpetuate the religious principles and moral values of Judaism by providing an environment for worship, education, spirituality, and service for our members and the larger community.

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