For kids, summer days at Eden Village Camp, some 50 miles north of New York City in Putnam Valley, N.Y., will be different from days at other Jewish overnight camps. Oh, there will be swimming in the camp’s lake and plenty of hiking. But instead of games of tennis there will be pickling and permaculture. Rather than visiting the canteen for ice cream, kids will pick snap peas to munch from their bunk’s own “snack garden.”
The Green Zionist Alliance is an unlikely force in Jewish environmental politics. Run by volunteers and largely unknown, the New York-based group heads into the 2010 World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem in June armed with seven resolutions, touching on topics from Israeli farming and sustainable business to renewable energy and climate change.
Kate Harrison and Barry Muchnick knew that when they got married, their wedding ceremony would need to reflect their environmentalism. After all, they had met at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
In most ways, Ralph Montview is a typical graduate student. On a recent weekday, he looked tired after a late night of proofing his master’s thesis, “Elements for Design of a Public Transit System.” His apartment in Anaheim, Calif., was messy, with books and papers piled on every available surface.
During a Sabbath evening service one Friday in February, Seth Goldstein and his 9-year-old son, Ozi, sat with their eyes closed in the synagogue in Olympia, Wash., where Goldstein is the rabbi. From the bimah, Nalini Nadkarni asked congregants to imagine a tree that was important to them. She described the maple trees that had lined the driveway of her childhood home. Amid the confusion of growing up, they had been a refuge. She would climb their limbs with a book and a snack, and spend entire afternoons up in the air.
In the early 13th century, Rabbi Isaac ben Moses of Vienna wrote, “…whoever pays attention to a beautiful tree doesn’t concentrate on his study and interrupts it. All the more so in prayer, which needs greater concentration; one cannot concentrate as required when looking at trees drawn on the wall.”