Why Kehilla’s Menorah Is Turning Green
By Rabbi Burt Jacobson and Alice Kostin
(Most of this text was drawn from the Green Menorah Covenant of Kehilla Community Synagogue)
As part of the Kehilla Resolution on Acting in the Face of Climate Change, our Board of Trustees held that our synagogue affirms the Green Menorah Covenant of Kehilla Community Synagogue as a guideline for our values and actions as a congregation. The Green Menorah is both a tree of branches and a Tree of Light, as the Torah describes the Temple Menorah (Exodus 25: 31-39). It is the vision of Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that the Green Menorah symbolizes a covenant among Jewish communities and congregations to renew the miracle of Chanukah in our own generation. Whether one views the meaning of Chanukah as one day’s oil miraculously meeting eight days’ needs, or a story of human beings facing impossible odds, triumphing and thereby ensuring the survival of the Jewish people, the symbolism is clear. We must do our part to increase the efficiency of our own fuel use and ensure the survival of all people. Rabbi Burt Jacobson and the rest of the Green Menorah Covenant Committee organized to join in this covenant to heal our planet and save our human race from the climate crisis.
There are three aspects of the Green Menorah Covenant:
- hands-on action by congregations and congregants to reduce our own CO2 and methane emissions;
- infusing our celebrations of Jewish festivals, life-cycle events, prayers, and education with eco-consciousness; and
- advocacy for change in public policy.
Just as the Menorah in the Holy Temple was rooted in the image of a tree, its branches and buds, so we need to renew the sense that our earth calls on us to light the Planetary Menorah by reducing our use of fossil fuels.
The seven branches of the Green Menorah are paths that will lead to reduced oil and other fossil fuel consumption, reduced CO2 and methane emissions and a healthier planet. The seven branches symbolize earthy actions in our own congregations and households. The seven lights in the Green Menorah symbolize seven actions to light up change in public policy beyond our own homes. To save our planet from the ravages of the climate crisis, The Shalom Center urges seven specific directions of personal and policy changes at all governmental levels, corporate and labor-union decisions, and household / congregational actions.
The Green Menorah Covenant Committee understands that there are many ways to achieve these goals. With Rabbi Waskow’s permission, we have revised the original words of the Green Menorah Covenant to more fully reflect all of Kehilla’s values of environmental health and social, economic and environmental justice. (You can view Rabbi Waskow’s original Green Menorah Covenant here.) Most of the revisions to the original Green Menorah Covenant were done by Rabbi Burt Jacobson, Helene Frommer, and Alice Kostin.
Consistent with Kehilla’s Jewish and humanistic values, the Green Menorah Covenant of Kehilla Community Synagogue proposes actions and policy positions that support win-win environmental solutions that are good for planet and people. Our Green Menorah Covenant proposes ways to reduce fossil fuel use and otherwise prevent further climate change in a way that safeguards the health and well-being of people, in keeping with all of Kehilla’s values.
Our Green Menorah Covenant emphasizes that ecological healing will require not only the efforts of individual people, households and institutions, but collective action and mass movements to change national and international policies and practices. If you have ideas on how to best implement our Green Menorah Covenant on an individual, household, institutional, and/or collective level or if you have ideas on how we can best join with mass movements around combating climate change, please contact Kehilla’s Greening Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.