Judaism and environmentalism
Judaism intersects with environmentalism on many levels. This article addresses how the natural world plays a central role in Jewish law, literature, and liturgical and other practices. Moreover, within the diverse arena of Jewish thought, beliefs vary widely about the human relation to the environment. In addition, the article looks at the history of Jewish environmental thought and activism.
Jewish law and the environment
In Jewish law (halakhah), ecological concerns are reflected in Biblical protection for fruit trees, rules in the Mishnah against harming the public domain , Talmudic debate over noise and smoke damages, and contemporary responsa on agricultural pollution. In Conservative Judaism, a new initiative has adopted ecokashrut ideas begun in the 1970s. In addition, Jewish activists have recruited principles of halakhah for environmental purposes, such as the injunction against unnecessary destruction, known as bal tashkhit. The rule of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim is a restriction on cruelty to animals.
Other Jewish beliefs about the environment
Generally speaking, the Bible and rabbinic tradition has put Judaism primarily on an anthropocentric trajectory. For example, in the account of creation in the Torah, each day God declares that the created world is good, yet concluding that the created human is "very good." In Genesis, too, God instructs humanity to hold dominion over nature, though this may be interpreted in terms of stewardship as well.
Jewish practices and nature
In contemporary Jewish liturgy, ecological concerns have been promoted by adapting a kabbalistic ritual for the holiday of trees, Tu Bishvat. Biblical and rabbinic texts have been enlisted for prayers about the environment, especially in Reform Judaism and Jewish Renewal movements.
History of Jewish environmentalism
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
In the U.S., a coalition of Jewish environmentalists (COEJL) undertakes both educational and policy advocacy on such issues as biodiversity and global warming. Founded in 2000, Hazon operates Jewish environmental programs in North America and Israel, with a focus on sustainable food and transportation alternatives. Jewish environmentalists are drawn from all branches of religious life, ranging from Rabbi Arthur Waskow to a growing Orthodox non-profit. In Israel, many governmental and non-governmental organizations were created to protect nature and reduce pollution. Many Israeli organizations made initial limited use of Jewish religious teachings, and a few approached Israel's environmental problems from a Jewish standpoint, including an environmental center named after Abraham Joshua Heschel. Many religious (Orthodox) Israeli environmental organizations encouraged environmental activism through the study of the intersection between Halacha and environmentalism. Sviva Israel together with Orthodox rabbinic scholars produced four journals on the topic of the Environment in Jewish Thought and Law that were sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of the Environment and the Municipality of Jerusalem.
In 2001, the Green Zionist Alliance was founded as the first and only environmental organization to ever participate in the World Zionist Congress, the World Zionist Organization and its constituent agencies. The Green Zionist Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, works from North America to educate and mobilize Jews around the world for Israel’s environment; to protect Israel's environment and support its environmental movement; to improve environmental practices within the World Zionist Organization and its constituent agencies; and to inspire people to work for positive change. By focusing on the environment while working from a pluralistic and multicultural base, the Green Zionist Alliance seeks to bridge the differences between and within religions and people — helping to build a peaceful and sustainable future for Israel and the Middle East.
- Green Zionism
- Green Zionist Alliance
- Environmental issues
- Stewardship (theology)
- Derech HaTeva
- Jewish vegetarianism
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|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2007)|
- A History of Jewish Environmentalism in North America - David Seidenberg, Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (2005)
- Coalition On the Environmental and Jewish Life
- Big Green Jewish Resources on Judaism and the environment
- Green Zionist Alliance
- Noam Dolgin - Freelance Jewish Environmental Educator
- The Shalom Center
- The Teva Learning Center
- Sviva Israel