The role of the spiritual leader in the age of climate change

Re-imagining how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College

Winter Seminar January 19-27, 2011 

(See Seminar Schedule here)

The world is coming to an end!  But don’t worry: we are having a week-long seminar on the environment!  Actually, when planning the winter seminar, we initially kept coming back to this same problem: “Who cares what a small group of people are going to do for a week in January, the world is going to hell in a hand basket – environmentally speaking – anyway.” If we had persisted with this problem, it might have been a very brief (and depressing) seminar.

Instead, we shifted gears to the spirit of “you are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (thanks, Pirkei Avot). With this in mind, the seminar is designed to equip and inspire us to grapple with the environmental challenges we will all face in our rabbinate.  Below is a short summary of our goals and some highlights from the week.

Becoming Teachers and Advocates
Nili Simchai of the Teva Learning Institute will be doing an interactive workshop on environmental education. We also have Carol Caplan coming, the former president of the synagogue with the only green certified building in America. She will give a presentation on how she pushed her congregation to build green when few folks cared.

Engaging in Local Environmental Issues
A number of local activists will be coming to work with us on challenges facing the Boston-area. One hightlight will be Dave Cash, asst. secretary for MA environmental policy, who will focus on the difficult choices he is faced with and the potential role he sees for local religious activists.

Jewish Tradition, Religion, and the Environment 
We will turn inward to student and faculty who have expertise in the connection between Judaism and the natural world. We promise that this will not be a compilation of tired Jewish environmental texts we have read before; rather, we hope this study session will provoke us and ask us to think about new paradigms and new questions regarding Judaism and the environment.

We want to especially welcome Ibrhaim Mateen, who will be presenting at an evening public program on environmentalism and the Muslim-American community. Not to be missed!

Celebration and Ritual 
Your fellow classmates will be leading a workshop on creating repurposed Judaica. The Ministry of Magic will lead a workshop on creating Tu B’Shevat rituals. We will also be spending an afternoon in JP at various homes learning hands-on skills like pickling, bread making and knitting.

This next highlight comes with a heads up (pun intended). Naftali Hanau, a shochet and founder of Grow and Behold Foods, will be shechting three chickens and discussing his unique perspective on kashrut and sustainable meat. Remove all mystery from your meat and come to this unique opportunity.

Community Building
We will take this opportunity during winter seminar to have small group, cross-class conversations each day. Part of this time will be spent responding to some framing questions we will provide, and part will be an opportunity to reflect on questions that have arisen as a result of the day’s activities. In anticipation of these small groups, we are going to be asking you to do some brief preparatory work for the seminar. Further instructions about this are soon to follow.

A lot of hard work went into preparing this amazing seminar and we appreciate your joyous participation.

 See Seminar Schedule here