Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning “repair of the world,” is a deeply rooted concept in Judaism that refers to a commitment to perfect the world according to God’s will through our own behavior, attitudes and actions.
That notion is central to our mission at Temple Beth El, where Tikkun Olam is codified as one of the seven tenets of our 2020 Vision. Synagogue programs such as Beth El Cares, for example, serve to provide our members with opportunities to engage and extend themselves in meaningful ways with the world around us — to participate in tzedakah (justice and righteousness) and g’milut hasadim (acts of loving kindness).
But Temple Beth El’s obligation to perfect the world not only applies to helping others, but to the earth itself. Three recent initiatives exemplify that commitment:
- Solar Energy Project: On September 4, 2013, 845 solar panels, mounted on a new, high-performance cool roof, began converting the sun’s energy into electricity, satisfying 70 percent of the synagogue’s annual electrical needs. The 218kW photovoltaic solar energy system is one of the largest of its kind on a house of worship in the U.S. The installation was part of an ambitious three-phase project initiated by the Board of Trustees with support by the membership to reduce TBE’s operating costs and promote environmental stewardship through the use of sustainable energy and other energy saving technologies. The project will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental pollutants and avoid over 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emission each year. In recognition of these efforts, we were named a winner in the Cool Congregation Challenge, a contest held annually by Interfaith Power & Light, a national faith-based organization that recognizes and inspires congregational leadership in the energy and climate arena. (For more information, contact Steven Lander at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view two videos on this project.)
- Community-supported agriculture (CSA): In 2013, Temple Beth El became part of Tuv Ha’Aretz (in Hebrew, “good for/from the earth”), the Hazon CSA program that draws upon Jewish values to inspire and explore our connection to food, agriculture, and environmentalism. Each week during the growing and harvesting seasons, TBE congregants in the program enjoy weekly deliveries of healthy, local and mostly organic produce at competitive prices while supporting local farmers and eating healthfully. (For more information, contact Susan or Bob Friedman at 203-569-7200.)
- Mitzvah Garden: In 2009, Temple Beth El began the Mitzvah Garden to create a sacred space in which young children might connect with the earth and experience the rhythms of nature and the seasons. The garden was made possible by a generous gift from the Finkelstein family who wanted students in TBE’s early-learning programs and Religious School to learn about gardening. During the 2014 growing season, the garden produced over 230 pounds of vegetables, which were delivered to a charitable organization for distribution to individuals and families who lack the basic necessities or resources to improve their lives. Congregants can sponsor a half-bed or full-bed of plantings. (For more information, contact Harriet Weinstein at 203-353-8873.)