Jewish environmentalism, recycling and climate change

 PHOTO: On April 22, dozens of Jewish climate activists and allies gathered in front of a downtown Portland Chase branch. Melding Passover symbols and climate action, Jewish leaders from Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action and Havurah Shalom’s Climate Action Team and Portland Extinction Rebellion held up matzah and urged Chase Bank to ‘move their dough’ out of polluting fossil fuels. (See "It's not enough" below.)



Jewish environmentalism has a long history


Happy Earth Month from the Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland! We plan to share tips and resources for healing the Earth in a periodic Climate Corner in the Jewish Review.
Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, in response to Rachel Carson’s best-selling book, A Silent Spring. Published in 1962, her book helped inspire the modern environmental movement. That first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act; two years later, the Clean Water Act; and the next year, the Endangered Species Act.
In recent years, more than a billion people have participated in Earth Day globally. All of this has been a great start, but we need to do much, much more to combat climate change.
There is a long history of Jewish environmentalism. This year, for example, is a shmita year, a once-every-seven-year event – a Shabbat for the land, including observing social justice. In Deuteronomy, there is the concept of ba’al taschit, an injunction against waste, which states that if one besieges a city in war “you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down.” In the 19th century, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch stated that “lo taschit,” do not destroy, “is the most comprehensive warning to human beings not to misuse the position that God has given them as masters of the world and its matter through capricious, passionate or merely thoughtless wasteful destruction of anything on Earth.” 
We hope our committee is following in this long tradition.
We also have the Talmudic story of Honi, a man who plants a carob tree, telling a stranger that it will take 70 years to bear fruit. When asked why he is doing this even though he won’t see the fruit in his lifetime, he states “I found carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted these for me, so I, too, plant these for my children.” Just so, we are working to preserve a livable Earth for those who follow us.
Our committee would like readers to let us know how we can help you be a better steward of our land. What would you like to know more about that you can do to further lo taschit? In other words, what would you like to see us address or provide more information about in this Climate Corner? 
You can send your suggestions or questions to Rachel Nelson at the Federation ( We will do our best to come up with answers to your queries. You may also contact Rachel with questions about the Climate Action Committee or getting involved with its subcommittees (Legislative and Interfaith Work; Education: preschool-12th grade; and Community Engagement and Programming), or if you’d like to attend a committee meeting. We look forward to your questions and welcome all new members.

Sara Safdie is a member of the Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. The 2-year-old group is committed to the important work of tikkun olam, healing the Earth.


Gather hard-to-recycle items for May 15 event

If your spring cleaning turns up a broken blender or an old cassette collection from college, don’t toss that stuff in the trash. Those disposable finds may be recyclable at the James Recycling Drop Off Event at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center on May 15, between 10 am and 12:30 pm. The event is hosted by the Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. 
 Materials being collected include hard-to-recycle items, such as:
• Plastics #1 PET clamshells and other clear, #1 plastic items
• Plastics #2, 4, 5, 6
• Styrofoam blocks or sheets, including packing peanuts, cups, meat trays and egg cartons
• Plastic utensils, straws, bread clips
• Plastic screw-on caps
• CD and cassette tape cases
• Empty contact lens blister packs (foil removed)
• Empty tape dispensers
• Small appliances less than 30 pounds
• Laptops, desk towers and other small electronic items
• Power cords
• Holiday/string lights
• Cell phones, battery chargers, batteries and other accessories.
A detailed, visual list of what will be accepted at the event can be found at Items that can be put into curbside recycling bins will not be accepted. For details on what goes into curbside recycling, go to
Please do not bring squishy foam, pet food bags, #5 bags or cellophane-type bags. Also, no TVs, microwaves, computer monitors, printers or vacuum cleaners. 
All items must be clean, dry and sorted, and bags of recyclables should be labeled with the recycling number for quick identification. To learn how to sort items properly, watch this short video:
The cost to recycle each grocery bag or 5-gallon container of sorted plastics is $3; recycling Styrofoam costs $3 per 39-gallon garbage bag. Payments will be accepted in cash at the event or online at 
Two local, eco-friendly companies also will have products for sale at the event. Simple Sundries offers cleaning and personal care products packaged in reclaimed and refillable containers. The company also will be collecting used plastic pumps. Oki Doki creates bags made from used billboard materials. 
There is no drop-off of bags from vehicles. Event-goers should expect a wait as they transition between recycling stations and may find it easier to cart recyclables in wagons or bring a friend along to help with the load.
The event will be managed by James Harris, 24, and his mom, Kathi Goldman. With help from Denton Plastics, Agilyx Corp., a Metro grant and a crew of volunteers and staff, the duo have been in the recycling business for seven years. Not only does James Recycling offer monthly drop-off events, the company also provides a weekly pick-up service that complements curbside recycling in some Portland neighborhoods.


It is not enough! Time to invest in clean energy

Melding Passover symbols and climate action, Jewish leaders from Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action and Havurah Shalom’s Climate Action Team and Portland Extinction Rebellion held up matzah and urged Chase Bank to ‘move their dough’ out of polluting fossil fuels. 
“When we call on Chase Bank and other institutions with far too much power and far too much wealth, we do it from a place of deep recognition of the sacredness of all life everywhere,” says Havurah Shalom Rabbi Benjamin Barnett.
Emphasizing the urgency of the moment and lifting up the symbols of Passover, community leaders condemned the plagues that “fossil fuel pharaohs” – coal, oil and gas companies – have inflicted on us.
“It’s not just others who will suffer, it’s all of us and our future that will drown,” says Congregation Shir Tikvah Rabbi Ariel Stone. “We are all in this together! Pharoah, let our planet go!” 
Matzah, a symbol of freedom that the Israelites ate as they fled Egypt, represents the urgency of the moment.
“Like our biblical ancestors in Egypt, we cannot wait for the dough to rise, we must confront the climate crisis now,” according to a press release from Dayenu. (The group takes its name from the seder song Dayenu, literally “It would have been enough.”)
The action was part of Dayenu’s broader All Our Might campaign, in which hundreds of American Jews nationwide demand that our country’s largest financial institutions, as some of the top global investors in fossil fuels, take decisive action and fulfill their zero emissions commitments. The campaign calls for financial institutions to make bold investments in clean energy.
Dayenu’s mission is to secure a just, livable and sustainable world for all people for generations to come by building a multi-generational Jewish movement that confronts the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. “Join us in saying: Dayenu: we have had enough! But we also have enough. We have what we need to transform our world.”
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