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The Synagogue Council is proud to support the Boston chapter of COEJL, The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, in a statewide initiative to "pledge" to "green" synagogues in Massachusetts.

This initiative involves three parts:

  1. The Pledge is a nonbinding statement of a synagogue’s interest in becoming more environmentally-friendly.
  2. The Green Guide for Massachusetts Synagogues, which will contain Massachusetts-specific information for synagogues on how to reduce environmental impact (such as where to buy earth-friendly, healthier products at great prices, and how to lower energy bills, obtain state energy company rebates & cut down on both waste and exposure to toxic chemicals).
  3. On-site consultations with synagogues by Boston COEJL members.
To sign The Pledge, obtain The Green Guide or to request an On-site Consultation, visit www.BostonCOEJL.org. COEJL, a program of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), is the leading Jewish environmental organization in the U.S.

You can see the Green Guide for Massachusetts right here on our site!

Signees (39 to date!) as of January 19, 2011

  • Congregation Beth Israel of the Merrimack Valley, Andover
  • Temple Israel, Athol
  • Beth El Temple Center, Belmont
  • Temple B'nai Abraham, Beverly
  • Am HaYam, Brewster
  • Congregation Kehillath Israel, Brookline
  • Temple Beth Zion, Brookline
  • Temple Sinai, Brookline
  • Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge
  • Temple Beth Abraham, Canton
  • Temple Beth David, Canton
  • Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Chestnut Hill
  • Temple Emeth, Chestnut Hill
  • Temple Israel, Greenfield
  • Congregation Sha'aray Shalom, Hingham
  • Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain
  • Temple Tifereth Israel, Malden
  • Temple Israel, Natick
  • Temple Shalom, Medford
  • Temple Aliyah, Needham
  • Temple Beth Shalom, Needham
  • Tifereth Israel Congregation, New Bedford
  • Congregation Ahavas Achim, Newburyport
  • Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard (The Adams Street Shul), Newton
  • Congregation Or Yisrael, Newton
  • Temple Beth Avodah, Newton
  • Congregation Sons of Israel, Peabody
  • Temple Ner Tamid, Peabody
  • Temple Anshe Amunim, Pittsfield
  • Congregation Beth Jacob, Plymouth
  • Temple Kol Tikvah, Sharon
  • Temple Sinai, Sharon
  • Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, Wayland
  • Temple Shir Tikva, Wayland
  • Wellesley-Weston Chabad, Wellesley
  • Hillel B'Nai Torah, West Roxbury
  • Temple Beth David, Westwood
  • Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester
  • Temple Emanuel, Worcester

SHARE YOUR IDEAS AND SUCCESSES! Here is a sampling of what other congregations are doing that result in energy, cost and resource savings.

Here is a site from Temple Shalom in Newton: Green Simcha Guide. Thanks!

Read on to see what other synagogues have been doing to save energy and money.

Thank you to Sarah of Temple Emanuel, Newton for sharing the following ideas:

  • Installed new HVAC system, Metasys, computer controlled; operates according to outside temperature.
  • Replaced 90 watt spots and ballasts in common areas with 75 watt spots and new ballasts.
  • Put certain lighting areas, such as the outside, on automatic timers.
  • Replacing old hot water heaters with individual hot water units for each kitchen and bathroom.
  • Purchased seven refurbished office stations for Main Office.
  • Placed recycle bins for paper, co-mingled, and trash in every room, as well as signage on their use. Orientation to their use was done with custodial staff and with all groups within the synagogue. Purchased new custodial cart designed to handle different waste streams.
  • Lobbying the City of Newton to pick up recyclables from area non-profits and to change waste vendor contract to that effect. Temple Emanuel is now part of the city's pilot program to pick up paper recyclables from area non-profits - done on a weekly basis.
  • Contracted with Save That Stuff www.savethatstuff.org for co-mingled recyclables on a monthly basis.
  • Reaching out to area non-profits to engage them in greening and in lobbying for city recycle pick-up.
  • Moved from plastic cups to paper. Convinced morning Minyan to use renewable metal cutlery instead of plastic at their daily breakfasts.
  • Purchased non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Requested that religious school curriculum include environmental material - Jewish texts that promote environmental stewardship.
  • Presenting green options for Bar and Bat Mitzvah "mitzvah" projects.
  • Provided our first "green-as-we-can" kiddush with sustainably grown/low spray kosher wine, free trade organic coffee and tea, and organic milk - recycle bins prominently in place.
  • Held a Green Shabbat at the congregation, with a short speech from our Ecology Committee and information tables during kiddush.

We want to hear from you!

If you have some good ideas that we can share with other synagogues on how to practice good environmentalism, please consider sending them to us!

Jewish Week - July 9, 2008

Area Shuls Begin Levying Fuel Taxes

Members to foot bill on soaring energy costs.

by Stewart Ain
Staff Writer

New York area rabbis are praying for a warm winter

With heating oil and natural gas prices up about 60 percent over last winter, some area synagogues are now imposing fuel surcharges on members, increasing dues and consolidating events in order to close their buildings and lower the heat a few nights each week.

And the annual Kol Nidre appeal — used in the past to raise money for new programs — will now be used by some synagogue presidents to solicit donations to keep the lights and heat on.

“Some synagogues are saying that rather than asking for a surcharge, they hope to inspire people to give more on the High Holy Days,” said Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.

That’s the approach of Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, L.I.

“We are not raising membership dues or trimming programs in the coming year and hope that continued fundraising efforts will cover this additional expense,” Michael Novick, the Orthodox congregation’s executive director, said in an e-mail response to a Jewish Week inquiry.

The National Council of Young Israel held a meeting here Monday to discuss developing a list of suggestions synagogues might consider to reduce their energy bill, according to Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the group’s executive director.

“It’s going to be a simple list of things to do to save electricity,” he said. “We’re compiling it from various sources. We’re hoping it will make people think twice: do they always need to use the big sanctuary, are they using too much electricity, do they need all the lights on throughout the day? We have to start thinking along those lines because of energy costs and the need to cut back on foreign energy.”

Some synagogues have opted to add a fuel surcharge to their dues bills. The Huntington Jewish Center on Long Island, for instance, tacked on a $60 charge to help pay its natural gas bill. The Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, L.I., added a $30 utility fee.

“Energy costs last year were a little more than 3 percent of our budget,” said Joel Podell, the congregation’s president. “This year we have it budgeted at 4 percent, a 25 percent increase.”

Although fuel surcharges may be new here, the Suburban Orthodox Congregation in Pikesville, Md., imposed a $50 fuel surcharge two years ago “because Maryland utilities’ costs skyrocketed up to 72 percent due to deregulation,” according to Eileen Creeger, the congregation’s executive director.

In an e-mail reply to the Orthodox Union, of which the congregation is a member, Creeger said the $50 fee was maintained for the coming year and dues increased $20.

“Our concern now is that the increases in gasoline/oil will now impact revenues (i.e. dues, etc.),” she wrote. “Our programming is increasing with the hope that funding will come from donations.”

Many synagogues are taking steps to reduce energy costs. “We have increased the thermostat this summer by two degrees to 71 or 72 instead of 69 or 70,” said Yoel Magid, executive director of the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale. “We plan to reduce the thermostat by one degree this winter. And we have had a private company check our electric and heating bills to make sure we have been charged at the non-profit rate. The company has saved us $10,000.”

Magid said dues for the 1,200-member congregation have been increased this year by $200, in part to pay for rising energy costs.

Rabbi Eric B. Stark, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Greater New York Council, said that although everyone will be faced with the rising cost of energy, “synagogues, particularly those on Long Island that have older buildings built in the 1950s that are not as energy efficient,” will be particularly hard hit.

To help deal with the high cost of natural gas heat, Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, L.I., will be “closing the building a lot more than we have,” according to Steve Goldman, its executive director.

The congregation, a merger of Temple Judea in Massapequa and Suburban Temple in Wantagh, is operating from a building 53 years old. Goldman said committees would be encouraged to meet in members’ homes rather than at the synagogue to permit the building to close.

Asked about renovating the building to make it more energy efficient, Goldman said: “That is a major project and we probably don’t have the money to do that now.”

At the Shelter Rock Jewish Center in Roslyn, L.I., dues have been increased $150 in part to offset rising energy costs, according to Justin Sivin, the administrator.

“We’re now in the process of installing energy-saver light bulbs and putting light switchers on motion sensors,” he said.

Congregation Beth El in Massapequa, L.I., has moved all of its religious services into the chapel during the summer to avoid having to run the air conditioner in the main sanctuary, according to Irwin Scharf, a past president.

“The chapel opens into a classroom” to provide additional space for Sabbath services, he noted. “The chapel has a wall air conditioner, so it saves us energy.”

But Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan does not have that luxury because it has only two large rooms — the sanctuary and Frankel Hall, according to Harold Goldman, its executive director.

“This time of year things are pretty quiet, but once we get into September, the building is used heavily ... and we tend to run programs every night of the week,” he said. “We only have this one building and we rent space for our offices. I’m sure [the landlord] will pass on the extra fuel costs, so there will be a lot of additional expense. And if we have a cold winter, it will drive the cost of heating the synagogue that much higher.”

Calls to a number of large Manhattan congregations, including Temple Emanu-el, Central Synagogue and Park East Synagogue, were not returned.

A number of area synagogues have renovations planned and are including energy-saving features in their plans.

“Our building is 55 years old and we are replacing the air conditioning and heating system to make them more energy efficient,” said Podell of the Midway Jewish Center.

Westchester Reform Temple, a 1,200-family congregation, is also planning a major renovation of its building, which is more than 50 years old. The sanctuary, which was built for 600 families, will be rebuilt with a more efficient heating and cooling system. And heating vents will be placed in the floor instead of the ceiling where much of it is wasted, according to Magid, the executive director.

Just how high heating oil and natural gas prices will rise this winter is unknown, but they are already up about 60 percent over last year’s price, according to Kevin Rooney, executive vice president of the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island, a trade association.

He suggested that institutions and homeowners switch to a budget plan with their oil companies so they know how much their bill will be each month rather than face bills of $1,000 or more per delivery this winter. The price of heating oil is now about $5 a gallon compared with about $2.85 a year ago.

Andrew Heaney, president of HEAT USA, an oil buying cooperative, said synagogues should consider winterizing their buildings now (putting in additional heating zones and insulation) to be energy-efficient this winter.

Rabbi Lerner said he is suggesting to the 200 Young Israel synagogues that in addition to adding more heating and air conditioning zones, they consider installing sophisticated timing devices and window air conditioners so the whole building doesn’t need to be cooled. In addition, he said he is recommending that synagogues have an expert perform an energy survey to make additional energy-saving suggestions.

But a number of these items could be expensive and Deborah Gregor, executive director of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, said it is “a very difficult time to ask people for more money because we’re receiving more requests for assistance” from members.

“We have not imposed any surcharges and we have made a conscious effort to restrict energy use in the building,” she said. “We’re turning off lights, changing to high efficiency bulbs, and we’ll be keep the heat off when it is not needed. We’re also enrolled in an energy curtailment program ... that last year paid us $3,000.”

Gregor said energy costs increased 20 percent last year “and that was after we made enormous efforts to cut usage.”

Asked what more can be done this year, she replied: “We’ll pray.”

[email protected]

We want to hear from you!

If you have some good ideas that we can share with other synagogues on how to practice good environmentalism, please consider sending them to us!

[Progress report from Temple Beth Avodah (thanks to Rachel White):]

Green Highlights 2007-2009

  • Hosted an annual Green Fair & Trade Show (08 & 09). The 09 Fair featured 30+ vendors of green products and services and attracted 300+ visitors.
  • Introduced environmental education programming into our Religious School, including our Brit Adamah Project(Covenant with the Earth).
  • Switched to organic, fair-trade, shade grown coffee roasted by Pierce Brothers of Western, MA.
  • Implemented No-Idling Policy.
  • Reduced paper use by 30%.
  • Expanded the Temple's recycling program to include glass, plastic and metal.
  • Audited the Temple's use of energy for heating & cooling and implemented measures to increase efficiency and conservation.
  • Switched to recycled-content paper products and to non-toxic cleaning products.
  • Installed a smart irrigation system.