Recently, after 53 years on this planet, I chose to officially sanctify my Jewish journey by becoming a Bar Mitzvah. I had to this point been what I have called a “gastronomic Jew”. While I have been deeply committed to my Jewish heritage, culture and culinary virtues all these years, I have been largely devoid of religious “calories”. This path that I chose this year is unique for me as it is for all Jews. As a scientist, I have had to face the many conflicts between the real and the imagined, the science and the mystical nature of religion and have yet to reach any final conclusions.
But what I have been able to reconcile through this process is a deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness between what I do professionally (as an environmental management consultant and trainer) and with what the Torah and Jewish scholars teach us about environmentalism. Many Talmudic themes center around the concept of “sustainability”. For instance, calls to manage resources wisely, to limit conspicuous consumption, provide for and between generations, are common threads weaved throughout Jewish thought. For 5771 years, Jews have heeded the biblical call “to till and to tend” the earth. Here in the U.S., the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) has helped tens of thousands of Jews make a connection between Judaism and the environment. There are even green tips to have an ‘eco-kosher’ New Year.
Just as John Muir did when he walked the floor of Yosemite Valley, perhaps I too have discovered that “finding God in nature” can be a deeply Jewish experience. My mission then, is to bring the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by helping to foster the ancient tradition of respecting (and repairing) the environment in which we live- not only in my neighborhood, but in the business community. I continue to hope that you will all join me on that quest.
Thanks and deep love to my wife (who encouraged and continues to inspire me), my children (who motivate me, support my work and cheer me on), and to my close family, friends and business colleagues that have carried and shared this merging of sustainability and religious choice, on both a personal and professional scale. As in life and professionally, it takes many wings to fly- so, why should religion and sustainable living be any different? It DOES take a community.
L’Shana Tova Umetukah ([a] good and sweet year)!