By Barbara Kessler

A coalition of Jewish groups signed a statement last week urging an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, in keeping with what scientists say is needed to avert a climate disaster. The Jewish Community Priorities for Climate and Energy Policy is supported by a diverse alliance of Jewish groups spearheaded by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Jewish Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).

The statement is aimed at helping Jewish groups coalesce around global warming issues, and “get beyond their broad statements” to help actively shape public policy and advocate for renewable and secure energy, said JCPA Washington director Hadar Susskind.

The statement’s signers bring together those with decades of environmental experience and those that have been supportive, but more reticent on these issues, Susskind said.

“It is the responsibility of every human, from every walk of life and every religious background, to protect the environment for ourselves and for the generations to come,” said COEJL spokesman and JCPA executive director Rabbi Steve Gutow in a news release.

Formed in 1993 and now representing 29 national Jewish organizations, COEJL offers extensive information and lists of experts to help Jewish groups become better environmental stewards, including an online guide for individuals and synagogues called Lo-Watt Shabbat.

Lo-Watt Shabbat doesn’t mess around, but gets right to the specifics, asking Jews to consider eating less meat, to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and to use beeswax candles, instead of those made with petro-chemicals, to help stem greenhouse gases.

During Shabbat, Jews “are asked to slow down and remind ourselves that we are part of God’s creation.” It is a good time to practice conservation and “understand where our water, food and electricity come from,” according to the document.

Lo-Watt Shabbat suggests these tips:


  • Move your thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two in summer – save about $98 a year and 2000 pounds of carbon dioxide
  • Take shorter showers
  • Run the washer only when the load is full
  • Use natural light, open blinds and drapes to warm your home naturally; do the opposite to cool your house
  • Use non-toxic Shabbat candles made of beeswax, which do not use petrochemicals
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFLs
  • Walk, ride a bike or rollerblade as you participate in community activities on Shabbat
  • Eat outside, but use recyclable or paper plates, not Styrofoam
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Decorate your Shabbat table with decorations made from recyclable material such as magazines
  • Consumer less meat and increase vegetarian servings (Almost one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions come from raising animals for food, according to a UN Report.)
  • Buy organic or locally grown food (because it doesn’t use petroleum based fertilizers).
  • Run an outdoor service
  • Invite an elected official, scientist or Rabbi knowledgeable about the environment to speak during a service or Oneg Shabbat.

Coalition member groups signing the August statement included: B’nai B’rith International, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Jewish War Veterans, National Council of Jewish Women, The Rabbinical Assembly, The Union for Reform Judaism and the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

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