From urban to suburban: Helping to ‘Green’ St. Louis. GreenFaith accepts two congregations into environmental leadership program
Central Reform Congregation and United Hebrew Congregation, both of St. Louis, were recently accepted into the GreenFaith Certification Program, the nation’s first interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship.
Both congregations are affiliated members of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and are the first religious institutions in the St. Louis area to join this prestigious national program.
Participation is made possible through a collaborative partnership between GreenFaith and the URJ’s Religious Action Center (RAC) which “helps Reform congregations become leaders in environmental stewardship and justice,” according to a statement issued by the URJ.
Entering its third year, the RAC’s partnership with GreenFaith has already helped 8 Reform congregations move through the program, where synagogues work to reduce the impact their activities have on the environment, while also helping members go ‘green’ at home and in their daily routines.
GreenFaith designed the program to help churches, synagogues, mosques and temples earn recognition as environmental leaders by carrying out more than two dozen environmental activities over a two-year period. From eco-themed worship services and religious education on the environment, to reducing consumption in their buildings and engaging in environmental justice advocacy, participants in the Certification Program ‘green’ their communities from top to bottom. When congregations complete the program, GreenFaith recognizes them as religious-environmental leaders.
To ensure readiness and a strong commitment, each congregation had to undergo an extensive application and approval process prior to acceptance into the program.
Rabbis from both congregations expressed enthusiasm with the environmental stewardship and partnership aspects of participation in the two-year certification process.
United Hebrew’s Senior Rabbi Brigitte S. Rosenberg stated, “Judaism teaches that we are to be ‘shomrei adamah’ guardians of the earth and partners with God in the ongoing creation and perfection of our world through acts of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).”
“Not only will we learn within the context of our faith, but we will have the opportunity to work in partnership with other congregations, of our own faith and of other faiths, to work together toward making our world a better place,” she added.
Rabbi Randy Fleisher of Central Reform Congregation concurred, saying, “I am excited about GreenFaith because it promises that we will not have to do this important work alone. We will have the inspiration and support of a variety of other congregations who will be walking this important path alongside us. Together, the possibilities seem endless, even the possibility of a repaired, restored, and renewed planet Earth that is our shared home.”
CRC leaders are especially excited about the level of interest among congregation members. Board President Janet Rodgers shared, "Central Reform members have been interested in environmental issues since our inception, and the GreenFaith program will help us implement some of our desires. Thirty-five of our members, representing every part of the congregation, signed up to join our Green Team steering committee. We anticipate many more will become involved in the program through initiatives, education programs, and environmental justice campaigns."
Dan Raskas, president of United Hebrew, reports that the congregation has already taken a major step toward fulfilling its partnership goals by contracting to install solar panels on the roof of its education building. Work is expected to be completed in September, as the congregation begins a yearlong celebration of its 175th anniversary.
Both Central Reform and United Hebrew anticipate enthusiastic participation from congregants and are equally proud to be leading the St. Louis worship community toward greater environmental awareness and stewardship.
Update: United Hebrew reports that solar panel installation commenced week of July 30.