Environmentally friendly shulls: the way of the future

When JTS agreed to ordain Gay Rabbis, Judaism started getting real progressive, I know it’s hardly likely that orthodox Jews will ever push to keep with the progressivism of Conservative Judaism, but we can always look for ways to compete. After all adding a couple of crazy liberals to the orthodox shull society was never a bad thing. Think about all the fun a crazy liberal could make a rabid right wing Kiddush club or a conversation about Israel. Maybe we could even garner some good food fights with cholent and kugel flying through the air, maybe the Rabbi will even get booed during the sermon instead of everyone just falling asleep, I just think our priorities need to change and we should welcome crazy liberals into mainstream frum society and with that I bring you my idea to make shulls environmentally friendly.

I know it’s hardly likely, although I know a few folks thinking about, to find a frum Jew who drives a car fueled with bio-diesel or to find one with a wind mill, water wheel or photovoltaic cells on their roofs, but the shull would be a great place to start. After all helping the environment benefits us all. Of course I may have to lobby my idea against folks like my father- who think that global warming, greenhouse effects and depletion of the ozone layer are just a political farce to gain funding for research projects. Is there even such a thing as the ozone layer anyway? Folks like my old man run the orthodox shulls of the world, standing firm on their racist, homophobic views, ethnocentric rabid right wing views- they tend to be extremely anti-environmental activism, let alone changing how shulls do business.

Now I am talking about changing the Kiddush club from its tradition of liberal bashing and drunken old men eating herring. I understand that even mentioning drinking organic whiskey in recycled paper cups- instead of those little plastic ones would do my project in immediately. I also know that a Kiddush club will never be a friendly place for a vegan- theres no way in hell that Kiddush club members will vote to allow a temphe and tofu shmaltz platter. Or to cut down on the napkin use during these mid-haftorah fress affairs.

No, what I am talking about is in the main sanctuary and structure of the shull, basically converting shulls into green buildings. Has anyone thought about a solar powered aish tamid? Or recycled paper siddurs, imagine picking up that traditional artsctroll- only to find that in small letters on the bottom of the page it says “this siddur was made with recycled kichel and matzo boxes?” Think of the avantages to having brown pages in a siddur, or better yet a bencher, cholent stains would be long forgotten and grape juice stains would add to the character by being soaked up within the thick pages.

How about pews made from old seltzer crates, or the peroches, torah and bima covers made from natural fibers like hemp. That actually would be interesting to see, a hemp peroches, I wonder why the folks at Moshav Modiin haven’t thought of that yet? How about a sod roof, or even a green garden roof (FYI garden roofs soak up rain water and sunlight creating insulation from heat in summer and cold in winter- saving money on heat and air conditioning- while providing a great way to use rain water and cool the over surroundings at the same time- trees cool down the general air mass- that’s why it is always cooler in central park during the summer) maybe we could grow food for the shull on the roof, then we can advertise that the cholent was made from 100% organic, locally grown ingredients.

Did you know that there is such a way to harness the energy of a wave by placing wave harnessers on the coasts? Well I think there should be some way to harness the shuckeling energy that is produced by folks during davening. Imagine if every bench and floor panel had some device which took energy from some guy doing teshuva for some terrible things he did over the weekend and stored it for later use. Especially in yeshivish shulls during the aseres yimay teshuva- they could even send the energy they don’t use back into the grid and make money. Can you imagine the Rabbi getting up and telling everyone to increase their shuckel speeds and they can receive a tax deduction from the money that the shull makes. In Karlin Stoliner shulls they should find some way to harness the noise emitted from the peoples mouths as they scream during davening.

I doubt a recycled torah would fly with the frum crowd- but maybe the progressive crowds like YCT and such would accept such leniencies. What about a compost pile in back of the shull, all the onions from the herring, crusty crock pot scrapings and old sliced veggies that no one would touch at shalosh suedos could be added. How about talesim, think about the sheep that have to suffer due to your inabilities to see that other materials are just as good as wool, and cooler for that matter. You know you can make a talis out of soy or corn?

Maybe the shull can even go one step further and support sustainable, small scale farming. They could have Kiddushes that are way more trendier then salmon with dill sauce and that broccoli and cashew salad. They could have raw food kiddushes, or maybe they could rock the vegan and organic for a bit. I can just see a bunch of frummies chowing down on polenta, and cholent made of beans, potatoes and fake meat made of nuts. Maybe they will have some guava protein shakes instead of soda, and then they could have veggies that cost 4 times as much as the normal ones.

If they really want to take it over board, the shull can have meditative sessions before daf yomi so folks can find their inner souls. Kabala is already high on the list of wacky liberal hobbies. It would be interesting to see a bunch of car seta laden mini vans running on recycled vegetable oil- of course if it’s from non-kosher restaurants, it would probably be banned at some later point by the Rabbis.

The cushions of the pews could also be changed to old leaves, as well as the carpet into sod, a vegetable garden could be the new playground and during children’s groups on shabbos morning the kids could learn about agricultural trends and skills rather then run amok and disturbing their parents in shull. Downstairs in the Kiddush room- “note this idea is only for shulls which have kiddushes with extremely rude people”, imagine running to Kiddush with the rest of the stampede, do you know how much wind is created by a bunch of Jews wearing talesim? A lot and this could be used as an advantage by installing mini wind generators in the direct path of the Kiddush stampede. With each rushing person the windmill will spin some more.

I think the Rabbi to set an example for the congregants should at least drive a hybrid car- especially the young pulpit Rabbi with 1-2 kids. Imagine how much more friendly everyone would be in shull if it were green, instead of shavuos being the only time for flowers, every day there could be fresh flowers from the garden. It would also make the yom tov biddings friendlier rather then a way to outbid your evil neighbor. “Oh I am sorry Yaakov, did you want the chassan torah?” No you take it, really I need to tend to the compost pile. “Are you sure? Ok well why don’t you come over later and share in my latest herbal remedies.” Of course it would be interesting to see a bunch of people smoking herbs on the yomim tovim. You know if you were to become a crazy yuppy liberal with bio-diesel cars and solar roofs- you may have to take up some weed smoking just to fit in.

By the way this was a semi serious post- the concept is serious, just not all the other stuff. We wont buy German cars, yet every time we fuel our cars we fund the very folks who are trying to wipe us off the planet.