Wednesday, February 23, 2011

hazon sustainability update

Last week I wondered aloud about Hazon's programs, which tout sustainability but invite participants to travel such great distances that the carbon footprint left behind potentially negates any good effect done by the program itself. Hazon has contacted me to let me know that they are crafting a response and will comment soon.

Meanwhile, I am reminded of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, where we build temporary structures and dwell (or at least eat) in them for eight days. As part of the festival, we shake a bundle of native Israeli species in all directions inside the sukkah (the temporary dwelling). The bundles are made available in bulk orders through thousands of synagogues, which arrange for many of these to be shipped via airplane from Israel to North America. While I understand that this holiday is all about a connection to Israel, the carbon footprint involved in flying thousands of lulavim and etrogim to the US boggles my mind.

Several years ago, as a response to this dilemma, I proposed a solution: why not assemble a bundle of Northwest native plants to take the place of the Israeli species, and use those in your Portland sukkah instead? I have yet to meet a rabbi in person who is comfortable with this idea. Yes, they tell me, I understand your environmental concerns, but this would be a serious violation of what the holiday is about. I can't really support it. And so I have yet to build a sukkah on my property. But one of these days, I will. And I'll assemble a Northwest native lulav to shake in all directions, and call it good. More than good, in fact.

I look forward to Hazon's response soon and will share it here.

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