Sustainable Mishkan

Rabbi Yael Levy and Mishkaners at People's Climate March

Get Involved in Mishkan Shalom's Sustainability Efforts

We are members, interested in food justice, fair trade, animal welfare and sustainability.  We are working to make Mishkan a more sustainable and environmentally aware synagogue. In 2017 we earned the Hazon Seal of Sustainability (  We hope that you will help reconstitute our Team.

Past activities:

B O O M:

North America's Explosive Oil-By-Rail Problem

Film Screening at Germantown Jewish Center

In Celebration of Earth Day, we invite you to a morning of information and conversation on the energy future of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Speakers include Rob Altenburg, J.D., Director of the PennFuture Energy Center and Ken Lande, Ph.D., Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Discussion and Q & A will follow.

Photo: The aftermath of the devastating Lac-Megantic crude rail explosion in 2013 in Canada. Credit: Screenshot from the Weather Channel documentary, Boom: America's Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem.

SHMITA Year Special Initiative

This year we have the opportunity to link up with the larger Jewish world through a year of SHMITA consciousness and action in a way that has never happened across the Jewish spectrum before. Since biblical times, we as a people have taken every seventh year in the land of Israel as a “Sabbatical” for the land and for forgiving debts. Moving beyond the biblical constructs and embracing the contemporary progressive and ecologically-focused Jewish approach with organizations and communities around the world, we will have the opportunity to explore this theme, and call-to-action, together and see how we can realize our collective communal potential...linking together our individual journeys, the outcome of the past year’s strategic conversations and the SHMITA year themes.

Honoring the Future Climate Change Exhibit Continues Through April 30, 2015

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Artists Peter Handler & Paula Winokur harness the power of art to educate, empower and engage the public on climate change. Exhibit free & open to the public. Learn more here.

Support Renewable Energy & Mishkan Shalom: ChoosePAWind by Jan. 31

Good for the earth, good for Mishkan: Make the switch by Jan. 31: Reduce your carbon footprint & increase Mishkan’s bottom line.

People's Climate March: WHAT'S NEXT?

Philadelphia Jewish Climate Change Action Network Organizing Gathering Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00 p.m. at Repair the World, 4029 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104

RSVP to David in advance: and mention you're a member of Mishkan Shalom.


All aboard the magical climate change tour bus Mishkan Shalom style:

People's Climate March: 1 Good Thing

400,000+ Marched in NYC; Thousands More Worldwide

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"This is going to be an extraordinary event. It could be as much a turning point in the struggle to face and heal our planet’s climate crisis as the Great March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 was in turning the debate about civil rights into vigorous public action. Come make history!"

                                       -- Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director, The Shalom Center (and member of Mishkan Shalom)

Hundreds of thousands marched for a strong, international climate change treaty and to launch an international, interfaith campaign: 1 Good Thing: Religions for a Strong Climate Treaty.

The U.N. Climate Change Summit was held in New York City, September 21 & 22, 2014. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Heads of State along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders, aimed at catalyzing action to help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy. and innumerable other organizations organized a massive climate change march to take place during the Summit. In honor of the beginning of the Shmita year and, in keeping with Mishkan Shalom's Vision, Mishkan Shalom endorsed the March and sent two busloads of members and friends.

The Communities of Faith and Spirit Contingent -- many thousands -- gathered for music and a prayer service before joining the full March. The Shalom Center took a vigorous role in shaping the multifaith service, including almost 80 shofar-blowers to lead the Jewish contingent. For faith communities, the People's Climate March was a chance to make our voices heard, to call for action to protect life and create a pathway to a positive future.

Shabbat Ha’aretz:.

Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair Discusses New Edition of Rav Kook’s Essay on Shmita

Friday, September 12, 2014

Explore concepts underlying the biblical sabbatical year through the lens of religious environmentalism and social justice activism with the author of a new, annotated translation of Rav Kook’s 1909 preface to his book Shabbat Ha’aretz (Sabbath of the Land).

What can shmita—the biblical sabbatical year and the agricultural cycle of which it is a key part—mean for the modern world? Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the giants of modern Jewish mystical thought, wrote this essay in 1909 to preface his book Shabbat Ha’aretz (Sabbath of the Land), in which he advocated new halakhic approaches to shmita in the context of the Zionist agricultural revival. His essay is a meditation on the relationship between ancient legal structures and the deep spiritual life they embody.

Hazon presents a new edition of Rav Kook’s Introduction to Shabbat Ha’aretz, which explicates the concepts of shmita through the lens of religious environmentalism and social justice activism. This beautiful new setting of the Hebrew text, accompanied by Rabbi Julian Sinclair’s new translation and notes, makes the complexity of Rav Kook’s language and thought accessible to English readers for the first time. It is accompanied by Rabbi Sinclair’s own introductions to the traditional conception of the sabbatical cycle; to Rav Kook’s life, mystical thought, and relationship to the modern return to Jewish agriculture; and to the ways Jewish tradition can speak to issues of land use, social justice, and climate-change activism in the twenty-first century.

Rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair is a writer, translator, tour guide, educator, environmentalist and solar energy developer. He has consulted to the UN on religious responses to climate change and been featured in the New York Times Magazine for his work in this area. Previously he worked as campus rabbi at Cambridge University, where he also taught Jewish Thought in the Divinity School. He holds degrees from Oxford and Harvard Universities as well as Orthodox rabbinic ordination. He is Vice President at Energiya Global, a leading Israeli solar company that has just developed the first-ever large-scale solar project in Sub-Saharan East Africa. Rabbi Sinclair has taught on Jewish and environmental values throughout North America.

Simplicity, Sustainability & Resilience: Mishkan Sustainability Team Meets

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Continuing our focus on issues of sustainability, we gather to consider what such issues mean to us as a community, and to plan future activities:

How can we ‘green’ our Auction and our potlucks, and how can we do that & build community?

How can we work with and learn from our students in the Religious School?

What about composting at Mishkan? (A new idea!)

Shall we show Alex Leff's film again? Students & Goliath is about how students at colleges are organizing for divestment in fossil fuel companies, just as we did against apartheid in South Africa

How about a bit of text and study -- to sustain ourselves in this struggle?

What else should we consider? Who else might want to join us in these efforts?

For information, contact Lynne Iser.

Awakening the Dreamer Symposium: Where on Earth Are We Going?

Don’t we all want to work for a world that is socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling? By delving into the inter-connected roots of these issues, attendees were able to shift to a whole new frame of reference — to see new solutions, from clean tech and eco-arts to local food and green-collar jobs. It was a transformative process that provided a lot of hope.

Participants left the Symposium empowered to take clear steps to embody their vision for a better world, and, having established new connections, to work with others on common issues. Through this enquiry each individual discovered the unique stand they wish to take for a more just, sustainable and fulfilling world.

This community-wide event, co-sponsored by Germantown Jewish Center, Weaver's Way Food Co-Op, Summit Presbyterian Church and Mishkan Shalom, was intended to build a core of engaged and active citizens. There were representatives of some local initiatives present.

The symposium was hosted by Lynne Iser who welcomes questions.

What’s Jewish About Fair Trade? Judaism and Ethical Consumerism

We hosted Ilana Schatz, founder of Fair Trade Judaica, for a discussion connecting Jewish text sources with fair trade principles. Ilana shared stories about fair trade artisans making Judaica products, developing a fair trade movement in the Jewish community and how to get involved. Fair Trade and Kosher Chanukah gelt, menorahs, Chanukah candles, and more were available for purchase. 

A Pachamama Journey: Children of the Jaguar Film & Discussion

We gained a window into the lives of the Sarayaku Indigenous Community, our neighbors of the Amazon, as told through the award-winning movie, Children of the Jaguar, produced by the Sarayaku people. This film tells about their struggle and victories to protect their culture and the last pristine rainforests of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Lynne Iser & Mordechai Liebling led our discussion about how we could partner to bring forth a more sustainable and just world. Learn more about their visit, the struggle, see video, links and more.

Sustainable Sukkot: Harvesting Wind & Sun, not Carbon

Mishkan Shalom and The Shalom Center co-sponsored a celebration of the Earth and a call for more vigorous action toward achieving and protecting a sustainable climate, in our sukkah on Sunday, September 22.

Traditionally, during Sukkot, Jews celebrated and prayed on behalf of the abundance and prosperity of all the archetypal “70 nations” of the world. So it seemed especially appropriate to take action during Sukkot to protect the climate system that indeed serves the prosperity of all peoples and the web of all life-forms on our planet.

The world-wide climate-healing organization organized a world-wide action on Saturday, September 21, aimed at “Drawing the Line” against the Tar Sands Pipeline and aimed for positive action to prevent worsening of global scorching and the climate crisis. Since that day is Shabbat and action of this kind seems more appropriate and equally possible on the Sunday in the midst of Sukkot, we chose the Sunday time.

We celebrated with the traditional waving of the lulav and etrog, and also included actions calling for rejection of the Tar Sands Pipeline. We made the connection with the dangers of fracking and of all “extreme extractions” — connecting Tar Gas & Fracking.

About Sustainable Mishkan

The committee helps Mishkan Shalom lessen its impact on the local and global environment. In keeping with Mishkan Shalom's Statement of Principles, each congregation committee should consider the environment in its activities. This committee serves as an informational resource for the congregation. Some aspects of synagogue function which the committee addresses are:

  • Energy use
  • Heating
  • Lighting
  • Air conditioning
  • Office machines
  • Transportation to & from synagogue
  • Water use
  • Consumption of and choice of materials and equipment
  • Solid waste reduction through maximum reuse
  • Recycling

In each of these areas, the committee may research and recommend the most environmentally-friendly alternatives, with information about their costs and benefits. A secondary goal is to save the congregation money through conservation. The Committee may also research available environment-related grants, for example related to alternative energy and energy conservation. When appropriate, and with Board approval and participation, the Committee may prepare grant applications. Committee members may also serve as resources for Environmental Education in the religious school, adult education, and the congregation at large. In the past 3 years, Mishkan Shalom helped organize, and hosted the first of two Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Green Fairs, in partnership with the Northwest Interfaith Movement (NIM). These were very well-attended and informative.

The Committee works to find ways in which the synagogue can exemplify the following priinciples:

Tzedek: Justice: As Americans, we consume and waste a disproportionate share of the world’s resources. The adverse impacts of this overconsumption and waste are disproportionately on the world’s poor, including:

  • Devastation from severe storms such as Hurricane Katrina, whose power is amplified by global warming
  • Pollution from trash facilities sited in poor neighborhoods, and the diesel tucks that serve them, and poisoning of developing countries’ poor by our exported trash
  • Displacement and victimization of people in other countries as a result of wars fought over oil
  • Impoverishment of urban poor living in energy-inefficient housing, due to high utility bills

L‘ovdah u’l’shomrah: Stewardship: Our congregation is the collective steward of the synagogue building and the surrounding property. Our goal is to and maintain the property as a place of beauty, a sanctuary of peace, and an asset to the surrounding neighborhood.

Bal Tachshit: (“Do not destroy…”): As a community, Mishkan Shalom seeks to minimize waste of energy, water, and material goods, and to minimize the environmental impact of those that it uses. Measures to this end include:

  • Recycling everything possible
  • Choosing energy-efficient lighting and office equipment
  • Instructing congregants how to save energy in the synagogue
  • Choosing recycled or non-paper products such as "paper goods"
  • Using reusable products, such as plates, cups, and utensils, when possible
  • Conserve water on-site, through rainwater collection and drip irrigation
  • Develop alternative energy for the building, such as solar and geothermal, with the help of grants

The congregation stands to benefit from these and other measures through savings in operating costs.

V'shinan'tam l'vanekha: “And you shall teach them unto your children…”):

  • The Committee seeks to involve Mishkan’s youth in its operation and projects
  • Committee members may work with Congregational School teachers to include environmental justice and stewardship in the School curriculum
  • The Committee may serve as a resource for the local religious community

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