Green Guide for Massachusetts Synagogues Part One

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Rabbi Katy Allen

Susie Davidson

Amelia Geggel

Gesher City Environmental Cluster






Op-Ed: Jews must save environment

Rabbi Steve Gutow, Executive Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs 

Thoughts from the Jewish Tradition on Protecting the Environment
How to get your synagogue started - by Rabbi Katy Allen

Free Energy Audit

Money for your recyclable paper!   


Comprehensive Energy Sites

EnergyStar – products and resources Rebate Information   

Massachusetts Utility Companies

Quick Links to Utility Companies in Massachusetts           

Electric Industry           

Gas Industry  

NSTAR Electric

NSTAR’s Commercial Energy Advisor: “Quick Fixes”

NSTARs Operations and Maintenance Advisor

NSTAR Rebates

NSTAR Wind Power

NSTAR Contact Information

National Grid’s “20 Ways to Use Energy Smarter”


Energy Consulting Services  

Advanced Buildings  



Compact fluorescent bulbs

“Please turn off the lights” stickers near switches

Motion detectors           


Computers Heating and water use

Renovations Massachusetts Energy Consumer Organizations








WASTE REDUCTION/RECYCLING                       

Reduce                        Reuse                        Recycle                       

Paper                        Utensils / Tableware                       




Green Event Guide











 In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy [bal tashchit] its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you under siege? Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed. (Deut. 20:19-20)   


Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs a well, or does away with food in a destructive manner violates the negative mitzvah of bal tashchit. (Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 6:10)   

When G-d created the first human beings, G-d led them around the Garden of Eden and said: "Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it." (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1, Ecclesiastes 7:13)


Op-Ed: Jews must save environment

Rabbi Steve Gutow

In this op-ed piece published by the Jewish Telegraph Agency on Aug. 6, 2007, Rabbi Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which is the parent group of COEJL, discusses why Jews are obligated to protect the Earth by conserving energy, reducing greenhouse emissions, and practicing good environmental behavior.

Energy conservation and reducing greenhouse emissions are necessities and an obligation Jews have to the world.    WASHINGTON (JTA) -- As the energy crisis and the ominous reality of global warming loom larger in the public's mind, there is little doubt the United States must immediately engage this issue head on. Fortunately the solution to both concerns requires the same shifting of policies, the same courageous actions and the same discipline.

Carbon emissions that are destroying the earth of our children and grandchildren, and a world dependent on tyrants such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir are not realities in which Jews can safely relax. The Jewish community, which has a particular stake in this race because of Israel's vulnerability to enemy nations whose power is derived from the flow of petrodollars, must do more.Recently I sat with a group of 15 senators in Washington and presented the concerns of the Jewish community about energy and the environment. Among the key leaders on hand from leading Jewish organizations were David Harris of the American Jewish Committee and Howard Kohr of AIPAC. Harris made a presentation on Israel; Kohr presented on Iran.The senators clearly saw climate and energy policy as a paramount concern of the day, and the responsible question is if our community is paying enough attention to these issues.

Sadly, it is not.The Jewish community is right to make Israel's safety and thwarting Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons top priorities, but energy independence and global warming are equally important in the long run and deserving of the same level of attention. While our tradition may not favor a particular policy, it is hardly silent. Deuteronomy explicitly forbids destroying fruit-bearing trees when attacking a city. The verses ask the question: "Are the trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?" Our tradition understands that trees are not able to act in their own self-defense and need even more protection than humans. The Torah and the Talmud say that Jews are not allowed to destroy or waste anything. Unfortunately, this fundamental rabbinic mandate of "not destroying anything," known rabbinically as "bal taschkit," is not well known. It should be. In Psalms the Lord says that the Earth "is the Lord's and everything that is in it." As Jews, action in the world is a basic fabric of our theology and the most important proof of faith in God. Indeed, to be silent and dormant flies in the face of the fundamental nature of Judaism.From a holistic standpoint there are two sides of the energy equation: We can use less oil and we must increase production of power from existing renewable sources. We must reduce our bloated energy consumption by tapping into the strength of our disciplined tradition and being more cognizant of what we consume. We must open our minds to the continuing dialogue of new and innovative solutions. We must also seek out alternative sources of energy such as wind power, solar power, bio-fuels and geothermal heat to address our current energy demands.Investments in the use of these fuels are investments this country must make.

At home, in our synagogues and in our communities we can take substantive actions by reducing our energy footprint, making smart consumer choices, driving less and exchanging inefficient light bulbs for efficient CFL bulbs. As activists, you can make a difference by holding events, and calling and writing your senators, congressmen and other elected officials to tell them that you believe America deserves a smart, comprehensive energy policy.

We are in a battle for survival. Our physical world, our immediate and future security, even the air we breathe are at great risk. We are a people who from our history understand the need to engage. Energy conservation and reducing greenhouse emissions are not luxuries for those who just want to see a "better world," they are necessities and an obligation we have to the world.After all, the Earth is really not ours; it is the Lord's and it should not be wasted or destroyed.Discipline, innovation and investment will not wait for the next decade or even the next year -- they are needed now. Buckminister Fuller, a sage though not a Talmudic one, stated: "If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on how I am and what I do, how would I be? What would I do?" It is our call.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is the executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.




Thoughts from Jewish tradition on protecting the environment

By Rabbi Katy Allen

 It all begins at the beginning: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)  

We live on this creation. We are part of it. It is the only one we have, and it is imbued with the holiness of the Divine. Repeatedly, over the millennia, we have been taught to preserve the Earth and what it contains and not to destroy or waste it. The Torah teaches: "When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy [bal tashchit] its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down." (Deut. 20:19)

Over the centuries, the rabbis elaborated on this passage, and extended its meaning to include many other actions. Passages in the Talmud tell us not to waste fuel or kill animals for convenience. What does it mean in today's world to "waste" fuel? How much of what we do on a regular basis could be considered "wasting" if we stopped to think of how we could do something differently. In his code of Jewish law, Rambam elaborated on bal tashchit: "Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs a well, or does away with food in a destructive manner violates the negative mitzvah of bal tashchit." (Hilkhot Melakhim 6:10)

There are so many ways in which our tradition teaches us to preserve the Earth and all of its resources. At the end of the day, we humans carry a huge responsibility for the continuation of the planet and life upon it. A midrash exemplifies this responsibility: "When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: 'Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.'" (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1, Ecclesiastes 7:13)

How to get your synagogue started

By Rabbi Katy Allen

When we look around at our lives and our synagogues, there are so many places to start greening. As you begin the process, or enter into a new stage of it, here are a few thoughts that might be helpful.

Get the kids involved. Teach children about specific ways to take responsibility in the synagogue and at home to use fewer resources and to recycle and reuse as much as possible.

Think about children's health. All of the issues about safer cleaning products and other chemicals impact our health, but especially the health of our children. [See The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action for more information about this.
Don't overwhelm people. Have you ever gone on a diet? Making change is hard, 
and most of us can only do a little bit at a time. Perhaps you want to concentrate on one area 
to begin with, such as reducing energy consumption or increasing recycling efforts. 
Once that is established, you can move on to another area.
 Celebrate the synagogue's greening intentions. 
During a synagogue event, create a public celebration and a ceremony about changing 
the light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, switching to compostable dishes, 
starting a recycling program, or otherwise increasing your greening efforts. 
Encourage people to work in groups to support each other. The Low Carbon Diet is a 
program to help small groups of people work together and support each other to lower 
their carbon footprint. Check it out at 
This program helps people make personal changes, which can then be 
transferred back into the synagogue.
Include staff members in your process, especially custodial staff. 
Help them learn about the environmental issues involved, and get them on board 
with the idea of greening, so that they want to help make changes. 
Get different parts of the community involved in different ways. Youth groups, 
Sisterhood, Empty-nesters groups – each can take on a different aspect of change. 
For intergenerational contact, have representatives meet from time to time to 
coordinate the work of the synagogue.
 Kol hakavod to your community for working on taking this step.Katy 
 Free Energy Audit:         Call NSTAR for a free energy audit:  781-441-8592, or visit
Money for your recyclable paper!: 
Visit to request an “Abitibi paper retriever”. 
The company will give you a dumpster to collect recyclable paper, and then pay you for what it collects. also promotes this effort.  



Turn things off  Beware of “phantom loads:” Appliances with clocks and remote controls still use electricity when “off.”  Synagogues can save money on their electricity bills by unplugging televisions, microwaves, computers, etc when not in use and connecting appliances t power strips with on-off buttons and shutting them off at night. Visit the website of the Federal Energy Management Program ( to see how much power your idle electronic devices are using.    


Lighting  1. Switch to more efficient lighting - fluorescent lamps, smart lighting design in parking lots2. Place “Please turn off the lights” stickers near switches3. Install motion detectors and timers    


Computers  1. Set to automatically sleep/hibernate when not in use and turn off at night or when not using for long periods  2. use flatscreen monitors – they use less energy than CRT’s3. use laptops – they use less energy than desktops    


Heating  1 .Set thermostats to a lower temperature at night and during off-hours2. Install multiple thermostats in order to heat only areas of the building in use3. Sealing/insulating to maintain desired building temperatures: caulk or weatherstrip doors and windows to seal out heat-stealing drafts.  4.Have an insulation contractor inspect your building.  If it needs more insulation, cellulose can be blown into the walls to cut down substantially on heating costs.5. Keep windows clean (see section on purchasing cleaning supplies) – Clean windows allow sunlight to warm rooms.6. Turn down the temperature on the hot water heater to the warm setting (120F).  7. Clean or replace filters in furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps at the beginning of the summer and winter. This will permit a better air- flow throughout the house.Install storm windows and doors to keep out drafts and help you save on heating costs.   

Appliances Replace old major appliances with more efficient Energy Star appliances.



NSTAR ( provides free energy audits through its Small Business program.Some synagogues are charged residential electrical rates and some are charged small business rates, depending on the town. Both residential units and small businesses are eligible for a free audit.

After the audit, NSTAR provides feedback on changes that will save money and electricity. The small business program pays up to 70% of the costs of these changes, and offers interest-free financing on the remaining portion.  Contact: Brett Feldman of the NSTAR Small Business Program (he is a former member of COEJL): (781) 441 8344. If a synagogue is considered a residential unit by NSTAR, contact Beth Lonergan at 781 441 3879.NSTAR offers similar audits for synagogues that use their gas.   

NATIONAL GRID (from the National Grid website)Small Business Program: For business customers with an average demand use of 200 kilowatts orless (or 40,300 kilowatt-hours or less) per month, we can help you reduce your company's energy costs by installing energy-efficient equipment.We can provide a free energy audit and report of recommended energy-efficiency improvements.We pay 80% of the cost of the installation of energy-efficient equipment and you can finance the remaining 20% interest free for up to 24 months.Cost-cutting, energy efficient equipment available through this program includes: Contact: (;    

MASSACHUSETTS INTERFAITH POWER AND LIGHT offers more comprehensive audits than the utility companies that address heating, cooling, light, water-heating and plumbing issues. The organization charges a fee on a sliding scale, depending on the size of the congregation. Several Boston-area synagogues have already participated in audits by MIP&L. Contact: Tom Nutt-Powell - 1-800-406-5374; 1-617-879-0446;     

Comprehensive Energy Sites

ENERGY STAR FOR CONGREGATIONS ( or and type “congregations” into the search box) Free technical and logistical support for congregations, including a comprehensive 86 page energy efficiency guide; advice from other congregations in the program, information on energy efficient products, contractors, and utilities; marketing and public relations

EnergyGuide, endorsed by the Better Business Bureau’s Reliability Program and ENERGY STAR, helps you make energy choices, with an online store with ENERGY STAR rated products, personalized recommendations on ways to save, and a listing of nearly 30,000 professional contractors.EnergyGuide provides unbiased advice about energy choices. You can buy efficient products (EnergyGuide store sells everything from air cleaners to self-powered radios and solar cooking to water-related products), analyze your use, find a contractor, find a supplier, choose green (enter your zip code to find local green offers) and learn about energy.

EnergyGuide’s Learn about Energy category answers questions about electricity (“What’s deregulation? Is choice for me? Who can I buy from? What else? My state’s status? National Status?”); natural gas (same questions as those for electricity); heating oil (“Oil vs. Natural Gas, Billing & Service Options, Deregulation Links”). You can learn about Energy Efficiency and Products (compact fluorescents, appliances, electronics, office equipment, HVAC, lighting, windows, homes, financing improvements) and look up further queries in the Resources section, which includes a glossary, FAQs, Tips and Reference on numerous energy topics that range from purchasing programmable thermostats to learning about green power, to installing insulation.An EcoCalc calculates how energy use affects the environment. “Home Energy Magazine” emphasizes comfort, health and safety, energy efficiency, durability, and affordability in its coverage of heating and cooling systems, appliances, materials, and new technologies to help you implement a whole-house approach to energy savings. Lastly, a Resources section includes links to energy-related sites.


Purchasing: EnergyStar – products and resources   

Advantages of purchasing ENERGY STAR qualified products


ENERGY STAR qualified products use less energy than other products, saving you money on your utility bills, and helping you protect the environment. The ENERGY STAR label can be found on products such as: compact fluorescent light bulbs, electronics, office equipment, heating and cooling equipment, windows, light fixtures, household appliances     

ENERGY STAR ( is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.Results are already adding up. Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills. ( was created by the Northeast ENERGY STAR® Lighting and Appliance Initiative as a resource to help New Englanders save energy and money in their homes through the use of ENERGY STAR qualified products and more energy efficient behaviors. Inside you will find links to discounted lighting products, energy savings tips and information on mail-in rebates and instant coupons to help make purchasing easier. If New Englanders have questions about energy efficiency, will have the answers.


The Northeast ENERGY STAR Lighting and Appliance Initiative is a consortium of electric utilities and energy efficiency providers that includes Cape Light Compact, Connecticut Light & Power, Efficiency Vermont, National Grid, NSTAR Electric, Unitil and Western Massachusetts Electric.To learn more about ENERGY STAR and for an up-to-date list of qualified products, visit the ENERGY STAR Web site 

Rebate Information %3