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Jewish Greening Fellows Hailed for Savings, and Programs rss

Posted on: October 14th, 2010

When Shara Perlman, director of Youth, Family, and Camping Services at the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, became a member of the Jewish Greening Fellowship’s first class in 2009, she thought: “It’s just another responsibility.”

Jewish Greening fellows Shara Perlman of the YM & YMHA of Washington Heights and Inwood and Vivian Lehrer of Eden Village Camp flank the fellowship pr

Jewish Greening fellows Shara Perlman of the YM & YMHA of Washington Heights & Inwood and Vivian Lehrer of Eden Village Camp flank the fellowship program’s director, Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield.

Instead, Perlman said it turned out to be an extraordinary opportunity to be a leader and to make change happen. In her 18 months with the fellowship — a project of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, a UJA-Federation of New York beneficiary agency — she mounted her agency’s first-ever Earth Day Fair, formed a “green team” among her colleagues, got hundreds of people to come to help start a rooftop garden, prodded the organization to use environmentally friendly plates, and more. “This has been a remarkable experience for me.”

Perlman is just one of the first class of 19 fellows who completed a fellowship this past fall at community centers and camps throughout UJA-Federation’s network of agencies. Collectively they raised more than $850,000 in new funding for their organizations toward energy audits, energy-efficiency measures, and other projects, said Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, director of the fellowship program. The fellows also succeeded in implementing efficiency upgrades that will lead to $500,000 in energy savings in the next decade.

Nearly 100 new environmental education programs for children and adults were started, and many facilities adopted new practices in terms of recycling, composting, green cleaning, and reducing paper use. Fellows met about every six weeks for training and other projects.

Accomplishments “Huge”

“The challenge and opportunity for us is to save this planet,” said John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation. “We have a long way to go,” but he said the fellows’ accomplishments have been “huge.” Ruskay said environmental responsibility comes clearly from Jewish traditions and teachings, and he said, “This is about ourselves changing, and changing the very nature of our institutions.”

The new rooftop garden at the YM & YMHA of Washington Heights and Inwood.

The new rooftop garden at the YM & YMHA of Washington Heights and Inwood.

“You have energized your communities,” Jacoby Rosenfield told the fellows. She urged them and their agencies to continue the work, citing a biblical verse that says a person doesn’t have to finish a task, “but neither are you free to desist from it.”

A second cohort of 19 agency fellows was launched in March 2011. Those fellowships were open again to community centers and camps in the UJA-Federation network, plus synagogues and day schools. The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center has more information about the fellowship.

“It’s a reminder that citizens of the world can do wonderful things,” said Deborah Joselow, managing director of UJA-Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. The program is part of the commission’s mission to strengthen institutions that are critical to Jewish identity development.

This story was updated in April 2011.