UJA-Federation of New York launched its multifaceted Network Greening Initiative January 22 to more than 100 network agency staff, trustees, and environmental representatives who heard speakers say that “going green” was more urgent and useful than ever. “Taking responsibility for the earth — recognizing that we have no ownership, only a lease, and with it a duty to future generations — very much reflects the best of Jewish values,” said Louise B. Greilsheimer, UJA-Federation’s senior vice president, agency and external relations.

Greilsheimer said that with the many agency sites throughout the region, the network can have a significant impact on the environment. In terms of economics, she said, greening “can truly save money.” Greilsheimer noted that President Obama said to take individual responsibility for improving our country, and she pointed out how greening is a way to do it, at workplaces and homes.

The Network Greening Initiative is designed to help UJA-Federation’s network of agencies find ways to make broad concepts of greening accessible within their organizations, said John Usdan, president of the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, and a chair of the Network Greening Task Force. The initiative, also under the guidance of Rebecca Turner, staff director for the task force, includes four components:

  • grants for energy audits and implementing greening changes
  • educational programs to raise awareness about greening issues
  • an online resource guide with practical tips for viable greening options
  • the Jewish Greening Fellowship for network camps and community centers

“With the recession, many [managers] think, ‘I have so many challenges about cost and budget, is going green relevant?’ ” said one of the keynote speakers at the event, Andrew L. Shapiro. “Yes,” he replied, “because we cut costs.” Shapiro is a journalist, attorney, and founder and president of a firm helping businesses develop strategies for greening solutions.

This theme was also reflected in remarks by the other keynote speaker, Jonathan F.P. Rose. “The least-expensive things to do have the most benefit,” Rose said, referring to closing blinds or using proper insulation. “Putting motion detectors on lights in bathrooms and hallways to turn them off when not in use will pay for itself within eight months,” said Rose, founder of a real estate development, planning, and investment firm. “How do you figure out what to do? By an energy audit.”

Network agencies can submit requests for proposals for energy audit grants starting at the end of April. Incentive grants to help agencies implement greening change are also planned.
As part of the initiative, The Greening Guide was developed. The guide is a handbook that provides practical tips for implementing greening changes in the workplace, environmental facts to raise awareness about greening issues, and resources for public and private funding. To reduce the use of paper, the guide is available only as an online publication at www.ujafedny.org/publications.

To learn about ideas for viable greening changes, Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, and a chair of the Network Greening Initiative Task Force, encouraged Jewish communal professionals to attend greening sessions at UJA-Federation’s Wiener Educational Center to raise awareness of these issues. The first seminar, “Creating and Sustaining a Green Task Force,” will be held Wednesday, February 25, with future programs in the spring and fall.

A primary component of the initiative is the Jewish Greening Fellowship, a joint project of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and UJA-Federation, funded by UJA-Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. The 18-month fellowship for network camps and community centers provides $15,000 to $20,000 in staff-salary support and greening grants for participating agencies.

Fellows will be trained in the fundamentals of Jewish environmental education, including how to make agencies more energy efficient, Judaism and the environment, implementing green programming, and educating the community. A key aspect for the fellows is that they will return to their individual agencies and lead educational programs on greening at camps and community centers.

For applications, due Friday, February 6, visit www.isabellafreedman.org/environment/greening.
Both keynote speakers have long personal connections to UJA-Federation. Shapiro’s father, Daniel S. Shapiro, was president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, a predecessor to UJA-Federation, from 1983 to 1986. Rose is the son of Frederick P. Rose, who was president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, from 1974 to 1977.