NEW YORK (JTA) — The inaugural Green Beanie Awards, JTA’s bid to identify the best Jewish environmental initiatives, gave top honors to the UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, Ill.
The winners were announced in conjunction with JTA’s special Tu B’Shevat section, "Eco Jews: Tradition and Trends in Jewish Environmentalism." More than 100 organizations, institutions and individual from around the world and across the Jewish communal spectrum submitted entries, including day schools and Jewish community centers, senior homes and high schools, food co-ops and bloggers.
After much deliberation, the judges — Adam Berman (Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center), Nigel Savage and Barbara Lerman-Golomb (Hazon), and Nina Beth Cardin (COEJL) — picked two winners to share the $360 first-place prize: the New York federation, for setting an excellent example of a large organization using its resources and network to effect environmental change, and The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, for becoming the first house of worship to secure a Platinum LEED certification, widely seen as the most difficult and expensive "green" standard.
The top 10 was rounded out by other national Jewish communal organizations, including the American Jewish Committee and Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, and smaller entities, including Kibbutz Lotan in Israel and Jewish Heart of Africa, a group that brings Israeli green technology to the continent in an effort to spur eco-friendly development. Rounding out the honorees were: Hadassah Southern California, Morasha Jewish Day School, Princeton Jewish Center, and Shalom Institute. Honorable mention went to The "Green Team" at Bialik High School in Montreal.
The judges said they were excited about all of the entries, but were most impressed by organizations making changes to the best of their limited resources.
“The connection between Jewish life and the environment is not only natural, it’s organic — inherent in the basic tenets of Judaism, our teachings and in our actions to create a healthier, more sustainable world,” Lerman-Golomb said.
The board and staff at JTA were also inspired by the work — big and small — that is going on across the Jewish community.
“The sheer number of nominations is a testament to a vast undercurrent of concern about the environment in Jewish communal life,” said JTA’s board president, Elisa Spungen-Bildner. “The response and the variety of initiatives were very heartening.”