Kids in Beit Shemesh schools–religious and secular alike–will soon be learning about environmental issues. A new initiative on the part of Sviva Israel, a religious environmental NGO, is bringing discussion of ecological topics into the classroom.
In particular, kids will learn how to recognize their “ecological footprint” and be encouraged to tread lightly with some practical tips, such as how to recycle. Kids will present the ways in which they’ve reduced their carbon footprint before the class.
To add even more inspiration, at the end of the year each school will receive a report comparing its ecological footprint to that of other schools, so kids can either savor what they’ve accomplished or be motivated to compete harder next year.
Until now, environmental issues have had a fairly weak presence in Orthodox Jewish communities. Anyone who has visited some of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in particular, with their brimming garbage dumpsters, is aware that the environment is not among their highest priorities.
So the fact that a religious NGO–founded by a rabbi and his wife, no less–is spearheading an ecological mission in one of Israel’s most predominantly Orthodox cities raises the hope that environmental issues may soon become more “kosher” in the Orthodox world. Moreover, the program will be drawing upon Jewish sources throughout the lessons, emphasizing that environmentalism and Judaism don’t conflict–that in fact, they are just waiting to be united.