A North American Jewish environmental awareness center is expanding its programs in environmental education to make Jewish students more aware of the need to combine the values of Judaism with those of preserving the environment.
The Teva Learning Center, headed by Director Nili Simhai, has become North America’s foremost Jewish environmental education institute, with the purpose of combining concern for preserving the natural environment with the spiritual ethics taught in Judaism, including recognizing the beauty of God’s Creation of the world and the role we all have in understanding and perpetuating the “cycles of Creation” as found in the Bible.
Nili Simhai, who was recently awarded the prestigious Covenant Foundation Award for Excellence in Jewish Education has been involved with the Teva Learning Center for the past ten years and studied and worked in a range of environmental fields – ranging from wildlife conservation, wetland remediation, and entomology at Ohio State University, to ornithology at the International Bird Watching Center in Eilat, Israel.
Simhai, who considers herself to be “the first Jewish environmentalist” to receive the Covenant Foundation Award has devoted herself to combining the “ethical wisdom inherent in Judaism” which includes an awareness of the earth’s natural systems needed to support life, with the overall responsibility of preserving the world environment.
Headquartered in New York City, and incorporating the Hebrew word “teva”, which means nature, the Teva Learning Center works with young Jewish students from all branches of Judaism, and offers a number of different programs, including ones known as “shomrei chayot” (guardian of the animals) to show students how various wild animals live in their native eco-systems; weekend Sabbatical retreats, combining nature studies and spiritual relationship to give more insight into the connection between God’s creations and mankind; and wilderness camping, and canoeing adventures to instill the responsibility of outdoor living in a completely natural environment.
The programs are designed to give students a sense of sharing the responsibility of what is meant in Judaism as “tikun olam” (healing of the world) and “shomrei adomah” (guardians of the earth). Its two main natural environment experience locations includes a natural woodland setting in Connecticut as well as the Appalachian mountain one that also has a lake for canoeing and natural environmental experience studies.
Simhai grew up in Ohio and has studied and worked in a range of environmental fields – ranging from wildlife conservation, wetland remediation, and entomology at Ohio State University. She has also worked at one of Israel’s top ornithology (bird watching and studies) centers, the International Bird Watching Center in Eilat, which is located on one of the world’s most important migratory bird flyways: the Jordanian-Syrian Rift Valley flyway.
Educational programs like those offered at the Teva Learning Center are beneficial to young people in other parts of world, especially in light of the numerous environmental challenges the world faces today.
In Israel, the Society for the Preservation of Nature (SPN) also has environmental education and awareness programs for people of all ages, and conducts programs to make people more aware of the environmental problems faced in a small country whose scarce natural areas are dwindling.
It might be a good idea for the SPN to become involved in joint environmental projects with the Teva Learning Center, with youngsters from each organization working on environmental projects in both Israel and the USA.
After all, we all live on the same planet with its steadily dwindling natural resources.
Photo via www.tevalearningcenter.org