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Judaism and environmentalism

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Title: Judaism and environmentalism  
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Subject: Jewish vegetarianism, Jewish ethics, Judaism and environmentalism, Tu BiShvat, Judaism as a Civilization
Collection: Judaism and Environmentalism
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Judaism and environmentalism

Judaism intersects with environmentalism on many levels. This article addresses how the natural world plays a central role in Jewish law, literature, and liturgical and other practices. Moreover, within the diverse arena of Jewish thought, beliefs vary widely about the human relation to the environment. In addition, the article looks at the history of Jewish environmental thought and activism.


  • Jewish law and the environment 1
  • Other Jewish beliefs about the environment 2
  • Jewish practices and nature 3
  • History of Jewish environmentalism 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
    • Curriculum 7.1
  • External links 8

Jewish law and the environment

In Jewish law (halakhah), ecological concerns are reflected in Biblical protection for fruit trees, rules in the Mishnah against harming the public domain, Talmudic debate over noise and smoke damages, and contemporary responsa on agricultural pollution. In Conservative Judaism, a new initiative has adopted ecokashrut ideas begun in the 1970s. In addition, Jewish activists have recruited principles of halakhah for environmental purposes, such as the injunction against unnecessary destruction, known as bal tashkhit. The rule of tza'ar ba'alei hayyim is a restriction on cruelty to animals.

Other Jewish beliefs about the environment

Generally speaking, the Bible and rabbinic tradition has put Judaism primarily on an anthropocentric trajectory. For example, in the account of creation in the Torah, each day God declares that the created world is good, yet concluding that the created human is "very good." In Genesis, too, God instructs humanity to hold dominion over nature, though this may be interpreted in terms of stewardship as well.

Jewish practices and nature

In contemporary Jewish liturgy, ecological concerns have been promoted by adapting a kabbalistic ritual for the holiday of trees, Tu Bishvat. Biblical and rabbinic texts have been enlisted for prayers about the environment, especially in Reform Judaism and Jewish Renewal movements.

History of Jewish environmentalism

In the U.S., a coalition of Jewish Abraham Joshua Heschel. Many religious (Orthodox) Israeli environmental organizations encouraged environmental activism through the study of the intersection between Halacha and environmentalism. Sviva Israel together with Orthodox rabbinic scholars produced four journals on the topic of the Environment in Jewish Thought and Law that were sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of the Environment and the Municipality of Jerusalem.

In 2001, the Green Zionist Alliance seeks to bridge the differences between and within religions and people — helping to build a peaceful and sustainable future for Israel and the Middle East.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, New York.
  2. ^ Canfei Nesharim
  3. ^ Green Zionist Alliance: Mission


  • Alexander Barzel. Matsaʻ u-matsav: ʻiyunim bi-tefisat ha-ṭevaʻ ba-maḥashavah ha-Yehudit Sifriyat "Helal Ben-Ḥayim". Tel-Aviv: Ha-Ḳibuts Ha-Meʼuḥad, 2004.
  • Jeremy Benstein. The way into Judaism and the environment Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Pub., 2006. ISBN 1-58023-268-X; 978-1-58023-268-5.
  • Anita Bernstein. Formed by Thalidomide: Mass Torts as a False Cure For Toxic Exposure Columbia Law Review, November, 1997
  • Ellen Bernstein. The splendor of creation: a biblical ecology. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8298-1664-X.
  • Ellen Bernstein. Ecology & the Jewish spirit: where nature and the sacred meet Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Pub., 1998. ISBN 1-879045-88-5.
  • Ellen Bernstein and Dan Fink. Let the earth teach you Torah : a guide to teaching Jewish ecological wisdom Wyncote, PA: Shomrei Adamah, 1992. ISBN 0-9632848-1-9.
  • Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart. Spirit in nature : teaching Judaism and ecology on the trail Springfield, NJ: Behrman House, 2000. ISBN 0-87441-686-8.
  • J. J. Boersema. Thora en stoa over mens en natuur : een bijdrage aan het milieudebat over duurzaamheid en kwaliteit Baarn: Callenbach, 1997. ISBN 90-266-0901-9.
  • Chaya M. Burstein. The kids' catalog of animals and the earth. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0785-7.
  • Molly Cone and Roy Doty. Listen to the trees : Jews and the earth New York: UAHC Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8074-0536-1.
  • Ari Elon, Naomi M. Hyman and Arthur Ocean Waskow. Trees, earth, and Torah: a Tu b'Shvat anthology. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2000. ISBN 0-8276-0665-6.
  • Manfred Gerstenfeld. Judaism, environmentalism, and the environment : mapping and analysis Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies : Rubin Mass, 1998.
  • Hadassah and Shomrei Adamah. Judaism and ecology: a Hadassah study guide in cooperation with Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth New York, NY: Dept. of Jewish Education, Hadassah, 1993.
  • Daniel Hillel. The natural history of the Bible: an environmental exploration of the Hebrew scriptures New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-231-13362-6.
  • Aloys Hüttermann. The ecological message of the Torah : knowledge, concepts, and laws which made survival in a land of "milk and honey" possible South Florida studies in the history of Judaism. 199, Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1999. ISBN 0-7885-0580-7.
  • Ronald H. Isaacs. The Jewish sourcebook on the environment and ecology Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998. ISBN 0-7657-9979-0.
  • Merkaz ha-Yerushalmi le-ʻinyene tsibur u-medinah and Center for Jewish Community Studies. Jewish environmental perspectives Philadelphia, PA: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 2001.
  • Naḥum Raḳover. Environmental protection: a Jewish perspective. Policy study. 4, Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress, 1996.
  • Aubrey Rose. Judaism and ecology. World religions and ecology London, England ; New York, NY, USA: Cassell, 1992. ISBN 0-304-32378-0.
  • Or N. Rose, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser and Margie Klein. Righteous indignation: a Jewish call for justice Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Pub., 2007. ISBN 978-1-58023-336-1; 1-58023-336-8.
  • Lillian Ross. The Judaic roots of ecology Miami, Fla. 4200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami 33137: Central Agency for Jewish Education, 1983.
  • Yiśraʼel Rozenson. Ṿe-Hineh ṭov Meʼod. ha-Sidrah ha-yeruḳah. 2, Yerushalayim: Yeshivat "Bet Orot", 2001.
  • Daṿid Salomon and Meʼir Zikhl. Ekhut ha-sevivah (eḳologyah) bi-meḳorot ha-Yahadut. Ramat-Gan: Proyeḳṭ ha-sh. u-t. be-Universiṭat Bar-Ilan, 1989.
  • Earl Schwartz, Barry D. Cytron. Who renews creation. (Meḥadesh be-khol yom tamid maʻaśeh ve-reshit) New York, N.Y.: National Youth Commission, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 1993.
  • Richard H. Schwartz Judaism and Global Survival, first published in 1984, 2nd edition by Lantern Books, New York, 2002. ISBN 1930051875
  • Tsevi Shinover and Yitsḥaḳ Goldberg. Ekhut ha-ḥayim ṿeha-sevivah bi-meḳorot ha-Yahadut. Neḥalim: Hotsaʼat "Mofet", 1993.
  • Nosson Slifkin. Seasons of life: the reflection of the Jewish year in the natural world. Torah universe. Southfield, MI; Nanuet, NY: Targum Press in conjunction with Mishnas Rishonim; Distributed by Feldheim, 1998. ISBN 1-56871-110-7.
  • Ora R. Sheinson. Lessons from the Jewish Law of Property Rights for the Modern American Takings Debate Columbia Journal of Environmental Law Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, 2001
  • Ruth Sonshine, Jonathan Reiss, Daniel Pollack, Karen R. Cavanaugh. "Liability For Environmental Damage : An American And Jewish Legal Perspective," Temple Environmental Law & Technology, Fall, 2000
  • David E. Stein. A Garden of Choice Fruit: 200 Classic Jewish Quotes on Human Beings and the Environment Wyncote, Pa.: Shomrei Adamah, 1991. ISBN 0-9632848-0-0. (Link is to the first edition.)
  • Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. Judaism and ecology: created world and revealed word. Religions of the world and ecology. Cambridge, Mass: Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, 2002. ISBN 0-945454-35-X; 0-945454-36-8.
  • Albert Vorspan and David Saperstein. Jewish dimensions of social justice : tough moral choices of our time New York, NY.: UAHC Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8074-0650-3.
  • Arthur Ocean Waskow. Torah of the earth: exploring 4,000 years of ecology in Jewish thought Two volumes. Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Pub., 2000. ISBN 1-58023-086-5; 1-58023-087-3.
  • Watling, Tony, Ecological Imaginations in the World Religions: An Ethnographic Analysis, London and New York: Continuum International Publishers, 2009.
  • Wisemon, Carmi "The Environment in Jewish Thought and Law, Volumes I-IV, Sviva Israel, Beit Shemesh 2004-2008
  • Martin D. Yaffe. Judaism and environmental ethics: a reader Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2001. ISBN 0-7391-0117-X; 0-7391-0118-8.


  • David Seidenberg, "The Rainbow Day Curriculum to Celebrate the Rainbow Covenant"
  • Noam Dolgin. Elijah's Covenant Between the Generations- Climate Change Curriculum for Grades 7 - 11, published by the Shalom Center.
  • Noam Dolgin. Whole School Environmental Curriculum- Varied environmental instant lessons for Grades 1 - 8, published by Torah Aura.
  • Nigel Savage & Anna Stevenson. Food for Thought: Hazon’s Sourcebook on Jews, Food & Contemporary Life- Sourcebook on Jewish Food Ethics, published by Hazon.

External links

  • A History of Jewish Environmentalism in North America - David Seidenberg, Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (2005)
  • Coalition On the Environmental and Jewish Life
  • Big Green Jewish Resources on Judaism and the environment
  • Hazon
  • Jewcology
  • Green Zionist Alliance
  • Noam Dolgin - Freelance Jewish Environmental Educator
  • The Shalom Center
  • The Teva Learning Center
  • Sviva Israel
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