Barnert Temple says, "Get Out(side)!"
by Karen Dougherty
Barnert Temple, Franklin Lakes, NJ
This entry is part of our "Let's Get Sustainable" blog post series - look for an environmentally themed post each Monday and learn more on our Greening Reform Judaism web portal.
At Barnert Temple, we believe that one of the most important ways for people to gain respect and an appreciation for the environment is by experiencing nature firsthand. As a result, throughout the year we provide programs that encourage all of our members to step outside and enjoy our beautiful earth.
During the summer months, Rabbis Elyse Frishman and Rachel Steiner conduct Shabbat services outdoors on our patio, lit only by the setting sun. As we are fortunate to have a large wooded property surrounding our Temple, during the service, congregants also take a lovely walk through the woods.
Sukkot offers the perfect opportunity for enjoying the beauty of nature. Congregants are invited to dine outdoors in our Sukkah during our "Pizza in the Hut" dinner program. During Sukkot last year, congregants went on a field trip to the Storm King Arts Center. The Arts Center is an outdoor sculpture park blending art and nature, set on five hundred acres in New York's beautiful Hudson valley. Congregants discussed the relationship between human creativity and care for the environment. They viewed various sculptures by Jewish artists and studied the relationship between their themed art and the world around us.
Another way that we are encouraging members to be mindful of the environment and the many gifts it can provide is through our Temple Gardens. We are in the process of installing both a peaceful meditation garden and a large vegetable and flower garden that will be utilized by everyone from our preschoolers to our adult congregants. We believe that many people have lost a powerful connection to the food they eat and we hope to repair that by growing and harvesting our own produce. We also plan to donate harvested items to our local food banks, which are in dire need of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables.
We feel that it is especially important to encourage our children to spend time outdoors in order to combat what Richard Louv refers to as "Nature Deficit Disorder" in his book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv believes that many behavioral problems stem from the fact that children today spend relatively little time outdoors. Last fall the children in our religious school and youth group helped prepare our garden by clearing, raking and mulching the garden area. We feel that our garden will help foster a connection to the earth for our children and provide additional curricular opportunities for garden-based science, literature, art and math activities.
Stepping outdoors and using our senses to experience nature can be a profound and deeply fulfilling experience. We are often so busy in our daily lives that we rarely have time to, literally, stop and smell the roses. At Barnert Temple we try to be mindful of this and provide ample opportunities everyday for our members to do just that.
Karen Dougherty is the chairperson of the Green Committee at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ, a participating congregation in the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program.
She is married with two daughters and recently returned to school and
to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies at Ramapo