The Gendler Eco Ritual Lab of Hebrew College, a joint project of the Rabbinical School and The Center for Global Judaism, seeks to address the issue that while there are now several effective local and national Jewish environmental initiatives, little attention has yet been given to the training of rabbis as environmental leaders as well as the production of high quality ritual resources for various sectors of the American Jewish community.
Hebrew College recognized that while some resources are already available for communities and leaders who wish to integrate Judaism’s ecological wisdom into the yearly holiday cycle, almost no materials have been developed for those who seek to heighten environmental awareness and activism at key moments in the Jewish life cycle. Through the Lab, a set of liturgical and ritual resources will be developed that foster and deepen environmental awareness and activism for specific holidays and events. Hebrew College’s early research revealed that while there is an abundance of rituals or ritual fragments that utilize nature as metaphor (e.g., recalling the transitions of autumn as a metaphor for aging), most don’t actually draw on Judaism’s message of environmental responsibility, sustainability, or deepen our generational connection with ecological cycles. The finished lab will focus on those practices/ceremonies that honor creation as more than simply metaphor and that highlight humanity’s role in caring for creation.
They are currently in the process of researching and compiling a list of existent “Jewish eco rituals” for different lifecycle moments. During this stage of the Lab, they have been able to explore and address important questions about the direction and scope of the project: What makes a ritual an “eco-ritual”? What lifecycle moments should be included in our Lab?
After the Lab is developed, it will be disseminated across denominations to rabbis, cantors, and family educators in congregations and communities throughout North America.
A major marketing campaign will employ social media outlets, the Hebrew College website, on-line Jewish learning and environmental forums, and related eco-Jewish ritual resources. Materials will also be disseminated through alumni of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School and the School of Jewish Music, as well as through the denominational rabbinic associations.
Hebrew College will also host a training in which rabbinical/cantorial students and clergy in the field will learn about the rituals and liturgy, practice together, and host a workshop teaching how the new resources can most effectively be implemented in their communities.