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Two shuls, one planet

Reform and Orthodox synagogues hold ‘green’ fair

Nick Miuccio, owner of Miuccio, LLC in Wood-Ridge, which specializes in installations designed to reduce energy costs and increase efficiency, demonstrates low-heat lighting solutions to Rabbi Jeffrey Fox of Kehillat Kesher Community Synagogue. Photos by Anne Phyllis Pinzow

Two congregations on opposite sides of the same street as well as on the Jewish spectrum joined forces to produce the “Go-Green $ave Green” Green Energy Fair at Temple Sinai in Tenafly on Sunday.

As Rabbi Jeffrey Fox of the Orthodox Kehillat Kesher Community Synagogue and Rabbi Jordan Millstein of the Reform Temple Sinai broke bagels together, each explained, in his own way, how going green is not only practical but Jewish law.

Millstein told the 50 people at the fair that in the midrash from Kohelet Rabba, “God spoke to his human creation and said, ‘See my works, how fine and excellent they are…. Think about this, and do not corrupt and desolate my world, for if you corrupt it there is no one to set it right after you.’ We are now in the process, deeply into the process, of desolating and destroying God’s world.”

This was echoed by the first speaker, Anthony J. Broccoli, director of the Center for Environmental Prediction of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.

Jennifer Feltes of Green Apple Cleaners explains its products to Steven and Benjamin Klein, father and son. The company also makes recyclable dry cleaning bags. Klein said his family already recycles materials, as the town where they live, Cresskill, requires residents to recycle newspaper as well as bottles and aluminum.

He said that temperature affects where plants and animals can live. Even what might seem to be a minor change can make a region more habitable to insects carrying diseases, such as malaria (carried by the anopheles mosquito), as well as less habitable for some plants.

Another change, said Broccoli, could be in the frequency of extreme weather, such as heat waves. If fossil fuels continue to be burned at the present rate, “by the end of the century there could be as many days above 100 degrees as there currently are days above 90 degrees.”

Also, the melting of the polar ice caps is already causing the sea level to rise. Should the melting continue, with much of eastern New Jersey at or slightly above sea level, that will mean a lot of flooding, with nowhere for the water to drain.

The next two speakers suggested ways that people can reduce their carbon footprints and save energy and, in the long run, money.

Frank E. DeWitt of Alternative Energy Associates in August said that homes can be powered by geothermal, solar, and wind electric energy.

“A lot of people look at [the Earth] as a solar battery,” he said, “absorbing that heat [from the sun] and bringing it into our homes and buildings.” All of these forms of energy primarily come from the sun: heat from the sun’s rays; wind from the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface; heat absorbed from the sun by the ground.

“The most affordable energy is not [being] used,” he said, adding that tax credits are available for residential and commercial buildings using alternative energy sources.

Robert Politzer, president and founder of Green Street Construction, a “green” building firm operating in the tri-state area, said that some of the challenges to green design are cost perception, the supply chain, product performance, aesthetics, and subcontractor inertia and fear.

Owen Highland of Alternative Energy Associates speaks to Jim Schwartz, a Temple Sinai congregant, about how the propeller behind them is used to generate electricity through wind power.

Politzer said that the old system of design, build, and bid is being replaced by a charrette, a collaborative process in which the architect, engineer, owner, construction manager, and other stakeholders plan the building. He is chairman of the Sustainable Business Task Force of the New York State Environmental Business Association and an adjunct professor at New York University and New York City Technical College.

Politzer said that in one such case, it was found that because lighter color paint was used, less powerful lights were needed, lowering the generated heat, enabling the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system to be smaller, and thus significantly lowering the operational costs of the building.

Closing the presentations, Fox said, in recalling the story of Chanukah, that if you waste oil from your lamp, then it is a violation of the prohibition of wasting energy. “Every time you have an opportunity to do something more green and saving energy you are participating in a mitzvah, you are participating in the perfection of our world.”

Ann Moscovitz, a former mayor of Tenafly and a Temple Sinai congregant, said, “We must educate everybody about [going] green. It’s not just a question of keeping your home green but of keeping the entire community, the entire world green, so we can reduce our use of energy.”

Debra Wolf, a former president of the Temple Sinai sisterhood, said, “I’ve been aware about conserving water, turning off lights, not to save money for myself but because of the overuse of power and we should all be aware of this.”

The fair was the brainchild of David Marks, chair of Kehillat Kesher’s Green Synagogue Committee. He said, “We were anticipating this coming year to be an expensive energy year, and we were looking to see if we could help the community save energy costs as well as learn how to go green.” At the beginning of August he approached Fox, who reached out to Millstein.

A committee was formed, consisting of both rabbis, Marks, Jane Gelman, president of Temple Sinai, and Stewart Winner, the chair of the Temple Sinai brotherhood.

Winner said that because the brotherhood holds a breakfast each month it was decided to incorporate the events so that participants could enjoy both.

According to Marks, Kehillat Kesher is in the midst of an expansion project and it will be green.

Fox said, “My hope is to get LEED silver certification” from the U.S. Green Building Council. It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and indicates that a building meets high standards of energy-efficient performance.

He said he wants Kehillat Kesher to qualify for the certification “not only because it’s good for the environment, but good for the world, but also as a tool of teaching.”

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