Toronto’s Congregation Darchei Noam has a penchant for environmentalism and green living, along with strong links with Israel. From study sessions with scholar-in-residence and environmentalist Rabbi Lawrence Troster, to preschool songs about caring for our planet, Darchei Noam, Toronto’s only Reconstructionist synagogue, is big on green.
Even the synagogue’s home is environmentally friendly - with solar panels, light sensors to conserve electricity and more; in fact the building’s environmentalism is a key value in itself. That’s why, on Sunday, January 31st, children and their families at Darchei Noam took part in what has become a new tradition among progressive Jewish communities: a Tu b’Shevat seder.
The seder was supported by Gal Meshoulam and Yuval Deri, shlichim – or emissaries – from Israel, who are here with the Makom Synagogue Initiative, which integrates Israeli teens into the fabric of synagogue life for an entire school year.
At the seder, Gal and Yuval taught the children and their families about environmentalism in Israel: technologies and social programs that help everyday Israelis practice literal tikkun olam: healing the world.
The Makom Synagogue Initiative is sponsored by UJA-Federation.
One of only a handful of synagogues in the Toronto area to participate in this initiative, Darchei Noam’s involvement enables its families – and especially its Hebrew School students – to experience Israel through the eyes of real Israelis and to feel Judaism through the lives of modern Jews in Israel.
On the morning of January 31st, Gal and Yuval organized and ran an Israel Day for the Hebrew School in which the building was transformed into the site of an Israel scavenger hunt and the social hall will be transformed into a shuk (market).
“Israel is the center of Jewish civilization, and it connects to everything we do as Jews,” says Elliott Michaelson, Director of Youth Education and Programming for the synagogue. “But visits – let alone field trips – are out of reach for many of our families. So we decided to bring the field trips to us!”
And in bringing Israelis to be role models and teachers for the congregation’s own Hebrew school students, the congregation hopes to build even stronger links across Jewish communities – for the sake of the environment and for Jewish unity.