A Birthday Gift to be Treasured

JugBayforJulie-2-3.jpgOn the evening of September 20th, the Jewish community will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the start of the year 5778 on the Hebrew calendar. Rosh Hashanah is both the beginning of a period of introspection culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as well as a celebration of the birth of the world. Inspired by that thought, some twenty members of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland recently undertook an eco-service mission at the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary on the Patuxent River south of Annapolis. At a time when Jews reflect on the birth of the world -- this amazing gift from our Creator -- it is fitting to remember our time out on Jug Bay and the ecological wonder that it is.



Our mission day started with a teaching session by Rabbi Julie Gordon that emphasized the need to actively work to protect and nourish our “birthday gift”. None of us are exempt from that mandate. It is our moral duty to be stewards of this Earth so that its bounty is equitably shared with all living beings. As the Rosh Hashanah liturgy notes, when the Day of Judgment arrives, “none will be exempt from justice’s eyes.”

The staff at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary started the day’s activities with an excellent overview of the important role the Sanctuary has in protecting the region’s water quality and as a resting place for many migrating birds. The use of the word "Sanctuary" here is tremendously fitting -- a gathering place of all that is right and good, giving honor to the beauty of Creation. After our orientation, Adat Shalom volunteers removed invasive, non-native grasses that are clogging the Sanctuary’s waterways. After a lunch break, we went on a guided canoe trip on the Patuxent River. It was a potent combination of learning new things, being challenged to see the world around us differently, and taking action to help restore healing to the watershed.

Eco-service missions have become a regular and well-supported feature of Adat Shalom’s ongoing social action calendar. This mission was a meaningful reminder that there are no geographical boundaries to our acting as agents of change - we can do it on a hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island or we can do it in the shadow of our national's capitol. If you are interested in learning more about this wonderful location and the good work that they do, check them out at: jugbay.org. I, and the staff of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, would also be more than happy to discuss how to replicate this experience at your congregation in your watershed. You can email me at WEHalpern@aol.com, or email Kolya Braun-Greiner, IPC's Religious Educator at kolya@interfaithchesapeake.org

Bill Halpern
Member of IPC's Board of Trustees
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation of Bethesda
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Living Questions: Faith-Inspired Environmentalism. Listen HERE as IPC's Executive Director Jodi Rose joins Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin and Emmalee June Aman on WYPR to discuss the role faith plays in motivating environmental activists.

Check it out! Jodi appeared on The Green & Sexy Radio Show with Leonard Robinson and Styrofoam Mom.