I write, teach, speak and consult about the role religions—and in particular Judaism—can play in response to our daunting environmental predicament. I founded Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth, the first national Jewish environmental organization in 1988, and have been thinking and writing about the relationship between ecology and religion ever since. I believe religious and spiritual communities can be vitally important in organizing, inspiring, and sustaining individuals in the repair of the world, and I work to help mobilize them.
Shomrei Adamah grew organically out of my first ecologically-centered arts and music seder for Tu B’Sh’vat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, held in Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuylkill River 31 years ago. You can hold your own Tu B’Sh’vat seder (you don’t need to be Jewish!). Click on the book cover for a free download of the seder and watch a documentary of the celebration below.
This documentary draws fresh meaning from ancient Jewish and spiritual traditions and offers a vision for a more verdant world.
A Few Talks & Articles
To learn more about what I have been thinking, please roam around the site! Free downloads are available of Let the Earth Teach You Torah, the first curriculum on Judaism & Ecology (1992) as well as other educational materials.
As a young person, I despaired of how the adult world conceived of progress: flattening landscapes for housing developments, polluting the atmosphere and ruining nature. It seemed to me that consumption was our national pastime and that most people were oblivious to our sentient world.
Nature was my temple and nature literature was my sacred text. Yearning to preserve nature, I studied biology, led wilderness river trips, and taught life sciences. I began searching for a spiritual path that could integrate my ecological passion, and re-discovered Judaism. Inspired by my own tradition, in 1988, I founded Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth, the first national Jewish environmental organization.
Shomrei Adamah's mission was to illuminate and make accessible the ecological roots of Jewish tradition. Shomrei Adamah developed a foundation in Jewish ecological thought and practice, wrote curricula and books including Let the Earth Teach You Torah, The Splendor of Creation, Ecology & the Jewish Spirit, and A New Year for the Trees, produced a quarterly news journal, ran educational wilderness trips, spawned 10 local chapters and grew a membership of 3000 people.
I have always believed that religious ideas and values belong in the public square—not confined to religious institutions like churches and synagogues. To this end, Shomrei Adamah designed large city-wide arts and educational events including The Jewish New Year of the Trees and The All Species Parade. Shomrei Adamah’s work touched the hearts and minds of thousands of people, regardless of religious or spiritual orientation. While Shomrei Adamah, the organization, closed in 1996, its message continues to reverberate through its books and curricula, and through my writing, teaching, consulting and advising.
In recent years, I have been exploring the Bible’s understanding of land as a living entity and meditating on the meaning of the God of creation. I believe that if people could see that all of nature—not just humanity—is inherently valuable and belongs to God, we would begin to treat the land and the whole earth with more respect, forethought and sensitivity. I have also been reflecting and writing on the relationship of aesthetics and ethics in the Hebrew Bible. I believe that the beauty of the world can speak across political and religious divisions and call us to care and to act. In the end, we will only save what we love.