My Work

 

I write, teach, speak and consult about the role religions and religious communities can play in response to our daunting environmental predicament, and I seek to mobilize these communities on behalf of the earth.  I believe religious institutions can be vitally important in inspiring and sustaining individuals in the ongoing work of repair of the world.  I am particularly interested in how sacred texts and rituals can help people make meaning of their lives and offer perspective and encouragement in dealing with seemingly intractable environmental problems. 

 
Hand+Image.jpg
 

 

 

To learn more about what I have been thinking, please enjoy one of the talks or articles below. 

A Few Talks & Articles


My Journey

 

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 toilluminate 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 cooped up in synagogues and churches.  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.  

 

Ellen Bernstein - Cover.jpg