Training The Green Team

Fellowship for agencies’ environmental go-to staffers moves to second stage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Staff Writer

 Representatives from 19 local Jewish agencies will meet next month at Solar One, an environment-and-ecology educational center on the East Side, for an all-day program that will feature chavruta-style learning sessions from biblical sources, lectures on alternative energy sources and a hands-on mini-solar car-building exercise.

The participants, from camps and Jewish community centers, are members of the second cohort of the Jewish Greening Fellowship, a two-year-old initiative based at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., and funded by UJA-Federation of New York. The fellowship offers training in and technical advice about various energy-saving and environment-preserving methods to the agencies’ staff members, who are designated as in-house experts in the field.

While many Jewish agencies have expressed interest in so-called “green” issues over recent years, hoping to save energy expenses and reduce their carbon footprints, they often lack the necessary expertise, says Rachel Jacoby Rosenfield, director of the fellowship program (isabellafreedman.org/environment/greening; [718] 549-9011). “People are at a loss for how to begin” instituting such green measures.

“Even though I’ve been involved in environmental issues for years, there’s no question that I learned a great deal from [serving as a Greening Fellow] in terms of how to be an effective organizer, how to put your passion to work effectively,” says Peggy Kurtz, librarian at the Central Queens Y in Forest Hills who now coordinates energy-saving programs at the agency.

Rosenfield, a veteran Jewish educator, came to the fellowship from the Riverdale Y, where she had taken the lead in making the institution energy friendly. At the Retreat Center, she is sharing her experiences from the Riverdale Y.

“This is the largest effort in the Jewish community and certainly in the New York area, to engage Jewish communal agencies in environmental stewardship,” she says.

The first group of fellows, all from UJA-Federation agencies, ends its 18-month orientation next month. The second group, open to other local Jewish agencies, is one-third through its training program.

Many of the participating agencies have already leveraged the fellowships to receive further state and federal and private funding, and to start or upgrade such activities as energy audits and installation of solar energy One upcoming activity: the 14th Street Y will sponsor a Green Fair on Sept. 18.

Kurtz says the Y has supported her effort “to reduce our own environmental impact within our agency: recycling, reducing our carbon footprint, and reducing waste, such as paper use.”

Y officials “completely ‘get’ that saving energy and reducing waste will cut needless cost,” she says. “With their support, we were able to secure a $16,000 grant from ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funding for a free energy audit last spring. This month, with $45,000 more in ARRA funding and two grants from the greening fellowship we are moving ahead to implement the measures that were identified as having the most impact in our building: programmable temperature controls, a complete lighting retrofit throughout the building, motion sensors, new pool exhaust fan, and extensive plumbing work needed to put in low flow showerheads.”

The goal of the fellowship program, Rosenfield says, is to “make greening a core value of Jewish institutions. Jewish organizations need to take the lead on this issue.”

If the fellowships are successful, she says, every local Jewish agency will have a trained energy-and-ecology expert on staff and will practice green measures — and eventually, such training fellowships will not be needed. “That is what I’m looking for.” ns