A Jewish Response to the Energy Challenge?
Jonathan Axelrad and Lyuba Wolf J-REC co-founders showing their bright lights big thinkers spread in the J-Magazine- photo via Sabrina Zimmerman
Jewish leaders met at the beginning of this month in San Francisco for the first conference dedicated to advancing a Jewish generational movement for clean energy. The conference was called 'J-REC '(Jewish Response to the Energy Challenge). The JREC Conference had over 200 attendees and brought together leading innovators in the movement to make clean and secure energy a key priority of the Jewish community. Jonathan Axelrad, a clean-tech attorney, and Lyuba Wolf, an analyst at Tesla, co-organized the conference to inspire Jews, especially young Jewish professionals, to get involved with clean energy issues. Prompted by the moderator, who asked the panelists, where Jews fit into the movement for renewable/secure energy, the conference highlighted a few reasons why the Jewish people have unique situations and resources that lend themselves towards being good advocates for the clean energy revolution. Though, personally, I attended the conference wondering why we need a Jewish, or any specifically religious response to the energy challenge, several interesting points were made. 1. Jews are spread out across the diaspora but unite around causes. According to Adam Werbach, Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, Jews, as a community, though spread out across the world, have united around many issues in the past 50 years. Most recently, Jews have mobilized around Darfur, urban agriculture, and other social justice and environmental issues. Clean energy could be a new worthy cause.
2. Religious organization can and are leading the path to change. Religious leaders from various faiths have already provided guidance to their constituencies and are mobilizing around the issue of combating climate change. Religious organizations are groups where people are often already coming to make a change, so it makes sense for these organizations to be rallying points for environmental and social causes.
3. Israel. (Has sun, no oil.) Obviously, Jews have a unique, though complicated, relationship to the state of Israel. Israel is an example of a country driven to energy innovation borne by necessity. Israel does not have the vast oil reserves of its neighbors, does have abundant sunshine, and also has water shortage problems. These conditions make it an ideal country for solar energy, energy efficiency, recycling, and water desalinization measures. Israel has been experiencing a solar revolution--Arava Power at Kibbutz Ketura is an example of this. Because Israel is a small country, its clean tech companies need to expand their markets to achieve economies of scale. Israel could become a beta site for clean energy and clean fuel.
Jewishclimatechange.org was released four weeks ago at Windsor castle. Yossi Abromowitz, founder of Arava Power Company urged attendees to make a personal commitment through the website above. Borrowing Obama's campaign slogan, Abromowitz said that if Israel could go carbon free, it would be an excellent "yes we can!" moment. Israel is a small country; so it is ideal as a clean energy pilot.
Abromowitz urged attendees to demand change of themselves and their synagogues to achieve maximum solar use by 2010. He provided the example of the central mosque in Cairo, which will be carbon neutral by 2010. Jews, said Abromowitz, should be asking their synagogues to follow suit.
The panelists agreed that the Jewish people must strive to be a renewable light to nations and to kindle conversations about better energy use in their households.