How Many Jews Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

While that question may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, it's actually the subtitle of the "A Light Among the Nations" campaign by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which encourages Jews around the US to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. On Monday, December 11th, nearly five hundred different Jewish organizations and synagogues, representing all denominations of the faith, joined the campaign in holding special pre-Hanukkah events. In both Chicago and suburban Philadelphia, for example, celebrants lit public chanukiah with CFLs. Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of COEJL even wrote a special ceremony that ties the holiday's historical and religious significance into the use of the energy-efficient light bulbs. A sample:
Hanukkah, translated into English, means "dedication," in honor of the Maccabees' rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 163 BCE. In the Talmudic telling of that event, one small jug of oil was all that remained after the Seleucids (Hellenic Syrians) had defiled the Holy of Holies — seemingly enough for just one day, when new supplies were over a week away. Miraculously, the oil sufficed -- that little bit of fuel stretched eight times further than anticipated. And the light from that one jug of oil not only lit the rededication bayamim hahem, in those days, but continues to shine and inspire us lazman hazeh, to this very day.

Tonight, we symbolically dedicate our own energy-stretching light, our own "Maccabean menorah" of sorts. At this simple short ceremony, we replace one old, 'standard' incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb that is four times more efficient, and that, too, lasts approximately eight times longer. This bulb will pay for itself in energy savings within months, and then keep saving money that we can "rededicate" to education and other sacred uses. And just as importantly, this bulb will cut by threequarters the amount of dangerous, global warming gases that go into the atmosphere every time we turn the switch to light this holy place.

Hanukkah lighting ceremonies are only one facet of a year-long campaign aimed at raising awareness of climate change within the Jewish community. Other elements include a "Greening Synagogues" campaign, a "Take Your Senator to Synagogue" program, and "Climate Challenge," a worldwide youth initiative to become "carbon neutral." All of these efforts stem not just from a secular concern about environmental issues, but also from the Jewish value of tikkun olam: repairing the world. Or, as COEJL's web site notes, "Protecting the environment is a mitzvah!"

Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, and we wish a joyous celebration to all of our readers observing it. ::Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life