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For Orthodox Israeli teens, battling climate change can be a lonely fight



This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with Jewish teens around the world to report on issues that affect their lives.

(JTA) — Abigail Lerer, a Modern Orthodox vegan teen from Ra’anana, Israel, is working on changing throwaway culture in her family. ‘’It makes me feel frustrated, there is just no need,’’ Lerer says about using single-use dishes at meals. To win over reluctant family members who worried about the inconvenience, she took on responsibility for washing the dishes and taking out the recycling. 

Eventually, after years of slideshows and lectures, Lerer’s family came to understand her point of view. They don’t have single-use utensils in their home anymore and her mother even brings reusable containers to stores when she buys nuts and grains. 

Now, Lerer just wants the rest of the county to catch up. There are few environmentalists in the haredi or “ultra-Orthodox” community, where religious leaders do not put a high priority on protecting the environment and where large families often rely on single-use plastic cutlery for the sake of convenience. 

A study by Kantar Ministry of Environmental Protection found that 73% of the general population use single-use plastic regularly compared to 96% of the haredi population who do so. This year, Israel’s new finance minister rolled back high taxes on disposables after haredi Orthodox leaders complained that they unfairly targeted their lifestyle. Community activists argued that they compensate for the big environmental impact of single-use plastic by flying and driving far less than the general population.  

Even among Modern or Religious Zionist Orthodox communities, who tend to be less insular and have fewer children than the haredim, environmental action still lags. 

Lerer, who subscribes to a vegan, minimal-waste lifestyle, says the solution lies in leadership. If religious figures endorsed eco-conscious living as a Jewish obligation, then this would galvanize the necessary action, she said. 

“You need to make it halachic and then people will care,” she says, meaning legal according to religious law. But, she is skeptical that this will occur due to the highly complex nature of the Jewish legal system. 

Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, who founded the Biblical Museum of Natural History in Israel, explores how traditional Judaism relates to science. He said the haredi Orthodox community doesn’t have the same level of concern for environmentalism because of insularity. ‘’They lack thinking about any issues that extend beyond their community,” he said. Because they are poorer than many other sectors of the population, economic considerations always come first, Slifkin said.

Bar Kaima was founded in early 2020 and aims to connect young Israelis to environmental causes. (Courtesy of Esther Hamou)

Nevertheless, environmental groups in religious circles do exist. Esther Hamou, 18, who dresses exclusively in second-hand clothes, volunteers in a religious environmental organization, Bar Kayma. The group uses arguments in the Torah such as tikkun olam — fixing the world — and baal tashchit — the prohibition against wanton destruction — to combat skeptics and to persuade religious Jews to be more sustainable. 

This past January, Hamou organized an environmentally themed event for Tu Bishvat, the Jewish new year for trees. As part of her anti-plastic activism, Hamou requested that all attendees bring their own cup for refreshments. Despite her efforts in linking eco-friendly living to Judaism, Hamou finds that ‘’people just don’t want to hear it.’’  

Penina Schorr is attempting to change this. The 14-year-old lives in a Modern Orthodox community in Jerusalem and tries to encourage her peers to avoid using throwaway plastic. They ‘’sometimes’’ listen. Schorr has been raised in a plastic-conscious home; they only use throwaway plastic in exceptional circumstances such as the day before Pesach, when strict rules require only kosher-for-Passover utensils for the holiday. However, her family’s attitude is not widespread, and most people in her community are far less vigilant.  

She said that in Orthodox religious schools like hers there is a sense of ambivalence towards environmental issues. Her geography teacher, she said, justifies inaction, claiming that God would never destroy the world and that the claims of climate activists and scientists can’t be legitimate. 

Practicality is also an obstacle. According to Ariel Shay, a volunteer at Plastic Free Israel, one of the main reasons Israelis with large families use single-use plastic is a fast cleanup after a meal. 

Hadas Shlomi, 17, an activist from the north of Israel, feels alienated in her secular school because of her commitment to the environment: Peers mocked and teachers misunderstood her climate anxiety. Her parents are not on her wavelength either. She attributes the indifference of the older generation to the fact that they won’t be alive when the climate crisis peaks. 

Shlomi appreciates the dedication of teens who are trying to convince their Orthodox friends and families to use fewer single-use plastics. As a leader of  Strike for Future Israel, she knows the teens’ hearts are in the right place but sees the focus on individual actions as ineffective. Instead Shlomi lobbies the government to ban oil and gas drilling and pass a bill that sets a target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.  

While these endeavors have not been successful yet, compounded by the transition to a new, more right-wing government in 2022 that is even more accommodating to haredi voters, Shlomi has the attention of some elected officials. In January 2022, the government required 30 hours of climate change education to the school year.

The changes apply to Israel’s secular and Religious Zionist school tracks. The government has sway in far fewer haredi Orthodox schools.

The post For Orthodox Israeli teens, battling climate change can be a lonely fight appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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