Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Take the Bottled Water Challenge...

My family has begun to swear off bottled water. It all started when my husband purchased a relatively expensive water filtration system for our house last September. You spent the money on that, I thought, so we should stop spending the money on bottles.

Well, it turned out that we all love our water filter. So much so that we took the darn thing with us to camp. (It only worked for a week, though, before the filter conked out. Camp water, very much in need of filtering.) We bought a bunch of Nalgene bottles and Camelbak bottles and we seem to be all set.

Who knew we were on the cutting edge of environmentalism. Not me.

But we are. There are now articles about how bottled water isn't better. And how it's an example of our overconsumption and indulgence. There are campaigns to end bottled water consumption (see Think Outside the Bottle and Refill Not Landfill). And hey -- I'm all for it. I even put into both of our cars a stack of paper cups and straws so we can drink on the go from drinking fountains. (Straws make it all easier with the almost-2-year-old and more fun for all of us.) Some facts to consider:

  • Last year, Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water, even though bottled water isn’t healthier or safer than tap water.

  • While the EPA regulates the quality of public water supplies, the agency has no authority over bottled water. Some studies indicate that certain brands of bottled water test positive for chemical and bacterial contamination at higher levels than tap water.

  • One out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy denies drinkable water to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water “varieties” from around the globe, not one of which we actually need.

  • Americans went through about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, 167 for each person. We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year - more than $1 billion worth of plastic (while the recycling rate for this particular kind of plastic is only 23%).

  • We’re moving 1 billion bottles of unnecessary water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That’s a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (this one scares me!)

So...can you do it? Can you put an end to your bottled water consumption???

Leave me a comment to make your commitment.

crossposted on imabima.blogspot.com

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Worthy Project...

A young lady studying for her Bat Mitzvah has undertaken a very cool project. She has created a cd of music -- her own piano playing and a little vocals, all written by this lovely teenager. Only one song was written by someone else -- Billy Joel! She contacted him and received permission to use his song Lullaby on her CD. Proceeds of the CD are going to the Susan G. Komen organization working for a cure for breast cancer.

Jessica's website describes her inspiration in detail and gives information on how to order the CD. It's a nice collection of music and a great cause.

Please pass this information on to others...she's already raised $1000 with sales of her CD. Let's help her out.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wanna move to New Orleans? They'll pay you!

Not exactly. But similar to how Israel recruits new olim, the New Orleans Jewish community is now recruiting new immigrants...Out of the 10,000 Jews in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, only 7,000 remain. There is a strong desire amongst those who are still there to rebuil dtheir community, and so they've decided to offer incentives (from the LA Times):

So Jewish New Orleans has cooked up a novel solution: a recruitment drive. With an ad campaign crafted by an Israeli public relations firm, the city's Jewish leaders are hoping to attract at least 1,000 Jews to the city over the next five years. They will appeal to potential pilgrims' better natures, stressing the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, Hebrew for "healing the world" — or, in this case, healing a broken city.

They also plan to lure them with cash. Starting next month, any Jew who has relocated to the city since Jan. 1 will be eligible for up to $5,500 for moving and housing expenses, interest-free loans of up to $30,000, half-price tuition at Jewish day schools, and a year of free membership at a synagogue and a Jewish community center.The concept was hatched, in part, by Michael J. Weil, an economist who moved here from Israel in October to head the Jewish Federation, the umbrella group for the city's Jewish agencies and programs. As a consultant to the Israeli government, Weil helped settle thousands of Jewish refugees in Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The New Orleans benefits were based, in part, on the sal klita, the "absorption benefits basket" offered to Israeli newcomers.

The recruitment drive springs from an acknowledgment that city officials have done a poor job touting New Orleans' progress in the two years since Katrina. The Jewish community will have to get that message out to its people on its own, Weil said.

"I would hope that nobody's going to move here just because of the incentive package, but it will be a lubricant," Weil said. "We cannot sit around waiting for the Road Home program and all these other things to take place, because we want to be in that great, better place tomorrow." Road Home is a state program that distributes federal funds for Katrina recovery efforts.

So...want to relocate???

Monday, July 23, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dispatch from Camp #5: Yes You Can!

Today we were honored to have Lloyd Bachrach speak to our group of campers. Lloyd was born with a congenital bone deficiency that left his legs unusually small, and he now wears prosthetic limbs. He does motivational speaking around the country to inspire others to embrace their own ability and bring attention to the concept of "differently abled" instead of the idea of "disabled."

We brought him in as a Jewish hero who has overcome his circumstances. He said that he doesn't see himself as a hero, just someone who dealt with what he has. I think that his heroism is in his ability to share himself with audiences with no embarrassment or fear.

Tomorrow is Shabbat! Yay! It is also the beginning of the end of our time here at camp. We go home on Sunday, and I know that the campers are sad that their session is drawing to a close. I am getting tired and am actually looking forward to sleeping in my own bed...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dispatch from Camp #4: Judaica Bowl & Camp Heartland

Last night we held the annual camp Judaica Bowl (see picture, it's a Judaica BOWL, get it? Ha ha. David wanted to know if there really was a bowl). It is such a cool event because we spend a lot of time cheering and celebrating and honoring the kids who know a lot about Jewish knowledge! Each eidah (unit) chooses its team and then the eidah teams compete against each other. Jerry, the camp's director, gets a big kick out of choosing hard and interesting questions to stump the campers. We, the faculty, serve as judges for the answers that might be questionable...

Even though I love the Judaica Bowl for what it honors, it also makes me a little sad. I can answer almost every question that is asked in the Bowl (aren't you glad...considering that I'm a rabbi!?) but I know that most of our campers don't know most of the answers. Sometimes this seems a little disappointing to me because I wish that our kids had a higher level of Jewish knowledge under their belts. Most of the kids who are on the teams are kids who attend day schools. On the one hand, this demonstrates the efficacy of these schools. On the other hand, does it illustrate a problem with our supplementary schools? I think the answer might be yes.

On the third hand (why not!?), most of our campers feel an incredible connection and spirit with and for the Jewish community. Watching them sing songs in Hebrew and celebrate Judaism here at OSRUI is hugely important. These are the kids who will feel a connection to Judaism for the rest of their lives.

But is it going to be enough?

Is it enough for our kids to grow up strongly connected but somewhat ignorant of Jewish law, custom, language? I know this is a struggle that so many Jews have felt thorughout the generations -- that their generation or their children's generation is growing up with less Yiddishkeit. I look at these kids and I know that Judaism is going to survive -- but will it be as strong and vibrant with less knowledge? These are the questions with which I struggle.

Today we had a guest speaker for our units that are studying the concept of heroes. We invited Neil Willenson, the founder of Camp Heartland, to come and speak about how he saw a need and met it with the creation of his camp for kids with HIV/AIDS. He was a great speaker and I really believe that he helped our kids to "get" what we've been talking about in terms of the reality of being a gibor, a hero. He also brought with him Nile Sandeen, the young man whose story of his own struggles with HIV inspired Neal to found the camp. The two of them made a powerful team in how they spoke to our campers. One of the reasons we brought Neil was because he is a Jewish hero, but I was glad that he was able to bring along Nile, who isn't Jewish, to talk about his own story. I think it was good to show the campers that heroes can be Jewish and also not, of course.

One other point...Neil brought up the story of Jackie Robinson. I have always heard tell of him as a hero for breaking the color barrier in baseball...but when Neil told the story, he offered me a slightly new perspective. Jackie Robinson was indeed a hero for what he did. But perhaps an even greater hero in the story is Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers who signed Robinson. After all, it was almost as difficult for Rickey to choose to bring in a "colored" player as it was for Robinson to take on the task. Interesting to think about who really is a hero.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dispatch from Camp #3: Hero Mixes

Yesterday we made "hero mixes" -- which were snack mixes of various different food items to represent the different qualities of a hero. It's important to maintain a balance of ingredients in a recipe, just like it's important for a hero to have a balance of qualities. The kids really got into this activity and really understood the lesson. We threw in cinnamon red-hot candies as well, to signify the Yetzer Ha-Ra, the Evil Impulse within each of us, to illustrate and remind our campers of the question: Who is a hero? and the answer: The one who can overcome his evil inclination.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Construction Update! July 4, 2007

Check out these awesome pictures of the building as we begin the demoltion. You can see the courtyard, the auditorium (2 pics) and the old entry-way (to the left are the windows that used to be Sharon's, Ed's and my offices!)


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dispatch from Camp #2: The Human Knot

Today was our first day of "Limudim" or educational programming. It is also the first "real" day of camp for our chanichim, our campers. We try not to beat them over the head with the idea of "learning" but rather make it all fun. Our theme is "heroes" and today we talked about the qualities that make a hero. Then we asked the kids to do various "challenge activities" that would require them to use some of the qualities of a hero. We started with the human knot, which I think is so much fun. In case you don't know what this is, you stand in a circle and have to grab the hands of someone across from you (not the same person for both hands) and then the whole group is "knotted up"....and then you have to, without letting go of hands, unknot the group back into a circle. It can be very tricky but also a lot of fun, and requires a lot of teamwork!

After this, we asked them to get themselves into birthday order without talking...and then human pyramids. All of this was a lot of fun and made for a lot of group bonding and lots of laughter! But through it all, I was so impressed that the kids really got the message that we were trying to teach them -- that heroic qualities are inherent in us all. We may not all be heroes, but we all have in us the capacity to do so.

I love seeing how, even after only one night, the campers seem like they've been here forever. There's no question that they're all having fun!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dispatch from Camp #1

One of my favorite times of the year is the 2 weeks that I and my family spend at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Insitute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. This camp is an incredible place, a living, breathing, Jewish community that speaks English laced with Hebrew, prays twice a day, sings boisterously, cheers and chants and laughs...while swimming, running, riding, and occasionally sleeping. It is a marvelous place for the campers, and also a marvelous place for my family to come each year.

As a rabbi, my job is to focus on the religious, spiritual, and educational life of the camp. There are many rabbis up here, each of us work with different units of differently aged children. I work with Kallah, the youngest unit. We are now in the second session of the summer, and we have 4th-7th graders in Kallah. Our group just arrived today and they are currently settling into their cabins as I type. Tonight they will eat dinner, share an evening tefillah (prayer service) and have a fun evening program...before falling exhausted into their newly chosen bunks.

Then tomorrow the fun really begins. We don't ease into things -- a full day awaits our campers tomorrow and I'm very excited for the beginning of our limudim, "study" program. Our topic for this session is Jewish heroes, and I look forward to seeing how the staff embraces our "shtick" -- the funny skits that help to make the lessons real to the campers (as well as entertaining). Part of tomorrow's limudim program involves human knots and pyramid building, so I'll make sure to bring my camera.

And then, of course, tomorrow night is our annual Independence Day celebration, complete with fireworks. Can't wait! Will tell this story tomorrow after the fun....