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L'Olam Va-ed Climate Action Group

Dear Friends,

Shanah Tovah. May this upcoming year be filled with peace, happiness, and health.

We wanted to use the occasion of the High Holidays to give you an update on L’Olam Va-ed’s activities. L’Olam Va-ed is the Kol Emeth group devoted to addressing climate action and global warming. “L’olam Va-ed” is an expression in Hebrew that ordinarily means “forever”. Literally “olam” means “world,” this world. We chose this expression to imply a prayer we share for sustainability. We are devoted to this cause because we believe it is urgent that we act now to safeguard our precious planet, and we hope that every member of Kol Emeth will be aware and eager to act.

For the new year, we have a new focus: “Love Our Food. Love Our Planet.” Our goal here is to tackle the surprisingly large problems of food waste and hidden hunger impacting our local community and our planet. Even small gestures at the household level can have a real and immediate impact. We will share simple but meaningful opportunities in the weekly Kol Emeth emails. We will also share relevant articles and blog posts on Facebook to encourage people to respond and share their own suggestions. Our goal is to increase the Kol Emeth community’s awareness of the issues around food waste and take steps to improve the situation on a local level.

We are continuing our efforts to promote tree planting. Planting trees is an effective and meaningful way to preserve our ecosystem and heal our planet. We partnered with JTree and the National Forest Foundation in a campaign to replenish our national forests. In the campaign, $1 plants one tree. So far, we have planted 14,600 trees. Our goal for the new year is to plant 5,784 more trees, the number of the new year. We’re asking each member to contribute $18 or 18 trees. You can make a contribution by going to 

If you would like to join us in these efforts, we are looking for a few more members to join our L’Olam Va-ed steering committee. If you’re interested, please send an email to Rabbi Shelly Lewis at

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We wish you a New Year filled with happiness, peace, and prosperity.

Nechama Tamler & Shelly Lewis, Co-Chairs

Amy Eilberg, Eddie Gornish, Betty Kaufman, Hephzi Plotkin, Judith Schwartz, Phil Spiegel, Cliff Winnig
Steering Team Members

From Your Rabbis: Save the World. Plant a Tree!
We want to invite you to plant trees with us in honor of Tu Bishvat and to preserve and safeguard our Earth.

Tu Bishvat, the 15th day of Shvat, occurs this year on February 5-6. It marks the New Year for trees when new growth begins after winter rains. It is the ideal time for bare root tree planting. It has been observed for millennia and especially has been a focus for reforesting Israel for generations. It used to be a minor holiday but has become more meaningful with its strong environmental message.

Planting trees is an effective and meaningful way to preserve our eco-system and heal our planet. Trees store CO2 and also bring localized cooling and shade. Trees  beautify our surroundings and cool neighborhoods so less electricity is needed for air conditioning, reduce air pollution, and soak up excess water to reduce risks of flooding.

Trees quietly work to enhance and enable all creatures on earth to thrive. Trees also support one another at the root level, providing a wonderful model of cooperation and thriving. Sensing the central role that trees play, our sages have made the tree into a symbol of our tradition. The Torah is a “tree of life to those that uphold it.” Humans are like a “tree of the field.”

Led by our L’olam Va-ed climate action group, we have partnered with JTree and the National Forest Foundation in a campaign to replenish our national forests. For $1, we can plant a sapling. This year, we ask each household in our congregation to plant 18 or 36 trees. You can make a contribution by Clicking HereAs Rabbis and as members of Kol Emeth, we invite you to engage in this meaningful action with us.

May this step inspire us and others to preserve and heal our planet!

Rabbi David Booth   Rabbi Sarah Graff    Rabbi Shelly Lewis

Rabbi Amy Eilberg    Nechama Tamler
       L'Olam Va-ed Steering Team


WHO ARE WE? We are a relatively new action group within our congregation, and we're alarmed by dramatic climate change and other environmental sustainability threats that imperil everyone’s future. We want to work on this issue in a Jewish setting linking Jewish values to local projects.

WHY HAVE WE CHOSEN THIS NAME? "L’olam Va-ed" is an expression in Hebrew that ordinarily means “forever”. Literally “olam” means “world”, this world. We chose this expression to imply a prayer we share for sustainability and suggest this reading: “May the world be sustained forever.”

WHAT ARE WE DETERMINED TO DO? Calling upon the plentiful resources we have as the Kol Emeth community, we have several goals:

  • To educate our congregation about the gravity of this moment and ask what we can accomplish locally together. 
  • To act meaningfully in our local community to mitigate climate damage and to promote adaptation to the changes that are already upon us. 
  • To seek like-minded partners, especially among other faith-based congregations locally and nationally to guide and strengthen our work.

HOW ARE WE ORGANIZED? Our actions are planned by a Steering Team co-chaired by Nechama Tamler ( and Shelly Lewis ( We welcome anyone in the congregation who is committed to actively pursue ways to save the planet. It costs nothing to join us. We maintain an email list of approximately 70 people who are involved, and all you need to do to be added to our list is to contact the co-chairs. Members of the Steering Team are Betty Kaufman, Hephzibah Plotkin, Phil Metz, Judith Schwartz, Kara Sanchez, and Rabbi Amy Eilberg.In our 14 months of existence, here are our present and ongoing campaigns:

TREE PLANTING IN OUR NATIONAL FORESTS: We collaborate with JTree and the National Forest Foundation to plant trees for $1 each. We know that each tree helps our planet to breathe. To this date, we have planted over 11,000 trees. The Foundation has a goal of 50 million new trees! Our page on the National Forest Foundation website can be accessed here. For this new Jewish year of 5783, we urgently ask each household at Kol Emeth to contribute 18 trees for $18.

PROVIDING AIR PURIFIERS FOR OUR NEIGHBORS: Partnering with Climate Resilient Communities (CRC), we promoted a campaign to raise $20,000 to purchase 125 air purifiers for neighbors in East Palo Alto and other neighborhoods where air quality continues to be unhealthy. We ended up raising more than $30,000, so we CRC was able to purchase many more air purifiers!

ELECTRIC VEHICLE EXPO: On Sunday, October 30, together with Acterra and the City Of Palo Alto, we sponsored an event at Kol Emeth to display a variety of EVs. 

HANUKKAH ACTIVITIES: For Hanukkah, we created a worksheet highlighting different green activities to discuss with your family on the eight days of Hanukkah. 

EDUCATIONAL EVENTS: Acknowledging that each of us needs to grow in learning in order to become motivated and choose our actions wisely, we have sponsored a series of meetings with wise teachers. We met with Rev. Danielle Parish who had just returned from the world climate meeting in Scotland, Dr. Chris Jones and our own Phil Metz who introduced us to consumption-based emissions. We promise more to come.

Bridging the Great American Divide"Most Americans support climate action, but you wouldn’t know it from Congress or the courts – or from most of the media. A recent study found that a majority of people significantly underestimated the extent to which their fellow Americans are concerned about climate disruption, as well as public support for policies to address it. That misperception can affect our ability to work collectively on climate action."

For those interested in emerging role of clean ("green") hydrogen for energy and electrification while. mitigating climate change, from U Melbourne:

"It sounds like science-fiction, but in the future, cars could run on air itself – specifically, on the water carried within humid air. Researchers at the University of Melbourne have created a prototype dry-air electrolyser that harvests hydrogen from air instead of liquid water. In the near future, hydrogen is expected to be commonly used as a ‘clean’ fuel which creates no carbon dioxide during combustion. The device absorbs moisture, then turns it into hydrogen and oxygen – the hydrogen can then be used as fuel. The prototype device created by the Melbourne team was able to work for 12 consecutive days, even in a dry environment of around 4% humidity.

The researchers write: "This so-called direct air electrolysis (DAE) module can work under a bone-dry environment with a relative humidity of 4%, overcoming water supply issues and producing green hydrogen sustainably with minimal impact to the environment." The scientists said that the technology could help to overcome one of the key challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel – the availability of freshwater..." and this broader report on the global future role of hydrogen.



August 19th, 2022

For those of us who love to travel, climate guilt weighs heavily. Civil aviation accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that number is going up. But while electrifying cars and trucks is already well underway, flying planes on anything other than liquid fuels remains devilishly difficult. Despite that difficulty, there are options. Sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, hold the most promise, as they can theoretically drop right into existing engines and infrastructure. Fred Ghatala, Director for Carbon and Sustainability for Advanced Biofuels Canada, says, “Sustainable aviation fuel can be used up to 50% of the fuel blends. Engine manufacturers are making engines that are 100% compatible. So, SAF is like Rudy on the sidelines of the Notre Dame game saying put me in coach I'm completely ready. I don't have any technical limitations. I'm just more expensive. And so, that's part of the role of policy to do it.” 

Stephanie Searle, Director for the Fuels Program and the United States Region at the International Council on Clean Transportation, argues that the easiest way to make biofuels isn’t necessarily the best: “For example you could take soybean oil or palm oil and turn it into biofuel, put in a jet  – very easy – and that's gonna be one of the cheapest pathways. But that's not gonna get us climate mitigation, because as we use more food crops towards biofuel, we’re diverting them from food and feed markets, which is going to lead farmers to cut down rainforest and convert land elsewhere around the world to produce more crops.” 

The second go-to feedstock for sustainable aviation fuels is waste oils and fats,like used cooking oil after frying french fries or animal fats or parts of the cow that we don't like to eat. But as Searle explains, there’s an availability problem here as well. “If we use them for SAF, we’re just gonna be diverting them from biofuel that’s already used in the road sector or from other uses like animal feed and soapmaking.” 

Searle does believe there is a sustainable solution, though: “The real long-term solution, and the only one that can be scaled to actually replace a very significant fraction of petroleum demand in aviation, is the very advanced technologies like cellulosic biofuel that could turn things like trash – like literally the trash in your household – into very low carbon biofuel that would get us great climate mitigation gains.” 

To bring any of these solutions into widespread use, Fred Ghatala, Director of Carbon & Sustainability, Advanced Biofuels Canada, argues that we need clear policy: “There will always be airlines that are leading by example and blending sustainable aviation fuel, and there's others that will probably never choose to do so if it's not obligated, because it is an added cost.”

While SAFs are clearly the best solution for longer flights, short flights could turn to technology like battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell planes. Scott Cary, Project Manager at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, gives insight into the viability of these two options: “At the Lab we’re talking to a different manufacturer pretty much every week from electric to hydrogen and varying sizes up to roughly 70 seats at this point. You've got a market roughly 30% of the market is under 500 miles. And that generally works for both of those technologies.” 

Apart from the new promising technologies, what can we do now to limit our carbon emissions when we travel? Christina Beckmann, Co-creator of Tomorrow’s Air and Vice President of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, has some suggestions, “One of the things that has been reminded to me, or encouraged, is fly like a nerd, which is fly newer aircraft, which are more efficient. Fly economy if we have fewer unfilled seats. Choose regular size aircraft. The very small aircraft and very large aircraft are less efficient. And fly direct.”

From the Commonwealth Club's excellent Climate One podcast series.'

This is an important part of reducing greenhouse gases, as civilian air travel currently accounts for 3% of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions.  Millions of metric tons of CO2 are produced each year for more information click here 


HAVING LONG BEEN AN OPTIMIST that science or engineering solutions would reverse and solve our climate change crisis, I’m now beginning to think that it’s too late. We may still be able to slow it down a bit, but barring any last-minute breakthroughs is unlikely we will reverse climate change. The earth will continue to get hotter, and the oceans will rise. For how long, we don’t know.  read more


Join Us and Become a Climate Activist! Why and Why Now?

We could point to so many reasons, for example the U.N Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which has been vetted by the governments of 195 nations and Greta Thunberg, the world’s most passionate teen climate activist, who described the report as “solid summary of the current best available science.” We see the changes, smell the burning fires and feel despair.

Why and why now? We share the words of Rabbi Shoshana Friedman of Boston who writes:

“Nothing but sweeping systemic policy change will make a difference at scale, and nothing but massive, organized social movements have ever accomplished such reforms. As a mother, I look to the new climate movement with a mixture of anguish and hope. The movement is powerful precisely because the crisis is upon us. Climate change is here: smoke drifting from fires in the West, heat waves, weeks of heavy rain — these will be features of my 3-year-old’s summers forevermore. His world is burning, and I cannot save him from that…..When my family brings glass containers for take-out or saves up for an electric car, we don't do it because it changes the world. We do it because it changes us. Buying local, insulating, forgoing plane trips, eating less meat and the like build our integrity and our relationships. They make for more resilient communities. They are the baby sprouts of a more life-affirming, sustainable society. They are spiritual practices. But we must never delude ourselves or our children that these sorts of actions are “doing our part” for the climate.”

If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to become an activist, here it is. Put down the trash bag and gloves, and get out there with like minded folks like your life depends on it, because, it does!

We can choose to feel overwhelmed and depressed by the headlines and think we can’t make a real difference, or we can come together as a synagogue community and think of all of the ways we CAN make a difference in reducing carbon and preventing our world from further heating up and destroying life for our children and grandkids.

Questions? Email Nechama Tamler at or Rabbi Shelly Lewis at
Join KOL Emeth's Tree Planting Campaign

There is a story told in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah, 8a) about Adam, the first human.  As winter approached, Adam saw that the days were shortening, and the nights getting longer.  He feared that this increasing darkness was due to his sin.  But, when the solstice arrived, and the days again began to lengthen, Adam saw that this was “the order of the world,” and observed a festival “for the sake of Heaven.”
Now we are about to observe our festival in the winter darkness, shining the lights of our Chanukah candles out to the world, bringing light to the night.  Each little candle isn’t so much, but as the song says, “Each of us is a small light, but together we are a strong light.”
Climate crisis is our generation’s “encroaching darkness.”  Unlike the winter dark that frightened the first human, this is not “the way of the world” but is absolutely due to the actions of human beings.  What “light” can we create to counter this new “darkness”?
As carbon dioxide levels climb, trapping heat and making it more and more difficult for life on earth, we can act by planting trees.  Trees sustain life. They absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Scientists believe that planting trees is an essential part of the effort to limit climate change.
JTree is a collaborative campaign by a variety of Jewish organizations that share a commitment to addressing climate change. Our organizational partners come from all over the world and all walks of Jewish life. It is part of an even larger effort to plant millions of trees throughout the national forests of the United States.
Kol Emeth is a JTree partner in this effort.  Just as we start by lighting one little candle, leading to a great blaze by the end of Chanukah, we may start with one little sapling, but together we can plant many forests.  We have our own page for donations at JTree:
Even a small gift makes a difference -- each dollar given plants a tree!  A gift of chai, life —18 dollars —will plant 18 trees. For double chai —36 dollars , you plant 36 trees! 
Looking for Chanukah gifts?  How about making a gift to the planet this Chanukah, in honor or in memory of a loved one?  Kol Emeth’s JTree participation has already raised over $1000.  We are aiming for a total of $5782.
Elaine Moise, JTree liaison for L’olam Va-ed: Urgent Action to Save Our Planet 
If you would like to be on our L'olam Va-ed email list, please contact Shelly Lewis ( or Nechama Tamler (
Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784