My favorite part of being a Teva Topsy Turvy Bus Educator is getting to interact with incredible Jewish communities throughout the country. From the Jewish Farm School Retreat to Chabad of Key West, from Miami community preschools to GW University Hillel, we have had the opportunity to teach and learn from thousands of eager, intelligent young people hoping to redesign human impact on the creation. We have found community after community psyched to ‘go green’ and we get to be a big fat YES! punctuating the changes they are already making.
We are usually the ones dropping jaws and blowing minds, but we were totally unprepared for the cutting edge infrastructure and vibrant pluralistic Jewish community of AHA, the American Hebrew Academy. Aside from being the primary support that made this but tour possible, they have offered a huge amount of moral encouragement, forward thinking, and gen-u-wine GUSTO. Upon rolling up to Greensboro, NC, what we found was a community of severely intelligent and dedicated 24/7 students and teachers LIVING engaged, critical, ambitious, and socially and spiritually diverse lives together.
We each got to welcome Shabbat at our choice of student led minyans: from mechitzah to electric guitar. It was incredible to hear a room full of a hundred teenagers all singing yedid nefesh together in unison. AHA’s athletic facility sports an indoor rock wall and incredibly, a regular rock climbing minyan!
We attended a Biblio-drama group that explored this weeks parsha, Shmini, through acting games and a formidable discussion of the differences and overlaps between kashrut laws, and laws regarding the humane treatment of animals. It was also quite cool and pleasantly dreary to play Tribond the next day with the patter of rain on the windows, especially after our last Shabbat in the sweltering heat of Florida’s gulf coast!
We also got to trade tours: while some of us shared our unique waste veggie oil centrifuging system and on board worm composting bin, others were given a tour of AHA’s incredible GEOTHERMAL energy plant! In our solar oven design program, we had been implying that the source of energy for all life comes from the sun, but we stand corrected! Located underneath the soccer bleachers, this state of the art and candy-colored-coded facility looked like it was designed by Willy Wonka, but provides clean renewable heating and cooling to every building on campus. It capitalizes on the fact that 500 feet down, no matter where we dig, the earth is a brisk 52 degrees. Through a system of chutes and ladders style pipes and heat transfer stations, cool water is pumped from the ground, circulated through the system, and returned to the ground. It provides heat in the winter and cool in the summer. The entire system will have paid for itself in energy savings by 2013, requires little maintenance, and is used as a working lab station for science and economics classes! We were floored.
We had the honor of sharing our program to a group of prospective students: we presented our dramatic recreation of God’s assigning Adam and Eve a sacred purpose (l’ovdah u’l’shomrah, to work and protect the earth) after their creation of the first-ever piece of garbage. We then had the students write their holy opinions, Talmudic dialogue style, on a range of eco-dilemma posters, dealing from issues of eco/kashrut, to genetic modification of food and Kilayim laws, to the practical applications of the law of Bal Taschit. Focusing on the power of one through the Purim story, we asked the students to make a 6 week Brit Ma’aseh, a commitment to action, and unrolled in a circle our very own Community Brit Megillah, on which each and every student we have reached has signed their Brit for all to see. It was a powerful moment to share with such a focused and empowered community. These students are already rekindling Judaism’s sacred and ancient connection to the Earth, and I can’t wait to see what they are able to put into action as they enter a world hungry for new ideas.
The Green Team and Honors Society asked us for some special advice on how to jumpstart their composting program. In full form, we hijacked their talent show and gave a little impromptu lesson in ‘Decomposition’, resulting in a raucous congo line. The entire event was unfortunately caught on film.