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What the world’s religions have to say about living green

Inspired by their faith’s interpretation of the Creation story to lead a greener life, a group of panelists representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism will share environmental lessons taken from humanity’s first story and how they bring them to action in “Creation Stories & Our Environment: Christian, Hindu, Jewish & Muslim Teachings on Environmentally Conscious Living” Sunday, Nov. 12, at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township.

Rabbi Ariana Silverman
Photo Credit: JOHN HARDWICK

The diverse panel includes insights from Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue; Juhi Parekh, a Hindi high school senior at Bloomfield Hills High School who started an environmental club; and Dr. Ventra Asana, a retired elder clergy of the Fourth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who has served on the board of environmental religious group Michigan Interfaith Power and Light.

Temple Kol Ami’s Rabbi Brent Gutmann will serve as moderator. He was involved with ecological interfaith work when he was a rabbi in Auckland, New Zealand, and continues his green quest here in Detroit by inviting his congregation’s youngest members and their families to get out and explore Judaism through a nature hiking program called Forest Kol Ami Tots (KATs).

Gutmann said there are deep connections between one’s spirituality and taking care of the Earth.

Rabbi Brent Gutmann
Photo Credit: JOHN HARDWICK

“Right from Chapter 2 of Genesis, we learn the primary purpose of humanity is to be caretakers of the Earth,” Gutmann said. “In Jewish prayer and ritual, such as reciting the “Yotzer Ohr” prayer (which gives appreciation to the sun and other celestial bodies) and blessing the Shabbat wine each week with the Kiddush (which includes a paragraph from Genesis), we come back to the story of Creation and learn that every day God continually renews Creation and every moment humans have a new opportunity to fulfill the obligations we have to taking care of the world.”

When Silverman, rabbi of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (IADS) in Detroit, graduated from college, she started her professional career as an advocate for Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and then for the Sierra Club.

When she left Washington, D.C., to go to rabbinical school after spending three years teaching children, Jewish congregants and then members of Congress how to be better stewards of the Earth, her commitment to lead and teach others the importance of living a greener life carried through.

“I believe that life on Earth is sacred,” Silverman stated in a synagogue newsletter ahead of the event, which coincides with IADS’ Green Shabbat Nov. 10-13. “We have a sacred obligation to protect it. Perhaps more than ever, we have to recommit ourselves to our sacred obligation to be good stewards to our planet.”

The event is sponsored by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. It runs from 3-6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township. The cost is $10, payable at the door.

The second part in the Creation series will be from 1:45-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A free docent-led tour will look at pieces that examine the natural world and the human place within the world from African, Islamic, European and American traditions. Gather at Prentis Court; advance registration by Nov. 30 is appreciated for the second event. Call (313) 338-9777 ext. 0.

Stacy Gittleman

Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com

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