Beth El hosts scholar-in-residence weekend on the environment

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase meaning “repair the world.” In Jewish tradition, it is often cited to inspire active participation in working to improve life for all people, or in one’s own community. For rabbis Arthur Waskow and Phyllis Berman, it is their life’s work.

Waskow, a prolific writer and environmental activist as well as a rabbi, is the founder and director of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, an interfaith organization that seeks to bring together Jewish practice with social and political activism. Prominent among its other goals is to repair the world by drawing attention to current environmental concerns.

Berman, who is married to Waskow, founded a school that teaches ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages) for adult immigrants in New York. Waskow and Berman will be in Cleveland Heights later this month as the featured speakers for the Scholar-in-Residence weekend at Beth El–The Heights Synagogue (BE–THS).

Beth El, a Jewish congregation in the Heights, will be the main location for the program, which begins on Friday, Nov. 30. Linda Tobin and other Beth El members networked with several area organizations, including GreenCityBlueLake; the Mandel Jewish Community Center (JCC); and HaMakom, a local Jewish organization, to coordinate the three-day event, which is being called Three Days of Peace and Learning.

Rabbis Waskow and Berman will give six presentations throughout the weekend, starting with an interfaith panel discussion titled Environmental Ethics of Climate Change, Friday at noon at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

A Havdalah concert, marking the end of Shabbat, is planned for Saturday evening along with an event called Storytelling as a Path for Social Change at a venue to be announced.  The concluding program on Sunday is a book event and community lecture at the Mandel JCC honoring the release of the new edition of Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays by Rabbi Waskow.

Waskow’s commitment to ecological activism is deeply rooted in his religious vision and his political activism. Among his other books is Torah of the Earth, which he edited.  It is a collection of essays by both Judaic scholars and environmental science writers connecting ecology with Jewish thought.

BE-THS’s Scholar-in-Residence program is open to all Heights residents. Prepaid registration is  required for the programs that include meals; other programs are free. For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to, or call Judie at 440-449-5855.

Nina Sobel

Nina Sobel lives in Cleveland Heights and is a member of Beth El Synagogue's adult education committee.

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Volume 5, Issue 11, Posted 10:54 AM, 10.31.2012