The Jewish faith points to a number of sources that lead us to understand how to marvel in creation starting at Genesis with the Creation story. But it is also a living religion full of day-to-day practical tips for helping us save resources, protect public space, and letting nature rest. But how these “ideas” go into practice among secular and religious Jews in modern times leaves a lot of room for debate and guidance.
Rabbis function in Israel as spiritual guides but they mainly deal with the very practical application of the Jewish mitzvas more than anything. How do you celebrate holidays or simchas “happy events”; how do you cook in a kosher way, or how should the relationship look between husband and wife, friends and your community.
It’s not usual for any rabbi to have a specific skillset on environment issues, however. Same is true in Islam and Christianity although the times are changing. We know of one eco-rabbi in Jerusalem (Yonatan Neril – who wrote the Eco Bible) and no doubt there are many we haven’t met, but I was excited to hear that eco-activist David Pearlman Paran had taken the path, and we speak with him in the interview below about that path and what it means for Israel.
I’d met David about 20 years ago when he was working for the Heschel Center, an environmental advocacy group in Tel Aviv that teachers influencers from all walks of life how to walk the green walk at work. I was impressed not only by David’s passion and knowledge but enjoyed the philosophical questions has asked us as we toured a “sustainable Tel Aviv.”
He pointed out public and private spaces and made us listen and look to our city, wondering if it’s reasonable that the city allows us to be bombarded with advertisements and noise. He didn’t offer answers to the questions he asked, and that may be how the best teachers operate, asking you to search inside for the answer.
A little background: David immigrated to Israel in 1994 from Sydney, Australia and early on was a leader and educator at the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership. He uses his theatre background when teaching environmental awareness to his students. Today he is also very involved in Israel’s Green Party and has served in various positions and is one of the leaders of Pardes Hanna’s Masorti Congregation: Darchei Noam. His wife is Yael Cohen Paran, a former Member of the Knesset from the Zionist Union party. She was a Knesset member from 2015-2019.
David was ordained an eco-rabbi by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in the Masorti/Conservative movement in Judaism, in December, 2022 in Jerusalem.
Reach out to David here.