>Hazan Works to Connect Religion to Sustainability

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(By Priyanka Kotadia)

Religion is deeply rooted in our society and religious leaders have profound effect on their followers. People especially follow religious preachers when structuring their everyday life. With such knowledge young religious leaders are beginning to integrate messages of ‘green living’ into their religious practices. Jake Wilkenfeld-Mongillo and Molly Dunn, rabbis and founders of Hazan, discuss their take on environmental issues with Shane Snipes.

 Hazan is a Jewish organization based in New York City; its primary purpose is to educate and assist Jewish communities in living a sustainable life. Mr. Mongillo and Ms. Dunn assert that any type of movement must begin from within and in a smaller scale to ultimately have a larger impact on the world. Therefore, their organization has a primary focus in the Jewish community, which the directors are personally connected to. They note that people are divided into groups, and conveying messages to them becomes less challenging when one paints the message into the group’s perspective. They have attempted to redefine the meaning of Kosher for the Jewish community. Mr. Mongillo states that Kosher means, “ritually fit,” but the popular media often construes the practices of Kosher preparation with non-sustainable ways. Hazan grants loans to farmers around the state to educate their followers about how their food is prepared and its source. The organization directly relates such measures to the messages in Torah, which stresses the importance of knowing the source of one’s food. It is smaller changes like this that will make people think about their actions and their immediate impact on the environment.

They effect change in three ways: 

1.  Through the direct human impact of our programs; 
2.  By supporting the American Jewish environmental movement and the Israeli environmental 
movement;
3.  Through thought-leadership (writing, speaking, teaching, campaigning). 

The following values underpin their programs: 

1.  A strong commitment to inclusive community; 
2.  A strong commitment to volunteer involvement and leadership development; 
3.  Multi-generationality; 
4.  Being Jewishly serious and deeply engaged with the world around us; 
5.  We believe in reaching people where they are and not where we might like them to be.


The message of saving our earth and environment is simple. Every one of us can paint the message in our language to make every single person understand it. 

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