Baltimore Green and Just Celebrations

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Green & Just Celebrations Guide

BALTIMORE GREEN & JUST CELEBRATIONS GUIDE A handbook for Baltimore’s Jewish families planning a bar/bat mitzvah, wedding or any other simcha. Baltimore Green & Just Celebrations Guide Committee Matthew Weinstein, Chair • Donna Brown, Erika Buchdahl, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Alan Cohen, Jonathan Finkelstein, Miriam Foss, Marjorie Goodman, Dori Grasso, Robin Kantor, Dana Kaplin, Ruthanne Kaufman, Jakir Manela, Judy Meltzer, Jo-Ann Orlinsky, Aleeza Oshry, Margaret Presley-Stein, Cece Rund, Margie Simon, Cheryl Snyderman, Ellen Spokes, Stuart Stainman Marketing support provided by THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore A project of American Jewish Congress – Maryland Chapter • 3723 Old Court Rd #205 • Baltimore, MD 21208 410-484-8863 • This booklet was inspired by the Green and Just Celebrations Guides published in Washington, D.C. by Jews United for Justice and in California by the Progressive Jewish Alliance (now Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice). We are grateful for their assistance and support and for allowing us to reprint portions of those guides.

For updates and our online vendor guide visit: WE NEED YOU! Help us keep the Guide up to date. If you find a resource that is out of date, please send an email to Thank you! Disclaimer: Please be aware that the online vendor guide associated with this publication is based on self-certification by the companies themselves.


Celebrations of life’s milestones affirm connections between the generations, mark the growth of our children, bless wonderful relationships, gather extended families and connect us to our communities and to Jewish tradition. As you prepare for these simchas (happy occasions), you’ll be faced with the many nitty-gritty decisions that go into hosting a celebration. You will encounter dozens of choices such as how to invite your guests, where they will stay, what to eat and how you will celebrate together. The purpose of this guide is to help you make those decisions in light of Jewish ethics concerning environmental stewardship and social justice. This guide offers suggestions for how to better align your celebration purchases with some of Judaism’s most cherished values. It also invites you and your family to explore: • What are the higher purposes and deeper meanings of your celebration? • Which values and ethics do you want to emphasize/celebrate with your simcha? • How can your purchasing decisions best express and achieve those purposes? Every chapter is illustrated with real-life stories from Baltimore-area families who have found creative ways to celebrate simchas that incorporate and exemplify Jewish values about proper treatment of people and the world, using the opportunity to grow more mindful of the ways that everyday choices can both connect us with our tradition and help us live our values. If you are about to experience a special time in the life of your family, you have already been blessed with a reason to celebrate. Now, use this guide to reflect that blessing outward, into the community and beyond, by welcoming guests to a celebration filled with joy and resonating even more strongly with Jewish tradition and values.

Table of Contents Chapter 1: Just Right . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Chapter 2: Our Coming and Our Going: Venues, Accommodations, Transportation and Travel . . . . . . . . . 4 Chapter 3: Giving and Receiving: Tzedakah and Community Service, Registries and Gifts . . . . . . . . 7 Chapter 4: Paper and Printing: Invitations, Programs, Bentschers and Thank-You Notes . . . . . . . . 11 Chapter 5: Getting Dressed: Clothing and Accessories . . . . . . . . 13 Chapter 6: Getting Centered: Centerpieces and Decorations . . . . . 16 Chapter 7: Food and Favors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Chapter 8: Wrapping It Up: Leftovers and Cleanup . . . . . . . . . . 21 1


Chapter 1.

Just Right

Family simchas have marked the rhythm of Jewish life throughout the ages. And for nearly as long, Jews have been asking the question, “How much is just right?” How much food and entertainment adds luster and joy? How many guests and decorations enhance versus overshadow dignity and sacredness? Over the centuries, different communities have responded in a variety of ways: • In Forli, Italy, in 1418, community leaders instructed Jewish families to invite no more than 20 men, 10 women, five girls and three generations of relatives to wedding celebrations—and half as many for a bris (circumcision).1 • In Furth, Germany, in 1728, local rabbis told Jewish families to invite only relatives to their weddings and not to serve any tea or coffee. No more than 10 horsemen and four attendants could bring the bride from another town to the festivities. 2 • In New York City, in 2002, the Orthodox organization Agudath Israel issued a set of guidelines establishing a maximum number of wedding guests and musicians and specifying appropriate centerpieces, flowers and menus. Agudath Israel spokesperson Rabbi Avi Shafran told The New York Times, “Limiting excess, whether in general lifestyle or celebrations, is an inherently Jewish ideal.” 3 And here in Baltimore, during the Hebrew year 5772 (2011-2012), organizations and congregations came together to create this Green & Just Celebrations Guide to honor and continue the Jewish tradition of holding celebrations that reflect our values. To paraphrase the late Rabbi Mark Loeb, z”l,4 of Beth El Congregation, “We are better off when our celebrations have less bar and more mitzvah!”

p. 145 in Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, JPS: 1911. p. 305 in Salo Wittmayer Baron, The Jewish Community, Greenwood Press: 1972. 3 “Religion Journal; A Big Wedding With a Smaller Bill,” The New York Times, 5/25/02 4 z”l stands for the Hebrew expression “zichrono l’vracha,” usually translated in English as “of blessed memory” 1

“After attending ... elaborate bar and bat mitzvahs, families feel the social pressure to conform to the stylish norm... Many parents just want to provide the ‘very best’ for their children, without realizing the discrepancy this creates between the price tag for the event and the Jewish values the day represents.” – Yosef I. Abromowitz & Rabbi Susan Silverman, Jewish Family and Life The ideal patterns of consumption were experienced by the Jews in the wilderness. Every morning they gathered manna, each family according to its needs. And, the Torah tells us, “... the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” – Exodus 16



Chapter 2.

Our Coming and Our Going

Venues, Accommodations, Transportation and Travel One of the first choices you make in planning your celebration is the location. When choosing where to hold your celebration, and where to house out-of-town guests, consider the following:

The benefits of hosting your event at a synagogue or non-profit organization

For many Jewish families, holding both the ceremony and a celebration afterwards at their synagogue or temple is a natural way to ensure that the event helps to support their Jewish community. Others can simply host the celebration at home or at the home of a friend or family member. If you would like to celebrate in a synagogue and aren’t already connected to one, talk to friends or visit to explore the options. If you are looking for another place to hold your celebration, consider a non-profit organization where your rental fee will support good work. For example: Non-profit organizations such as: • Cylburn Arboretum • Irvine or Oregon Ridge Nature Centers • Druid Hill Park/Rawlings Conservatory • Peabody Institute • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore • National Aquarium

Jewish community non-profits such as: • Jewish Community Center • Jewish Museum of Maryland • The Pearlstone Center • Camp Milldale • Camp Moshava • Camp Shoresh

Accommodating mobility challenges

Choose physical locations for your ceremony and the party that are accessible for people with mobility issues. For example, at the ceremony, you might want to mark some seats that are in a convenient spot for “The Goldberg Family” if they use a wheelchair or walker. Likewise, someone with vision or hearing impairments might appreciate a seat near the front. Some buildings have an auditory loop for people who wear hearing aids. If you’re assigning seating for your reception, think about the comfort of your guests with physical and mobility problems, and whether they might need a little more room to maneuver.

Choose a city for your wedding that minimizes travel

Where to locate the wedding? In the hometown of one of the partners? Where the couple lives or plans to live? At a “destination” location 4

“My daughter’s wedding was at Camp Puh’tok. She and her fiancé rented the camp for the entire weekend, so that guests were able to stay there the night before the wedding. They also added a carpool signup page to their website.” – Dori Grasso, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation “In order to cut down on air pollution, I had my bat mitzvah ceremony and celebration in the same building at Kol Halev. The hotel where out-of-town guests stayed was only 10 minutes away and many guests were able to carpool.” – Madelyn Kaplin, Kol Halev Synagogue Community

hundreds or thousands of miles away? Air travel causes tremendous greenhouse gas emissions, making location one of the most significant environmental choices for any wedding. For an estimate of the climate impact of travel to various locations, enter the number of guests and where they’ll be coming from into the TerraPass Wedding Carbon Calculator:

Offset celebration-related travel

Urge your guests to offset the climate impact of their travel with carbon offsets. Billions of dollars of carbon offsets are purchased annually, reducing carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons. Your carbon offset dollars are invested in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount of carbon produced by traveling, such as financing new wind farms, solar arrays and forests. Learn more with Green America’s guidelines for finding reputable carbon offset providers: • The Climate Trust:, 503-238-1915 • MyClimate: • NativeEnergy:, 800-924-6826 • TerraPass:, 877-210-9851 Consider inviting your guests to purchase offsets for their travel, or for your honeymoon travel, as their wedding gift to you.

Share transit information with guests

If feasible, encourage and enable your guests to take public transportation to your celebration by providing them with transit route information.

© MTA photo

Help your guests carpool

Guests coming from the same neighborhood or city may not know one another or think to carpool without a little help. You can dramatically reduce the number of cars by putting together carpooling groups or by putting guests from nearby locations in touch with each other. • Hosts can ask someone to serve as a carpooling shadchan (matchmaker) and invite guests to contact him/her with rides offered and needed in the weeks leading up to your celebration. • You, or your carpooling shadchan, can sort your guest list by city and state and then send an email to all those living in a single area saying, “You all live in Towson and will be guests at our celebration on September 24. You’re invited to be in touch with one another to organize ride sharing.” Or, invite guests to edit a shared online spreadsheet using Google Docs. Set up columns for name, contact information, rides offered, rides needed, origin, destination and “match made,” and create a public URL for the document that you can share with guests by email through • AlterNetWays can create a customized ridesharing application for a small fee that can open directly from a celebration’s website. Your guests can coordinate with each other through the system and organize ridesharing among themselves:, 925-952-4519. • Consider coordinating a vanpool or bus to minimize the number of guests driving separately.

• For updates and our online vendor guide visit: • 5

Help match out-of-town guests with local hosts “Jewish immigrants were instrumental in the creation of some of the earliest labor unions in America… Moreover, unions have been critical in raising the bar for working conditions for all Americans, making a living wage an attainable goal for millions of workers.” – Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 2011 “In most cases, unions offer the most effective means of collective bargaining and of ensuring that workers are treated with dignity and paid sufficiently… When hiring low-wage workers or engaging contractors who supply lowwage workers, Jewish employers should strive to hire unionized workers when possible.” – Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism, 2008 “Within the workers’ organization, which is formed for the purpose of guarding and protecting the work condition, there is an aspect of righteousness and uprightness and tikkun olam.” – Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine “May it be Your will, Eternal One, our G-d and the G-d of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, emplace our footsteps towards peace, guide us toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace.” – Tefilat Haderech (The Traveler’s Prayer) 6

Some out-of-town guests may not need a hotel room if you can help them find local hospitality. This is a great chance to perform hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), and for your out-of-town guests to connect with your community, reduce waste and save money. Ask a friend to serve as a hospitality shadchan, matching out-of-town guests with willing hosts. Many local synagogues have hachnasat orchim programs. Contact your synagogue to find out more.

Look for hotels where employees have a voice and avoid hotels engaged in a labor dispute

You may be looking to hold your event at a hotel, or simply to reserve a block of rooms for out-of-town guests. If possible, choose a hotel where employees have a say in their wages and working conditions. Union hotels are listed at This site also lists hotels with employees that are seeking public support during disputes over compensation or conditions. In the Jewish community, the Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform movements work with the Informed Meetings Exchange (, a resource for conference planners, to ensure their conventions don’t patronize hotels involved in labor disputes so as to send a message of support for low-wage workers.

Invite your guests to take the “Just Journeys” pledge

The Just Journeys Campaign asks the Jewish community to respect and support hotel workers when they travel by taking the Just Journeys pledge. The pledge includes several specific, yet simple, steps that travelers can take to improve hotel employees’ working conditions and protect their health. Consider these guidelines in choosing a hotel for your out-of-town guests. You can also consider sharing these guidelines with your guests, perhaps as part of any hospitality bags you leave for them at the hotel:

Chapter 3.

Tzedakah and Community Service, Registries and Gifts

In recent years, it has become increasingly common to weave gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness, into our celebrations.

Jewish programs for giving on happy occasions • MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger asks Jewish families to donate 3% of the cost of a celebration to MAZON and provides table notes to share this choice with guests. MAZON makes grants to anti-hunger organizations around the country: • The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) can create a B’nai Mitzvah Justice Endowment Fund (minimum $1,000) in the name of a bar or bat mitzvah. The RAC will give the young endowee an annual choice of four social justice projects to receive support from their funds. The program not only provides vital funding for the RAC in its work to advance social justice, but also gives teens an opportunity to practice thoughtful philanthropy. When the endowee turns 21, he/she becomes a member of the RAC’s Tzedek Society., 202-387-2800. • The Jewish National Fund plants trees and develops water infrastructure in Israel:

Do it yourself: Ask your guests to bring items to donate

Invite guests to bring a donation item in lieu of, or in addition to gifts, such as canned items for a food bank, toiletries for a homeless shelter, school supplies, crafts materials, sports equipment for a youth program or books for a local library. Plan ahead by calling the organization for which you are collecting items and asking what they need most. Then, share information with guests about the organization chosen to receive these donations. Or, consider donating a portion of cash gifts towards tzedakah (charity) and share information about the recipient organization(s) in the thank-you notes, or even indicate on the invitation that a certain percentage of the gifts will go to the chosen cause.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave the corners for the poor and the stranger.” – Vayikra/Leviticus 23:22 “Giving tzedakah is a way of spreading the joy of the occasion while acknowledging that even the greatest personal happiness is incomplete as long as the world is so badly in need of repair.” – Anita Diamant, The New Jewish Wedding “For our son Adam’s bar mitzvah, we wanted to combine his love of nature and his tie to Israel so we used JNF invitations and planted a tree in Israel in honor of each invitation that we sent. He felt wonderful about giving back to those things that are important in his life.” – Saralyn Elkin, Beth El Congregation


Service, Learning and Leadership for B’nai Mitzvah In Putting G-d on the Guest List, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin invites teens approaching their bar or bat mitzvahs to be creative in their choice of mitzvot (ethical deeds): “Read through your Torah portion and Haftarah. Is there something in those portions that suggests a particular kind of mitzvah? The Abraham stories talk about hospitality; the stories of liberation from Egypt suggest various kinds of social justice causes; the construction of the desert sanctuary in Exodus lends itself to support of your local synagogue. Let your deeds speak with the Torah’s voice. It will be a wonderful way of adding meaning to your bar and bat mitzvah experience.” Well-known mitzvah maven Danny Siegel offers “The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide for Changing the World Through Your Simcha” and “Danny Siegel’s Great-and-Useful Set of 3x5 Mitzvah Cards” to generate ideas for mitzvah projects. Both are available on his website, • Some bar and bat mitzvah-aged teens have organized community service activities for their friends such as serving at soup kitchens, cleaning up streams, participating in Habitat for Humanity, planting trees, visiting senior residences instead of, or in addition to, a party. Your synagogue’s Social Action Committee may be able to suggest active projects to plug in to. • Jewish Volunteer Connection ( JVC), a program of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore provides programs for teens to have leadership and philanthropic experiences:, 410-843-7490. The Teen Giving Initiative (TGI) focuses on leadership, fundraising and grant-making skills. In conjunction with the Baltimore Jewish Council, JVC offers Students Taking Action for Change that focuses on social justice and advocacy, where teens learn the tools to be agents of change. “Operation Mitzvah Mission” is a b’nai mitzvah service-learning program for middle school-age students. The program provides meaningful hands-on volunteer experiences for students who want to participate in service through a Jewish lens while interacting with other middle school-aged teens throughout the Baltimore area. Operation Mitzvah Mission entails a year-long commitment of approximately one Sunday event a month. Contact your congregation to see if they are participating in this important initiative or contact Jewish Volunteer Connection directly.


“My daughter Madelyn recently became a bat mitzvah and started to volunteer at a food kitchen called Happy Helpers for the Homeless in downtown Baltimore. As an adult Jewish woman, she decided it was important to give back and continues to enjoy volunteering at HHH. It has truly been a great learning experience and is deeply rewarding for her.” – Dana Kaplin, Kol Halev Synagogue Community

“When my grandson was bar mitzvah’d, he requested his guests bring t-shirts with any kind of logo or colorful prints, which he gave to Ronald McDonald House, where he had been doing some volunteer work. The Ronald McDonald House gives them to ill children or their siblings.” – Jo-Ann Orlinsky, Beth Am Synagogue

“My mitzvah project focuses on helping others by collecting used cell phones to donate to an organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers. For every cell phone collected, this organization gives 200 free minutes for a soldier to call home. I have collected 51 cell phones coming to a total of 10,200 minutes. An added benefit to this mitzvah project is keeping these old cell phones out of landfills.” – Ben Lapidus, Krieger Schechter Day School student and Chizuk Amuno congregant

Have money to invest? Choose socially responsible investing

Socially responsible investing (SRI) incorporates environmental and social considerations into investment decisions by screening companies, advocating for corporate responsibility and often investing a share of their holdings in low-income communities: • Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment’s SRI Mutual Fund Charts: resources/mfpc. • Green America’s Guide to Socially Responsible Investing, an introductory handbook with a directory of SRI investment services and funds: • Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice (formerly Jewish Funds for Justice) invites the Jewish community to fight poverty by loaning at least $1,000 through its “Tzedec Community Notes” investment initiative. You can pick the term of the loan; for example, bar and bat mitzvah teens can set the loan for a five year span and get the money back in time for college: • Rudolf Steiner Foundation (RSF) – RSF is a nonprofit financial services organization dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money: • Israel bonds help finance Israel’s growth and development: • Microfinance banks give small loans to people in underdeveloped countries to enable them to become selfsufficient: “Socially responsible investing involves the consideration of social and personal values in deciding where to invest our dollars. We do so in recognition that everything we do involving money makes a moral statement; every time we spend or invest money, we are making ethical, political and economic choices.” – Ellen Stromberg, Jews, Money & Social Responsibility “We registered for a synagogue membership!” – Joelle Novey, grew up in Chizuk Amuno Congregation, now in Silver Spring “Registering for union-made dishes was challenging, so we called the company, Corelle, to make sure that our dishes would be made in unionized factories. We wanted to start our life together with dishes we knew were made under good conditions.” – Russ Agdern & Marisa Harford

Registries and gifts Many families use registries as a way to specify the gifts they would most appreciate, but that doesn’t have to be only spatulas and fondue sets. Today, it is possible to register for donations, non-material gifts of time, a trip or carbon offsets. Register for tzedakah (donations): Ask guests to make donations to designated charities instead of, or in addition to, purchasing material gifts: • The I Do Foundation allows couples to register for donations to causes they care about: • Teens or couples can create personalized donation websites for more than a million local and national organizations at JustGive: Register for a combination of services, donations and gifts: An “Alternative Gift Registry” designed by the Center for a New American Dream, offers an online platform where celebrants can “register” for nonmaterial, second-hand, homemade, Fair Trade and green gifts (such as carbon offsets) all in one place: Register for an experience: The Send Us Off and Honeyfund registries enable couples to register for the costs of a honeymoon trip, divided into gift-sized increments:, Guests are sent a certificate that they can include in a card, detailing the piece of 9

the trip they are “giving” to the couple. Couples can register for an REI Adventure outdoor trip through the REI Gift Registry: (REI trips are 100% carbon-offset.) Register locally: • Registering for gifts from local stores helps support the local economy and cuts down on shipping. • Give the gift of B-Notes! B-Notes are the new local Baltimore currency (featuring local heroes Edgar Allen Poe and Frederick Douglass on the front and the Oriole and the Raven on the back) that is accepted like cash at over 150 local independent businesses: Register Fair Trade: Fair Trade is a people-powered response to global economic injustice. Registering for household goods created by Fair Trade cooperatives supports artisans who can thereby make a living wage, improve their communities and preserve cultural craft traditions: • Ten Thousand Villages offers a registry online, with a local retail store in Baltimore: • To find a full list of Fair Trade Federation members who sell online, go to and also lists Fair Trade products and vendors. • Candlesticks, kippot, mezuzot and more can be found at Register “GREEN:” A green business is one that conducts itself in a way that solves, rather than causes, social and environmental problems. Green America’s National Green Pages is the nation’s only directory of screened green businesses. Search for green gifts at, under categories such as furniture, housewares and gifts. “One day, while Honi was walking along the road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, ‘How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?’ The man replied, ‘70 years.’ Honi then asked the man, ‘And do you think you will live another 70 years and eat the fruit of this tree?’ The man answered, ‘Perhaps not. However, when I was born, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children.’” – Ta’anit 23a


• GreenSage: • VivaTerra:, click Gift Registry • Recycled Glass Works: • Remind any guests who buy gifts online to note that they do not want to receive paper catalogs and do not want their information shared with other mailers. (If you or your guests do begin receiving any unwanted catalogs, you can cancel them for free at Register Union: Another way of directing your guests toward gifts that reflect your values is to purchase union-made products, made in the United States by workers who have a voice on the job. Visit and to identify some union-made brands. For shipping gifts, consider that UPS and the US Postal Service are both unionized. Register for Israeli gifts: • •

• •

Chapter 4.

Paper and Printing

Invitations, Programs, Bentschers and Thank-You Notes The rabbis derived the concept of bal tashchit (do not waste) from the Torah’s injunction to not destroy fruit trees in time of war. You can bring this Jewish teaching to your own celebration by choosing environmentally responsible papers for invitations, programs, bentschers (prayer and song books) and more.

Choosing papers

Reduce the paper needed for your invitation, program, bentschers or thank-you notes. For example, in the invitation, in place of a paper insert with directions or hotel information, print a website URL where guests can find more information online. For RSVPs, enclose a postcard instead of an envelope and reply card or direct your guests to respond by email or phone. You can eliminate paper altogether with emailed invitations or an elegant online invitation. Once you’ve reduced the paper (and postage), use part of your savings to choose greener options for your remaining paper needs. Look for recycled papers: Consider recycled paper with the highest possible percentage post-consumer recycled content. “Virgin” paper doesn’t just hasten the destruction of forests; it is also highly water- and energy-intensive compared to the production of recycled paper. Look for papers with as close to 100% post-consumer recycled content as possible. For vendors of recycled paper invitations, visit Green America’s National Green Pages:, category: “Paper Products-Recycled.”

“When you besiege a town ... you are not to bring ruin (lo tashchit) to any trees ...” – Devarim/Deuteronomy 20:19-20

Look for tree-free papers: Paper doesn’t have to be made from trees, or even from recycled paper, which was itself made from trees. Paper can also be made from fast-growing renewable crops like kenaf, sugar cane, hemp and flax, and from agricultural residue like bagasse and wheat straw. Find vendors of tree-free paper invitations in Green America’s National Green Pages:, category: “Paper Products Tree-Free.”

“And not only [does bal tashchit apply] to trees; rather, anyone who destroys dishes, or tears clothes, or demolishes a building, or stops up a spring, or destroys food in anger—[that person] transgresses the law of bal tashchit.”

Look for FSC-certified virgin papers: After maximizing the amount of post-consumer recycled paper component, make sure that any and all virgin fiber in the paper is Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC). Buying FSC-certified paper supports environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. (Be careful not to confuse FSC with “SFI,” which is widely regarded in the environmental community as a timber industry marketing effort that doesn’t protect forests.)

– Rambam/Maimonides, Mishnah TorahMelachim 6:10 “Our daughter and her fiancé asked their guests to respond online, thereby saving paper and postage for the RSVPs!” – Dori Grasso, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation


Look for paper from Fair Trade Federation members: Consider the many Fair Trade sources of paper. Several Fair Trade cooperatives make beautiful paper while supporting artisans, their families and their communities. Find vendors of Fair Trade papers through the Fair Trade Federation:, Cards/Stationery. Look for paper that is unbleached and chlorine-free: Regardless of its recycled content or other characteristics, look for paper that is unbleached or processed chlorine-free. The use of chlorine in bleaching paper produces dioxin, a toxin linked to birth defects. Thank-you notes: Find greener notecards in the National Green Pages at, Paper Products Stationery. Place cards: You can look for recycled paper for place cards, or “plantable paper” embedded with seeds that can be planted afterward, or substitute some other object that guests can take with them to their seats.

“To reduce the amount of paper used for our son’s bar mitzvah invitations, we created a tri-fold held with a sticker to eliminate envelopes, had people RSVP via phone or personally created email account to eliminate an RSVP card and directed people to a website for event information to eliminate the need for additional pieces of paper.” – Aleeza Oshry, Sustainability Initiative Manager, THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and member at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion “For our wedding we used a special bentscher that highlights nature, Israel and beautiful photographic scenes connecting modern life with the Judaic contents. As we continue to use it now, we can also sometimes make farm-to-food connections or see other modern social justice issues and values presented. It is a beautiful and joyful bentscher. It is available to be ordered locally and can be purchased directly at” – Dana Stein and Margaret Presley-Stein, Temple Oheb Shalom


Bentschers and programs: If you are planning to print bentschers or ceremony guides for your guests, inquire about printing the booklets on paper with the green characteristics outlined above. Or, ask if you can procure environmentally preferable paper yourself and have the printer use it.


Consider having all proofs sent digitally to minimize the use of toxic chemicals and paper in developing. Only make prints of those photos you want.

Choosing a printer

When comparing printers, keep in mind that if the printer you want to use doesn’t stock environmentally responsible papers, you may be able to purchase paper from another vendor and take it to your chosen printer. Look for printers that use less-toxic inks and pollution-capturing devices: Look for a printer that uses non-toxic vegetable-based inks and which captures much of its pollution in Green America’s National Green Pages:, Printing. Look for printers where workers have a voice on the job: Search for union printers online at Share your green and just paper choices: Look for ways to let your guests know that you made green paper choices. Consider including a statement on your invitation or program such as: “Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based inks, and processed chlorine-free.” If you choose a union print shop, it will be happy to include a small union “bug” like this one at the bottom of your print job: The Jewish National Fund also prints invitations,

Chapter 5.

Getting Dressed

Clothing and Accessories Consider shopping in your own closet: Some members of a bar or bat mitzvah family may want to get a new outfit, and it’s important to some couples to have their attendants wear matching, custom-made clothing for the day. But take a look at your current wardrobe first; there may be opportunities to eliminate waste and expense if you or some of your honored guests can come to your event in their own dress clothes. And designating an outfit as the “simcha outfit” allows you to accumulate years of memories and occasions in one garment so that the years and memories become stitched together simply by putting on that dress, or that suit, again. Consider rental and vintage clothes: Save money and resources. Consider gemach (loaned) clothing: Many Jewish communities have developed a communal lending system called a gemach (the word is formed from the first letters of gemilut chasadim (deeds of loving kindness): Consider clothing made with sustainable fabrics and by fair practices companies: Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides that pollute soil and water and sicken farm workers. Fabrics made from more sustainable crops, like hemp, use fewer resources and water than chemicalintensive cotton. Search for formal wear made with sustainable fabrics, or ask the tailor or seamstress, who is creating custom-made clothing for your celebration, to consider using sustainable fabrics. • NearSea Naturals’ online store offers organic fabrics made under fair labor conditions, and other “notions” for greener sewing projects:, 877-573-2913. These boutiques create custom-designed wedding gowns (and some suits) using hemp silk, organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics: • Annatarian Designs,, 818-458-7992 • Conscious Clothing,, 505-982-7506 • Faernyn’s Grove Corsetry,, click on Green Bridal, 877-34-DRESS • Threadhead Creations,, 865-566-6274 Consider menswear by workers who have a voice on the job: Two resources for men’s formal wear made by American manufacturers where workers have organized a union to advocate for living wages and good working conditions: 13

• DeMoulin Apparel makes tuxedo pants, jackets, shirts and bowties:, 800-228-8134. • Kenneth Gordon makes men’s dress shirts:


Some families choose to offer color-coordinated or personalized kippot. Choose kippot made by craftspeople in Jewish communities around the world • For kippot made by the Abayudaya community in Uganda and the Bnai Menashe community that emigrated from India to Israel, visit the Kulanu Boutique,, 212-877-8082. • For kippot made by Manos Bendichas, a Bulgarian Jewish women’s cooperative, email, 359-2-986-78-96. • For kippot made by Ethiopian Jews living in Israel, visit Choose Fair Trade kippot • MayaWorks is a cooperative of Guatemalan women artisans who use proceeds from their handmade crafts to improve their lives and their community. Purchase beautiful multi-colored kippot from MayaWorks, or plan a custom order:, 312-243-8050. • Fair Trade kippot from the Ikamva Labantu cooperative in South Africa or from the Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment (WEAVE) cooperative on the Thai-Burma border can be special-ordered through Global Goods Partners:, 212-461-3647. Consider locally-made kippot, which are sold in many local synagogue gift shops.

Choosing wedding bands

The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony involves the giving of an object of value, usually the wedding band, which will be a permanent symbol of joy and connection for you and your partner. Consider purchasing a ring with people and the planet in mind. Consider the social and environmental impact of gold and diamonds: Consider the recent controversies over “blood diamonds” and “conflict diamonds” and educate yourself about how to avoid purchasing them: •

• For updates and our online vendor guide visit: • 14

“My daughter didn’t want an all-white wedding dress, but she didn’t want to buy something new either. She bought a used gown on eBay and replaced the old beading with green beads for the leaves and stems and bright flower colors for the flowers. I also made her a special kippah and jewelry for her attendants.” – Dori Grasso, Chevrei Tzedek Congregation “I purchased a beautiful wedding gown while contributing to a valuable cause, Brides Against Breast Cancer (www., which helps breast cancer patients and their families. The “tour of gowns” in Timonium had numerous gowns (many new) donated by individuals and designers. The selection and savings were amazing and it felt wonderful to be able to contribute tzedakah at the same time!” – Margaret Presley-Stein, Temple Oheb Shalom “If G-d attended upon a bride, how much more so should we! The Holy One ... braided Eve’s hair and dressed her as a bride and brought her to Adam, as it is said, ‘And G-d brought her unto the man.’” [Breishit/ Genesis 2:22]

The mining of gold moves huge quantities of rock and separates tiny amounts of gold using dangerous chemicals, often in some of the poorest regions of the world. Mining the gold for a single ring can generate more than 20 tons of mine waste, according to the No Dirty Gold Campaign. Gold mining leaves behind toxins such as cyanide and sulfuric acid, which pollute air, soil and water. And when mines exhaust the gold in a particular region, they frequently close up shop without repairing the ecological damage and economic dependence left behind. In addition, gold mining has been implicated in human rights abuses in Ghana and Republic of the Congo. To learn more about the impact of gold mining on communities around the world, visit Choose recycled gold: • GreenKarat,, 800-330-4605 • Leber Jewelers,, 312-944-2900 Choose heirloom or vintage wedding bands: There may already be pieces of beautiful jewelry in your family that you can use as meaningful wedding bands, or a gemstone that can be reset for a new ring. Shopping in vintage boutiques for previously owned jewelry can conserve both money and resources. Look for gold jewelry from “Golden Rules” retailers: If you do decide to purchase gold rings for your celebration, try to patronize one of the nearly 100 major jewelry retailers that have pledged to adhere to the guidelines of the “Golden Rules” for the socially and environmentally responsible sourcing of mined gold:, and to avoid the campaign’s list of industry “laggards.” Regardless of if or where you end up purchasing gold jewelry, you can ask jewelers to ensure that the gold in their products was not produced at the expense of local communities, workers and the environment by signing the “No Dirty Gold” pledge:


Use beauty products (makeup, skin care, etc.) from companies that have “animal cruelty-free” policies such as The Body Shop, Lush, AHAVA and Arbonne.

– Avot d’Rabbi Natan


Chapter 6.

Getting Centered

Centerpieces and Decorations Consider the environmental impact of balloons: Balloons look festive briefly but then they end up in the trash or floating away. Both foil and latex balloons that escape skyward may end up in the ocean and harm sea animals that mistake them for food. In addition, helium is a nonrenewable resource whose supply is being rapidly depleted even though it is essential for scientific and medical uses. Consider looking for other ways to bring color and festivity to your party. Consider the social and environmental impact of cut flowers: If the beautiful blossoms in your local grocery store or florist could talk, they might not have such a beautiful story to tell about the conditions under which they were grown. About two-thirds of all roses sold in the US are flown in from Colombia and most of the rest are from Ecuador. The vast majority of cut flower workers in Central and South America, some of them children, earn poverty wages, labor long hours and suffer significant health problems due to exposure to harmful pesticides.5 Consider local flowers: If your event is in the spring or summer, it may be possible to obtain locally grown flowers or plants for your tables—flowers that haven’t taken a flight to attend your event, and whose purchase supports local farms. You could even ask guests who garden as a hobby to provide the flowers. To find a farmers’ market offering local flowers in your neighborhood, search by zip code at, Farmers Markets, or find a list of local markets organized by FRESHFARM at • Local Color Flowers, • Talmar Gardens for cut flowers to support a local horticultural therapy center, available locally, Consider flowers that are sustainably grown or fairly traded: If you decide to purchase cut flowers that are not available locally, look to support sustainably grown and Fair Trade certified flowers. • California Organic Flowers offers organically grown cut flowers that were grown in California:, 530-891-6265. • Organic Bouquet offers organically grown cut flowers:, 877-899-2468. 5


Sources:, www., trade/real_lives/colombia,

“For our wedding in 1993, we used azalea plants for our flowers to surround the chuppah and then planted them in our garden. We loved the idea of seeing a reminder of our wedding every spring.” – Donna Brown, Beth El Congregation “To make the bar mitzvah as waste-less and eco-friendly as possible, we rented potted trees through our florist ( from a local nursery for the corners of the party room and used potted house plants in glass containers for centerpieces. Guests were encouraged to take them home and care for them. The kids’ table had two potted Japanese maples adorned with “blinky” lights. One of the trees now grows in my garden, as a reminder of that momentous event.” – Elinor Spokes, Beth Am Synagogue

• VeriFlora is a sustainability certification program for fresh cut flowers and potted plants which includes fair labor standards: • Fair Trade Certified cut flowers have recently entered the U.S. market:, 510-663-5260. Alternately, revisit the idea of cut flowers altogether with alternative centerpieces that might be less expensive or less ephemeral, including potted plants, herb gardens, fresh fruit, frosted cookies, cupcakes or items to be donated. Consider plants as centerpieces: A living plant can lend just as much color to your celebration as a bouquet, and it can live on after the event as a donation or a favor for guests. Edible plants like herb gardens can also be of use in your guests’ kitchens long after the celebration. Look for plants that are organically grown if possible, either at local farmers’ markets or at area garden stores. Consider edible centerpieces: Edible Arrangements makes cheerful “bouquets” of fruit and chocolate-dipped fruit on wooden skewers —colorful centerpieces that double as dessert:, 1-877-DO-FRUIT. Consider assembling your own “dessert-as-centerpiece” using cupcakes, organic fruit or Fair Trade chocolate. Consider centerpieces of donations: Some families use items to be donated as colorful centerpieces. The tables at a bar or bat mitzvah luncheon can be decorated with children’s books or “At our son’s bar mitzvah, there were no stuffed animals, accompanied by a note from the bat or bar mitzvah teen balloons or disposable decorations. Our about the place where they will be donated. Jewish Community Services, decorations were shrubs and perennials an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of that were planted on building grounds a Baltimore, offers “Centerpieces for Tzedakah” for rented, custom-decorated few days later. We also had pots of herbs baskets. The baskets serve as centerpieces for celebrations and reflect a donation to the Jewish Community Food Fund, formerly the Baltimore for centerpieces, which were then given Kosher Food Pantry, that will help feed a family for more than a week: to people who helped us.”, 410-843-7325. – Robin and David Kantor, Congregation Beit Tikvah

“When my daughter was married in October, we purchased pumpkins locally, scooped them out, filled them with water and floated tea candles as centerpieces. We surrounded them with locally purchased gourds and fall leaves.” – Jo-Ann Orlinsky, Beth Am Synagogue “I attended a wedding where the centerpieces were donated and used at two other weddings where the families could not afford to buy centerpieces. This act of gemilut chasadim was facilitated by the caterer and party planner.” – Ruthanne Kaufman, Chizuk Amuno Congregation

In developing a plan to use items to be donated as centerpieces, remember to call the organization for which you are collecting items and ask what is most needed. At some celebrations, a note in the center of the table describing the tzedakah recipient of funds that would otherwise have been spent on flowers can be centerpiece enough. For example, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger invites Jewish families to donate 3% of the celebration cost to fighting hunger and provides table notes to share this choice with guests. MAZON makes grants to anti-hunger organizations around the country:, 310-442-0020.

A word about candles

Most conventional candles are made of paraffin, a petroleum by-product, which releases carcinogenic soot when burned. If you’re planning to use candles, consider beeswax or other vegetable-based wax candles that come from renewable resources and don’t release toxins when lit. Look for beeswax candles locally or in the National Green Pages:, Candles. The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs sells non-carcinogenic candles: 17

Chapter 7.

Food and Favors

Offering guests a special meal is often at the heart of a celebration, and it presents a particularly powerful opportunity to make purchases that reflect Jewish values. You, your guests or the venue may require that the food served carry a hechsher (kosher certification) verifying that it was produced according to Jewish dietary laws. Whether or not that is the case, consider extending the Jewish tradition of sanctifying food choices by incorporating environmental and social considerations into your meal, in observance of “eco-kashrut,” the idea that Jews can bring environmental and ethical concerns, along with ritual considerations, to their determination of what is kosher. Throughout the section that follows, vendors and products marked with a K carry a kosher certification. In addition, the new Magen Tzedek program, launched in 2012, creates the first ethical certification for kosher foods. The Magen Tzedek Commission of Conservative Judaism has established a “set of standards that meet or exceed industry best practices for treatment of workers, animals and the earth.” Visit to learn kosher products have been certified. (Baltimore’s own Rabbi, Avram Reisner of Congregation Chevrei Tzedek, has been one of the leaders in this effort.) A similar effort in the Orthodox community is Uri L’Tzedek, which awards the Tav HaYosher (Ethical Seal) to kosher food establishments that treat their workers justly. Visit restaurant-listmap.html for the latest list of certified businesses.

Food Don’t overdo it! Often a caterer wants to provide a cocktail hour that offers so much food that guests forget a regular meal will follow. This often results in a large amount of waste. Talk to your caterer about providing enough choices and quantity of appetizers to satisfy your guests without excess. Remember, you are feeding the number of guests you invited, not the entire Israeli Army. Consider hiring an employment program caterer: • Dogwood Restaurant’s social mission is to “transform lives one plate at a time by providing training opportunity and paid employment to individuals who are transitioning from addiction, incarceration, homelessness and/or underemployment,”


“What is eco-kosher? Are tomatoes that have been grown by drenching the earth in pesticides ‘kosher’ to eat at the synagogue’s next wedding reception?” – Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Eco-Kosher Project (The term “eco-kashrut” was coined in the 1970’s by Rabbi Zalman SchachterShalomi.) To join a conversation about contemporary Jewish food issues online, visit Hazon’s blog, “The Jew and the Carrot:”

Consider a vegetarian meal: Eating lower on the food chain is a very powerful way to reduce the environmental impact of your celebration. The more meat we eat, the more grain is required to feed the animals that provide that meat, the more greenhouse gas emissions produced, the more water and land are used to grow that grain, and the more energy necessary to harvest it and run the slaughterhouses. We save all of those resources and their related emissions by eating grains and other plants directly. Consider asking your caterers to serve a dairy or vegetarian meal or find a list of local vegetarian and vegan caterers: Consider organic and local food: Even a caterer who does not buy exclusively organic or local food may be willing to source some produce for your meal this way. Ask and explain why local and organic food is important to you. • For recommendations from Green America for greener beer and wine, visit livinggreen/beerandwine.cfm. • Organic kosher wines: (K) Look for pastured, organic meat: If you do decide to serve meat at your celebration, consider implementing the principle of tza’ar ba’alei chayyim (kindness to animals) by purchasing meat from animals raised locally and naturally rather than in factory farms. KOL Foods provides local, grass-fed beef, chicken and lamb with a hechsher, (K) If you do not need the meat for your celebration to be hechshered, look for a farmers’ market offering pastured organic meats. Search by zip code at, Farmers Markets or find a list of local markets organized by FRESHFARM at Look for Fair Trade-certified coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate: Ask the caterer if they would be willing to offer coffee service items that are Fair Trade-certified. Purchasing these items helps to ensure that producer cooperatives in developing countries can support their families and improve their communities. • Many brands of Fair Trade-certified coffee and tea are available with a hechsher. Find them in the National Green Pages:, Coffee and Tea. (K) • Equal Exchange offers Fair Trade-certified organic sugar packets:, 774-776-7400. (K) 19

• For updates and our online vendor guide visit: • Favors Some hosts offer their guests a small gift, a reminder of the occasion and an expression of thanks for their presence. Bentschers as favors: At many Jewish weddings and some bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, guests are given printed bentschers inscribed with the b’nai mitzvah or wedding couple’s names as a party favor. Homemade favors: Favors made by friends or family members can add a personal and artistic touch to your special day. Tzedakah as favors: An excellent way to honor your guests and to incorporate tzedakah into your simcha is to make a donation on their behalf. Use table tents to inform your guests that a gift was made in their name and relay some information about the organization’s mission. Fair Trade-certified chocolate as favors: Hundreds of thousands of children are forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, which supplies 40% of the world’s cocoa beans, and other West African nations that supply another 30%.6 Purchasing Fair Trade-certified chocolate supports cocoa farmers’ cooperatives and acts against poverty wages and forced child labor. Two companies offering 100% Fair Trade chocolate: • Divine Chocolate USA,, 202-332-8913 (K) • Equal Exchange,, 774-776-7400 (K) • has a list of other Fair Trade chocolate products. For Teens – Sustainable T-Shirts as party favors: Some bar and bat mitzvah celebrations end with each guest being given a personalized t-shirt or sweatshirt. The growing of conventional cotton is particularly chemically intensive, and sweatshop conditions are a serious concern in the apparel industry. If you do decide to print clothing as favors, consider organically grown cotton shirts produced under fair labor conditions. Look for green vendors: • Green America’s National Green Pages,, T-shirts • Sweat Free Communities’ Shop With A Conscience guide, Plantable favors: Thank your guests with plantable items such as centerpieces or trees-in-a-tube from the Arbor Day Foundation, 6

20 and

Chapter 8.

Wrapping It Up

Leftovers and Cleanup Donating leftover food

Arrange with your caterer to have leftovers donated. Some food pantries will take donations of leftover fresh produce, even if they will not accept perishables.

Composting food waste

Plan ahead to keep organic waste out of the landfill by arranging with your caterer to separate food waste from trash and have it picked up by a compost service.


Consider compostable or recycled plates and utensils instead of plastic ( Your venue may have recycling as part of their standard operations. Put clearly marked recycling receptacles where guests need them (for example, paper recycling for the paper programs at the end of the ceremony and any bottles and cans collected near the bar where they’re being distributed). Even wine corks can be recycled into cork tiles! Mail them to Wine Cork Recycling, Yemm & Hart Ltd., 425 N. Chamber Dr., Fredericktown, MO, 63645. Learn more at One local company that covers recycling and composting is Waste Neutral:

Donating clothing from the special day • Consider donating used bridal gowns to the “Brides Against Breast Cancer” program. The Making Memories Foundation accepts used gowns, veils and slips. Each gown is resold nationally through touring sales: www.

“Honor G-d with your wealth, with the best of all your income. And your barns will be filled with grain, your vats will burst with new wine.” – Mishlei/Proverbs 3:9-10

• Donate used women’s dress clothes to a local gemach or Hadassah. • Donate men’s and women’s professional attire to Beth Am Synagogue, Chizuk Amuno Congregation or a congregation with a similar program to reuse them.

Dropping off packing peanuts from gifts for reuse

If you receive gifts packed in those pesky polystyrene packing peanuts, drop them off at any Mailboxes Etc. or UPS Store for reuse. 21







Baltimore Green & Just Celebrations Guide Sponsors American Jewish Congress – Maryland Chapter THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network (BJEN) Jews United for Justice Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Beth Am Synagogue Beth El Congregation Chevrei Tzedek Congregation

Chizuk Amuno Congregation Congregation Beit Tikvah East Bank Havurah Har Sinai Congregation

Kol Halev Synagogue Community Temple Emanuel Temple Oheb Shalom

Major Support Provided by The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Marjorie Roswell Chai Sponsors Jonathan Finkelstein, Ruthanne Kaufman Sponsors Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin and Rabbi Avram Reisner, Jo-Ann Orlinsky, Delegate Dana Stein and Margaret Presley-Stein Supporters NatureJems, Margie Simon, Robin Kantor, Marcie Levenstein, Nina Storch, Diane Wacks

Gold Sponsors: Pikesville Hilton • Hilton Baltimore • UNITE HERE Local 7

Silver Sponsor: The Pearlstone Center The Pearlstone Center ignites Jewish passion. Our retreat center, farm and programs enable and inspire vibrant Jewish life. We can enhance your simcha in wonderful ways. Put the mitzvah back in bar/bat mitzvah by contributing to a more sustainable food system while growing vegetables, taking care of the farm animals or designing your own mitzvah project. Also join us at our Sustainable Simcha Workshops which offer fun, hands-on exploration of the social and environmental impact of lifecycle celebrations by weighing all the options for invitations, food, service hours, lodging and travel. For more information, contact or 410-429-4400.

© 2012 American Jewish Congress – Maryland Chapter Printed by Linemark, a union print shop, on Rolland Enviro100 FSC-certified chlorine-free 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.

Baltimore Green & Just Celebrations Guide…

while standing on one foot!

• Reduce waste and excess – choose “less bar and more mitzvah.” • Choose recycled paper for your invitations…. or save postage and go online-only. • Incorporate tzedakah and service activities into your celebration. • Include composting and recycling of waste products at your event. • Have your guests stay at a hotel where workers have a voice on the job and earn a living wage.

Many thanks to our Gold Sponsors Pikesville Hilton

Downtown Hilton

DoubleTree by Hilton – Baltimore North/Pikesville

Hilton Baltimore

1726 Reisterstown Road Pikesville • Maryland Tel: 410-653-1100

401 West Pratt Street Baltimore • Maryland Tel: 443-573-8700

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