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A Purchasing Guide for Washington’s Jewish Families




Jews United for Justice

Jews United for Justice

Green and Just Celebrations: A Purchasing Guide for Washington’s Jewish Families by Rebecca Shaloff and Joelle Novey, with Darya Mattes and Jacob Feinspan With thanks to: Russ Agdern Mackenzie Baris Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass Laura Bellows Franca Brilliant Rivka Burstein-Stern Liz Carty Joel Coffidis Alys Cohen Jonathan Cohen Sarah Church Darin Dalmat Beth Davidson Aaron Dorfman Ben Dreyfus Sariel Ende-Alonzo Jayme Epstein Jennifer Errick Suzanne Feinspan Malka Fenyvesi

Shira Fischer Shalom Flank Jay Freedman Diana Friedman Naomi Friedman Rabbi Joshua Ginsberg Sally Gottesman Alisa Gravitz Brenda Gruss Gael Hammer Viva Hammer Kate Hankins Rabbi Doug Heifetz Lisa Hofstetter Rabbi Jill Jacobs Miriam Joffe-Block Rena Kane Beth Kanter-Leibowitz Eli Kasargod-Staub Andrew Korfhage

Devora Kimelman-Block Emma Kippley-Ogman Rabbi Deb Kolodny Steven Krieger Rabbi Gilah Langner Lori Leibowitz Sarah Lesser Rachel Lettre Michele Levy Tracy Lingo Ilana Lipsett Frank Locantore Paula Wertheim Luxenberg Laura Menyuk Ethan Merlin Beth Meyers Mishelle Miller Rabbi Tamara Miller Rabbi Jack Moline Beth Novey

David Pansegrouw Jaime Rapaport Beth Richie Barb Richman Adina Rosenbaum Katie Schenk Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb Sara Sennett Ilana Schatz Lindsey Paige Savoie Holly Shere Susanna Shapiro Marilyn Sneiderman Rabbi Alana Suskin Diane Tepfer Betsy Platkin Teutsch Jeffrey Veidlinger Tali Weinberg David Zinner Julia Zuckerman

Design by Will Fain ( Illustrations by Mike Swartzbeck ( Revisions and Production by Rabbi Elizabeth Richman and Robin Metalitz Printing made possible with support from: Adas Israel Social Action Council, Adas Israel Congregation, Tifereth Israel Congregation, Beth Shalom Congregation, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Machar: The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism, and Wendy Rudolph. Printed by Linemark, a union print shop, on 30% post-consumer recycled paper, processed chlorine-free, certified Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Recycled. ©2008 and 2009 Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) To order more copies, call 202.408.1423 or email Green and Just Celebrations is also available online for free download at Greater Washington’s Jewish communities, schools, congregations, and havurot are warmly encouraged to photocopy this guide for use with families planning bar or bat mitzvah celebrations and couples planning weddings or commitment ceremonies, or to include pages from the guide in existing congregational handbooks for members planning celebrations. Please use, re-use, and share this booklet!


Jews United for Justice

There’s a Jewish celebration coming up in your family —

m a z a l to v ! These celebrations create cherished memories for us and our loved ones. They affirm connections between the generations, celebrate children’s growth, bless wonderful relationships, gather extended families, and connect and reconnect us to Jewish traditions and to our communities. But before the happy day arrives, you’ll be faced with the many nitty-gritty decisions that go into hosting a celebration—decisions, again and again, about how to spend money. Whether you’re planning a small family gathering or a large event, you’ll encounter dozens of choices about how to invite your guests, where they’ll stay, what they’ll eat, and how you’ll celebrate together. This guide can help you make those decisions in light of Jewish values. Our advice in every chapter is illustrated with real-life stories from families across the Washington area who have found creative ways to celebrate bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, weddings, and commitment ceremonies that exemplify Jewish values. Your wedding reception can both celebrate love and extend compassion to disadvantaged communities. Your child’s bat mitzvah party can both welcome her into Jewish adulthood and help ensure that she inherits a healthy environment. In an expression of Jewish values —of tzedakah/righteous giving, of modesty, of not wasting, of honoring workers, and of kindness to animals— your dollars can go to work in the world in ways that are both green and just. The ideas on the pages that follow are gathered from a range of print and online resources and from people here in our local Jewish community. Look in this guide for suggestions that would be a good match for your event, your family, and your community. We know it can be daunting to plan a simchah/ celebration, so we’ve broken down what you need to know as you evaluate vendors and make key decisions about the details of your event. One of the biggest challenges of making conscientious spending decisions is balancing cost against the impact on the world. Sometimes a green choice will cost less than the conventional item or service; in other cases, going green will cost a little bit more. We hope this guide will help you identify the areas that Jews United for Justice

“Blessed are You ... who has granted us life, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.” —Shehechiyanu blessing

What about the ceremony? What about the service? This guide does not address the ritual decisions Jewish families make when planning weddings, commitment ceremonies, and bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, although these choices, too, of course, are a wonderful opportunity to creatively express your values. See p. 35 for a list of ritual resources.

Have a story to tell about your own green and just Jewish celebration? Have ideas you’d love to pass along? Turn to the inside back cover to share them with us.

your family cares about most and offer some green and just possibilities that won’t break the bank.

On one foot ...

Every family is different. Some will choose to implement many of the ideas in this guide; others will find just a few that speak to them or that turn out to be feasible.

1. Choose “greener” papers.

Bear in mind Rabbi Tarfon’s advice that “it is not your task to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Mishnah Pirkei Avot 2:21). •

If you are able to choose a venue where workers have a voice on the job — dayeinu/that would be enough!

If you opt for Fair Trade Certified™ flowers — dayeinu!

If you help guests share rides there and back — dayeinu!

If you ask your caterer to use local and organic ingredients — dayeinu!

This is a special time in the life of your family—and a precious opportunity to grow more mindful of the ways that everyday choices can both connect us with our tradition and help us live our values.

You have already been blessed with a reason to celebrate. Now, use this guide to reflect that blessing outward, into your community, our city, and beyond—by welcoming guests to a celebration filled with meaning!

Not sure where to start? Consider these five celebration choices that will have a big impact: Recycled paper saves trees, water, and energy. Look for recycled papers with the highest possible postconsumer content and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for any non-recycled content. If you can choose soy-based inks and papers not bleached with chlorine, even better .... page 12-14

2. Take the “Just Journeys” pledge.

Honor hotel workers by patronizing hotels where workers have a voice on the job, avoiding hotels involved in a labor dispute, and encouraging your out-of-town guests to strip their beds and leave a tip at the hotel where they stay for your celebration .... page 2-5

3.Servefoodthatdoesn’tgobbleresources. Often, the energy used and waste generated by serving meat in quantity just isn’t worth it; consider leaving animal products off the menu with a delicious pareve or dairy celebration meal. Any local or organic ingredients also help to limit your food’s environmental “footprint” .... page 24-26

4. Offset the climate impact of travel.

One of the most significant environmental impacts of any celebration is the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions associated with guests flying and driving to join you. Take stock of that impact using an online carbon calculator, and balance it out with an equivalent donation to renewable energy projects that reduce emissions .... page 30-31

5. Help build the world you want to live in. Use the occasion of your celebration to direct muchneeded resources to organizations that are helping to build a world that more fully reflects your values. The ceremony or service, speeches, invitations, registries, and centerpieces all present opportunities to include guests in the sacred work of tikkun olam/repairing the world .... page 6-8

Jews United for Justice

Green and Just Celebrations:

A Purchasing Guide for Washington’s Jewish Families

In this guide:

Enough Already! — Jewish Consumption Guidelines for Our Time Location, Location, Location — Venue and Accommodations

p. 1

p. 2

Leaving the “Corners” — Connecting Tzedakah and Service to Your Celebration p. 6 You Get What You Ask For —Registries and Gifts Paper and Printing — Invitations, Programs, Placecards, and Bentschers

p. 9

p. 12

Hands and Promises — Wedding Bands and Other Jewelry Getting Dressed — Clothing

p. 17

Topping Things Off — Kippot

p. 18

p. 15

Getting Centered — Centerpieces and Decorations

p. 21

Eat, Be Satisfied, and Bless — Food

p. 24

You Can Take it With You — Favors

p. 27

After the Simchah — Leftovers and Cleaning Up

p. 28

Our Coming and Our Going — Transportation, Travel, and Honeymoon

p. 30

In Conclusion — A Kavanah Before Buying

p. 32

Ritual Resources for Jewish Celebrations

p. 35

Resources for Green and Just Jewish Living

p. 36

Throughout this guide, specific organizations, businesses, and online sites have been listed for your convenience. We’ve made every effort to research the entities we recommend. That said, please do your own homework before deciding to designate resources to a particular vendor or website.


Enough Already! Jewish Consumption Guidelines for Our Time Community celebrations have marked the rhythm of Jewish life throughout the ages. And for nearly as long, Jews have been asking the question, “How much is too much?” 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 twenty men, ten 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 ten horsemen and four attendants could bring the bride from another town to the festivities. 2

Though the suggestion that we limit wedding transportation to only ten horsemen from the neighboring town may sound antiquated, the underlying impulse to keep celebrations simple holds some wisdom for us today. Indeed, in New York City in 2002, dozens of Orthodox rabbis issued a modern ruling in this same tradition, setting a maximum number of wedding guests and musicians and specifying appropriate centerpieces, flowers, and menus. “The concept of modesty, not only in dress but in behavior and expression, is central to the Torah,” one rabbi told The New York Times. “Limiting excess, whether in general lifestyle or celebrations, is an inherently Jewish ideal.” 3 This guide’s primary purpose is to ask questions and offer suggestions about how to bring our community’s celebration-related purchasing in line with our values. It does not attempt to establish the kind of precise consumption guidelines that communities in Forli, Furth, or New York have done, but brings forward the tradition of conscious celebration into our own Washington-area Jewish community. This guide invites you and your family to explore these questions: •

What is our upcoming Jewish celebration for?

What is the highest purpose of this celebration, and how can our purchasing decisions for the event best achieve that purpose?

consumption guidelines for our time

“An authentic Jewish wedding flies in the face of all that is garish and superficial; instead, it emphasizes holiness, sacredness, deep love, and honor ... When you embrace the challenge of creating a Jewish wedding, you take a bold stand against an industry that says the entry to your marriage is about wearing the right dress, serving the fanciest food, and spending as much money as possible on all of it.” —Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer,The CreativeJewishWeddingBook “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 1 p. 145 in Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, JPS: 1911. 2 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


Location, Location, Location: Venue and Accommodations

“We chose to keep my son’s bar mitzvah at our own synagogue where we feel closest to friends and facilities.” —Sara Sennett, Chevy Chase

One of the first choices you may make in planning your celebration is the location. When choosing where to hold your celebration, and how to put up out-of-town guests, consider the following:

Look for a venue 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 Jewish sanctuary space and aren’t already connected to a congregation that has one, the Jewish Information and Referral Service (JIRS) maintains a list of local Jewish congregations that rent their facilities: 301.770.4848, > “R” > Rental-Facilities.

“We celebrated our daughter Emma’s bat mitzvah in our backyard. We are great nature lovers, and we’ve grown our yard without chemicals; it’s a beautiful place where our family has had meaningful conversations, experiences, laughter, and moments of reflection. The October day on which we had the bat mitzvah was beautiful, cool though sunny, with fluffy white clouds in the sky. It was the perfect place to have our child’s coming-ofage ceremony.” —Kate Hankins, Aspen Hill


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: •

Events held at the Josephine Butler Parks Center overlooking Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park support the work of Washington Parks and People and the twelve community-based non-profits housed there:, 202.462.7275. Capacity: 200

Events held in the Spanish Ballroom, Bumper Car Pavilion or Arcade Building at Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, Maryland support the park’s many community arts programs:, 301.634.2233. Capacity: 800, 300, & 50

Events held at the WVSA building near Farragut North support WVSA Arts Connection, which brings “arts-infused” education to children and young adults with special needs:, 202.261.0233. Capacity: 120

Events held at the Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, Maryland, or Rust Sanctuary in Leesburg, Virginia, support the Audobon Naturalist Society’s local conservation activities and environmental education: > Site Rentals, (Woodend:) 301.652.9188 x28, (Rust:) 703.669.0755. Capacity: 150.

Events held at one of five facilities on Montgomery County parkland

venue & accommodations

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operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) support park maintenance and recreational programs across the region. Indoor capacity: 40-200. Outdoor capacity: up to 300., 301.299.5026. Local facilities whose rental benefits Jewish non-profits include: •

Jewish Community Centers offer a wide range of social, cultural, recreational, and educational programs and services. There are JCCs in Northern Virginia (> General Info > Facility Rentals, 703.537.3024), Rockville (, 301.881.0100), and DC (, 202.777.3265). The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington’s Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, the original home of Adas Israel Congregation, now located near Union Station, educates the community about local Jewish history:, 202.789.0900, The Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum in Bethesda fosters love of the Bible through the graphic arts:, 301.897.1518. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue provides a Jewish sanctuary and meeting place in Gallery Place:, 202.408.3100.

Help match out-of-town guests with local hosts Some out-of-town guests may not need a hotel room if you can help to find them someone local to stay with. This is a great chance to perform hakhnasat 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 shadkhan/matchmaker, matching out-of-town guests with willing hosts.

“Our wedding was at a YMCA summer camp. One of the reasons we chose this location was that the money spent would go to support youth programs at the camp. It was great, everyone was there for the whole weekend, didn’t have to drive anywhere, and had a great time!” —Rachel Lettre & Paul Mackie, Silver Spring

“We are holding our party at Mayorga Coffee Factory in Silver Spring, which is locally owned, serves fairly traded coffee, and is an excellent supporter of local community businesses.”, 877.526.3322 —Diana Friedman, Takoma Park

Look for hotels where workers have a voice on the job 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 workers have a say in their wages, hours, and working conditions. Find union hotels in DC, Maryland, and Virginia at

Avoid hotels engaged in a current labor dispute When hotel owners reject hotel workers’ efforts to organize for a voice on the job, the resulting labor disputes can complicate your event — and hurt the workers’ efforts to make clear that customers support them. In the Jewish community, the Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements, and several national Jewish organizations, already work with the Informed Meetings Exchange (INMEX), a resource for conference planners, to ensure their conventions don’t patronize hotels involved in labor disputes. You can Jews United for Justice

venue & accommodations

“We got married in the thirteenacre field of our friends in Southern Maryland. They made benches for a wedding circle themselves and stitched a chuppah/wedding canopy from our tallitot/ prayer shawls (temporarily, of course).” —Alys Cohen & Doug Wissoker, Takoma Park


“Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and three [guests] stood before him. He saw them, and ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the ground and said ... ‘Let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, and I will get you a morsel of bread ...’” —Bereishit/Genesis 18:2-5

“Hotelhousekeepers engage daily in hakhnasat orchim/ hospitality to guests by cleaning rooms, making beds, and otherwise ensuring that we are comfortable. As travelers, we must reciprocate by advocating for safe working conditions and fair wages for hotel workers.” —Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Jewish Funds for Justice


follow their lead by steering clear of hotels that UNITE-HERE, the union of hotel and restaurant workers, is asking travelers to boycott. Again, search by city, state, or metro area at

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 (see facing page). 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:

For couples: To begin with, choose a city that minimizes travel Couples, in particular, sometimes face the question of where to locate their celebration: Where one or the other partner is from? Where the couple lives, or plans to live after marriage? Or at a “destination” city hundreds or thousands of miles away? Air travel causes tremendous greenhouse gas emissions per passenger, making location one of the most significant environmental choices for any wedding: How many guests will have to fly to attend? 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 TerraPass’ Wedding Carbon Calculator: u For some suggestions for minimizing the environmental impact of transportation to your celebration generally, see p. 30. u For guests who do end up flying, consider buying them, or asking them to buy, carbon offsets. For more about offsetting, see p. 30.

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Consider sharing this pledge with any out-of-town guests:

The Just Journeys Pledge As a hotel guest, I appreciate the hard work that hotel workers put into ensuring that I feel at home while away from home. These workers engage daily in the mitzvah/commandment of hakhnasat orchim/hospitality to guests by cleaning rooms, making beds, and otherwise ensuring that I am as comfortable as possible. I recognize that hotel work is difficult work. The rate of injuries for hotel housekeepers is 10.4%, more than double the injury rate for service sector workers as a whole. Two-thirds of housekeepers report taking pain medication just to get through the day. I also know that hotel housekeepers, most of whom are immigrant and minority women, often struggle to support their families through these jobs, which frequently pay as little as $8.50 an hour, and which often offer no health insurance. In order to help ensure the best possible lives for the workers who are facilitating my travel, I pledge that: •

• •

I will not stay in hotels that are in the midst of a labor dispute. I know that I can find updated information on current labor disputes at When possible, I will stay in a union hotel. I understand that union workers in the service industry earn, on average, 33% more than non-union workers, and that unions provide the most effective vehicle for workers to secure fair wages and health care, and to register complaints about misconduct. I know I can find a union hotel at I will tip the housekeepers who clean my room the suggested rate of $2-5 a day. I will take measures to save my housekeeper time and physical strain, including: keeping my room as clean as possible, throwing trash in the garbage can, piling towels in an accessible location, and stripping the bedsheets. If I am pleased with the housekeeping service, I will fill out the provided comment card, knowing that the worker who cleaned my room might receive a bonus or special commendation if guests appreciate her or his work.

The Just Journeys Campaign is a project of The Progressive Jewish Alliance, Jewish Funds for Justice, and The Jewish Labor Committee.

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venue & accommodations


Leaving the “Corners”: Connecting Tzedakah & Service to Your Celebration    There are many ways to extend the joy of your celebration by taking the opportunity to donate or volunteer, and to invite your guests to do so, as well.   “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


Teens: Ask your guests to bring items to donate

A teen who is becoming bar or bat mitzvah can invite his or her party guests to bring a donation item, in lieu of or in addition to gifts: canned items for a food bank, toiletries for a homeless shelter, school supplies 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, your teen can share information with guests about the organization she or he chose to receive these donations. Or teens can consider donating some of the checks they themselves receive as bar or bat mitzvah gifts towards tzedakah and sharing information about the organization they chose in their thank-you notes.  In Putting God on the Guest List, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin invites teens approaching bar and bat mitzvah to be creative in their choice of mitzvot/good 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

connecting tzedakah & service

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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.”  • For example, Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light will support bar and bat mitzvah teens in undertaking a “green” improvement at their synagogue or temple as their mitzvah project:

Teens: Consider a service activity as your party Some bar and bat mitzvah teens have organized community service activities for their friends instead of a dance party. • For example, Yachad, DC’s Jewish community development organization, will help organize a “Mitzvah Party” where a group of friends can work together to repair the home of a low-income homeowner:, 202.296.8563. • The Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service (MCCCS) can also help organize a service project “party” for teens and their families:, 202.777.3255. • Greater DC Cares can suggest many more ideas for group volunteering parties for teens and families with a variety of local organizations:, 202.777.4447.

Jewish programs for giving on happy occasions •

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger asks Jewish families to donate 3 percent 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., 310.442.0020.

Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) offers two “lifecycle giving” programs, both of which offer Jewish families an opportunity to support nationwide anti-poverty work on the occasion of a celebration. A Youth Endowment Fund (minimum $1100) engages young people in thoughtful philanthropy and fighting poverty. A Wedding Fund (minimum $1500) gives couples the opportunity to direct tzedakah given by their guests to organizations supported by JFSJ that are promoting economic justice in their community. Wedding attendees contribute to the fund., 212.213.2113.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) can create a B’nai Mitzvah Justice Endowment Fund (minimum $1000) in the name of a bar or bat mitzvah teen. 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,

Jews United for Justice

connecting tzedakah & service

“My son and his friends planted a garden along the Anacostia River with the Earth Conservation Corps. We used the plants as bar mitzvah centerpieces, then planted them on Sunday.”, 202.479.6710 —Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass, Potomac “In the invitation, our daughter asked for gentlyused books for area group homes. First she had the group home tell her what types of books would be of value. She received over 200 books, and a few checks. We created bimah baskets filled with books and she mentioned her project in her speech.” —Bat mitzvah mom, Bethesda “On my daughter’s bat mitzvah invitation, she indicated that she would prefer donations to charity instead of gifts. With the invitation, we included information on the charities she had chosen and an envelope so guests could send a check off easily. I also included a letter in which I wrote something personal to the invitee and described the charities. One big benefit is that the house isn’t filled with stuff after the event.” —Viva Hammer, Silver Spring


but also gives teens an opportunity to practice thoughtful philanthropy. When the endowee turns 21, s/he becomes a member of the RAC’s Tzedek Society., 202.387.2800.

For Teens: Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute™ Bar/bat mitzvah teens can use $500 of the cash gifts they receive while in seventh grade to create their own philanthropic fund with a group of their peers in eighth and ninth grade. JYPI provides a one-to-one match of teens’ contributions, amounting to a $25,000 fund for each JYPI cohort. The JYPI program gathers teens from DC, Maryland and Virginia monthly to review grant proposals from local, national and international organizations, and to learn how to engage in responsible philanthropy:, 240.283.6246.

Gift Money to Invest? Choose Socially Responsible Investing

“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, in Jews, Money & Social Responsibility


Bar and bat mitzvah teens sometimes receive cash gifts and have an opportunity not only to give their first significant gifts to tzedakah but also to make a first investment in mutual funds or stocks. Sometimes newlywed couples end up with sizeable cash gifts, too. Socially responsible investing (SRI) incorporates environmental and social considerations into investment decisions. SRI mutual funds screen companies based on social and environmental criteria, advocate for corporate responsibility, and often place a share of their holdings in community investments in low-income communities, all of which puts invested money to work for good in the marketplace. Particularly if a bar/bat mitzvah teen receives enough gift money (say, $500-1000) to make a first foray into investing, invite her/him to invest according to Jewish values. •

Social Investment Forum’s SRI Mutual Fund Chart:

To purchase Green America’s Guide to Socially Responsible Investing, an introductory handbook with a directory of SRI investment services and funds, call 800-58-GREEN, or email

Jewish Funds for Justice recently issued a community investment “note” that invites the Jewish community to fight poverty by loaning at least $1000 through Calvert Funds, a family of socially responsible investment funds. You can pick the term of the loan; for example, bar and bat mitzvah teens can set the loan for five years, and get the money back in time for college: www., 212.213.2113.

connecting tzedakah & service

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You Get What You Ask For: Registries and Gifts Many couples use wedding registries as a way to ask their guests for the gifts they would most appreciate — but that needn’t only be spatulas and fondue sets. Today, couples in the DC area can “register” for donations, for nonmaterial gifts of time, for a trip, or for carbon offsets. The trick isn’t to ask for what you imagine other couples want, or for what large retailers suggest you want, but for what you’d actually like your guests to give.

You can “register” for tzedakah/donations:

Some couples and bar/bat mitzvah teens ask guests to make donations to designated charities in addition to or instead of 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 and for any US non-profit at Firstgiving:, u For more ideas about connecting tzedakah/righteous giving to your celebration, see p.6.

You can register for a combination of services, donations & gifts: An “Alternative Gift Registry” designed by the Center for a New American Dream offers an online platform where celebrants can “register” for non-material, second-hand, homemade, Fair Trade, and green gifts, all in one place:

You can let guests know what you don’t want: Consider sharing a list of Judaica items that you already own to avoid duplication. And if you really want donations instead of material gifts, say so explicitly in your invitation materials or website. Many guests may feel that they still have to get a material gift unless you say it’s okay not to.

You can ask guests to offset the climate impact of their travel: Sites like the Alternative Gift Registry (above) also make it possible to “register” for guests to purchase carbon offsets. Since some guests may have to fly or drive a great distance to get to your celebration, you can let them know that it would be a gift to you if they would “balance out” the climate impact of their trip. By purchasing offsets, guests help to fund projects that prevent one ton of greenhouse gases from being emitted for each ton their travel will cause. u For more ideas on minimizing the environmental impact of travel, and guidelines for selecting high-quality offsets, see p. 30.

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registries & gifts

“Just as a weasel drags things in and stores them without knowing for whom it is storing them, so the people of the world drag things in and store them without knowing for whom they store them.” —Talmud Yerushalmi Masekhet Shabbat 14:1 “As well as registering at the usual department store places, we told our guests how much we would appreciate donations of tzedakah in honor of our celebration, and selected a charity of personal significance, explaining why it was so important to us. It’s easy to create an online fundraising page at sites like Firstgiving. Guests really do use it, if you make it clear that it is important to you.”, 617.591.2121 — Katie Schenk & Dov Grossman, Dupont Circle “We chose to register at Bed Bath & Beyond because they allow same-sex couples to create registries, whereas [at the time] Linens ‘n Things only let straight couples register.” —Suzanne & Jacob Feinspan, Adams Morgan


“If you know a family that needs stuff more than you do, you can register for stuff they need. I registered for my Peace Corps host family in Jamaica who lost their house in a hurricane.” —Susanna Shapiro, Silver Spring

“We registered for a synagogue membership!” —Joelle Novey & Ethan Merlin, Silver Spring

You can 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 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.)

You can register locally: Registering for gifts from local stores helps support the local economy and cuts down on shipping gifts long distances. For example, Register Locally invites couples to register for eco-friendly and Fair Trade products, and to add items from any local store, even those that don’t have formal registries or online registries:

You can 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. One of the oldest and largest such businesses offers a gift registry: •

“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. Having a union in a workplace is critical to decent wages, working conditions, and treatment on the job, and we wanted to start our life together with dishes we knew were made under good conditions.”, 800.999.3436 —Russ Agdern & Marisa Harford


Ten Thousand Villages offers a registry online (, with local retail stores in Bethesda, Rockville, Baltimore, and Towson, MD; and in Alexandria, VA. To find a full list of Fair Trade Federation members which sell online, see html.

You can 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. These green houseware companies offer online registries: • > click Gift Registry • GreenSage: • VivaTerra:, click Gift Registry bottom right • Gaiam:

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Recycled Glass Works:

You can register union: Another way of directing your guests towards gifts that reflect your values is to purchase union-made products—products made in the US, usually, by workers who have a voice on the job. Visit to identify some union-made brands.

Try to “green” whatever registry you choose: If you do register for gifts through an online retailer, try to green the process by: •

• •

asking if the stores where you are registered will consolidate the delivery of all gifts into only one or a few shipments. asking guests not to wrap each gift. (After all, you already know what it is!) encouraging guests to select ground shipping, rather than air, from a shipper such as UPS, or the Postal Service, where workers have a meaningful voice on the job. (DHL is partially union. Avoid FedEx, in particular, where many workers are fighting for a union; learn more at fedex/.) reminding 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 www.

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registries & gifts

“Most people think it is rude to send an unwrapped gift. However, anyone who is recently married remembers receiving several boxes a day and knows what a horrible waste gift wrapping becomes. Couples can request on their websites that guests refrain from having gifts wrapped.” — Julia Zuckerman & Joshua Jacobs, Dupont Circle “I have a friend who is a photographer, a sister-in-law who worked for years in a flower shop, and an uncle who is an amateur, but extremely good, disc jockey. All of them are happy to be part of the festivities. Their help is more meaningful than anything that could be gift-wrapped or picked out of a registry, and worth much more to us in actual dollars (by saving on the cost of hiring professionals), even though it will cost our helpers next to nothing to simply do those things they are good at doing. Gifts of time are environmental gifts, and the participation of family and friends makes a wedding so much more special.” —Jennifer Errick, Greenbelt


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

Paper and Printing: Invitations, Programs, Bentschers, and Thank-You Notes   The rabbis derived the concept of bal tashchit/not wasting from the Torah’s injunction not to destroy trees in wartime. You can bring the Jewish teaching not to harm trees to your own celebration by choosing environmentally responsible papers for invitations, programs, bentschers, and more ... Choosing Papers

“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.” —Rambam/Maimonides, Mishnah Torah Melakhim 6:10

“To invite people, we sent out an email —witty (we thought so), long (everyone thought so), and definitely ‘us.’ Email was easier to personalize, didn’t kill any trees, and after our parents contacted the few relatives who weren’t on email, didn’t leave anyone out. Plus we got the instant gratification of seeing the responses come right back!” —Shalom Flank & Deborah Hittleman-Flank, Woodley Park


First, reduce the paper needed for your invitation, program, bentschers/ prayer and song books, 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. Rather than enclosing an envelope and reply card, you can direct guests to RSVP by email or phone. A postcard would eliminate the paper envelope; an email could eliminate paper invitations entirely! After you’ve reduced how much paper you plan to use for your celebration as much as possible, the savings may make it easier to afford recycled, greener papers 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 incredibly water- and energy-intensive compared to the production of recycled paper. Look for papers with 30% or more post-consumer recycled content. For vendors of recycled paper invitations, visit Green America’s National Green Pages™:, category: Paper Products-Recycled.

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.

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 FSCcertified paper supports environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s

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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.)

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:, Find Products: 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. Choosing a 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 that captures much of its pollution in Green America’s National Green Pages™:, category: Printing.

Look for printers where workers have a voice on the job

“For eco-friendly invitations, we searched on the web and found Tasha Rae Designs. She was terrific, extremely responsive, and worked with us to include Hebrew fonts..”, 303.881.3388 —Miriam Widmann, Scarsdale, NY “We designed our own invitations and printed them on recycled paper with soy-based inks using!”, 866.978.8547 —Joelle Novey & Ethan Merlin, Silver Spring

Search for union printers in DC, Maryland, and Virginia online at “Our wedding invitations were printed on 100% recycled paper from Twisted Limb, a woman-owned company. Our ‘save the dates’ were printed on recycled topographic maps from USGS, and my shower invitations were homemade and printed on grocery bags. All paper for the ceremony was tree-free.”, 812.876.9352;, 413.549.4124 —Rachel Lettre & Paul Mackie, Silver Spring   Jews United for Justice

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“Families often include return envelopes for Mazon or other good causes, along with response cards, to encourage tzedakah. A ‘re-use’ favorite is asking invitees to put artwork or a memory or something creative onto the back of the invitation, to be returned and shared.”,310.442.0020 —Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Tenleytown “We used ‘plantable’ paper for our invitation. It has seeds embedded in it. You put it in soil, keep it moist, and flowers will sprout!”, 888.402.9979 —Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass, Potomac “For our daughter’s bat mitzvah, we asked the school at which she’d been volunteering for a list of books they wanted for the library. We bought the same number of books as guests and put each guest’s name and table number on a book. The guest found his or her labeled book, brought it to the table and added it to a wooden crate my daughter and her friends had decorated. The crates of books were the centerpieces, and we delivered the books to the school after the party.” —Jayme Epstein, Rockville

14 (If the printer you want to use doesn’t stock environmentally responsible papers, you may be able to purchase paper from another vendor and bring it to your chosen printer.)

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 80% post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based inks, and processed chlorine-free.” If you choose a union print shop, they will be happy to include a small union “bug” like this one at the bottom of your print job: Place Cards You can look for recycled paper for place cards, or substitute some other object that guests can take with them to their seats. One couple quoted in the Washington Post used pressed magnolia leaves with handwritten names as the “place cards” for their wedding reception.

Bentschers If you are planning to print bentschers/prayer and song booklets 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.

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Hands and Promises: Wedding Bands and Other Jewelry choosing engagement jewelry For some information on picking out engagement jewelry in a just and green way, and about the social and environmental impact of diamonds in particular, visit choosing wedding bands The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony involves the giving, or exchange, or mutual acquisition of an object of value—usually this item is the wedding band or bands that the couple will wear after marriage. These items will be a permanent symbol of joy and connection for you and your partner—so consider purchasing a ring with people and the planet in mind.

“Your teachings are more precious than gold, even more precious than much fine gold, and sweeter than honey ...” —Tehillim/Psalms 19:11

Consider the social and environmental impact of gold 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 twenty 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 the Congo. To learn more about the impact of gold mining on communities around the world, see

“My wedding band is a daily reminder of the commitment that Harlan and I made to each other. Every time I look at it, I feel happy and remember the moments we shared under the chuppah. Because I wanted to only have positive connotations with my ring, I chose to purchase a band made of 100% recycled platinum from By doing so, I ensured that my ring was produced under fair labor standards and didn’t necessitate environmentally destructive mining.”, 800.330.4605 —Paula Wertheim Luxenberg

Consider recycled gold One way to find gold wedding bands without Jews United for Justice

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contributing to the destructive mining of virgin gold is to purchase wedding rings made from recycled gold. • GreenKarat: 800.330.4605, • Leber Jewelers: 312.944.2900, “Once I saw the warmth and delicacy of Touch Wood Rings’ hand-carved wooden rings, I knew that’s where we’d get our wedding bands. They’re lightweight, have a natural look, and didn’t cause the excavation of tons of mine waste the way gold might have.” — Joelle Novey, Silver Spring

“My parents were so excited to have Marisa in the family that they gave me a ring of my Grandma’s to use ... This gave us an opportunity to be kinder to the planet, because digging up gold and minerals for new jewelry is a verydangerousanddamaging process, and it is difficult to find a ring forged in decent working conditions.” — Russ Agdern


Reconsider gold wedding bands One way to avoid participating in the “dirty” mining of gold is to look for wedding bands made of another less scarce material, such as the meticulously handcrafted wooden wedding bands from Touch Wood Rings:

Consider 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 re-set for a new ring. Or shop in vintage boutiques for second-hand pieces of jewelry. Finding previously loved jewelry can conserve both money and resources.

Look for gold jewelry from “Golden Rules” retailers The No Dirty Gold Campaign has drawn up a list of “Golden Rules” for the socially and environmentally responsible sourcing of mined gold. If you do decide to purchase gold rings for your celebration, try to patronize one of the more than three dozen major jewelry retailers that have pledged to adhere to these guidelines:, and to avoid the campaign’s list of industry “laggards.” Regardless of whether 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:

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Getting Dressed: Clothing

First, consider wearing your own clothes Some members of the 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.

Consider rental and vintage clothes Using previously-loved dress clothes for your celebration can save money and resources: • For a listing of DC-area stores where formal wear can be rented, see the Yellow Pages or, category: Formal Wear – Sales & Rental • A listing of DC-area vintage clothing stores can be found at • Find secondhand bridal wear for sale online at, and find out when the Making Memories Foundation will be bringing its used and new bridal gown sale to town:

Consider gemach clothing Some Jewish communities have developed a communal lending system called a gemach (the word is formed from the first letters of gemilut chasadim/ deeds of lovingkindness): • Rise Goldstein maintains a simchahwear gemach for women in the basement of her Silver Spring home: 301.681.0860, Any women in the community are Jews United for Justice

getting dressed: clothing

“If God 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 God brought her unto the man.’ [Bereishit/ Genesis 2:22] — Pirkei Avot d’Rabbi Natan

“A fancy-clothing gemach would save harried parents of b’not mitzvah many trips to the mall. These party clothes are expensive, yet are only worn a few times before their owners either outgrow them or outgrow the bar/ bat mitzvah circuit. By collecting dresses, shoes, accessories, ties, suits, etc., and making them available to the next year’s crop of kids, much would be gained. Such a gemach would create a communal culture that de-emphasizes shopping, and the money not spent on a fancy outfit could be donated to tzedakah.” —Moti Rieber & Betsy Platkin Teutsch, “Simplicity as a Jewish Path”


“We asked our bridesmaids to wear their own long black dresses and our groomsmen to wear their own tuxes, since it was a low-cost and low-hassle solution. Those in the wedding did not need to purchase new clothing unless they wanted to, and they were able to get additional use out of items they already owned.” — Beth Kanter-Leibowitz & Louis Leibowitz, Silver Spring

“I poked around [for a wedding dress] in some boutiques and some big chains and everything was expensive, or chintzy, or both. I finally settled on a dress for myself from the bridesmaid’s dress section at a high-end boutique, because it was modestly priced, beautiful, local, and came in an array of colors.” —Alys Cohen, Takoma Park

welcome to make an appointment to browse or borrow from the gemach. Completely free; borrowers are asked to return the dresses, clean, within 30 days after the event for which they were borrowed. • Chani Mendlowitz maintains a simchah-wear and wedding dress gemach: 301.681.3411.

Consider clothing made with sustainable fabrics 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 chemical-intensive 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, for example, 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 > Green Bridal, 877.34.DRESS • Threadhead Creations, 865.288.0391

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: • DeMoulin Apparel makes tuxedo pants, jackets, shirts, and bowties:, 800.228.8134. • Kenneth Gordon makes men’s dress shirts: u For opportunities to donate your dress clothes for re-use after the big day, see p. 28.

“I had a local woman make my dress rather than buy it through a big bridal company.” —Rachel Lettre, Silver Spring


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Topping Things Off: Kippot/Head Coverings Guests at Jewish celebrations sometimes bring their own kippot to wear or borrow those provided by the synagogue or temple where the event is held. And some Jewish families choose to offer color-coordinated or personalized kippot for their guests, or for the bar/bat mitzvah and couple, or for the wedding party and bar/bat mitzvah family. Consider purchasing kippot that reflect Jewish values:

Choose union-made kippot Support manufacturers where workers have a voice on the job, pay and benefits are equitable, and respect and dignity is mandated. Born of a collaboration between the Jewish founders of Justice Clothing and Unionwear, the Union Made Kippot online store offers six-panel kippot in a variety of materials including organic cotton, with optional personalized embroidery. Or, dream up your own design for a bulk purchase with a variety of colors, linings, and fabrics:, 888.661.0620.

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, at, 312.243.8050.

“Rabbi Honah ben Joshua never walked four cubits without a covering on his head. He explained: ‘Because the Divine Presence is always over my head!’” —Talmud Kiddushin 31a

“We ordered kippot for our older daughter’s bat mitzvah from MayaWorks. Though more expensive than typical satin kippot, we felt really good about this mitzvah—and the kippot are unique, colorful, and lovely!”, 312.243.8050 —Barb Richman, Bethesda

“A family member is purchasing kippot from a Jewish women’s collective in Bulgaria as a way to support them.” Manos Bendichas coop:, 359.2.986.78.96 —Diana Friedman, Takoma Park

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topping things off: kippot


“We chose kippot made in Israel to support the economy there.” —Beth Richie, Silver Spring

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:, 949.715.0074. (Neither cooperative’s kippot are included on Global Goods’ website — contact them directly for photographs.)

Woven Ethiopian Arts Vision (WEAV) Africa provides Ethiopian artisans with a living wage for handwoven kippot and donates the proceeds to anti-poverty organizations in African communities:, 949.715.0205.

Choose kippot made by international Jewish communities “We used ‘reused’ kippot. We asked folks to scrounge in pockets and closets and tallit bags, and to bring them for others’ use at our wedding. There are already enough kippot out there ...” —Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb & Minna Scherlinder Morse, Tenleytown


For kippot made by the Abayudaya community in Uganda, and the Bnai Menashe community which has emigrated from India to Israel, visit the Kulanu Boutique at, 212.877.8082.

For kippot made by Manos Bendichas, a Bulgarian Jewish women’s cooperative:, 359.2.986.78.96.

For kippot made by Ethiopian Jews living in Israel:,

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Getting Centered: Centerpieces and Decorations

Consider the environmental impact of balloons Balloons look festive briefly before they end up in the trash or floating away. Latex balloons that escape skyward may end up in the ocean and harm sea animals who mistake them for food. Look for ways to bring color and festivity to your party while generating less garbage.

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 flown in 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. Flower workers organized a union on Dole’s largest plantation in November 2004 in order to address these and other issues. However, Dole fought the union since its inception, culminating in the closure of the plantation in July 2007. (Learn more at > Sweatfree World > Fairness in Flowers Campaign.) If you choose to decorate your event with flowers, consider locally grown and/or organically grown flowers, and look for flowers certified to have been harvested under dignified labor conditions. Or, 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 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 plane flight to attend your event, and whose purchase supports local farms. 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

Consider flowers that are sustainably grown or fairly traded If you decide to purchase cut flowers that are not available locally, look to support organically grown 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. Jews United for Justice

centerpieces & decorations

“Theextravagance of cut flowers, which are so ephemeral, went totally against our values. But our parents found it unthinkable to have a wedding without them. So we went to the local farmers’ market and asked a farmer to put together simple terra cotta flowerpots containing mixed herbs to use as table centerpieces. These were simple, attractive, cheap, and had the added advantage that at the end of the night our friends could take them home and keep growing their own herbs. We are still cooking with ‘our’ herbs!” —Katie Schenk & Dov Grossman, Dupont Circle

“I found a local organic farmer near where we were married and he did all of the flowers for our wedding. For the wedding party and ceremony he made bouquets of wildflowers using things that were growing in his yard and on his farm. It was beautiful, nothing was shipped, everything was in season, and no pesticides were used.” —Rachel Lettre, Silver Spring


“We didn’t buy cut flowers: we bought potted flowering Cyclamen plants. One of our friends took one home and it bloomed in his office for seven years!” —Alys Cohen & Doug Wissoker, Takoma Park “For centerpieces, my sister and her friends went to a local small farm and picked strawberries. The glass bowls we put them in were favors for the guests. ” —Robin Metalitz, Arlington “The centerpieces at my college roommate’s wedding were made of cupcakes on tiered serving platters. The cupcakes were beautiful and colorful, and the guests at my table enjoyed eating dessert throughout the meal.” —Adina Rosenbaum, Woodley Park

u To read Rabbi Sue Fendrick’s fond memories of donating floral centerpieces to a nursing home after her wedding, see p. 29.

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 such as: • Garden District in DC: 202.797.9005 • Ginkgo Gardens in DC: 202.543.5172 • American Plant Food Garden Center & Nursery in Bethesda: 301.656.3311 • Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville: 301.937.1100 and Potomac: 301.983.9200 • Meadows Farms Nurseries in MD: 301.353.0606 and VA: 703.327.5050

Consider edible centerpieces Decorating tables with something the guests will eat is less wasteful than using cut flowers. Check out the establishments below to consider edible centerpieces. (Neither is kosher certified.) Or consider assembling your own “dessert-as-centerpiece” using cupcakes, organic fruit, or Fair Trade chocolate: •

“We decorated the tables with art supplies to be donated to the Children’s Inn at NIH.”, 301.496.5672 —Barb Richman, Bethesda


VeriFlora™ is a sustainability certification program for fresh cut flowers and potted plants that includes fair labor standards. Find VeriFlora certified flower retailers listed online at Fair Trade Certified™ cut flowers have recently entered the US market. Visit or call 510.663.5260 for a list of retailers online and in the area that offer them.

Edible Arrangements makes cheerful “bouquets” of fruit and chocolatedipped fruit on wooden skewers —colorful centerpieces that double as dessert:, 1.877.DOFRUIT. Bundles of Cookies, a locally-owned business in Bethesda, will do something similar with cookies (such as a vase containing a “bouquet” of cookies on sticks, frosted to look like pink and red roses, or a basket of cookies frosted to look like a Torah, Jewish star, and bar/bat mitzvah teen in a tallit):, 1.877.ONA.STIK.  

Consider centerpieces of donations Some Jewish families have found ways to make items to be donated into colorful centerpieces. The tables at a bar or bat mitzvah luncheon can be decorated with children’s books or stuffed animals, accompanied by a note

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from the bat or bar mitzvah teen her- or himself about the place to which they will be donated. Jewish Family Services in Baltimore, for example, offers “Centerpieces for Tzedakah” for rental, custom-decorated baskets tied with colorful ribbon. The baskets serve as centerpieces for celebrations and reflect a donation to Baltimore’s Kosher Food Pantry that will help feed a family for more than a week:, 410.843.7325. 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 they need most and could use. 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 percent of the cost of a celebration 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 to help you set the mood at your celebration, 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™,, category: Candles.

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centerpieces & decorations

“My son chose the Save A Child’s Heart Foundation as his tzedakah project. He personally explained its purpose and sent out bracelets in advance with the hope that others would donate. At the simchah, the centerpieces included photographs of children who’d been served by the organization. Cards about these children were placed at each plate.”, 301.618.4588 —Sara Sennett, Chevy Chase

“One family whose teen was into basketball put a new basketball shoe on each table, and then gave the shoes to kids in need.” —Holly Shere, Takoma Park “If you purchase tablecloths for your event, you can donate the fabric to the synagogue afterwards so they can stop using disposable paper tablecloths at their ongoing events.” —Rabbi Janet Ozur Bass, Potomac To help your synagogue go green, contact Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light:


Eat, be satisfied, and bless: Food The term “eco-kashrut” was coined in the 1970’s by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. “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

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 you are using may require that the food served carry a hekhsher/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 considerations, along with ritual considerations, to their decisions of what is kasher/fit to eat. (Throughout the section that follows, vendors and products marked with an H carry a kosher certification.)

“We had a potluck meal after our wedding ceremony. Everyone brought scrumptious food — the most delicious wedding dinner I’ve ever had — and the best part was that without a catering bill, we could invite absolutely everyone we wanted!”  —Alisa Gravitz & Joe Garman, Adams Morgan “In past years, groups of bar and bat mitzvah families have formed a cooperative to cook for each others’ luncheons here in the synagogue. Other families have hired kids in our youth group to serve meals, and the group donates the funds to tzedakah.” —David Zinner, Tifereth Israel Congregation, Shepherd Park



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Consider hiring an employment program caterer Two local caterers train and employ low-income people. Hiring these caterers supports people who are working to learn culinary skills and to lift themselves out of poverty. (Neither is kosher certified.) • Fresh Start Catering trains low-income adults: > Fresh Start Catering, 202.234.0707. • Through The Kitchen Door employs recent immigrants, low-income adults, and at-risk youth:, 301.657.1157.

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, and 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. You can ask most caterers to serve a dairy or vegetarian meal; or, find a list of local vegetarian and vegan caterers in The Vegetarian Guide to Washington DC and Surrounding Areas, online at catering.php

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: realmoney/articles/beerandwine.cfm.

“We hired Fresh Start Catering. The food was delicious, the workers were great to work with, and we felt good that the profits went back into a program that helps others become self-sufficient.”, 202.234.0707 —Barb Richman, Bethesda “Our most significant environmental choice was to serve a vegetarian meal: cold fruit soup, mushroom risotto... It takes onesixteenth the amount of land and one one-hundredth the amount of energy to get the same nutritional value from a vegetarian diet as opposed to a meat-based diet. Guests told us it was the best food they ever ate at any wedding.” —Glenn & Amanda Hurowitz, Georgetown

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 confined factory farms.

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“We had strong conversations with our caterer about not using bottled water at our party. Most synagogues have perfectly fine water from the tap, as do many party facilities. Bottled water is wasteful, expensive, and polluting.” —Franca Brilliant, Takoma Park


“Employing unionized wait staff at our son’s bar mitzvah was one way we chose to make visible the often invisible workers who serve us at celebrations. Making sure workers have decent pay and health care is a powerful statement about who we are. We contacted UNITE HERE Local 25, who connected us with their hiring hall. The union members who worked at the kiddush and at the dinner proudly wore their UNITE HERE buttons during the entire celebration.” 202.737.2225 —Marilyn Sneiderman & Stephen Lerner, Shepherd Park

There is a small but growing program, (H) KOL Foods, that is working to provide local, grass-finished organic beef and pasture-raised chicken with a hekhsher/kosher certification to the DC-area Jewish community: www.kolfoods. com, If you do not need the meat for your celebration to be hekhshered/kosher certified, 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 & Chocolate Ask the caterer if s/he 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. • (H) Many brands of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee and tea are available with a hekhsher/kosher certification. Find them in the National Green Pages™,, category: Coffee and Tea • (H) Equal Exchange offers Fair Trade Certified™ organic sugar packets:, 774.776.7400. u Plan ahead to minimize waste from your celebration by donating leftover food, recycling cans and bottles, and composting food waste: p. 28.

“The cake was made by a local woman in her house, so we supported the local community.” —Rachel Lettre & Paul Mackie, Silver Spring

To join a conversation about contemporary Jewish food issues online, visit Hazon’s blog, The Jew and the Carrot:



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you can take it with you: 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/prayer and song booklets as a party favor. u Turn to p.12 for more on environmentally responsible paper and printing.

Tzedakah as Favors An excellent way to honor your guests and to incorporate tzedakah into your simchah 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 If you’d like to give sweets as a party favor, consider Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate. Purchasing fairly-traded chocolate supports cocoa farmers’ cooperatives and takes a stand against the poverty wages and forced child labor that have been documented on some West African cocoa farms. Two companies offering 100% Fair Trade chocolate: • (H) Divine Chocolate USA:, 202.332.8913 • (H) Equal Exchange:, 774.776.7400

For Teens: Sustainable T-Shirts as Favors Some bar and bat mitzvah celebrations in particular 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™:, category: T-shirts • Sweat Free Communities’ Shop With A Conscience guide:

* But then again ... “We chose not to give out favors or anything else. We felt that people would treasure our wedding as much without a knickknack to take home with them, and that it would reduce our consumption to skip that step. “No one has ever mentioned it to us. We don’t think anyone was thinking, ‘That was a great wedding, but you know what it was missing? A party favor!’” —Jacob & Suzanne Feinspan, Adams Morgan

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“I went to a wedding where they donated the money they would have spent on favors to a domestic violence organization. We each got pink candles with a blurb about preventing domestic violence tied on with pretty ribbon.” —Lori Leibowitz, Mount Pleasant “Our favors were tzedakah boxes ... because there is more to life than just us, and we are not the only part to be celebrated.” —Lindsey Paige Savoie, Silver Spring “Each of our guests will receive a tree to plant at home after the wedding (from” —Miriam Goldsmith & Steven Krieger, Dupont Circle “One bat mitzvah family gave out socks for the dance floor from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.” PromiseShop>Apparel>socks —Beth Richie, Silver Spring


After the SimChah: Leftovers and Cleaning Up Once the lovebirds are a couple and the thirteen year-old an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community, the event begins to wind down. “We brought ‘Gladware’ and plastic bags to the wedding for leftover food, much of which we brought to the out-oftowners’ brunch we had the next morning, some of which we brought home to use for some of our sheva berakhot/ seven blessings meals, and some of which we gave to local friends and family to bring home. We knew that there would inevitably be food left over from the reception, and we wanted to make sure that we lived the Jewish value of bal tashchit/ not wasting.” — Suzanne & Jacob Feinspan, Adams Morgan

Donating leftover food If you anticipate having at least 50 pounds of surplus food to donate, DC Central Kitchen staff are available with advance notice of 24 hours, Monday through Saturday, to pick up food. DCCK uses refrigerated vans, provides all containers, and all staff members are “Serv-Safe” certified food handlers:, 202.234.0707 ext. 145. Other organizations to contact in advance to arrange for donations of leftover food include: • Martha’s Table:, 202.328.6608; • Miriam’s Kitchen:, 202.452.8926; and • N Street Village:, 202.939.2076, all in DC, and • Shepherd’s Table:, 301.585.6463, in Silver Spring.

Composting food waste Do you have a compost bin or pile, or know someone who’ll be attending your wedding who does? Plan ahead to keep organic waste out of the landfill by arranging in advance with your caterer to separate food waste from trash and recyclables into a large jug with a tight lid, and send the compost home with someone who will use it to enrich his/her garden. Recycling cans and bottles (and corks) If the venue you use does not offer recycling, someone you know can easily leave cans, glass bottles, and paper for curbside pickup at home. Put clearly marked recycling receptacles right where guests will be needing them (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., 610 S. Chamber Dr., Fredericktown, MO, 63645. (Learn more at

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. The funds raised allow the foundation to grant final wishes for people with terminal breast cancer. Mail your gown, together with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and an optional $10 donation for processing, to: Making Memories Breast Cancer


after the simchah

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Foundation, 12708 SE Stephens St., Portland, OR, 97233. Donate used women’s dress clothes (other than bridal gowns) to the Silver Spring gemach, to be shared with other women in the local Jewish community: contact Rise Goldstein at 301.681.0860, • Donate women’s professional attire to Suited for Change or Dress for Success, both of which provide professional clothing to low-income women seeking employment:, Donate to Suited for Change by appointment at 1010 Vermont Ave NW Ste 900: 202.293.0351 > Mailbox #3,; or to Dress for Success by appointment at 101 Q St NE: 202.269.4805, • Donate men’s business apparel to MenzFit or Career Gear to help disadvantaged men enter the job market:, Donate to MenzFit by appointment at 3933 Minnesota Ave NE: 202.396.2050,; or to Career Gear at the National Association of Former Foster Care Children of America, 5505 5th St NW: 202.291-1603, •

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. for reuse:, 800.789.4623.

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

Thank-you notes Look for thank-you notes which reflect the Jewish principle of bal tashchit/not wasting. Find greener notecards in the National Green Pages™ at www.greenpages. org, category: Paper Products - Stationery. u See p. 12 for considerations for choosing notecards.

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after the simchah

“After one bat mitzvah celebration at which I officiated Saturday, guests and family members went down to DC on Sunday to clean up a housing center through A Wider Circle.”, 301.657.1010 —Rabbi Tamara Miller, Rockville “In the program for our wedding ... we let people know that we’d be taking the floral centerpieces to the nursing home just down the road at the end of the day, and invited them to come along. In some rooms, the residents were asleep; we imagined them waking up to flowers, a surprise from a stranger. But mostly we preferred to deliver them in person. That way, we could meet the residents, receive their greeting, allow them what was obviously the pleasure of wishing us ‘mazel tov!,’ and brighten their day for a moment just by being a happy couple in full wedding regalia, surrounded by children. The faces of the residents—too seldom at this point in their lives seeing two beloveds dance together—rewarded us with their genuine pleasure and appreciation.” —Rabbi Sue Fendrick,


OUR COMING AND OUR GOING: Travel and Transportation “Adonai will watch over your coming and your going, now and forevermore.” —Tehillim/Psalms 121:8

“Newlyweds Anneliesa Clump and Scott Alprin, along with dozens of wedding guests in suits and spring dresses, took Metro, at the height of rush hour, from a ceremony at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue to their reception in Dupont Circle yesterday. ‘We’re city people,’ said Clump. ‘We take Metro everywhere.’” —“Metro-Monial Bliss,” The Washington Post, 5/3/08

“A person must see one’s self and the world as equally balanced on two ends of a scale ....” —Rambam/Maimonides


Share train, bus, and Metro information with guests Encourage guests to take public transportation to your celebration by researching information about the best transit routes and making this information available along with driving directions. Guests will often consider leaving their cars at home if an alternate way of arriving is provided in an easy format. Similarly, some guests may consider taking a train rather than flying if it’s brought to their attention that your celebration is near a train station.

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. Hosts of celebrations can dramatically reduce the number of cars that spew smog and greenhouse gases bringing guests to their event if they take some time to put together carpooling groups in advance and put guests from nearby locations in touch with each other. • Hosts can ask someone to serve as a carpooling shadkhan/matchmaker, and invite guests to contact her or him with rides offered and needed in the weeks leading up to your celebration. • You, or your carpooling shadkhan, can sort your guest list by city and state and then send an email to all those in a single area saying, for example: “You all live in Fairfax 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’s “Documents” application. 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: (Select “Anyone can edit this document without logging in at [URL].”) • AlterNetWays Company can create a customized ridesharing application that can open directly from a celebration’s website for $50. Your guests can coordinate with each other through the system and organize ridesharing among themselves:, 925.952.4519. • For the big day itself, consider coordinating a vanpool or other rideshare to the celebration itself to minimize the number of guests driving separately.

Offset celebration-related travel If some guests decide to fly to your celebration, you can invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount that their travel produced, through the purchase of carbon offsets. Many promising projects

travel & transportation

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that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions lack the capital they need to get built; by directing your offset dollars to these projects, you can help finance new wind farms, solar arrays, and more. Learn more with Green America’s guidelines for finding reputable carbon offset providers: See, for example: • The Climate Trust:, 503.238.1915 • MyClimate™: > Our Programs > Carbon Offsets, 720.273.2975 • Native Energy:, 800.924.6826 • TerraPass:, 877.879.8026 Some of these offsetters will provide you with stickers, cards, or other recognition to let your guests know that an offset was purchased for their travel. You can purchase a travel offset for your guests or encourage them to do so. u For strategies for “registering” for a gift of carbon offsets from your guests for their own travel or for your honeymoon travel, see p. 9.

Couples: Stay grounded on your honeymoon If you want to go on a vacation as a couple after your wedding, consider choosing a honeymoon destination that won’t require air travel. Passenger flights are one of the most significant environmental impacts of any celebration. However you travel, consider purchasing carbon offsets (above) to balance out the climate impact of your trip.

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travel & transportation

“We’ve encouraged taking Metro and chose a hotel that has a shuttle to National Airport and to the Metro stations. That’s part environmental, part making it easier on our guests to find their way around and not have to rent a car. For our rehearsal dinner, we’re renting a van to minimize the number of cars—but again, it’s also easier for our guests.” —Happy Couple, Oakton, VA


In Conclusion: A Kavanah Before Buying “Often we perceive good taste as that which fits the expectations of the society around us. And we spend a lot of time and energy making sure that the details of our events will conform to those standards. What would it mean for us to define ‘good taste’ as that which fits both the needs of the participants and the needs of society and the natural world?” —Mark X. Jacobs, Caring for the Cycle of Life, Silver Spring

“Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want and the quality of life I value.” —Center for a New American Dream,

“Honor Adonai 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.”

As you go forward with the planning for your celebration, you’ll have to make many purchasing decisions. As we’ve explored throughout this guide, Jewish families across our region are already approaching these purchases as an opportunity to affirm their values. This booklet ends with a literal “take-away” — something (on the facing page) that you can cut out and take with you to keep close at hand in the weeks and months to come. A kavanah is a sacred intention with which Jews approach a particular act. This “Kavanah Before Buying” is an invitation to bring the ideas in this guide forward into the decisions for your celebration. It is an invitation to pause for a moment and ask yourself some questions before making a purchase. This kavanah is designed to fold around your credit or debit card like a tallis or tallit/Jewish prayer shawl. Just as a tallis’ four tassels remind us of our deepest values, this “wallet tallis” can wrap around your charge card as a reminder to pause long enough before a purchase to ask yourself some important questions. Sometimes these questions have no easy answers, and sometimes a greener or more just choice isn’t practical given time or financial constraints. But in other cases, asking these questions can bring forth creative, joyful ideas that reflect your family’s vision for a better world. Either way, know that you are asking yourself these questions alongside many other local Jewish families. They, too, are approaching their celebrations with this same kavanah—to try to direct the dollars they spend in light of Jewish values. Even small decisions add up. All together, Jewish families in the Washington area spend $30 million every year on celebrations, according to the Milestone Media Group. Working together, we can have a powerful impact. Imagine if we all directed even half of those dollars towards local organic farms, hotels where workers have a voice on the job, green businesses, fair trade gifts that support artisans far away, and good non-profit organizations. In other words, imagine if those dollars not only purchased joyful celebrations, but also went to work building a world that is green and just.

—Mishlei/Proverbs 3:9-10

Join us by taking on the “Kavanah Before Buying” as a sacred intention for yourself and your family.


in conclusion

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The “wallet Tallis” • • • •

Cut out your own “Wallet Tallis” below. Fold along the dotted lines. Tape closed to make a sleeve for your credit or debit card.  You can use the printed questions, and add one of your own.

“Speak to the children of Israel and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout all their generations … that you will look at them, and remember … and not be seduced away by your heart and your eyes.” —Bemidbar/ Numbers 15:37-9

A Kavanah Before Buying: • Is this something I need? •CanIborrowone,fineoneused,ormake one instead of buying new? • Was it made locally? •Was it made with fair labor practices? • Was it made with environmentally preferable materials? • Is it made well enough to last? •Willusingitrequireexcessiveenergy? •Doesitcomeinexcessivepackaging? • Can I recycle or compost it when I’m done with it? •Willthispurchaseenhancethemeaning and joy of the celebration? • ___________________ ?

Adapted with permission from the “wallet buddy” developed by the Center for a New American Dream, based in Takoma Park, which “helps Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice.”, 877.683.7326.

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a kavanah before buying


cut here - - - - -

“Credit card applications should probably be required to include a warning label: ‘The Rabbi General has determined that this product may induce “creditcardiovascular” disease, a condition marked by excessive consumption that can be dangerous to your health and the health of our planet.’” —Lawrence Bush & Jeffrey Dekro, Jews, Money & Social Responsibility


Cut out your own “wallet tallis” on page 33.


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Ritual resources for Jewish celebrations Here is a sampling of resources, reflecting a diversity of Jewish practice, for planning the ritual part of your simchah/celebration. Although this booklet addresses the purchasing decisions families make when planning Jewish celebrations, rather than the ritual decisions, these ritual choices, too, are a wonderful opportunity to creatively express your values. Ritual Resources for Bar and Bat Mitzvah Celebrations •

Book Danny Siegel’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide for Changing the World Through Your Simcha by Danny Siegel (2004: The Town House Press) Order through CMS Distributing,

Booklet Elijah’s Covenant Between the Generations: Curriculum & Ceremony for Teens on the Climate Crisis by Rabbis Jeff Sultar & Arthur Waskow (2008: The Shalom Center) For purchase at 215.844.8494,

Book Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah: A Personal Approach to Creating a Meaningful Rite of Passage by Goldie Milgram (2004: Jossey-Bass)

Book Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin (1996: Jewish Lights Publishing)

Book For Teens Putting God on Your Guest List: How to Claim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin (1998: Jewish Lights Publishing)

Article “A Rosh Hodesh Ceremony for Bat Mitzvah Daughters,” by Sherry Rosen, in Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism (Volume 6, 5759/1999) For purchase at, or email

Website Ritualwell: Ceremonies for Jewish Living. New rituals for “Bat/Bar Mitzvah” at

Ritual Resources for Jewish Commitment Ceremonies and Weddings •

Booklet Bringing the Orange Under the Huppah: Progressive Jewish Alliance Resources for Marriage Equality (Progressive Jewish Alliance,

Book chapter “Brit Ahuvim: A Marriage Between Subjects,” chapter 5 in Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics by Rachel Adler (1998: Beacon Press)

Article “Kiddushin and Kesharin: Toward an Egalitarian Wedding Ceremony,” by Cheryl Beckerman, in Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism (Volume 5, 5757/Spring 1997) For purchase at, or email

Article “A New Take on Kiddushin: Halakhic, Egalitarian, Non-Heterosexist,” by Shalom Flank, in Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism (Volume 8, 5763/2002) For purchase at, or email

Book The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant (2001: Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

Book The Creative Jewish Wedding Book: A Hands-on Guide to New & Old Traditions, Ceremonies & Celebrations

Website Ritual Well: Ceremonies for Jewish Living. New rituals for “Intimacy & Partnering”

Program The wedding of Tamara Cohen and Gwynn Kessler, 2004 from The Jewish Women’s Archive:

by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer (2004: Jewish Lights Publishing) at

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Resources for Green and Just Jewish Living Resources for Greener Commitment Ceremonies and Weddings •

Book Eco-Chic Weddings: Simple Tips to Plan an Environmentally Friendly, Socially Responsible, Affordable, and Stylish

Website Great Green Wedding

Book Green Weddings That Don’t Cost the Earth, by Carol Reed-Jones (1996: Paper Crane Press)

Book Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology, Style and Tradition by Michelle Kozin (2003: New Society Publishers)

Online Magazine Portovert, “The exclusive wedding magazine for eco-savvy brides and grooms.”

Book The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-friendly Wedding on any Budget by Kate L. Harrison

Celebration by Emily Elizabeth Anderson (2007: Hatherleigh Press)

(2008: Casablanca Press) Read excerpts and tales of “real green weddings,” and order book, at

Resources for Greener Bar and Bat Mitzvah Celebrations •

Website Green Mitzvot by Kate L. Harrison.

Jewish Resources for Green and Just Purchasing •

Booklet Caring for the Cycle of Life: Creating Environmentally Sound Life-Cycle Celebrations by Mark X. Jacobs (The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life,

Website Fair Trade Judaica by Ilana Schatz & David Lingren.

Booklet Food for Thought: Hazon’s Curriculum on Jews, Food, and Contemporary Life by Nigel Savage & Anna Stevenson

Article “Simplicity as a Jewish Path” in Reconstructionism Today by Rabbi Moti Rieber & Betsy Platkin Teutsch

Book Jews, Money, and Social Responsibility: Developing a “Torah of Money” for Contemporary Life

Booklet No Shvitz: Your One Stop Guide to Fighting Sweatshops

Organization Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light helps congregations of all faiths to save energy, go green, and

(2007: Hazon, (Winter 2002/2003: Jewish Reconstructionist Federation) by Lawrence Bush & Jeffrey Dekro (1993: The Shefa Fund) (Progressive Jewish Alliance, respond to climate change:

Resources for Greener Purchasing, Socially Responsible Investing, and Simpler Living •

Directory National Green Pages™ (2009: Green America) Search free at, 800.58.GREEN.

Booklet Guide to Ending Sweatshops (2008: Green America) Free download from, or order at, or call 800.58.GREEN.

Booklet Guide to Fair Trade (2009: Green America) Free download from, or order at, or call 800.58.GREEN.

Booklet Guide to Socially Responsible Investing (2000: Green America) Order from, or call 800.58.GREEN.

Booklet Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture (Revised edition 2006: Center for a New American Dream) Free download from

Book What Kids Really Want That Money Can’t Buy: Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture, by Betsy Taylor (Center for a New American Dream) $14 from


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Thank you for using Green and Just Celebrations to plan your simchah/celebration! This guide reflects ideas, feedback, and suggestions from dozens of individuals across the DC area. Before we print the next edition, we hope to hear from many more. Please visit, or email, to send us your answers to any of the following questions: • • • • • •

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How did you use this guide? Were there ideas, resources, or chapters that you found especially helpful? Were there ideas, resources, or chapters that you found confusing, unclear, or incomplete? What else would you have liked to see? What questions do you still have? Do you have an idea you’d like to pass along? Do you have a story to share from your own green and just celebration?


Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) leads Washington-area Jews to act on our shared Jewish values by pursuing justice and equality in our local community. Through educational forums, programs, and campaigns, JUFJ has worked for the past ten years to build relationships and mobilize the Jewish community to demand and win meaningful change for all area residents. Our work is grounded in Jewish text as well as the Jewish experience of both prejudice and privilege, weaving together and strengthening members’ progressive and Jewish identities. JUFJ enables Jews to practice and live out our sacred tradition of tikkun olam/repairing the world by working in solidarity with local partners for a more just and equal metropolitan community. JUFJ envisions a healthy, fair, and safe Washington area where the rights and dignity of all residents are respected and their voices are heard, where working hard guarantees a decent living, and where everyone has access to high-quality health care and affordable housing. We believe that the only way to build such a community is for Jews to join with our neighbors to demand social change. Jacob Feinspan, Executive Director  Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Program Director & Rabbi in Residence Robin Metalitz, Development & Communications Manager  Shira Dickler, Program Assistant 1413 K St. NW 5th Floor  Washington, DC 20005  202.408.1423 


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A Purchasing Guide for Washington’s Jewish Families




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Green and Just Celebrations  

Jews United for Justice has produced a little booklet with a big mission: to work for the day when every one of the $30 million dollars that...

Green and Just Celebrations  

Jews United for Justice has produced a little booklet with a big mission: to work for the day when every one of the $30 million dollars that...

Profile for jufj

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