Project Noah brings focus on the environment


The recent presidential debates have put concerns about the environment front and center, with discussions on alternative fuel sources and global warming.

Caring for the environment is the focus of Project Noah, which begins Oct. 26 and ends on Shabbat Noah on Nov. 1.


This is the third annual Project Noah, which features a week of programming promoted by the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

Each year the program has grown and expanded its boundaries as the St. Louis Jewish community embraces the timely topic with special programs and educational opportunities.

“The environment is a large issue and we can always do more,” said JCRC Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice Gail Wechsler.

Rabbi Randy Fleisher is the Chair of the JEI, and is passionate about the relationship of the story of Noah and the environment. “The story of Noah connects us to our individual and communal responsibilities concerning the health of the planet,” Fleisher said. “The more we practice it the more we internalize it. Noah was made responsible for saving life on the planet and now it is our turn.”

Project Noah week inspires teachings, programs and sermons at area congregations, schools, organizations and agencies, said Fleisher. Packets of readings, projects and ideas were distributed to the rabbis, Jewish professionals and community leaders.

Wechsler said the community can access several resources on the JCRC/JEI Web site ( including: educational activities by grade, a green teshuvah survey for teens and a check list on having an environmentally caring simcha.

This year Project Noah actually got an early start with a special summer kick-off thanks to a wonderful idea from Alan Elfanbaum, one of the original founders of the JEI. He suggested having a contest at the Jewish summer day camps to have the campers design a poster for Project Noah.

The winning poster was created by Elyse Mack, who attended Camp Emeth at Congregation Shaare Emeth. She is a seventh grade student at Ladue Middle School and the daughter of Audrey and Richard Mack. She described her thought process for creating her winning design.

“I thought about trees and recycling and how they incorporate Jewish values,” Elyse said. “It is important to make caring for the environment a part of your life.”

One of the first programs of the week will be an opportunity for families with children ages 2 – 6 to visit Noah’s Ark Galley at the JCC Carlyn H. Wohl Building on Sunday, Oct. 26. This is the second year of the community wide event which won a national JCC Association Innovation Award for innovative new programming.

“The first part of the program begins with different hands-on environmentally friendly activities including planting Missouri Birch seedlings to take home and nurture for spring planting,” JCC Program Staff Marci Diamond said.

The second part of the program is a visit from World Bird Sanctuary Critters for Kids program. Families will learn about working together with animals to protect the environment.

The JEI is sponsoring a tour of the Alberici Building on Wednesday, Oct. 29th. The building has been honored as being one of the greenest buildings in the world. It is the headquarters of the Alberici Corporation. The tour is free, though space is limited and reservations are required.

Additional programming includes the Third Annual Electronics Recycling Drive sponsored by Congregation B’nai Amoona, the City of Creve Coeur and Web Innovation & Technology Services on Nov. 2-3. The event makes it possible for the entire St. Louis community to recycle computers, televisions and electronics for free or a small fee, which will help keep them out of landfills (see story on page 1).

Some programs actually were held before the official start date of Project Noah which falls later in the secular year because of the Jewish leap year.

There was a first-ever candidate forum on the environment held at Central Reform Congregation. More than 125 participants came to hear the more than 15 candidates discuss environmental issues.

There was also a tree planting held at Fairgrounds Park held in cooperation with other organizations.

Elfanbaum is proud to see Project Noah and the projects of the JEI growing. He believes a green economy can help in so many ways and that Project Noah is an ideal vehicle to help the community take action.

“In Parsha Noah we see the results of our moral and spiritual, attitudes and actions,” Elfanbaum said. “The rain was coming and it was time to take action. Our planet is in danger today. Who will be our Noahs?”

For more information on Project Noah 2008 events or reservations for the Alberici tour visit or call Gail Wechsler at 314-442-3871.