What’s in a name? Sometimes a lot. When we first started meeting as a group it became apparent that we each had our own nomenclature. Some of us used “Green Team”, some used “GreenFaith Initiative”, and others referred to us as the” Environmental Group”. We knew we needed to brand ourselves in a way that it made it clear what our purpose and values were to both the Temple Sholom community and outside of it.
Prior to attending a workshop in Washington, DC focused on community organizing for Jewish environmental groups (see COEJL.org) I had “Green Team” as my top choice. But then I heard everyone else at this workshop talking about their own green team and suddenly its uniqueness was gone. Temple Sholom is a unique synagogue and we wanted a name that reflected our core values.
A great brainstorming session at our next group meeting generated many ideas – some of them irreverent, some funny and many that didn’t quite fit our needs. We knew we wanted to have part of the group’s name be in Hebrew because we feel that how we approach environmental issues will have a unique Jewish spin on it; we’re not just an environmental group. At the same time we recognized that many in our community do not know Hebrew and we wanted people to be able to read the name and understand what the group was about.
I consulted with Rabbi Conover about a Hebrew word for “team” or “group”, but the word that she provided to me was completely unfamiliar and did not roll of my American-English tongue easily. Some more brainstorming ensued and Chavura or Havura depending upon your transliteration, came to mind. This is a much more familiar Hebrew word and one which we already use around Temple Sholom in reference to different communities such as the Havdalah Chavura. Our environmental community will be different, as we hope to be an integral part of much of what happens around the Temple. Environmental impact should always have a part in the decision-making. Not to be the deal breaker, but to be considered.
We still needed to capture the term environment or catch phrase “green”. Do you know the Hebrew word for “green”? I’ll bet not. It’s “yarok” – certainly something that doesn’t readily make one think of the environment. Nope, the word had to be an English term to help easily identify our purpose. Since “green” wasn’t desired we threw out tons of words until “eco’ just seemed to pop up (the wine may have helped!). And there you have it – a name is born! In this case, a sense of identity and purpose – a brand.
Be a part of the Eco Chavura community. Read the weekly eco-tips and really think about how it pertains to your lifestyle. Perhaps you could turn of your car instead of idling, turn down your themostat, refrain from eating meat a few times per week or compost. After all, we’re all part of that bigger community commonly known as Earth.
Karen Lewis is a member of Eco Chavurah. She holds masters degrees in business and public policy which she has used in both her professional and personal lives. Her goal this summer is to start composting.