By Avery Allen
On March 21, 2022, the YU Environmental Club brought renowned speaker and advocate Mr. Yosef Gillers, to speak to students about the importance of the environment in the Torah. Gillers founded “Grow Torah,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing experiential environmental education for Jewish institutions.
Gillers began by introducing the connection between Torah and the environment and by discussing the significance of God’s gift to Adam. In the beginning of Bereishit, God bestows upon Adam the great gift of dominion over the Earth. With this humbling gift comes boundless possibilities and opportunities. However, giving a gift also creates a considerable sense of responsibility in guarding and enhancing its development. Rashi expounds on this notion by elucidating that, if we refuse this responsibility and cause harm to the environment, the roles between humans and the animal kingdom will be reversed.
Gillers expressed the profound message that our human responsibility toward the Earth involves immense pride, protection, and liability. He passionately discussed how we can propel our human duty through certain actions. Some examples of these actions include creating community gardens, getting outside more, and teaching schools about the importance of caring for the environment. For the students of YU, environmental action can be anything from getting involved with local organizations to keeping in mind the importance of caring for the environment as we navigate our future careers.
Gillers concluded the discussion by emphasizing the importance of being both an Orthodox Jew and an environmentalist. He explained how each one of us should keep in mind our pivotal role in how we can care for the environment wherever our futures take us. In every profession, from business, to engineering, to education, Gillers explained why the environment should always be at the forefront of our minds.
Gillers’ message clearly reached the hearts of those who attended his presentation. One student participant, Molly Cate (SCW ‘23), commented “it was so inspiring to hear how we as Jewish youth can have an impact on environmental awareness.” The club’s president, Yaacov Strickon (YC ‘24), shared similar sentiments that “it was amazing to see people come together to focus on a theme in Torah that is underrepresented in traditional study.” Overall, the event was a great success that pivoted a chain of environmental pride and respect in the YU community.
Thank you to everyone who came to this event to hear how Torah and environmental action are greatly intertwined. Thank you also to Mr. Gillers for speaking and handing out some “Grow Torah” swag! Join the Environmental Club on our hike at Van Cortlandt Park on Sunday, April 10, 2022, and stay tuned for more events!