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A Commitment to Stewardship at Temple Sinai

by Ruth Marchetti

photo by H. Robert Herman

Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish congregation, is just over the Brighton border, but still very much a part of the Penfield community. The building is striking; it seems almost to grow out of the woods that surround it. From inside, the ivy winding up the chapel walls blends with the view through the glass. It’s not surprising that congregants at Temple Sinai have embraced a tradition of stewardship and partnership in the ongoing work of Creation that goes back to Genesis.

Temple Sinai’s “Green Team” founder, Penfield resident Joyce Herman, points out that an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew Scriptures says “Do not destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to make it right again.” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). Joyce explains, “Guided in part by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and inspired by our beautiful structure that seems part of nature itself, we are urged not only to advocate for the environment, but to take action steps in our personal and congregational lives.”

According to Jackie Ebner who currently leads the green team, Temple Sinai leaders have worked hard to become energy efficient and offer ways to help congregants live more sustainably. In 2008-2009, a grant from what is now called the NYSERDA FlexTech program helped to cover the implementation costs of energy efficiency retrofits to heating, cooling and lighting systems suggested by an energy audit. At the same time the congregation took other steps including the rabbi incorporating green tips into her teachings, the congregation class installing a new bike rack, and the green team placing signs to remind people not to idle their cars in the parking lot.

More recently, the temple and many members became community solar customers, saving significantly on their electric bills and receiving a donation for the temple that was used to fund kitchen composting at the temple through Impact Earth. Until the pandemic closed down in-person activities, Temple Sinai also participated in Impact Earth’s composting program, as a drop-off site for members to exchange their own compost buckets.

Get information about household and worship site energy audits, composting, community solar and more at

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