Aytzim (meaning "trees" in Hebrew), formerly Green Zionist Alliance (GZA), is a New York-based Jewish environmental organization that is a U.S.-registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity. A grassroots all-volunteer organization, Aytzim is active in the United States, Canada and Israel. The organization is a former member of the American Zionist Movement and has worked in partnership with Ameinu, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), Hazon, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Interfaith Oceans, the Jewish National Fund, GreenFaith, Mercaz/Masorti (Conservative Judaism), and the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care. Aytzim's work at the nexus of Judaism, environmentalism and Zionism has courted controversy from both Jewish and non-Jewish groups (see below section on criticism).
|Legal status||501(c)(3) nonprofit NGO|
|Purpose||Jewish environmentalism, Green Zionism|
|Headquarters||New York City|
|Methods||Education, Advocacy and Public-Policy Formation|
|Fields||Sustainability, Nature, Conservation, Water, Energy, Biodiversity, Ecology, Climate Change, Judaism and Israel|
Aytzim has five projects:
- EcoJews of the Bay
- Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel (The organization's former name is now used as a project name.)
- Jewcology: Home of the Jewish Environmental Movement
- Jews of the Earth
Jews of the Earth organizes Jews locally and nationally for environmental action.
- Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth
An environmental-advocacy group that Aytzim runs in partnership with GreenFaith, Shomrei Breishit includes more than 100 Jewish clergy, including chief rabbis.
Aytzim also runs an internship program; hosts an English-language compilation of educational materials, research papers, academic papers, news articles, videos and books about Israel's environment; and has student chapters, including "Yovel: Aytzim at NYU."
Aytzim has been criticized (predominately by the conservative Hudson Institute historian Arthur Herman) for its stance against hydrofracking, with Herman labeling the GZA in the New York Post as "running against the tide of technology." The organization also has been criticized for its support of environmentalism and tikkun olam. Others have been critical of Aytzim's stance against BDS; for greenwashing Israel; for participating in the People's Climate March; for associating with Israel and Zionism; for working with Jewish National Fund; and for its participation in a process that largely favors Israel's political status quo. Some individuals have criticized the GZA for its promotion of community gardens, charging that making community gardens more widely available is patronizing to the public. Others see Zionism's mission as finished with the establishment of the modern state of Israel and they question the relevance of the entire system of legacy Zionist organizations formed by the World Zionist Organization and its constituent agencies.
The Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) was founded in 2001 by Alon Tal, Eilon Schwartz and Rabbi Michael Cohen, with a large team of other volunteers, including Adam Werbach, Devra Davis and current Aytzim leadership. In 2002 it became the first environmental party at the World Zionist Congress, where it has had elected representation since. Through this process, the organization succeeded in the appointment of environmental leaders, including Tal and Schwartz, to the board of the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael (KKL / Jewish National Fund in Israel). For more than a dozen years, Aytzim representation has included Tal and Orr Karassin.
In 2006 the GZA incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
In late Sept. 2014, the GZA acquired Jewcology.org from fellow Jewish-environmental group Canfei Nesharim and, in partnership with GreenFaith, launched a Jewish-clergical environmental advocacy group called Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth. To better reflect the scope of the organization's work, the GZA rebranded itself as Aytzim, keeping the Green Zionist Alliance name both legally and for its Israel-focused work.
Aytzim has had many prominent Jewish leaders serve on its Green Zionist Alliance slates for the World Zionist Congress, including Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Mirele Goldsmith, Susannah Heschel, Nigel Savage, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Richard H. Schwartz, Rabbi Marc Soloway, Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and Laurie Zoloth.
The Aytzim advisory board includes former Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur and Daniel Orenstein, a faculty member at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
Since its founding as the Green Zionist Alliance, Aytzim has been a key factor in the greening of Israeli policy, both internally and in its interactions with other countries. Aytzim's accomplishments include:
- Quadrupling funding for afforestation;
- Building new bicycle lanes in Israel;
- Developing an environmental program for villagers in Rwanda;
- Saving the unique ecosystem of the Samar sand dunes in the Arava Valley from destruction;
- A successful effort to stop hydrofracking of oil shale in Israel's Elah Valley, and to ban all fossil-fuel extraction on land owned by Jewish National Fund in Israel;
- A successful effort to increase the public share of profits from Israel's offshore natural-gas fields;
- The installation of rooftop energy-generating solar panels and indoor energy-efficient lighting;
- The planned transition of vehicles in the fleets of quasi-governmental organizations, such as Jewish National Fund, to high fuel-efficiency and alternative-fuel models;
- The development of seven-year environmental plans, inspired by the shmita sabbatical cycle, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Israel;
- The inclusion of environmental education for new immigrants to Israel;
- The development of community gardens at immigrant-housing centers;
- Increased support for in-country carbon-mitigating projects;
- Increased support for local organic agriculture.
Activist and Educational CampaignsEdit
Aytzim has been engaged in many campaigns to both protect and educate about the environment, including:
- Publication of the Jewish Energy Guide, a 50-article resource on energy issues from a Jewish perspective produced in partnership with the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life;
- Development of an Ethic of the Seas in partnership with the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care;
- Filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the “Our Children’s Trust” case.
- Support for the Green New Deal;
- Support for a cross-country Jewish environmental-education campaign;
- Support for finalization of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants;
- Support for inclusion of greenhouse gases in consideration of the Endangered Species Act;
- An effort to support Israel's forests in the wake of the worst forest fire in the country's history;
- An effort to develop an interconnected network of individuals, organizations and communities working to create a healthier and more sustainable world rooted in the values of the shmita cycle;
- An unsuccessful effort to prevent further demolition of the Bedouin village of Al Arakib in Israel's Negev region;
- Opposing Israel's proposed "Nation-State Bill";
- Opposing cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) proposed in the U.S. Farm Bill.
- Partnering with 160 other groups, including primary organizers the Sierra Club, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus, on the "Forward on Climate" initiative;
- Partnering with musician Natalie Merchant, actor Mark Ruffalo and more than 200 other groups – including MoveOn, Friends of the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network – in the Food & Water Watch-organized New Yorkers Against Fracking coalition;
- Partnering with hundreds of other groups on the People's Climate March in both 2014 (New York) and 2017 (Washington);
- Partnering with hundreds of other groups on the March for a Clean Energy Revolution;
- Partnering with a dozen other faith-based environmental organizations – including Franciscan Action Network and GreenFaith – on the Sacred Earth project;
- Partnering with 14 other Jewish organizations – including Hazon, COEJL and the Religious Action Center – in founding the Green Hevra, a network of Jewish-environmental organizations;
- Endorsing a Jewish community-wide transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy;
- Supporting efforts to combat antisemitism;
- And an unsuccessful effort to green the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
- "Code of Ethics". Aytzim.
- "GZA Partner Organizations". Aytzim.
- "EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: AYTZIM: ECOLOGICAL JUDAISM".
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- Udasin, Sharon (23 October 2015). "Zionist Congress passes two green resolutions". The Jerusalem Post.
- ""Dig into Jewcology" (Jewcology stats)". Jewcology.org.
- "Members of Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth". Aytzim.
- "Internships". Aytzim.
- "Resources". Aytzim.
- "Yovel: The Green Zionist Alliance @ NYU". New York University.
- Herman, Arthur (1 March 2014). "Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower?". Commentary.
- Herman, Arthur (1 March 2014). "Will Israel Be the Next Energy Superpower?". Hudson Institute.
- Herman, Arthur (27 January 2013). "Fracking means a new Middle East: Fracking to upend oil game". New York Post.
- Neumann, Jonathan (2018). "To Heal the World? How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel". All Points Books.
- Kaufman, Alan (20 December 2005). "ISRAELI DIVESTMENT AND BOYCOTT". Green Party of the United States.
- Soiffer, Jake (13 October 2014). "Cal Student Perspectives from People's Climate March, Part II". University of California, Berkeley.
- Sasa, Ghada (2017). "Israel: Greenwashing Colonialism and Apartheid". York University. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
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- Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at UW (29 November 2018). "SUPER UW condemns Jackson School's speaker, Alon Tal". The Daily of the University of Washington.
- Levi9909 (5 June 2006). "Not seeing the wood for the trees". Jews sans frontieres: An Anti-Zionist blog.
- Hasson, Nir (16 June 2010). "Head to Head / Hagai Merom, has the time come for the World Zionist Organization to end its historic role?". Haaretz.
- Berger, Paul (16 June 2010). "Enter the Green Zionists". The Forward.
- Rubin, Debra (18 October 2010). "Green rabbi: Environment key to Mideast peace". New Jersey Jewish News.
- Samber, Sharon (11 January 2002). "Environmental Slate Tries to Prove It's Easy to Be Both Green and Zionist". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- "GZA Co-Founders". Aytzim.
- Winer, Stuart (19 June 2002). "Greens represented at Zionist Congress". Jerusalem Post.
- "MERCAZ-GZA Partnership Provide Strong Environmental Voice on KKL Board". Mercaz USA. Summer 2007.
- "Establishing Israel as a Model in Environmentalism". The Charles Bronfman Prize. 2005. Archived from the original on 31 March 2018. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
- Troster, Lawrence (17 September 2014). "Climate crisis insists we pray with our feet". New Jersey Jewish News.
- "World Zionist Congress Slates". Aytzim.
- Kessler, E.J. (25 November 2005). "Zionist Election Has High Stakes, Strange Pairings". The Forward.
- Sieradski, Daniel (14 January 2006). "Elect Your Reps for the 35th World Zionist Congress". JewSchool.
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- Soloway, Marc (19 January 2015). "Vote for a Green Israel in the Parliament of the Jewish People". Boulder Jewish News.
- "Advisory Board". Aytzim.
- Krantz, David (5 February 2012). "Bittersweet Victory: Most of Samar Saved". Jewcology.
- Krantz, David (1 May 2011). "Israel: The New Saudi Arabia?". Jewcology.
- Laylin, Tafline (5 March 2013). "Saudi Turns to Solar, Israel Stuck on Shale". Green Prophet.
- Krantz, David (4 February 2011). "Power to the People? Energy Battle in Israel Pits Firms vs. Public Interest". Jewcology.
- Bronner, Ethan (30 March 2011). "Israel: Doubling Tax on Energy". The New York Times.
- Zion Waldoks, Ehud (18 June 2010). "WZO to boost environmental practices". The Jerusalem Post.
- "Jewish Energy Guide". Aytzim.
- Krantz, David (19 December 2012). "Tikkun HaYam: Saving the Sea". Aytzim.
- "BRIEF OF FAITH GROUPS AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS SEEKING REVERSAL" (PDF). U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 12 November 2013.
- "Progressive Green New Deal Letter to Congress" (PDF). Friends of the Earth. 10 January 2019.
- "Support for the Energy Innovation AND Carbon Dividend Act". Citizens' Climate Lobby.
- Richman, Jackson (26 February 2019). "Green New Deal draws heated Jewish responses to tackling climate change". Jewish News Syndicate.
- "Supporting Groups". Green New Deal Coalition.
- Krantz, David (11 February 2011). "Topsy-Turvy World: Environmental Campaign Relaunched". Jewcology.
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- "ORGANIZATIONAL SIGN ON LETTER". Center for Biological Diversity. 18 June 2012.
- Krantz, David (6 December 2010). "After the fire: It's time to help – and heal". Jewcology.
- "Shmita Network". Hazon.
- Krantz, David (17 March 2011). "Trees without Bulldozers: Environmental Justice for the Bedouin". Jewcology.
- Sommer, Allison Kaplan (15 July 2018). "'Racist and Discriminatory': U.S. Jewish Leaders Warn Israel Against Passage of Nation-state Bill". Haaretz.
- "Israeli Knesset passes controversial Nation State Bill". Jewish News (of Great Britain) / The Times of Israel. 19 July 2018.
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- Nemes, Hody (21 February 2013). "Over 100 Jewish Groups Join People's Climate March in New York". The Forward.
- "Endorsing Organizations". March for a Clean Energy Revolution.
- "Partners". Sacred Earth. Archived from the original on 27 March 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Oster, Marcy (19 April 2012). "Coalition of U.S. Jewish environmental groups gets major funding". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- Seidenberg, David; Sanchez, Sybil (4 April 2013). "Jews should back clean energy, not dirty future". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.
- "Letter to Congressional Leaders Regarding Global Anti-Semitism Bills". Anti-Defamation League. 28 November 2018.
- Krantz, David (15 November 2010). "Turning the General Assembly into a Green Assembly". Jewcology.
- Jerusalem Post: The Value of Voting for Aytzim
- Jerusalem Post: How many Zionists does it take to change a light bulb?
- Jerusalem Post: WZO to boost environmental practices
- The Jewish Daily Forward: Enter the Green Zionists
- J. Weekly: Eco-Israel retreat reaches out to 'green' Jews
- Tikkun Magazine: The Green Zionist Alliance: The Acorn That Acted Like a Tree
- Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Green suffuses Zionist congress
- The Jewish Daily Forward: Keeping the Land of Milk and Honey Pollution-free
- Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Environmental slate tries to prove it's easy to be both green and Zionist
- The Jewish Daily Forward: A Green Cure for Zionism's Blues