The Valley Stream Jewish Center, in conjunction with the Malverne Jewish Center, will host a bagel brunch featuring Lynda Kraar, development consultant for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. The event, which will be held on Jan. 20, also marks Tu BiShvat, a Jewish holiday that aims to raise environmental awareness. Trees are typically planted in Israel as part of the celebration and to commemorate family and friends.
“Planting trees is essential to a healthy ecosystem,” said Rabbi Susan Elkodsi, spiritual leader of the Malverne Jewish Center. “This is also a way of connecting American Jews to the land of Israel by planting these trees virtually.”
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel works with the Jewish National Fund to collect funds to support environmental efforts there. Founded in 1953, SPNI is dedicated to protecting and preserving Israel’s natural resources, environment, biodiversity and landscape. Kraar said that because of the dry environment, growing plants is a challenge, so donations are needed. “The land in Israel is uninhabitable,” she said. “It’s difficult to grow plants there because of the rocky land.”
Kraar said she also planned to discuss SPNI’s efforts to help Israel reduce air and water pollution. The effects of that pollution on the Western Hemisphere might not be apparent, she said, but everything is connected, and the pollution could spread slowly.
“Israel is a Western country in an Eastern region,” Kraar said. “Things that haven’t caught on in the East include garbage disposal, and they don’t really understand how to manage garbage.”
She added that some people who live in the Western Hemisphere believe that whatever pollution occurs in the Middle East won’t impact them. Kraar said she hoped that through SPNI, she can change people’s minds. “It’s very important, not just for Jewish people, but for people to be empathic about the plight of a world where we know for sure that global warming is a real thing,” she said. “Israel is like a canary in the coal mine when it comes to environmental issues.”
Elkodsi said that Rabbi Yechiel Buchband, spiritual leader of the Valley Stream Jewish Center, proposed the idea of the brunch, and that he thought it would be a way to encourage people in their communities to care for others.
“No matter how people are different, we all share earth, air and water,” Elkodsi said. “What we do here affects what’s happening in other areas, so the idea for this event is to educate people about what’s going on in Israel with respects to caring for nature and the environment.”
The event will be held at the Valley Stream Jewish Center, at 322 N. Corona Ave., at 10:30 a.m., and is free of charge.
“We’re a small planet, and it’s not as big as we think,” Kraar said. “The more we can get away from politicizing everything, the better off we’ll be. We can bring the world together as neighbors, and not enemies, through nature.”