Category Archives: Green Buildings

JRC’s Conscious Choice

JRC’s new green synagogue building was spotlighted in this nice feature from Conscious Choice Magazine last April. A few corrections though:

– We have not yet been certified by the US Green Building Council. We continue to hope for a Platinum rating and expect receive final word in a few months.

– The rubble in our gabion walls is not recycled from our old building but from other demolished buildings.

– Our building is not made of 96% recycled materials – rather, 96% of our old building was reclaimed and recycled for other uses.

What’s Your Footprint?

Just finished playing an on-line quiz called “Consumer Consequences” – a test sponsored by American Public Media that helps you determine your personal environmental footprint. Based on your consumer habits in various categories (i.e. use of public transportation, energy bills, eating consumption, trash disposal) the quiz calculates how many earths it would take to sustain your personal lifestyle.

I’ll warn you ahead of time: your results will sober you up. To state the obvious, the earth simply wouldn’t be able to support its 6.6 million residents if everyone lived like a typical over-consuming American. (A critical statistic: we Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population, but consume 25% of the world’s energy).

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the test itself is actually pretty fun to take (they even let you pick a goofy avatar persona). Along the way it also includes important insights about American consumption and tips on how you can reduce your footprint. One especially interesting feature: you can compare your footprint with reporters from various American Public Media programs. (Full disclosure: mine is almost equivalent to the the footprint of Krista Tippett, host of “Speaking of Faith“).

The Greener Grass of Baseball

I recently read that the Washington Nationals brand-new ballpark is the first baseball stadium to achieve LEED certification (Silver) from the US Green Building Council. Among the notable green amenities at Nationals Park: drought resistant landscaping, low-VOC paints, a water filtration system to minimize pollution into nearby Anacostia River and a 6,300 square foot green roof beyond left field to collect rainwater and help cool the roof on hot days.

But the Nationals aren’t the only ballclub playing on greener grass these days. It was also reported that the San Francisco Giants recently installed 590 solar panels on the outside of AT&T Park to power their new scoreboard, among other things. And how about this: the World Champ Boston Red Sox have just teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council to make Fenway Park more eco-conscious. Their five-year plan includes an improved recycling program, local grown organic produce at concession stands, and solar power heating for chilly night games.

(Meanwhile, as I write this, the Cubs are on the verge of blowing a 7-0 lead to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ah, the rites of spring…)

JRC News and Reviews


Here are three recent articles about JRC’s new green synagogue building:

A review by the Chicago Tribune’s architectural critic, Blair Kamin:

Green architecture is all the rage today, but a LEED-rated building is more a technical achievement than a work of artistry. This adventurous synagogue doesn’t match the aesthetic standard set by the great Spertus building, but at its best, it fuses the structural, the sustainable and the spiritual into a powerful whole. A blessed thing, that, because it adds a rich new sense of possibility to the no-rules field of Jewish architecture.

A feature in the Chicago Jewish News (you have to scroll down a bit to read it…):

(Rabbi) Rosen, who shepherded the project from inception to completion, said being in the building at last was “an indescribable feeling. It feels like we’ve come home,” he said in a recent phone conversation. “We’re back in Evanston, in the home we’ve been working so hard to build and dreaming of for so long.” Numerous congregants played crucial roles in bringing the dream to fulfillment, he said.

But, he added, now he and the congregation have another part to play: being a role model to other congregations. “As wonderful as it is for our congregation to receive these kudos, that is secondary. We want to be a role model for other congregations, to create a movement. That’s what this is all about,” he said.

This piece in the Evanston Review:

The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation achieved much more than a construction goal in erecting a new synagogue, built upon the site of the former house of worship at 303 Dodge Ave.

The congregation, known for its social action efforts, also sought to embody members’ commitment to Tikkun HaNefesh V’Olam — a principle in Judaism that speaks of the healing and repair of the individual and world at large — in erecting what is regarded as the “most environmentally conscious synagogue in North America.”

JRC Comes Home


Yesterday was a day of celebration that JRC will never forget. On the coldest day of the winter, (6 degrees, wind chill of -21) several hundred JRC members generated abundant warmth together as we moved into our new synagogue home at 303 Dodge, Evanston. That’s us above, making our first motzi in our new building. But I’m getting ahead of myself…


We first gathered in the cafeteria of Chute Middle School, (site of one of JRC’s earlier temporary locations in the 1970s) and took out our Torah scrolls with a brief service. Then, covered with many fleecy layers, carrying our four Torah scrolls under a huppah, we processed out into the frozen Evanston streets to walk some six blocks to 303 Dodge. (Earlier in the morning, several brave JRC souls actually carried two of the scrolls nearly four miles from our most recent temporary location, Sha’arei Tikvah!)



When we arrived at JRC, we found several hundred more JRCers waiting for us at the building. We stopped at the entrance, sang “Pitchu Li” (“Open for me the gates of righteousness…”), affixed our mezuzah with a blessing, and entered our new home for the first time.



We ascended to the third floor, and sang and danced together for what seemed like an eternity to live music provided by JRC’s house klezmer band, Heavy Shtetl. We then placed the Torah scrolls in our new ark (see pix at the bottom – more on that in a bit.) After hearing heartfelt words from JRC president David Pinzur, I addressed the crowd, then we did our first communal kiddush and motzi together in our new home (after which the Cantor and I dropped the challah and spilled the wine on the bimah…) We then spent the rest of the afternoon, sharing food, going on self-guided tours of our new green facility, and just spending great quality time together.



Below you’ll find some pix of our beautiful new ark which was installed in our sanctuary late Saturday evening, just in time for the celebration. It was designed and constructed by Maryland-based metalsmith/craftsman David Bacharach. We were delighted that David was able to join us for the festivities (as were architects Carol Ross-Barney and Michael Ross.)

Words cannot describe the level of joy our JRC family felt on this day. It was, without question, a once in a lifetime experience for us all. But the sweetest part is knowing what is yet to come. Up until now, this has only been a building – now that it has been filled with our bodies and souls it is truly sacred sacred space. We are all so humbled at what we have accomplished and so profoundly excited about the many sacred memories that will fill these four walls in the years ahead.

Thus ends my last official JRC Construction Diary post. Of course, it is really only just the beginning…

(For a nice Fox News Chicago report on JRC’s gala move-in day, click here.)




What Makes a Green Shul Green?


JRC will be moving home this Sunday! If you’ve been reading my JRC Construction Diary updates over this past year and a half, you must surely know what a long, powerful trip this has been for our congregational community. And you will also know that our new synagogue building is a green shul, having been built according to sacred Jewish values of environmental sustainability.

What makes a green shul green, you may ask? Click below for your own personal tour…

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JRC Construction Diary #30


Things are getting exciting as the contractor puts the final touches on JRC’s new home. They are looking to finish the bulk of the work this week so that we can get ready for an upcoming indoor air quality test, a requirement of LEED certification by the US Green Building Council.

The picture above shows the cypress that wraps along the ceiling of our first floor chapel. The shot below shows the cypress slats that have installed along the sanctuary wall. Just to make things official, our name went up on one of the gabion walls in front of the building (second pic down) and beneath this you can see our front entryway. It features a ceremonial door made of reclaimed maple trees from our former site. The last two pix offer views of the kitchen and of a men’s room respectively.

The big move will take place during the first week in February. On 2/8-9 we will hold our final Shabbat services in our temporary site (Shaarei Tikvah in Chicago) then on Sunday, February 10, we will joyfully process with JRC Torah scrolls as we bring them to our new home!

Stay tuned for more…