Let Me Count the Ways: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In honor and in memory of Judy Kaskel.

Last year, Carol Oseran Starin retired her column of collected Jewish teaching ideas, Let Me Count the Ways. This week, she asked if she could bring the column back for a special edition in honor of Judy Kaskel. Judy was a member of Carol’s “advisory committee” who helped make the column come to life, and she was an important part of Carol’s annual “Five Things Extravaganza” at the CAJE Conference.

by Carol Oseran Starin

Who could forget Judy? For those of you who participated in our last few CAJE Extravaganzas, Judy was our star. Her commitment to recycling and her sample projects, combined with her humor and charming approach pretty much tore the house down. Her commitment to CAJE was incredible.

Judy died two weeks ago. I’ll never forget her – she was such an inspiration to me – trudging around those vast university campuses, even when breathing was difficult for her. And, from the responses to our workshop, she was an inspiration to all of us. This special column is dedicated to her.

Judy always quoted Jeremiah 15:19 as the inspiration for her commitment to reuse and recycle:

If you produce something noble, out of something worthless,
You shall be MY spokesperson.

I invited some of our “Five Things Extravaganza” colleagues to submit ideas for ways we can follow Judy’s example and continue to be God’s spokespeople.

Here are their best ideas:

1. From Laurie Bellet:

Here at Oakland Hebrew Day School we make our own water color paints from old dried out markers. Every teacher sends their dried up markers to me in the art studio. The children use needle nose pliers to open the markers and remove the wick. They put the wicks into Rubbermaid containers; I add some rubbing alcohol to brighten the colors and prevent mold. Then…we use the empty marker casing to make a mezzuzah. The children wrap the marker tube to a craft stick with masking tape. Then they paint or decoupage it to make a mezzuzah.

We also use glass from shattered automobile windshields to make fantastic mosaics. Paint a piece of mat board (discarded from a framing store) with a bright design or collage colorful papers onto the mat board. Apply tacky glue to a small part of the art piece and place the glass onto the glue (which dries clear).

2. From Dale Cooperman

I tend to advocate for “doing art” with young children, not arts and crafts. Here’s what we are actually in the midst of right now. This ongoing project incorporates several concepts, including the recycle, reuse, reduce, math, science and art – and uses only components that are either recycled or recyclable.

One of our youth groups has begun a social action project and has placed recycling bins in all of our preschool classrooms, so we are having ongoing discussions about recycling and its importance.

The actual project began with what children “know” about art. We moved from Matisse-like sketches and the understanding of some kinds of art being 2 dimensional.
We’ve introduced “sculpture” as being 3 dimensional. And so, with styrofoam and other components brought from their home recycling bins, we are in the midst of creating what are turning out to be fabulously and brightly colored sculptures that will hang in our hallways.

3. From Carol Starin

Timing is everything. Just yesterday I read about JTA’s Eco Jews: Trends and Traditions in Jewish Environmentalism, a special section at JTA.org. Go to the website and read all the wonderful ideas. I was particularly interest in the story about about “Sustainable Dave.”

Dave Chameides, an environmental educator, said:

I realized that the only way to really evaluate my waste footprint was to stop. Stop throwing things “away” and start looking at what I was actually leaving behind. I figured recycling, while better than trashing something, still uses resources, energy and creates waste, so I decided to stop recycling as well. Essentially I took a pledge to keep all of my trash and recycling for one solid year and see what happened. And that’s just what I did.

What would it look like if an entire class kept all its trash & recycling for a school year? What lessons could you teach?

4. From Marian Gorman:

Recycle your questions. Honor your teachers by listening to their answers. Make a bulletin board, featuring those answers, and ask your teachers and your students and your parents to continue to contribute. Who knows where it will lead? This week, I asked my teachers, “Do you have any good recycling ideas?” Other good questions are:
What happened in your class today that made you grin? What’s something that you used once or twice and meant to use again, but didn’t?

5. From Linda Kirsch:

We have places recycling bins located in several places in our school hallways. One of the parent of our alternative family school Bayit To Bayit has connected with Second Harvest. Her family collects all of our recyclables and the money they collect is donated to Second Harvest which in turn, helps them stock their shelves and feed the hungry in our county.

Our teachers do art projects using old magazines and newspapers. Recently for a special Shabbat morning experience, the students studied the Shema and V’ahavta and then, using old magazines and newspapers, designed a page showing what the prayer means to them. They presented their art to the adults of our Torah Study group.

In the past, we might have purchased special art paper when we did painting projects. Now, we re-use old flyers and assorted printer paper and newspaper for those projects.

6. From Adrian Durlester

Recycling comes naturally to Jews. Consider that we’ve been recycling the same basic core text (Torah) for at least a few thousand years. True, we’ve done a little marginal note scribbling, amplification, enhancing, etc. over the years, yet, when it gets right down to it, we just keep recycling the same text over and over each year. Unlike the storied piece of cloth that keeps getting made into smaller and smaller objects, recycling the Torah doesn’t seem to shrink it at all-if anything, it grows each time it is turned anew. How is this amazing feat possible? Each of us may have our own answer. Whatever that answer is, find ways to apply it in your work, your classroom, your school. Consider this-there are many teachers, both novice and veteran, who shudder at the thought of re-using a lesson, lesson plan, project, etc. again. No class is ever the same as the one before is their creed. Make it new, fresh, and let it challenge you as a teacher. There are as many, both novice and veteran, who will reuse lessons and lesson plans over and over-recycling them, in effect. If it works, use it again, is their creed. For them, the challenge as a teacher is to reuse the materials without their coming off stale. Still others strike a healthy balance, recycling lessons, lesson plans, and projects in alternate years or other cycles that work best in their setting. The Rambam would be proud of them for their ability to find that middle ground. Their challenge is finding that balance.

As you think of ways to recycle, reuse and renew, consider how intrinsic the very concept is to Judaism with our annual cycle of Torah reading. When the task seems too difficult, remember how you last found a way to read/hear/understand the words of Torah yet again. When the task seems too easy, remember how you last found yourself at a loss to find a new or different understanding of the words of Torah as they cycled around again. When the task seems just right…don’t worry, something will come along to create a challenge. Now, when your challenges begin recycling, you have truly earned the title of sage.

Judy Kaskel will be greatly missed. Her memory will always be a blessing.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:2-23)