This past shabbas (and even afterwards), I attended Canfei Nesharim's third annual shabbaton in Hillside (Elizabeth), NJ (I had also attended last year's shabbaton in Silver Spring (Kent Mill), MD (prior to going to the COEJL conference) (during their first shabbaton in Boston, I was in Israel, so that was out of the question)), entitled "Spring Forward in Hillside: A Fresh Look at the Environment through the Lens of Halacha". It was held primarily at Adath Israel.
It was a mixture of meals and presentations. The food was good, having been catered, so no complaints there. The two most significant talks were given after lunch on shabbas day, the first given by Ora Sheinson on "Am I My Brother's Keeper?", a talk on the need to be concerned with one's neighbors, from a perspective borne out of Jewish texts, a concern that's especially relevant in today's continually growing global world. The other was "Environmentalism min haTorah minayin?" (Where is Environmentalism to be found in the Torah?), given by Rabbi Shmuel Simenowitz, which dealt with, among other topics, how one weighs up Torah values and environmental values when they conflict - his answer was that they don't.
There were a couple of other programs, but I felt that this wasn't so much of a conference on Jewish environmentalism as it was a gathering of Orthodox Jews concerned about the environment. Not equally concerned, mind you, as there were varying levels, but I didn't sense that anybody was super-crazy radical environmentalist, but trying to be sensical about it.
An interesting thing was what we used with the food. Although we used recycled paper plates - nothing special there, we also used potato starch utensils and sugarcane leaf cups. Definitely neat stuff (I think they got it from www.greenhome.com, but the link doesn't seem to be working at this time.).
Tags: Canfei Nesharim, Canfei Nesharim shabbaton, Jewish environmentalism, environmentalism, Jewish Orthodox environmentalism