How will you be light and spread light this holiday season? I am honored to share with Tablet Magazine about seizing the opportunity to positively impact people and planet through the canvas of Hanukkah!
The New Faces of Chanukah: Meet Eight Leaders Striving to #BeTheLight
by Sara Ivry
This article is featured in the December edition of The Slice, a monthly digest created in partnership with Tablet Magazine that offers news, stories, ideas and opportunities—with a Jewish twist.
Just 24 years old, California native Erin Schrode is fearless. Earlier this year, she was so moved by stories of Syrians fleeing war and wreckage in their homeland that she grabbed a friend, applied her frequent flier miles and headed to the north coast of the Greek island Lesbos to see how she could help out on her own as a “quasi-renegade,” since no relief agencies were taking volunteers.
“What struck me most is what would it take for me to pick up and leave everything I know, everything I have that’s familiar behind and get in a boat,” she said. She distributed sneakers and dry clothes, and “I just hugged them–I recognized human dignity, our shared values and humanity.”
She headed to the region again right before Thanksgiving, proving that Schrode is nothing if not an impassioned missioner for the causes she believes in—squeezing in volunteerism and humanitarian relief amid an already hectic schedule as a long-time champion of living an eco-friendly life.
“I live a green life 24-7, 365,” she explained on the phone while visiting California, where she grew up. In 2005, she co-founded Turning Green, a non-profit devoted to living an eco-friendly life, with her mother. She sees holidays like Chanukah as a perfect opportunity to awaken consciousness about the ways to honor the environment during seasonal celebrations. Specifically, that means eating fair trade chocolate gelt and vegan latkes, using newspapers to wrap presents, lighting beeswax candles with organic cotton wicks in hanukkiahs made with spools and nuts you likely already have in your house—and most importantly, doing a mitzvah a day for the duration of the holiday.
“Simchas and holidays are a new opportunity for me to figure out how to do better by people and the planet,” she said. “Chanukah is so perfect: it’s eight days, eight simple steps. It’s a time when you’re already doing something new, you’re already introducing something, why not make that as green as can be?”
This year, Schrode’s adding a little something more to her celebration. She’s bringing together a group of Jewish and non-Jewish friends for “Women in the Kitchen, Hanukkah Edition,” that hearkens to her most treasured childhood memories of her grandmother, mother and aunts cooking the same things every year. The women will enjoy tri-colore latkes, apple sauce from local produce, cashew sour cream, biodynamic wine and other delights. They’ll light the candles, sing Chanukah songs and generally have a ball.
“I love community and that is a tenet of my relationship to my faith,” she said. Moreover, “I can’t do anything without infusing it with green. It’s physically impossible to me…For me to get to tell people this is how a green girl celebrates Chanukah but you can adapt any of into your own life”—that’s what she hopes will be one sweet take-away of the Festival of Lights.
Make sure to read more about this month's featured leaders at Schusterman.org!