Israel might be on the cutting edge of biotech and medical science, but when it came to recycling, the country needed a little help. Cue Henry Goodelman, who was studying at Aish HaTorah yeshiva in the Old City in Jerusalem when he noticed there was little access to recycling. In his yeshiva dormitory where over 100 young men lived, for instance, plastic bottles quickly piled up each day, with no sustainable place to go.
“I encouraged a few of my peers to create a recycling program in the other Aish dorms and some of the main buildings of the Old City,” explained Goodelman, “and I was gratified to see how quickly the press picked it up and by the generally positive response to the initiative.” For Goodelman, a native of Philadelphia, recycling is part of the community’s obligation to engage in tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Goodelman formally founded ReJews, an initiative that promotes recycling in Jewish organizations and buildings around the world, in 2013. By signing up, Jewish organizations receive free ReJews branded recycling receptacles and are eligible for rewards by reporting on recycling data.
Goodelman now lives in Brooklyn, but ReJews is not confined to an office in a single borough—Goodelman likens his organization to major companies like Airbnb and Uber. “Uber doesn’t own any cabs, yet it’s the biggest taxi company in the world,” he explained. “ReJews aims to be like that in that it is based wherever there are organizations and businesses that use plastic bottles.” Goodelman has partnered with major corporate sponsors like Google, GoDaddy, and Walgreens to share benefits with participating groups and Chosen Organization members (companies that register with ReJews) as a reward for their commitment to recycle.
Goodelman works full-time as an admissions counselor at Touro College, so it’s a balancing act running ReJews in addition to his professional responsibilities. But, he said, the payoff is worth it.
“How Jews go about tikkun olam varies, and ReJews is my attempt to help both my community and the world in which it lives,” he said simply.
Something Phishy: Goodelman’s passion for recycling and love for the music of Phish helped get him a mention in Rolling Stone: ReJews helped run a sustainable campsite at a Phish music festival, and earned a mention by a reporter for the publication who was covering the concert.