From the head coverings made of recycled cardboard to the candlelit sanctuary, a Jewish student group at the State University of New York at New Paltz is following a commemoration of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with an environmentally-based message to perfect the world.

According to students affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Student Center in New Paltz, the Shabbat observances this Friday night will include a home-cooked meal served on bio-compostable serving-ware and reusable tablecloths, and made from locally-grown produce. A student’s startup zero-emissions delivery service, Sidney Gittleman’s Zero-Footprint Courier, will deliver supplies by bicycle prior to the onset of Shabbat.

Rabbi Moshe and Bracha Plotkin, the center’s directors, said that discussions around the table will focus on the Torah’s teachings on caring for the environment.

“An important concept in Judaism is bal tashchit, which means to ‘not waste.’ Destroying and wasting a useful item is considered to be a sin,” explained Moshe Plotkin, whose center recently completed an environmentally-friendly renovation project. “The concept actually comes from the Torah, which forbids destroying a tree in a time of war. Our rabbis have extended this law to include any wasteful act.”

Services are scheduled to begin before sunset with a Shabbat candle-lighting ceremony and Sept. 11 memorial. The candles will then be used in place of the electronic lights in the main hall and sanctuary.

Students enjoy a midweek program at the Chabad House.
Students enjoy a midweek program at the Chabad House.

After prayer services, students will sit down for a first at the Chabad House, a completely vegan meal.

Students and alumni praised the culinary effort, which grew out of always providing vegetarian options to students.

“While Judaism does not advocate vegetarianism per se,” said alum Matt Averbach, “learning with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin, I came to identify many attitudes in the Torah that were right in line with my chosen lifestyle.”

“Actually, as a vegetarian myself,” added senior Elizabeth Rohan, “I look forward to Bracha’s cooking every week. There are always options available for people with all kinds of dietary requirements at Chabad.”