"Everybody has a vested interest in making the world a better place," observes Israeli mother, writer, and social activist Tamar Wisemon- but few have turned that vested interest into a force for social change with quite the same intensity as Tamar.

Originally from England, Tamar first came to Israel to study at Michlala Jerusalem College for Women at age eighteen. Part way into the year the Gulf War broke out, but her parents allowed her to stay. Her experience of being in the country then was characterized by the way that Rabbi Yehuda Cooperman, Dean of the college, took personal responsibility for the students. At his wife's request, all of the students who had remained in Israel stayed at their apartment, and the couple looked after them like family.

"The intense caring for one another, and the incredible spirituality and the sense of Jewish peoplehood all made it impossible for me to live in England afterwards. One week after I returned to England, I wanted to go back to Israel."

It's about protecting the larger world... it is part of Jewish ethos Tamar did go back, after just one year away from Israel. In 1992, she returned to Michala where she finished a B. Ed. in English. An internship in writing at the Jerusalem Report helped lead her to her first career as a journalist for the Jerusalem Post, and also gave Tamar a taste of what would become a recurrent theme in her life. As one of very few religious employees at a largely leftwing magazine, Tamar found herself on the seam line of two of Israeli society's rifts- between the left and the right, and between the Orthodox and other communities. The experience further shaped her ability to find common ground with Jews of all backgrounds.

As co-founder and CTO of Sviva Israel , an environmental education and action organization that connects Jews – and, increasingly, non-Jews as well- around the world, a member of the Global executive board for KolDor, and the content manager and technical writer for JGooders.com, Tamar is having an impact the way Jews today relate to and act on the age old traditions of chesed [acts of lovingkindness] and tikun olam [repairing the world].

And she's using these common core Jewish values, as well as her own personal experiences, to build bridges between communities who all too commonly have little interaction.

"Environmentalism is a language that speaks to a lot of people. It's about protecting the larger world, it ties into the idea of baal taschis (the Biblical commandment not to be wasteful), it is part of Jewish ethos."

Tamar and her husband, Rabbi Carmi Wisemon, began working together in the field of environmental education and outreach more than seven years ago. At the time, Carmi was a community projects director for the municipality of Jerusalem, covering the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. When city officials asked him to do environmental projects, one of the programs he organized was a neighborhood clean up effort. He asked for volunteers to meet at a local park and handed out gloves and garbage bags while he and Tamar gave a short introduction to the basic concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle- and don't litter public spaces.

Parents saw that kids began to connect things "For awhile, he had these clean-up days once a month and together with community members we cleaned up parks, areas between buildings, and other public spaces. By the end [of Carmi's time in Ramat Shlomo] we'd have 150 kids waiting for us on clean-up day, and Carmi would hand out prizes at the end."

They found that the community was receptive, interested in learning more, and very positive in their feedback.

"Parents saw that kids began to connect things. They suddenly realized that if you throw a wrapper down on the ground, it stays there until someone picks it up. "

As time went on, Tamar continued to add more and more of a Jewish connection to her sense of environmentalism. Two years ago she and her husband co-founded Sviva Israel, running educational activities on two continents and impacting thousands of people around the world through its online educational activities. Tamar writes, edits, and is responsible for graphic design and development of the technological aspects of Sviva Israel’s programming. The organization is already gaining recognition from the international Jewish community as well as the Israeli government and media.

As part of their commitment to expanding environmental awareness in the Jewish community, Sviva began offering a Young Environmental Women’s Leadership (YEWL) course to teenage girls in Orthodox communities.

"The course is very popular and we have been asked to repeat it in a number of communities. Those who have completed the course run educational activities in schools, community centers, day camps and kindergartens, as well as neighborhood clean-ups," explains Tamar. "We are hoping that these young women will pave the way for change in how their communities relate to the environment."

Sviva Israel’s latest YEWL training program is being sponsored by the Public Affairs Department of the US Embassy in Israel and the Israeli Ministry for the Protection of the Environment.

Another project which has been embraced by the Israeli government is the annual Conference on the Environment in Jewish Thought and Law, which began six years ago and remains a one of a kind opportunity for rabbis and Jewish scholars to explore connections between Judaism and the environment. The Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Ministry of the Environment both enthusiastically attended the conference. The best of the papers submitted each year are printed in a journal sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of the Environment and edited and prepared for publication by Tamar. The papers cover a range of topics from noise pollution and animal versus human rights/needs to family relationships and environmentalism [i.e. if having guests is important to the family but cleaning up afterwards is difficult and leads to fighting- can one rely on disposable dishes according to Jewish law?].

The conference is one of many ways in which Sviva Israel has been placed in the spotlight as an NPO run by religious Jews- and the sight of a rabbi and his wife who care deeply about the state of the natural world and the conservation of its resources has caught the attention of Israel's media.

While the connection between Judaism and environmentalism surprises some, for Tamar it is part of one package.

Tamar cites a children's book, Joseph's Overcoat, as a perfect illustration of how seriously Jews in the old shtetls took the concept of not wasting the material things we are given. In the story, a little boy outgrows a coat, which is made into a vest, and then something smaller, and smaller, until it is used to cover a button.

"In the old Jewish communities, nothing was ever wasted. We've reached a point now where things aren't appreciated. If we reuse things we are also reducing consumption- and that is the most important part of helping the environment."

Tamar's sensitivity to environmental issues and their connection to Jewish spirituality was increased by the observance of Shemittah year, the Biblically commanded Sabbatical year when fields in Israel are not tilled, tended, or harvested (although produce can be picked for consumption- but not for sale).

"We were very careful not to throw any part of a vegetable or fruit away, because the produce of the Land of Israel has a certain sanctity to it during a Shemittah [Sabbatical} year. Even during a regular year, we feed our fruit and vegetable peels to our rabbits so nothing is wasted. So when we went to the States for a visit and I saw peels being thrown away- to me it seemed like such a waste of what G‑d gives us."

The emphasis on consumerism- a major factor in the global environmental crisis- stands out as much as needless waste as an idea antithetical to Judaism.

To help both kids and adults shift focus, Tamar and her husband designed an online quiz which is today the only bilingual Hebrew-English quiz on the internet providing insight into what a person's ecological footprint is. By answering a short list of questions and adding up your points, you can see how many Earths it would take to support a planet full of people who live the way you do. Schools from Israel are paired with schools abroad and the collective scores are compared, with students in each school learning about their own environmental impact as well as the prevalent culture in the community they are matched with. Schools and individual students from around the world have taken the quiz, with some interesting results.

"One of the things that happens is that poorer students often have a smaller ecological footprint. They live in smaller houses, they shop less, they eat out less- so all of a sudden they have status when their class does this project online, because their low scores help the collective class score."

That's just one small example of how Tamar and her family (her six children, who range in age from 2- 13 years old, help out by testing games and other materials, helping with neighborhood cleanups in their hometown of Beit Shemesh, Israel, and being patient when their mother is working on Sviva projects) have helped to bring not only ecologically sounder practices to the communities they touch but a sounder social ethos as well.

The shift to sustainable living is also a shift that devalues the ability to shop endlessly while valuing the actions people do- especially all those 'little' day to day things- which make the world healthier for all of us- and that's a shift that many people welcome.

Women in Israel have especially embraced the ideas that Tamar teaches, and she receives a large volume of correspondence before Passover asking advice on environmentally friendly ways to clean. This year the Jerusalem Post also contacted her requesting tips, and they printed her Ten Tips for an Environmentally Sound Purim (Tip #1 to remember for next year- send foods in reusable items, such as coffee mugs or pasta strainers), and at Chanukah time more than 1,000 people signed up through the Sviva Facebook group, "Israel, Judaism, and the Environment", to receive a daily environmental teaching each day of Chanukah- dubbed Chanukah Eco-Lights.

It all ties together for a woman whose main attraction to life in Israel was the sense of solidarity, unity, and spirituality she experienced her first year there- and which she tries to share through her many activities connecting Jews with one another and with opportunities for making a positive impact on the world.

"As a mother, I want my kids to see that life is not about materialism. It is about being a person who serves G‑d, and that includes caring for other people and the world we have been given."