Shabbat Candles Go Green!

You can gain added satisfaction from lighting ecofriendly soy candles, says RICHARD GRAY

by Richard Gray

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Soy candles

Light has always been an important component of Jewish spirituality, from the weekly Shabbat candles to the ner tamid (eternal light) that burns in front of the arks in our synagogues. In 2008 the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs accepted the mandate of the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism to create new vehicles to green our movement. This effort, named Shomrei Ha’Aretz (Guardians of the Earth), has resulted in the creation of two generations of soy-based Shabbat candles and a solar ner tamid kit. Why soy candles? Paraffin wax is a byproduct of the refinement of crude oil into gasoline. The soy candle helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, which comes largely from the Middle East. In addition, traditional paraffin wax candles can burn unevenly and are more difficult to light than soy candles. Soy candles are cleaner-burning and can be engineered to burn for the required two to four hours on a Shabbat evening.

Rabbi Charles Simon, FJMC’s executive director, oversaw the development of the original soy candle – the Shabbat Eco-Candle — along with Richard Gray, a leader of FJMC’s environmental initiative. The candle was improved in 2010 with a less expensive model with an even smaller environmental footprint. These newer soy candles have a brighter flame in clear flame-retardant cups and custom- made glass candlestick adapters. They are shipped in flat rate boxes to minimize shipping costs and environmental impact.

What does this history mean to you? You can be assured that the added satisfaction you get from welcoming Shabbat with petroleum-free soy candles that come from the brightest spirits in the Conservative movement.

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Richard Gray is an FJMC vice president and sponsor for the Shomrei Ha’aretz initiative.