Billable-Hours Activism and Green Technology

Jonathan Axelrad is so freaking excited about J-REC, the Jewish Response to Energy Challenge Conference. “We are very excited,” he says in his polite, even, lawyer voice. “It’s really building up and developing.” While chatting, he explains that, even with their expensive suits, his Green technology advocates are as passionate as any protester and, surprisingly, even the homeless can help.

So why do Jews need their own special response to the environment? Sounds kinda random. Like Koreans needing their own response to hurricanes or something.

Well, first of all, I noticed the little teaser you guys put on your site mentioned “tree hugging.” But this is the Jewish response to the energy challenge, and that’s about clean sources of energy for the future. We’re spending billions of dollars on mid east oil. That’s funding extremism. And we’ve got the ability to create innovative solutions for transportation and other energy needs right now in clean tech. That’s Tikkun olam–healing the world. That’s supporting Israel. And because as a community, we can make a difference. That’s why we should care.

You’re not the stereotypical idea of the energy-conscious environmentalist, are you? You’re an attorney.

I am. I’m a clean tech venture capital lawyer at Wilson Sonsini. And my co-chair works at Tesla motors, one of the largest electric car companies in the world.

So does this mean capitalism will be saving the world? Rather than activists?

It’s not an either/or equation. We’re also activists. We’re clean energy activists.

So you actually call yourself an “activist”?


But it’s still capitalism, right? I mean, somebody’s gonna be making a buck.

Well, one of our themes is clean economy. And you’re right, clean technology represents incredible, economic opportunities and fundamental issues of national competitiveness. China and India are innovating in these areas, and if the US and Israel want to compete, we need to invest here in R&D [Research & Development].

This is a big change from the image people have of altruistic, broke hippies.

Right. That’s one of the beautiful things about the clean technology industry. We can create wealth by solving environmental problems, and we can also help the Green technology movement, and create economic opportunities for a large portion of our population and also deal with fundamental issues of national security.

Any speakers you’re particularly excited about?

Yes. Yosef Abromowitz. He’s the founder of Arava Power Company in Israel. He’ll talk about how the Jewish people can be leaders in this area.

But what can the non-leader, average-IQ type person do?

They can approach the issue in a way that’s most relevant to them. If they’re interested in saving energy at home and saving money, they can retrofit their home. That’s saving money. You can tap a green mezuzah on your door and feel good about that. And you can support clean tech in Israel.

What if you don’t have a home?

Then focus your efforts on other responses to the energy challenge. Maybe transportation or food choices or getting involved with a local group working on the issues like the American Jewish Committee.

The Jewish Response to the Energy Challenge Conference will be held at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center on November 8th.

What do you think?

About The Author


Steven enjoys alliteration and quirky line drawings. His turn-offs include broken links, enriched uranium and Holocaust denial.

16 Responses

  1. Oliver

    Whats important is that we take care of each other as Jews. We cannot predict what G-d will do to the world. We can only do what’s right in the haf torah.

    G-d bless Judaica.

  2. Puck

    “You can tap a green mezuzah on your door and feel good about that.” Sure you can, if you’re a rampaging wanker :P You can’t just put a ‘green mezuzah’ on your door and feel like you’re Captain Planet ffs. I did enjoy the wait the lawyer failed to bat

  3. Reb

    this is a cool, proactive project — trying to push the community to take leadership in a positive area. What is the first step in a global response if not something like this — webcast live and with parallel events in 6 cities….

    I know the website ww

  4. SZdes

    great opportunity to combine timely issues involving environmental, political & social activism with the Jewish value of repairing the world. It makes Judaism relevant in today’s world while simultaneously appealing to both the idealist and the realist

  5. Puck

    I’m not sure Judaism needs enviro-capitalism to make it relevant. This fellows only concern seems to revolve around how best to make a quick buck out of the new greenwashing industry.

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  7. Anonymous

    Google may pay heed. “Level of community support is certainly one supra parts of the factors we’re considering,” says a Google spokesman who Reply

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