Jeremy Sarnat, chair of environmental sustainability and building operations, Young Israel of Toco Hills
When Young Israel built its new home on LaVista Road, it followed environmentally friendly principles, largely through the drive of Sarnat, an Emory professor who fills what may be a unique synagogue board position created for him.
Sarnat worked with EarthCraft, a program that educates and assists in green building. The results included highly efficient HVAC, power and water systems. He said synagogues can apply green building techniques without excessive additional expenses.
Upon completion last year, the building received a gold-level certification from EarthCraft, showing a deep commitment to energy efficiency, air quality and durability. Young Israel is the first Orthodox synagogue in the world to be built green from the ground up.
That certification establishes Young Israel as a synagogue that balances Orthodox halachic observance with a respect for modern technology and progressive social values.
Sarnat said the building was designed to mirror the shul’s values, including environmental stewardship and the judicious use of natural resources.
Largely because of Sarnat’s efforts, Young Israel received the Congregation of the Year Award at Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s ninth annual Gippy Awards on March 19 for leading the way toward green building and environmental awareness.
“It’s navigating that balance between tradition and halacha and modernity, which I think is really the hallmark of what Modern Orthodoxy is about,” Sarnat said. “This effort is emblematic of that balance.”