September 24, 2016   21 Elul 5776
Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement (TEEM)
Mar. 10, 2011
A monthly environmental movie nights and speaker series leading to significant education, service and advocacy initiatives.

Community Contact Information:
Temple Emanuel
Winston-Salem, NC


  • To bring together Temple Emanuel congregants and other individuals to learn about environmental issues and take action to make a positive difference
  • To make the synagogue’s campus and events green by implementing environmental sustainability as a core principle of Temple Emanuel’s mission
  • To promote the Jewish relationship with the environment by actively practicing Tikkun Olam

The Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement (TEEM) intiaitive is a monthly environmental movie nights and speaker series. This popular, ongoing initiative inspires attendees to take action through education, participation in environmental workshops, attendance at city-wide events and by taking part in interfaith environmental efforts including local Earth Day celebrations and sustainability fairs.

In 2007, two synagogue members brought together families and friends to watch the environmental movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Attendees were inspired and excited by the movie, which quickly led to a monthly environmental film series at the synagogue. As interest grew, the coordinators formed an environmental group as a subset of the congregation’s social action committee: TEEM, the Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement.

Preparation for each film night is accomplished through monthly meetings. The TEEM subcommittee debriefs the previous movie, assigns follow-up tasks and plans for future films and environmental events.  For each month’s movie, the topic is carefully chosen to coincide with local, national or international environmental topics of concern or religious holidays. Related speakers and actions are brainstormed and a TEEM member will contact the speaker and arrange the event logistics.

The marketing strategy has evolved over time as the movie nights have grown to attract more than 100 attendees. There is a multi-pronged marketing campaign for the free, open-to-the-public movie nights, including press releases to print, radio, TV, electronic community bulletin boards and social media. TEEM also manages an e-mail list of 750 names.

Project Implementation: 
The films shown have covered a wide range of environmental topics, including climate change, food, water, landscaping, energy and environmental justice issues. The movies are held the first Thursday evening of each month from August through June at the synagogue.

One of the first speaker panels followed-up on a film that focused on energy efficiency and green building practices. To take action on this issue, the synagogue conducted a free energy audit through Interfaith Power and Light. The results enabled the synagogue to prioritize its actions, such as lowering the temperature on the hot water heater to immediately save energy and money. In addition, the congregation opened a “Green Fund,” which is used to fund various environmental priorities at the synagogue.

Movie nights often coincide with other environmental events. For example, on the International Day for Climate Action, TEEM showed the film, Everything’s Cool. The showing of this film led to the creation of a interfaith group named CARE (Citizens Acting for Renewable Energy), which executed a rally on five busy street corners and ran a successful petition drive with more than 500 signatures sent to their U.S. Senators.

One month, two films were shown to tie together the Amazon River Basin issues with the local community’s Yadkin River issues. TEEM hosted a panel of eight speakers who discussed the impact of climate change and energy production in these geographically-separate yet issue-similar regions. The speakers included academics, urban forester, riverkeeper, actress/model, businessman and students.

By the end of 2010, more than 35 films had been shown, covering a wide range of environmental topics. The monthly films and other events offer synagogue members and the greater community a venue to learn together, share best practices and become inspired to take further action.

TEEM’s movie series has inspired other secular organizations to show environmental and thought-provoking films as an education tool. TEEM has also inspired the annual River Run International Film Festival in Winston-Salem to implement an environmental film series.

TEEM has become a resource for Temple Emanuel and the community on environmental topics, speaking in local schools, meeting with legislators and participating in panel discussions on a variety of environmental topics.

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