Ner Tamid Powered by the Sun
Miriam Massen, Greening Fellow, Temple Israel Center White Plains
What has six points and is shaped like a star? Our new solar-powered ner tamid (eternal light). Over a year ago, our Temple Israel Center Green Team decided to convert the ner tamid in our Sanctuary to solar power. It has been a long journey since then.
Working through the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, we purchased a solar kit including a solar collector panel, electronics unit, solar charge controller, back-up battery charger, and electrical connection kit.
Our goal was to convert the ner tamid in our Main Sanctuary to solar power. However, we failed to consider that our Sanctuary ceiling is slanted and over 40 feet high, and the ner tamid is hard-wired right into the ceiling. It hangs about 20 feet from the top of that majestic, but hard-to-reach, ceiling. Furthermore, we had nowhere to safely install the solar collector panel. So we moved on to plan B – converting the ner tamid in our Chapel to solar power. We realized that that there was symmetry and synergy in using solar energy in the sacred space where we pray each morning with the rising of the sun, and each evening with the sun’s setting.
Thankfully, our Building Manager, Sandro Pillcurima, had just finished a course of study on electricity. The solar collector panel was installed on our gym roof, where it captures about 6 hours of sun each day. The wiring, neatly hidden in conduit, was run into the building to a heating panel near the front of the Chapel. The ner tamid was retrofitted for DC power using long-lasting LED lights. Finally, in mid-July we went live! The sun-powered ner tamid has been constantly lit since then, powered during the day by the sun and at night by the electric power stored in the batteries.
As we learned with Rabbi Lawrence Troster, who spoke to the Greening Fellows,
“In a modern ecological context, we can continue to have our synagogue spaces reflect Creation by turning them into living, green, healthy buildings that support life rather than contributing to its destruction.”
Our Temple Israel Center Green Team is proud to have transformed our ner tamid from a symbol of inspiration to an instrument of kedusha (holiness) and fulfillment of mitzvah (commandment) for our community.