Silver Spring Man Launches Campaign to Provide Solar Energy to Jewish Homes

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Jerry Marzouk. Courtesy of Jerry Marzouk.

A Silver Spring resident’s passion project on renewable energy has grown into a multi-organizational campaign.

And several local Jewish institutions including Berman Hebrew Academy, Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac and Kehilat Pardes in Rockville are serving as sponsors to reach a goal of transitioning 100 Jewish households to use solar energy.

Jerry Marzouk, a member of the local Orthodox Jewish community, is the man behind the project, which began on May 1 and runs until June 16. The initiative began out of an idea Marzouk hatched while looking for something to do now that his son was out of the house and he had more free time.

“I wanted to do something good. In particular, sustainability is something that’s important to myself, my wife and our family. And so I just brainstormed this idea,” Marzouk said.

“One of the things that really inspires me is when people do things inside of a community. Think about the difference you can make when a bunch of people together are doing something.”

Marzouk has used solar energy for about six years, making him much more familiar with the industry than the average person, along with knowing the benefits of switching to
renewable energy.

Marzouk said that it took him some time to find the proper partner, as there isn’t a large supply of renewable energy providers, especially ones capable of taking on 100 new subscribers.

Eventually, Marzouk found one in Arcadia Solar. He said the company had space for well over 300 new customers, and Arcadia is offering new members a donation of $100 to whatever partner organization they joined the program through.

He added that there are no financial ties in the program for himself, and he sought out community nonprofits to partner with and spread the word about the initiative.

“A large portion of the money that they [the solar company] use to bring on new subscribers would go to the nonprofit organization that’s helping to sponsor the campaign and the organizations, which, in return, help provide the advertising infrastructure to their to their constituents,” Marzouk said.

The next step led Marzouk to the three previously mentioned Orthodox Jewish institutions, which became the initial campaign partners, sending out emails, holding information sessions and more.

Marzouk said the environment is not typically an issue that Orthodox Jews champion, but he felt that the campaign would be a way to do good within his own community and make it easier to get off the ground, as it was familiar to him.

“This [renewable energy effort] is not particular to the Jewish community. But I’m Jewish. I’m strongly affiliated, and I like it when Jews do good in the world,” Marzouk said. “I like fostering a sense of doing good within my own community.”

Marzouk’s campaign and ties to Berman also gave an opportunity for a senior there, Johanna Antine, to fulfill her graduation requirements by doing a senior passion project, which she did by working with Marzouk.

It was a stroke of luck that Antine and Marzouk ended up meeting at a Shabbat lunch — and each learned that the other had sought the exact thing the other offered.

Antine said she was looking to do an internship or project tied to the environment, environmental science or some type of sustainability work, making the solar energy program a great fit, especially with the partnership with her school and Beth Shalom, the synagogue she attends.

“I have been very grateful to be able to work with not just my school, but also my shul,” Antine said. “I was able to give a D’var Torah where I talked about the shemita year, and I connected that to renewable energy and fossil fuels and how we should be using renewable energy and to hopefully get people to join the program.”

Antine also recently taught three seventh-grade classes about the environment and renewable energy at Berman, part of her larger work of spreading information to people online, creating pamphlets with information and other promotional outreach.

Antine said that the program has drawn interest from some community members she’s spoken with, and people are attending information sessions and eager to learn more.

The program is something that both Antine and Marzouk hope to expand, with Marzouk saying that it can go beyond the Jewish community and provide more to the larger public.

For now, the pair is focused on making the program available to the Jewish community and informing it about the benefits of solar energy while providing an opportunity to do good for the world.

“If everybody knew that they could save some money to switch and have renewable energy and make a difference when it comes to environmental sustainability [they would]. There’s really no downside here,” Marzouk said.

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