Rabbinic Letter on Climate -Torah, Pope, & Crisis Inspire 425+ Rabbis to Call for Vigorous Climate Action

Encouraged by plans for and release of the papal Encyclical,  they call for Eco-Social Justice

As of Noon on October 29, 2015,  425 rabbis have signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption and to seek eco-social justice. The text of the Rabbinic Letter and its signers are below.

 The Rabbinic Letter was initiated by seven leading rabbis from a broad spectrum of American Jewish life: Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the American Jewish University; 
Rabbi Arthur Green, rector of the Hebrew College rabbinical school; Rabbi Peter Knobel, former president, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbininical College; Rabbi Susan Talve, spiritual leader of Central Reform Congregation, St. Louis; Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center; and Rabbi Deborah Waxman, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. They were joined by Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, a leader of the Orthodox community.

 The full text and list of signers follows.

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 To the Jewish People, to all Communities of Spirit,

and to the World:

 A Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis

We come as Jews and rabbis with great respect for what scientists teach us – for as we understand their teaching, it is about the unfolding mystery of God’s Presence in the unfolding universe, and especially in the history and future of our planet.  Although we accept scientific accounts of earth’s history, we continue to see it as God’s creation, and we celebrate the presence of the divine hand in every earthly creature.

 Yet in our generation, this wonder and this beauty have been desecrated -- not in one land alone but ‘round all the Earth. So in this crisis, even as we join all Earth in celebrating the Breath of Life that interweaves us all -- –

 --  You sea-monsters and all deeps, Hallelu-Yah.

Fire, hail, snow, and steam, Hallelu-Yah.


Stormy wind to do God's word, Hallelu-Yah.

Mountains high and tiny hills, Hallelu-Yah (Psalm 148)

 We know all Earth needs not only the joyful human voice but also the healing human hand.

 We are especially moved when the deepest, most ancient insights of Torah about healing the relationships of Earth and human earthlings, adamah and adam, are echoed in the findings of modern science.

 The texts of Torah that perhaps most directly address our present crisis are Leviticus 25-26 and Deuteronomy 15.  They call for one year of every seven to be Shabbat Shabbaton – a Sabbatical Year – and Shmittah – a Year of restful Release for the Earth and its workers from being made to work, and of Release for debtors from their debts.

In Leviticus 26, the Torah warns us that if we refuse to let the Earth rest, it will “rest” anyway, despite us and upon us – through drought and famine and exile that turn an entire people into refugees.

This ancient warning heard by one indigenous people in one slender land has now become a crisis of our planet as a whole and of the entire human species. Human behavior that overworks the Earth – especially the overburning of fossil fuels   --- crests in a systemic planetary response that endangers human communities and many other life-forms as well.

Already we see unprecedented floods, droughts, ice-melts, snowstorms, heat waves, typhoons, sea-level rises, and the expansion of disease-bearing insects from “tropical” zones into what used to be “temperate” regions. These cxonsequences are Leviticus 26 embodied.  Scientific projections of the future make clear that even worse will happen if we continue with carbon-burning business as usual.

As Jews, we ask the question whether the sources of traditional Jewish wisdom can offer guidance to our political  efforts to  prevent disaster and  heal our relationship  with the Earth.  Our first and most basic wisdom is expressed in the Sh’ma and is underlined in the teaching that through Shekhinah the Divine presence dwells within as well as beyond the world. The Unity of all means not only that all life is interwoven, but also that an aspect of God’s Self partakes in the interwovenness.

We acknowledge that for centuries, the attention of our people – driven into exile not only from our original land but made refugees from most lands thereafter so that they were bereft of physical or political connection and without any specific land – has turned away from this sense of interconnection of adam and adamah, toward the repair of social injustice.  Because of this history, we were so much pre-occupied with our own survival that we could not turn attention to the deeper crisis of which our tradition had always been aware.

But justice and earthiness cannot be disentangled. This is taught by our ancient texts – teaching that every seventh year be a Year of Release, Shmittah, Shabbat Shabbaton, in which there would be not only one year’s release of Earth from overwork, but also one year’s sharing by all in society of the Earth’s freely growing abundance, and one year’s release of debtors from their debts.

Indeed, we are especially aware that this very year is, according to the ancient count, the Shmita Year.

The unity of justice and Earth-healing is also taught by our experience today: The worsening inequality of wealth, income, and political power has two direct impacts on the climate crisis. On the one hand, great Carbon Corporations not only make their enormous profits from wounding the Earth, but then use these profits to purchase elections and to fund fake science to prevent the public from acting to heal the wounds. On the other hand, the poor in America and around the globe are the first and the worst to suffer from the typhoons, floods, droughts, and diseases brought on by climate chaos.  

So we call for a new sense of eco-social justice – a tikkun olam that includes tikkun tevel, the healing of our planet.  We urge those who have been focusing on social justice to address the climate crisis, and those who have been focusing on the climate crisis to address social justice.

Though as rabbis we are drawing on the specific practices by which our Torah makes eco-social justice possible, we recognize that in all cultures and all spiritual traditions there are teachings about the need for setting time and space aside for celebration, restfulness, reflection.

Yet in modern history, we realize that for about 200 years, the most powerful institutions and cultures of the human species have refused to let the Earth or human earthlings have time or space for rest.  By overburning carbon dioxide and methane into our planet's air, we have disturbed the sacred balance in which we breathe in what the trees breathe out, and the trees breathe in what we breathe out. The upshot: global scorching, climate crisis.

The crisis is worsened by the spread of extreme extraction of fossil fuels that not only heats the planet as a whole but damages the regions directly affected.

§  Fracking shale rock for oil and “unnatural gas” poisons regional water supplies and induces the shipment of volatile explosive “bomb trains” around the country.

 §  Coal burning not only imposes asthma on coal-plant neighborhoods – often the poorest and Blackest – but destroys the lovely mountains of West Virginia.

 §  Extracting and pipe-lining Tar Sands threatens Native First nation communities in Canada and the USA, and endangers farmers and cowboys through whose lands the KXL Pipeline is intended to traverse..

 §  Drilling for oil deep into the Gulf and the Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound off the Pacific have already brought death to workers and to sea life and financial disasters upon nearby communities. Proposed oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic threaten worse.

 All of this is overworking Earth -- precisely what our Torah teaches we must not do. So now we must let our planet rest from overwork. For Biblical Israel, this was a central question in our relationship to the Holy One.  And for us and for our children and their children, this is once again the central question of our lives and of our God. HOW?  -- is the question we must answer.

So here we turn from inherited wisdom to action in our present and our future. One way of addressing our own responsibility would be for households, congregations, denominations, federations, political action  --- to Move Our Money from spending that helps these modern pharaohs burn our planet to spending that helps to heal it. For example, these actions might be both practical and effective:

§  Purchasing wind-born rather than coal-fired electricity to light our homes and synagogues and community centers;

 §  Organizing our great Federations to offer grants and loans to every Jewish organization in their regions to solarize their buildings;

 §  Shifting our bank accounts from banks that invest in deadly carbon-burning to community banks and credit unions that invest in local neighborhoods, especially those of poor, Black, and Hispanic communities;

 §  Moving our endowment funds from supporting deadly Carbon to supporting stable, profitable, life-giving enterprises;

 §  Insisting that our tax money go no longer to subsidizing enormously profitable Big Oil but instead to subsidizing the swift deployment of renewable energy  -- as quickly in this emergency as our government moved in the emergency of the early 1940s to shift from manufacturing cars to making tanks.

 §  Convincing our legislators to institute a system of carbon fees and public dividends that rewards our society for moving beyond the Carbon economy.

 These examples are simply that, and in the days and years to come,  we may think of other approaches to accomplish these ecological ends.  

America is one of the most intense contributors to the climate crisis, and must therefore take special responsibility to act.  Though we in America are already vulnerable to climate chaos, other countries are even more so –-- and Jewish caring must take that truth seriously. Israeli scientists, for example, report that if the world keeps doing carbon business as usual, the Negev desert will come to swallow up half the state of Israel, and sea-level rises will put much of Tel Aviv under water.

Israel itself is too small to calm the wide world’s worsening heat. Israel’s innovative ingenuity for solar and wind power could help much of the world, but it will take American and other funding to help poor nations use the new-tech renewable energy created by Israeli and American innovators.

We believe that there is both danger and hope in American society today, a danger and a hope that the American Jewish community, in concert with our sisters and brothers in other communities of Spirit, must address.  The danger is that America is the largest contributor to the scorching of our planet.  The hope is that over and over in our history, when our country faced the need for profound change, it has been our communities of moral commitment, religious covenant, and spiritual search that have arisen to meet the need. So it was fifty years ago during the Civil Rights movement, and so it must be today.

As we live through this Shmittah Year, we are especially aware that Torah calls for Hak’heyl -- assembling the whole community of the People Israel during the Sukkot after the Shmittah year, to hear and recommit ourselves to the Torah’s central teachings.

So we encourage Jews in all our communities to gather on the Sunday of Sukkot this year, October 4, 2015, to explore together our responsibilities toward the Earth and all humankind, in this generation.

Our ancient earthy wisdom taught that social justice, sustainable abundance, a healthy Earth, and spiritual fulfillment are inseparable. Today we must hear that teaching in a world-wide context, drawing upon our unaccustomed ability to help shape public policy in a great nation. We call upon the Jewish people to meet God’s challenge once again.

Signed:

Rabbi Jonathan Aaron     Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills   Beverly Hills CA Rabbi Susan Abramson     Temple Shalom Emeth   Burlington MA Rabbi Ruth Adar     Lehrhaus Judaica   San Leandro CA Rabbi Avruhm Addison     Cong Melrose B'nai Israel Emanu El   Philadelphia PA Rabbi David Adelson     East End Temple   New York NY Rabbi Alison Adler     Temple B'nai Abraham   Beverly MA Rabbi Moshe Adler     Beth El - The Heights Synagogue   University Heights OH Rabbi Rachel Adler     Hebrew Union College   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Ron Aigen     Congregation Dorshei Emet, Montreal   Montreal Canada Rabbi Aaron Alexander     IKAR   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Mona Alfi     Congregation B'nai Israel   Sacramento CA Rabbi Katy Allen     Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hop   Wayland MA Rabbi Adam Allenberg     Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion   Santa Monica CA Rabbi Doug Alpert     Congregation Kol Ami-Kansas City   Kansas City MO Rabbi Neil Amswych     Temple Beth Shalom   Santa Fe NM Rabbi Batsheva Appel     Temple Emanu-El   Tucson AZ Rabbi Aryeh Azriel     Temple Israel   Omaha NE Rabbi Elan Babchuck     Temple Emanu-El   Providence RI Rabbi Richard Backer     Ohalah   Newton MA Rabbi Chava Bahle     Or Tzafon   Suttons Bay MI Rabbi Ethan Bair     Temple Sinai   Reno NV Rabbi Benjamin Barnett     Beit Am Jewish Community   Corvallis OR Rabbi Lewis M Barth     Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion   Encino CA Rabbi Geoff Basik     Kol HaLev   Baltimore MD Rabbi Sarah Bassin     Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills   Beverly Hills CA Rabbi David Dunn Bauer     Congregation Beit Simchat Torah   New York NY Rabbi Birdie Becker     Temple Emanuel, Pueblo   Centennial CO Rabbi Marc Belgrad     B'Chavana Congregation   Buffalo Grove IL Rabbi Haim Beliak     Beth Ohr   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Lisa Bellows     Congregation Beth Am   Buffalo Grove IL Rabbi Gabriel Ben-Or     Gulfport Congregation Beth Sholom   webster FL Rabbi Karen Bender     Jewish Home of Los Angeles   Tarzana CA Rabbi Allen Bennett     Temple Israel of Alameda, Rabbi Emeritus   San Francisco CA Rabbi Philip Bentley     Honorary President, Jewish Peace fellowship   Hendersonville NC Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum     Congregation Shir Hadash   Milwaukee WI Rabbi Marc Berkson     Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun   Milwaukee WI Rabbi Marjorie Berman     Reconstructionist Rabbinical College   Clarks Summit PA Rabbi Phyllis Berman     Pnai Or-Philadelphia, Germantown Jewish Centre, Mishkan Shalom   Philadelphia PA Rabbi Ellen Bernstein     Shomrei Adamah   Holyoke MA Rabbi Jonathan Biatch     Temple Beth El, Madison, Wisconsin   Madison WI Rabbi Brad Bloom     Bloom   Hilton Head SC Rabbi Marc S Blumenthal     Reform Judaism   Long Beach CA Rabbi Neil Blumofe     Congregation Agudas Achim   Austin TX Rabbi Samantha Bodner        Houston TX Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton     Or Haneshamah: Ottawa's Reconstructionist Community   Ottawa Canada Rabbi Jill Borodin     Congregation Beth Shalom   Seattle WA Rabbi Neal Borovitz     Rabbi Emeritus Temple Avodat Shalom River Edge NJ   New York NY NY Rabbi Joshua Breindel     Temple Anshe Amunim   Pittsfield MA Rabbi Anne Brener     Academy for Jewish Religion   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Reeve R. 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Beth El (Ret.)   canandaigua NY Rabbi Molly Karp     Temple Beth El, Oneonta NY   New City NY Rabbi Peter Kasdan     temple Emanuel-El of West Essex   Longboat Key FL Rabbi Nancy Kasten     None   Dallas TX Rabbi Sandra Katz     Jewish Senior Life   Rochester NY Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum     Congregation B'nai Harim of the Poconos   Pocono Pines PA Rabbi Stanley Kessler     BethEl Temple/Emeritus/ W.Htfd CT   W Hartford CT Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman     Beth Jacob Congregation   Mendota Heights MN Rabbi Daniel Kirzane     Beth Haverim Shir Shalom   Bronx NY Rabbi Jonathan Klein     CLUE: Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Lori Klein     Chadeish Yameinu   Capitola CA Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein     Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PA IPL)   Philadelphia PA Rabbi Richard Klein     Temple Emanu-El   Sarasota FL Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum     Congregation Beit Simchat Torah   NYC NY Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum     Congregation Beit Simchat Torah   New York NY Rabbi Jonathan Kligler     Lev Shalem Institute of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation   Woodstock NY Rabbi David L Kline     Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn   Brooklyn NY Rabbi Tracy Klirs     Temple Israel, Charlotte, NC   Charlotte NC Rabbi Myriam Klotz     HUC-JIR/NY   Bala Cynwyd PA Rabbi Peter Knobel     Central Conference of American Rabbis, former president   Evanston IL Rabbi Janeen Kobrinsky     Temple Beth El, Fargo ND   Fargo ND ND Rabbi Debra Kolodny     Nehirim   Portland OR Rabbi Riqi Kosovske     Beit Ahavah - Reform Synagogue of Greater Northampton   Florence MA Rabbi Michael L. 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Levy     retired   Houston TX Rabbi Yael Levy     Mishkan Shalom   Philadelphia PA Rabbi Sheldon Lewis     Congregation Kol Emeth   Palo Alto CA Rabbi Mordechai Liebling     Social Justice Organizing Program of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College   Philadelphia PA Rabbi Rebecca Lillian     √ñresundslimmud   Malm√∂ Sweden Rabbi John Linder     Temple Solel   Phoenix AZ Rabbi Ellen Lippmann     Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives   Brooklyn NY Rabbi navah-tehila Livingstone     Liberal Jewish community Utrecht   utrecht Netherlands Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger     Conservative   Poughkeepsie NY Rabbi Andrea London     Beth Emet The Free Synagogue   Evanston IL Rabbi Alan Londy     The New Reform Temple   Kansas City MO Rabbi Michael Lotker     Jewish Federation of Ventura County   Camarillo CA Rabbi Brian Lurie     NIF   Ross CA Rabbi Jack Luxemburg     Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD   NORTH POTOMAC MD Rabbi Devorah Lynn     CCAR   Washington, DC DC Rabbi Jonathan Malino     Beth David Synagogue   Greensboro NC Rabbi Nina Mandel     Congregation Beth El-Sunbury   Selinsgrove PA Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg     Ohef Sholom Temple   Norfolk VA Rabbi Natan Margalit     Organic Torah   Newtonville MA Rabbi Shana Margolin     Beth Jacob Synagogue (member)   Montpelier VT Rabbi Marc Margolius     West End Synagogue   New York NY Rabbi Jessica Marshall     Temple Beth Or   Everett WA Rabbi Nathan Martin     RRC   Philadelphia PA Rabbi Emily Mathis     Temple Beth Shalom   West Newton MA Rabbi Monique Mayer     Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation   Port Talbot United Kingdom Rabbi Ariel Mayse     Beit Midrash Har'el   Jerusalem Israel Rabbi Michele Medwin     Temple Sholom   Binghamton NY Rabbi Janice Mehring     Congregation Ohr Tzafon   Atascadero CA Rabbi Sara Meirowitz     Gann Academy   Waltham MA Rabbi Scott Meltzer     Ohr Shalom Synagogue   San Diego CA Rabbi Richard Messing     Retired- emeritus Temple Kol Tikvah, Sharon, MA   Stoughton MA Rabbi Abby Michaleski     Temple Beth El of Hammonton   Sicklerville NJ Rabbi Laurence Milder     Congregation Beth Emek   Pleasanton CA Rabbi Diana Miller     Kehilat HaNahar   Lambertville NJ Rabbi Joshua Minkin     Temple Emanu-El of Canarsie   Brooklyn NY Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh     Temple Israel of Hollywood   Los Angeles CA Rabbi Malka Mittelman     Skirball Hospice and B'nei Mishkan   La Crescenta CA Rabbi Avram Mlotek     Base Hillel   New York NY Rabbi Lee Moore     Hillel at Kent State   Kent OH Rabbi Dan Moskovitz     Temple Sholom   Vancouver Canada Rabbi Linda Motzkin     Temple Sinai   Gansevoort NY Rabbi Robin Nafshi     Temple Beth Jacob   Concord NH Rabbi Dina Najman     The Kehilah of Riverdale   Bronx NY Rabbi Fred Natkin     Mateh Chaim; 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Rabbinic letter on the environment

I would like to be a signatory on the letter and couldn't figure out how to add my name. Please add my name: rabbi Jill Borodin, Congregation Beth Shalom, Seattle, Washington

Rabbinic signers

<p><span style="font-size: small;">The Shalom Center cannot sign for people.&nbsp; Rabbis are invited to sign at <br /><br /><a href="http://tinyurl.com/RabbinicLetterClimate" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/RabbinicLetterClimate</a></span></p>

Environment

<p>We need to change the way we treat the environment. We must give back to the earth with love and compassion of God and manage our land with respect and love that Gog has given us.</p>

Thank you

<p>I am so concerned about the Earth and its capacity to remain the home of my children and grandchildren. perhaps the leadership of all clergy from all faiths will finally show us the way to better serve God through service to this Earth.</p>

this letter

<p>Dear rabbis, Your hearts may be in the right place, but the question of climate change is not in your domain. It's a question of science, not religion. As a data scientist, I can tell you two things based on my analysis of the data: 1. there has been global warming over the last 50 years, and 2. global warming has stopped in the last 15 years. None of the so-called climate scientists predicted that halt to global warming, though now they are explaining it after the fact. Please let the scientific community debate this, and ignore Rabbi Waskow's emotional appeals. Sincerely, Morris Olitsky</p>

Thank you rabbis

<p>I've been working in the field of sustainability for 20 years, and I am so encouraged to see faith based leaders taking a position in the debate. My experience is that we must move faster, and that reminding humanity of our moral obligation to respect the beauty of the creator is just what we need.</p>

I have come upon this a year

I have come upon this a year and a half late, but I am heartened to see our religious leaders taking a stand to protect our planet. All of the man-made causes listed here are indeed contributing to the demise of fresh air, clean waterways, safe oceans, and the flora and fauna. However, there is another very large factor that is a global threat to the earth and earth's atmosphere - and that is the practice of Geoengineering, Solar Radiation Management, HAARP. These cause sunlight to be reflected back up into the atmosphere, which in turn makes the sun hotter. The earth cannot cool overnight as the thick layer of chemical laden "clouds" traps in the heat which then keeps our earth hot. If you are interested, please only google credible resources. There are some very sketchy sites out there that do not reliably, nor credibly, explain this practice with an educated mind-set. Again, I am grateful that the community of religious leaders is taking such a strong interest in the future of our planet, Mother Earth.

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