From last Thursday till Sunday night Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I were in St. Louis, on the invitation of the Central Reform Congregation and its two leading Rabbis, Susan Talve and Randy Fleisher. On Thursday night, the two of us and Rabbi Art Green, rector of the Boston College Rabbinical School and one of the great scholars and interpreters of Hassidism, spoke at the Jewish Federation on our visions of the future of Judaism.
Then on Friday morning I was invited by the young organizers for the Climate Strike in St Louis to be the featured speaker – accompanied by the outcry of the shofar -- at a gathering of about one thousand people at City Hall. The video of my talk is here –- https://youtu.be/ys0pqlbem3I
and I welcome you to watch it now.
Through the rest of the weekend, Rabbi Phyllis and I spoke for CRC on our own experience and the teachings of Torah on the refugee/ immigrant crisis and on the climate crisis. On Sunday, CRC held a multiracial, multireligious gathering to explore religious responses to the existential threat of the global “burning” – not “warming,” a word that contradicts the real crisis by sounding comfortable.
After the Sunday program, one of the most devoted and respected Christian leaders in the nation-wide work for social justice came up to me. She said, “I am always searching for ways to inspire our work with religious language and spiritual passion, not secular words alone. You just gave me more of the language that I seek.”
That fusion of deep spirituality and vigorous activism has been the hallmark of The Shalom Center ‘s work since 1983. In the past year, that spiritual commitment has been at the heart of our thinking, writing, and activism on the cruelty of separating children from their parents and caging the children – including two arrests of my own and two occasions when I risked arrest but the government declined the invitation.
And meanwhile, we kept working on how to transform the Corporate Climate Pharaohs and their governmental enablers who – for the sake of Hyperwealthy profiteering -- have been both burning all Earth, our common home, and poisoning disempowered neighborhoods of poverty and color with cancer and asthma epidemics.
For the year ahead, we intend to take the great religious festivals – born from the seasons of our Earth – into public space to help us heal the wounded, choking, burning Mother Earth that gave birth to them. Imagine observing the joyful festival of Sukkot by waving the traditional Four Species of branches and fruit just outside --or even inside -- the home-district office of your Senator. Imagine kindling the lights of Hanukkah and Christmas there. Imagine coming to those offices bearing aloft matzah, the Passover symbol of “fierce urgency of Now,” and palm branches, the Palm Sunday symbol of life renewed and resisting. All those moments, demanding enactment of the Green New Deal.
To do this, we need your help. Gathering the resources – prayers, commentaries on the Bible, sermons, songs, liturgies -- takes time and money. Completing the fund to pay our rabbinical-student intern – who is already diligently at work -- takes money. Paying for leaflets, telephones, repeated computer outreach – all takes money.
Four years ago at the same moment in world history when Pope Francis initiated what became his encyclical “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,“ The Shalom Center initiated what became the first ever Rabbinic Statement on the Climate Crisis, signed by 400 Rabbis/ Cantors.
A great deal has happened since, much of it negative. Yet in response to a government that is actively encouraging the Carbon Pharaohs to burn Earth there has arisen a wave of young people who are turning their hearts to Elders as the Climate Strikers did in St. Louis. So we are right now working with rabbis and other spiritual leaders across the whole range of Jewish life to bring forth a new Prophetic Call to Heal Our Wounded Mother Earth.
And this, like all our other work, also costs time and money.
The New Year in both Jewish and secular life is a time to give “tzedakah.” The root of the word is “tzedek” -- -- justice – and tzedakah is the money that makes it possible for “transformation workers” like The Shalom Center to struggle for justice.
This coming year will be a crucial one in America’s history and in Earth’s history. We anticipate larger than usual expenses for more than usual activism. Please help.
If you have learned from or been inspired by our Shalom Report but have not helped pay for its production, please do so now. If you have been giving, please consider doubling your gift ---from $36 to $72, from $180 to $360, and so on.
We welcome you to contribute by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” box just below.
Thanks! -- And blessings that this coming year be a year of Transformation for shalom and tzedek, for healing and for love -- for you and for us all.