A Rabbinic Statement Supporting the Lakota Nation in its Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline

[Please join the 17 Initiating Signers by adding your name as a signer. Affiliations are listed for identification only; each signer signs as an individual.]

We are living in the midst of a profound spiritual crisis in American society, expressed in the current election campaign and in many other forms as well.

One of the most poignant is the nonviolent protest in North Dakota, led by people of the First Nations, against the imposition of the oil-bearing Dakota Access Pipeline upon the sacred ancestral lands of the Sioux Nation. The pipeline is desecrating their graves, threatening to poison the water of the Missouri River, and endangering the entire web of life of Mother Earth by increasing the burning of fossil fuels.

Already hundreds of representatives from many of the First Nations living in the United States, gathered for the first time in history beyond all previous divisions and alliances, together with growing numbers of other Americans and of indigenous peoples from other countries, have gathered to face this onslaught with prayerful nonviolent resistance.

Yet as they pray, police have already used dogs, pepper gas, and clubs – and with rifles loaded and lifted threaten to use deadly force -- to impose this destructive pipeline on the region, on the nation, and on the Earth.

As spiritual leaders and teachers of the Jewish people, we affirm Torah's commitment to protect the Earth from which the human race was born (Gen 2: 7) and which we are commanded to allow to rest in rhythmic celebration of the Creator (Lev. 25: 1-12, 23).

Indeed, Torah adds that if we block this rhythmic rest, the exhausted earth will erupt against us (Lev 26: 34-35, 43). These commands and warnings were rooted in our ancestors' deep experience of the sacred unity of all life.

They are confirmed by scientists today.

And already we are seeing these ancient prophecies and modern scientific predictions come to life -- in higher rates of asthma and cancer where coal, oil, and fracked unnatural gas are extracted, refined, and burned; in unprecedented floods and droughts and superstorms all around the planet.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stood together in Riverside Church in New York City. Dr. King spoke out not only against the Vietnam War but even more deeply against what he called the deadly triplets afflicting America -- racism, militarism, and materialism. And he called for a commitment to nonviolent activism to bring about a "revolution in values" for America.

In the Dakota confrontation, all three of those triplets have borne monstrous offspring in one clarifying moment:

Corporate greed has in this case taken the "materialism" triplet to its extreme; the armed police have brought militarism home; the trampling on Native rights and needs echoes the earliest racism of our past.

For all these reasons, we urgently call on President Obama as Commander-in-Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to firmly and clearly prohibit the Dakota Access Pipeline from encroaching on the Missouri River, and we urge all state and federal agencies to affirm and respect the role of the Native communities in defending the weave of life upon the continent we know as North America, and they have for centuries called Turtle Island.

And we call on Jewish communities and their leaders throughout our country to speak out in congregations and publicly, to gather in prayerful vigils in our own communities, and to assist the Lakota protest as it moves into a stern Dakota winter by sending money to buy clothing, food, and other supplies for a lengthy steadfast stay. Please send your gifts by clicking here: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/

We encourage our communities to call North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200 to leave a message stating your opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline; to call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 to tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers' permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline; and to call the Army Corps of Engineers (202) 761-5903 and demand that they rescind the permit.

In his Riverside speech, Dr. King lifted up "the fierce urgency of Now." And in our lives today, facing both a spiritual crisis in America and a world-wide spiritual crisis in the relationship between adam and adamah, humanity and Earth, the urgency of Now is far more fierce.

[All affiliations are noted for identification only; all signers are signing as individuals. Please share this message with your rabbinic colleagues. ]

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein (Founder, Shomrei Adamah)

Rabbi Denise L. Eger (President, Central Conference of American Rabbis)

Rabbi Everett Gendler (Emeritus, Phillips Academy, Andover)

Rabbi Arthur Green (Rector, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College)

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg (Founder & President Emeritus, CLAL)

Rabbi Jill Hammer (Co-founder, Kohenet)

Rabbi Jill Jacobs (Executive Director, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights)

Rabbi Raachel Jurovics (President, Ohalah: Rabbinic Association for Jewish Renewal)

Rabbi Peter Knobel (Past President , Central Conference of American Rabbis)

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (Director, Social Justice Organizing Program, ,Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann (Kolot Chayeinu, Brooklyn)

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld (Executive Vice President , Rabbinical Assembly)

Rabbi Lawrence Troster (Kesher Israel Congregation, West Chester, PA)

Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Director, The Shalom Center)

Rabbi Deborah Waxman (President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College)

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman (Executive Director, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association)

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (President & Dean of Valley Beit Midrash)

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