What's Up at The Shalom Center?

I am writing to report what The Shalom Center has been doing over the last several months and what we plan for the year ahead. I am excited to share with you what your generosity will make possible as we head onward. Let me be clear: To do what needs doing during the year ahead, we need your help.

From ancient Torah to recent history, Jewish wisdom and experience drew us into action to protect refugees and immigrants from cruelty: From Torah, which forbids deporting refugees and calls on us to welcome them wherever they choose to live within our borders (Deut. 23:16-17), to the experience of Jews fleeing Hitler and being turned away by many countries, sent back to their deaths.

So I again took part in an effort to block – literally, with a sit-down – the cruelty being carried out by ICE. Result: a Federal charge of interference, and an upcoming court date (December 18). 

The other great issue we at The Shalom Center have addressed is the climate crisis. In St. Louis, a renowned synagogue invited my beloved Rabbi Phyllis and me to lead a Shabbaton weekend. The weekend coincided with the Climate Strike. So I spoke for the assembled crowd about how Torah insists that healing the Earth and pursuing social justice cannot be severed. “No Justice, No Earth; No Earth, No Justice!” I chanted, and a thousand people joined with me.

Then in Montreal as part of a celebration of the High Holy Days that Phyllis and I were leading, I spoke on what Torah teaches us about how to face the climate crisis.

(By the way, such weekend “Shabbaton” or festival visits turn out to be a remarkably effective and inspiring way of carrying The Shalom Center’s message into the world. If you want to explore my doing that with your congregation, please write me at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org  .)

Then The Shalom Center initiated a Rabbinic Statement on the Climate Crisis that calls on the younger and older generations to turn their hearts to each other in “Elijah’s Covenant Between the Generations.” For it is the youth who will live and die in misery from climate-chaos floods, famines, and fires – unless we elders act now.

As I write, more than 400 eminent Rabbis of practically every stream of Jewish life in the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Israel have signed – and more are joining.

With this Call, we will make clear in a public campaign to the Jewish and multireligious public that the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people see the need to heal Earth’s web of life as transcending “business as usual.” That outreach campaign is one of the efforts for which we need your support in money and action.

I joined with other rabbis and with Jane Fonda in what she called a “Friday Fire Drill” to awaken action to put out the fire that is heating, scorching, burning Earth – a non-violent act of civil disobedience at the U.S. Capitol that led to another arrest for 32 of us – including Jane and several rabbis brought together by The Shalom Center. In this photo I'm making the V for Victory sign as I'm being arrested.

Now we are beginning a major year-long campaign to focus the celebration of religious festivals on activist protection and healing of Earth from the climate crisis.

Earth gave birth to all these “seasons of our joy.” The moment has come when the seasons themselves must help to heal their wounded Mother Earth.

[This graphic is a miniature of a  mosaic by the artist Siona Benjamin. It graces the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis. Rabbi Susan Talve explains it was originally inspired by the way in which my book "Seasons of Our Joy" treats the Jewish festivals as a holistic cycle, a spiritual path for us to walk -- not merely a blip here,  a blip there.]

  • For Hanukkah, we will lift up the ancient legend of conserving sacred energy – “One day’s oil met eight days’ needs” – by using the eight days of Hanukkah for actions to conserve energy. To move from burning carbon to drawing on wind and sunlight, The Shalom Center has already begun providing resources for Hanukkah prayer, learning, and action.
  • For Tu B’Shvat, the ReBirthday of the Trees, a Jewish campaign for world-wide reforestation.
  • And for the confluence of Passover and the Christian Holy Week next spring, we will focus on “Inviting the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs to Turn Over a New Leaf.” We challenge them to leave the palaces of power where they have been bringing plagues upon Earth and Humanity. To leave like the ancient Pharaoh’s Daughter, and use their skill to save the lives of countless children as she saved Moses.
  • And going forth into the rest of the sacred calendar, to commit ourselves to the Covenant of healing Earth and Humanity!

We need your help to make this coming year of festivals into the Seasons of Our Joy and Justice. This coming year of American history, and therefore of human history and planetary history, is crucial. This coming year must birth a newborn America, learning like a newborn to breathe and grow into a new beginning, working for a Transformed Earth.

So we ask you for this crucial year to reach deep for a new gift of at least one dollar a day.  That’s  $365 to affirm the holy transformation we can make happen every day – and to help us help you pluck the blossom of joy from the thorns of despair. And if that dollar-a-day is beyond your means, every gift will be a great help. Every gift is tax-deductible.

Please click on the maroon “Please Contribute” link just below, to sing into the future a daily song of love and justice.

A song of shalom, salaam, paz, peace for all of us who live as part of Earth.

With blessings that this approaching “civil year” be not only far more civil than the last one, but be also a year of transformation for you and for us all –

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