A pro-Earth rally joins
In Tisha B'Av observance.
The Capitol Dome looms,
Activists challenge the Senate
About 200 people took part in a unique fusion of political rally, multireligious prayer, and Tisha B'Av observance at noon on July 20, 2010, on the grounds of the US Capitol --- bringing grief, hope, and action for healing Mother Earth, and demanding
"Get dirty fuels out of our air and water;
Get dirty money out of our politics." .
Nick Alpers, program coordinator for The Shalom Center, videotaped this extraordinary event. The video -- which is amazing in itself, showing clearly the amalgam of spiritual, religious, and political energy -- can be seen on YouTube by clicking here. (You can receive notices of future Shalom Center YouTube videos by signing up there to become a subscriber.)
The Capitol dome loomed in the background as the rally chanted, sang, joined in prayer, meditated on the sounding of notes of warning, grief, and hope from the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn), cheered a series of powerful speeches, and then sent three groups of activists to Senate offices.
The event began with Ted Glick, who had coordinated the planning, rousing everyone with a rundown of the climate crisis, the role of Big Oil in the Gulf disaster, and the role of Big Oil in blocking crucial climate action by the Senate, through enormous campaign contributions to some members.
Then I introduced the multireligious aspect by connecting the 2500-year Jewish history of mourning (on Tisha B'Av) the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem -- with the need today, on this very Tisha B'Av, for us all to mourn the ongoing ruination of what I called "the sacred Temple of all human communities and of all life-forms on our planet -- - the sacred Temple of the Earth herself."
The speeches focused especially on the destructive effects of over-burning fossil fuels on global climate; the corporate arrogance and governmental complicity that led to disaster in the Gulf; and the corrupting effect of Big Oil's power on the democratic process through its huge financial contributions to the election campaigns of Senators and members of Congress.
Many participants dipped their hands in oil as signs read, "Congress has oily hands."
As part of the multireligious/secular amalgam, the Jewish segment of the program began with a blowing of shofarot by Rabbi David Shneyer (on the far left in the photo below), former president of Ohalah Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal and the rabbi of Congregation Am Kolel, and Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb (on the far right), a member of the Shalom Center board and the rabbi of Adat Shalom Congregation. The notes on the shofar were called by Rabbis Gerald Serotta, co-founder of Clergy Beyond Borders; ; and Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer of the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.
Then Tamara Cohen, who is the Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center, and I chanted from "Eicha for the Earth" that Cohen had created -- an outcry of Lament, Hope, and Action for the healing of Mother Earth.
Many in the crowd joined in the chant, which used the wailing melody traditional for chanting the Book of Lamentations on Tisha B'Av. (For the text of "Eicha for the Earth" and other articles on the universal meaning of Tisha B'Av, )
Rabbi Shneyer led the rally in singing Pete Seeger's song "Rainbow Race."
From Upper Senate Park, three groups of fifteen people each walked to the offices of several Senators who had taken extremely large donations from BP and other Big Oil companies. Our delegations urged these Senators to pledge to take no more donations from Big Oil, and pay the amounts they had already received to groups carrying out reconstruction and healing in the stricken Gulf.
The Shalom Center was responsible for planning and organizing the multi-religious presence and content, with prayers by Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim leaders. Activists from the Gulf Restoration Network, MoveOn, the Climate Crisis Coalition, Friends of the Earth, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Greenpeace, joined with members of The Shalom Center, Teva Learning Center, Congregation Am Kolel in the Washington area, Shomrei Adamah of Greater Washington, Kayyam Farm at the Pearlstone Center, Fabrangen, and Temple Rodef Shalom in northern Virginia, the Buddhist community of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, and Sojourners, a progressive Christian magazine, to make up a spirited action-oriented throng.
Media coverage of the event included CNN and ABC, National Public Radio, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and the Associated Press. JTA sent out an article on the event to practically all Jewish weeklies in the US.
With blessings of active hope and hopeful action for shalom, salaam, shantih -- peace!
Two books of Reb Arthur's on Eco-Judaism -- Down-to-Earth Judaism: Food, Money, Sex, & the Rest of Life and Torah of the Earth (2 vols, eco-Jewish thought from earliest Torah to our own generation) are available with discounts from “Shouk Shalom,” our on-line bookstore, by clicking here.