What is a Dayenu Circle, and Why Should I Start One?

In this resource:

Dayenu Circles: Your Jewish home for climate action

When we think about the climate crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge, and skeptical of our capacity as individuals to make a meaningful difference.

Dayenu Circles—small groups of people working on climate action—are a way for you to make powerful, positive change with a Jewish voice. Together with just a few friends, fellow community members, or neighbors you can join or create a Dayenu Circle that can be your homebase for climate action. Whether you’ve arrived at this moment with more questions than answers, or have spent years advocating for climate action, a Dayenu Circle is a way for you to channel your passion and concern together with others. Working in concert with other Dayenu Circles across the country you can advance significant national climate policy while also working locally within your community.

We do this work together not only to take effective action to confront the climate crisis, but to sustain ourselves and our spirits as we act. A Dayenu Circle can provide a center of gravity, enabling us to align Jewish values with the change we seek to make in the world. Rooted in community and drawing on Jewish wisdom and experience supports us as we move from fear and anxiety to courageous action.

What is Dayenu?

Dayenu is a multi-generational movement of American Jews confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. Dayenu Circles across the country enable us to mobilize overwhelming Jewish support for climate solutions and raise up a spiritual, religious, and moral voice in response to the climate crisis.

We care deeply about equity and justice and about the world we create for our children and future generations. As such, we are emboldened by our Jewish tradition that teaches, לא בשמים הוא “lo ba’shamayim hi”: it is not in the heavens… or beyond the sea….It is in your mouth and in your heart to do it…Choose life so that you and your offspring may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:12-20). We are building a broad-based Jewish climate movement, rooted in Jewish teaching and tradition, history and experience, faith and song. This movement, working together with other communities, will help us achieve what is urgently needed to ensure a just and sustainable world: to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before 2050, while building an equitable and just clean energy economy for all.

What does climate action have to do with justice?

Climate work and justice are deeply intertwined. The impact of the climate crisis rests disproportionately on those who have been historically marginalized: people living in poverty, in particularly vulnerable geographies, and people who experience racism and other kinds of bigotry such as Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.

By centering communities facing the impacts of the climate crisis and inequity, we can begin to dismantle inhumane systems, establish a just and equitable clean energy economy, and build a livable, sustainable world. That’s why Dayenu and its Circles work arm-in-arm with communities that are directly impacted by, and most vulnerable to, the climate crisis, raising our voices alongside theirs. We must together envision and build a new reality, one that dismantles the insidious racism that has long infected our country and our world, and that sets us on a path to a just and sustainable future.

We’re committed to ensuring that Dayenu Circles can ground themselves in justice by helping Circles build relationships with impacted communities and enabling Circles to bring a justice lens to their learning and action. For tips on how to get started, see this resource on grounding your work in equity and justice.

How does a Dayenu Circle work?

Dayenu Circles can be based in your home or community and can include friends, neighbors, or colleagues. You can also set up a Dayenu Circle with a group of students on your campus, members at your synagogue, JCC, or existing Jewish environmental or social justice group. Some circles may include 5-15 people; others may have more. Circles meet at least monthly, creating a shared space to take bold action on climate grounded in our Jewish values and beliefs.

There is no fee associated with joining or starting a Dayenu Circle, but there is an expectation that Circles contribute to the broader movement by participating in at least 2-3 national Dayenu campaigns or calls to action per year and learning and sharing opportunities such as network calls and webinars, trainings, leadership gatherings, and more.

Creating a Dayenu Circle and connecting to the broader Jewish climate movement has helped us focus our climate justice work and has increased our impact, because we’re part of something much bigger.

- Lisa Cowan, founder of Congregation Beth Elohim’s Dayenu Circle in Brooklyn, New York

What does Dayenu provide to its circles?
  1. Direction: We’re here to help you set up your Circle and provide guidance every step of the way as your Circle grows and evolves. Right away, your circle will plug into Dayenu’s national network, an organized Jewish voice for climate action, and engage in powerful national campaigns. Circles may also have their own additional goals based on what’s driving their members, and what’s happening on the ground in their local community.
  2. Impact: Being part of a Dayenu Circle means being part of a national movement that builds power and impact beyond your own community, while also having a platform to do ongoing work within your local community if you so choose. Dayenu provides opportunities for your Circle to take action through national campaigns such as our effort to advance a Just, Green Recovery, which advocates for a bold approach to economic recovery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or Chutzpah 2020, our get-out-the-vote effort. Dayenu Circles can also engage in other core Dayenu strategies like electoral, legislative, and other campaign work. These strategies and campaigns are designed to enable your Dayenu Circle to be part of our movement’s bold goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before 2050, while building an equitable clean energy economy.
  3. Community: We will help you build your Dayenu Circle so that you don’t have to do this work alone. Through Circles, we alleviate the pressure for any one of us to have to figure this out on our own, while still providing the agency to learn, act, and choose how you want to have impact. Starting a Dayenu Circle also puts you in the company of a national network of leaders who we will convene regularly, enabling you to learn from your peers across the country.
  4. Resources: We offer a growing body of resources, as well as ongoing training and coaching to equip your Circle with the skills, tools, and connections you need for effective learning and action. Dayenu also works together with communities most impacted by the climate crisis, so that our entire network can stay accountable as it takes action. Sign up for Dayenu’s email list to stay in the loop.
What if I’m already part of a climate action group?

Great! Dayenu is part of the broader Jewish, national, and global movements working to confront the climate crisis. It’s going to take all of us working on all fronts and in a myriad of ways to confront this existential crisis. That’s why we partner with a variety of existing Jewish, multi-faith, and secular climate efforts and work together to raise up a powerful Jewish voice calling for bold climate solutions.

If you’re already on your organization’s “Green Team” or another committee, great! You have the opportunity to create a Dayenu Circle alongside or within your team/committee that will enable your group to be part of Dayenu’s national campaigns and access Dayenu’s support, resources, and network, while also preserving the integrity of your local and organization-focused work.

Our intention is for your existing climate action work and your Dayenu Circle to mutually reinforce one another and enable you to leverage opportunities across both spaces for action and learning.

How can I start a Dayenu Circle?

It’s easier than you think! Check out our Launching Your Dayenu Circle resource for step-by-step guidance. We are here to support you and can also connect you to other Dayenu Circle leaders to learn more. Click on the button below to let us know you’re interested in starting a Circle.