In early September, much of the political world was focused on U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-W.Va, seeming intransigence about passing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package being debated this week in Congress. On Sept. 12, he made the rounds on Sunday morning shows. Meanwhile in Phoenix that morning, approximately 40 people stood outside another moderate Democratic senator’s office, asking her to be bold.
Arizona Jews for Justice, with support from the Jewish climate advocacy group Dayenu, organized a rally, Hear the Call: Jews for a Just Recovery Package, outside of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s office at 3333 E. Camelback Rd. The event’s goal was to convince the moderate Democrat to vote yes on reconciliation package — “with not a penny less.” Their clarion call: “Climate, care, jobs and justice now!”
The bill includes billions of dollars for climate issues and by using the reconciliation process, Democrats could pass the legislation with 50 votes. Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote would break the tie.
But that would require every Democratic senator to vote yes, since it has no Republican support. The activists in Phoenix believe if Sinema signals she will vote yes, Manchin will follow suit.
Shofars sounded in downtown Newark last Tuesday afternoon, as Jewish climate activists gathered near Penn Station, and near the offices of Senator Cory Booker, to call on the senator to “hear the clarion call for climate action and act now to ensure a swift transition to a clean energy future.”
“I hate seeing beautiful sunsets that are caused by fires on the other side of the country,” Rabbi Elliot Tepperman of Montclair’s Congregation B’nai Keshet said. “I hate that teenagers think they will not have a world that is safe to live in.
“Senator Booker, we are here to make sure you hear our call,” he said, and then he blew his shofar.
Among those joining Rabbi Tepperman as speakers and shofar blowers at the demonstration were Rabbi David Vaisberg of Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, Rabbi Marc Kline of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, and Rabbi Laurence Malinger of Temple Shalom in Aberdeen.
The event was organized by Margo Wolfson of Manalapan Township. Ms. Wolfson teaches biology at Brookdale Community College, and she is a rabbinical student with Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.
It was the first New Jersey activity of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action. Dayenu launched in 2020 to build “a multi-generational Jewish movement that confronts the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action,” according to its website.
“I joined Dayenu a little more than a year ago,” Ms. Wolfson said. She took part in a Dayenu national meeting held on Zoom, which split into breakout rooms for participants from different states. She was the only one on the meeting from New Jersey. So she turned to friends from a long-standing Rosh Chodesh group and found a couple able to help her organize.
“I was hoping for a minyan,” she said of the turnout at Newark. “We got 20.”
When 70 climate activists stood outside Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s West Los Angeles field offices 10 days ago and blew a shofar, it wasn’t their way of wishing their senator an early Happy Jewish New Year.
One clue? One of their protest signs read, “Sho-far, Not Sho-good.”
The activists were organized by a climate action group called Dayenu — loosely speaking, Hebrew for “Enough!”— part of a campaign that is blowing the ritual ram’s horn across the country to urge Congress to pass President Biden’s $3.5-trillion “Build Back Better” budget bill focused in part on reducing carbon emissions.
The connection between climate change and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins the evening of Sept. 6, might not be immediately apparent — unless, that is, you’re familiar with a fairly arcane Jewish custom of “shmita.”
Shmita (rhymes with “pita”) is a sabbatical year on the Jewish calendar, occurring every seven years, including in 5782, which begins Monday evening.
During shmita, Jews are commanded to let the land of Israel lie fallow — the laws only apply to the land of Israel. They may not sow, harvest or even buy and sell crops they produce from the land. They can only pick what grows on its own.
Shmita is set in the Bible: “The seventh year shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto the LORD; thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard_.”_
Even though there is some debate as to whether the onerous laws of shmita were ever observed exactly as commanded, they are still followed in some fashion by Orthodox Jews in Israel, who have found workarounds to keep food and commerce flowing, such as buying produce from Palestinian farmers — another data point that Arab-Jewish coexistence is likely more mutually beneficial than conflict.
Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
About two dozen local activists gathered at a rally organized by Milwaukee Jews for Climate Action outside Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s Milwaukee office to call on her to stay strong against climate change.
“We want to thank Sen. Baldwin for what she’s done,” said Rabbi Michal Woll, speaking at the foot of The Clark Building, 633 W. Wisconsin Ave., on Aug. 19, 2021. “But it’s our understanding that she’s under a lot of pressure to start polluting.”
Activists are concerned that Baldwin could waiver on the infrastructure legislation that she and all Senate Democrats have already voted for. The $1 trillion bill includes $150 billion for clean energy and efforts to address climate change. As of Chronicle press time, some centrist House Democrats were turning skittish on the mammoth spending package, according to media reports. The bill could come before the Senate again.
“It is so clear that we have been burning fossil fuels for too long,” said Woll, who was a key organizer for the rally and leads Congregation Shir Hadash in Milwaukee.
“It’s the people shouting who broke down the walls of Jericho. We want our voices heard,” Woll said, just before she blew a shofar with others clamoring in unison.
Dayenu Circle of Jewish Silicon Valley and other local faith groups gathered for a boisterous protest Wednesday at San Jose City Hall, calling for legislators to take serious national action on climate change.
Representatives from a host of religions — including Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Unitarians, Catholics and several denominations of Protestant Christianity — brought forth song, prayer, mantras and sacred religious instruments to make “holy noise,” imploring California’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, to return to Washington after summer recess and fight for an economic recovery bill that includes climate action.
Participants included Temple Emanu-El of San Jose, Jewish Silicon Valley, Congregation Emeth in Morgan Hill, the Hindu American Foundation, South Bay California Interfaith Power & Light, Grace Baptist Church, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara, SEWA International and Sikh Gurdwara Sahib, along with Dayenu Circle of Jewish Silicon Valley.
The event began with speeches from different religious leaders, each relating climate justice to their respective faiths. A number of speakers addressed direct action they wanted to see incorporated into pandemic recovery legislation in Congress, including a clean-electricity standard, a Civilian Climate Corps and environmental equity.
Western Mass News
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – Climate activists gathered in Springfield on Tuesday to rally outside Congressman Richard Neal’s office.
Several grassroots groups calling on the representative to “seal the deal” as Congress negotiates the infrastructure bill and budget reconciliation.
While the plan brings large investments to roads, electric grids and more, activists said more needs to be done for broader items including climate solutions, jobs, and childcare.
“We don’t have much time before the climate crisis becomes way more of a crisis than it already is, so we need to invest in those climate solutions and right now, we’re asking Richard Neal to be bold and to make sure that $3.5 trillion bigger reconciliation bill gets passed and has everything that our communities need,” said Lizzy Pereira with Sunrise Hampden County.
The House is expected to vote on the infrastructure bill sometime Tuesday.
With a $3.5 trillion budget resolution passing the House today, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action issued the following statement:
“The passage of today’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution through the House marks a critical step forward on the road towards the bold climate action that most Americans support. Amid a summer of cascading weather emergencies and a UN report showing the ways in which we are perilously close to a point of no return, we call on Congress to pass a recovery package that addresses the dire threat we face and invests in bold climate solutions, jobs, care, and justice. A package that fails to include these investments will constitute a failure by our elected representatives to address the crisis at hand.
“As we approach Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, we enter a time of reflection and teshuvah, atonement and turning. It is painfully clear that we must turn away from fossil fuels and towards a livable, equitable future for all. And Congress must turn our country and economy toward a just and livable future by swiftly passing a recovery package that includes a pathway to 100% clean, pollution-free energy, targeted funding for communities impacted by environmental racism and injustice, and unprecedented investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. There is no more time to waste.
“To that end, Dayenu is mobilizing the American Jewish community to demand that their elected representatives meet the moment and go big on climate. With the Jewish new year approaching, Jews will gather to publicly sound the Shofar as part of Dayenu’s Hear the Call campaign, offering a clarion call to action for leaders to pass the climate investments we so desperately need.”
Like the Hindu faith, the Jewish faith is among the oldest continuous religions, born when people lived in nature, not in cities. Some of Judaism’s major holidays are based on ancient harvest festivals: wheat and barley in late spring, olives and grapes in autumn. We even have a New Year of the Trees, one of my favorite holidays. The blossoming of the almond tree, the first tree to bloom in Israel, signals its start. I planted an almond tree in my garden here in San Jose just to wonder at its beauty in bloom.
Over millennia, life continued, following Earth’s natural rhythms: rain in its season, dry warmth in its. People, like the wildlife around them, lived within the boundaries of Earth’s cycles. In the past century, however, human technology began to overtake nature. Our dominance of nature became pronounced in the past 50 years. As we caused the natural world to become out of sync and detrimental to life, environmental organizations, both secular and religious, grew to counter the problems. In the past few years, one environmental crisis—more threatening than any other—loomed as existential: climate change.
The Jewish community had no organization devoted solely to solving the climate-change crisis. Two years ago, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, who worked for 20-plus years in social justice organizations, realized that many of the issues she worked on would be ameliorated by tackling climate change. So she started Dayenu: a Jewish Call for Climate Action.
As we make our way through this hot, smoky summer — witnessing record-breaking temperatures and the uncontrollable spread of fires in California and Oregon — the reality of climate change can no longer be ignored. Since the industrial revolution, human activities have polluted our atmosphere with 2.4 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide, an unfathomable amount of a greenhouse gas that’s proven to lead to extreme weather, food-supply shortages, increased wildfires, health problems, and so much more. Communities on the frontlines of poverty, racism, and pollution suffer these consequences most intensely. Our broken world is calling out for Tikkun Olam – for repair.
San Jose Spotlight
Summarizing the 4,000-page study, carefully assembled by teams of climate scientists around the world, the UN released a statement that simply said, “This assessment of the latest science is a severe warning regarding the well-being of human society and all life on Earth. It is testimony to the fact that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades have been wholly insufficient.”
For over a century researchers have suspected that we are warming our atmosphere, and for the past 50 years evidence has mounted that the culprit was increased burning of fossil fuels. Since 1965, every U.S. president (with one notable exception) has warned that global warming was a threat to national security, and pledged to curb emissions. But in all these decades no broad-based, systematic action was designed to address this looming crisis.
No surprise that for decades comprehensive federal efforts to reduce carbon consumption have been stymied by fossil fuel companies. Borrowing the playbook from the tobacco industry, they spent millions on propaganda designed to cast doubt on the role of carbon emissions. When, despite their hand waving, further studies showed greenhouse gases to be the cause—and a carbon tax was proposed as the cure—they switched tactics to suggest that individual consumers could restore the climate simply by changing light bulbs and planting trees.
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