Max Sussman, 31, spends much of his life advocating for climate justice. As important as the work is to him, however, he worries that it keeps him from being as active in the Jewish community as he would like.
That dynamic shifted a little over a year ago when he met a rabbi at an event protecting Native American land. The two sat together and Sussman learned about Dayenu, a national organization that describes itself as a Jewish call to climate action. Suddenly he found a place where two central aspects of his life could intersect.
Dayenu is reaching out to voters in seven states including Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania before the general election on Nov. 3. Its Chutzpah 2020 campaign is an effort to talk to Jewish voters about the reality of climate change and methods of combating it with “spiritual audacity and bold political action,” said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, the CEO and founder.
Jewish Startup Dayenu Reaches Hundreds of Thousands of Voters Concerned About the Climate Crisis in Six Key States
Climate becomes a major voting issue in 2020 elections
Phoenix, AZ — As the fraught 2020 elections approach, the new organization Dayenu is mobilizing previously overlooked blocs of voters: Jewish and infrequent voters who are concerned about the climate crisis. With volunteers contacting hundreds of thousands of Jewish and “climate-concerned” unlikely voters in six key states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — Dayenu’s non-partisan Chutzpah 2020 campaign is piloting an innovative get-out-the-vote approach that centers faith and amplifies a moral obligation to confront climate change as a decisive issue in these elections.
Halfway between the campaign’s launch and Election Day on November 3, Dayenu volunteers have already reached out to 194,396 voters in Arizona, Michigan and North Carolina. 352 individual Dayenu volunteers had conversations with 1,836 Jewish climate-alarmed voters and with 16,979 infrequent voters alarmed about the climate crisis but not affiliated with the Jewish community. Dayenu’s phone banks and text banks have resulted in 4,882 people making or confirming their plans to vote, with 42% planning to vote by mail or drop off a mail-in ballot, and 47% planning to vote early in person. Following cutting-edge political science research about “vote tripling,” Dayenu’s mobilization has prompted 2,211 people to pledge to remind three of their friends to vote.
“Voters are paying attention to the climate crisis in the 2020 elections — the question is how we can help them take action on their convictions,” said Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, CEO and Founder of Dayenu. “Grounded in our Jewish values, Dayenu is encouraging Jewish Americans to confront the catastrophic impacts of climate change, racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and make change on a systemic level. Together, we can build a country where all people have clean air and water, good jobs, and strong communities. But not unless we vote.”
2020’s climate-fueled catastrophic wildfires, heat waves, hurricanes and flooding, along with air pollution exacerbating the risk of contracting the coronavirus, are amplifying Americans’ concern about the climate. Three out of four Americans now describe climate change as either “a crisis” or “a major problem,” and 80% of American Jews are concerned about the climate crisis. Dayenu’s approach calls for leaders who have the chutzpah (the Yiddish word for courage) to take bold action on climate change, by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring justice, good jobs, and clean air, water, and energy for all.
By employing best-practices virtual voter communications tools, Chutzpah 2020 campaign volunteers are helping ensure that climate-alarmed voters know what is at stake in this election and how to vote safely and securely.
A young Dayenu volunteer in Phoenix named Max Sussman described his experience phone banking, saying, “it’s a different feeling organizing with other Jews. There was the automatic connection. People were really listening. I walked an older woman through the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, because she was very concerned about her ballot coming in the mail. We spent about five minutes together, making sure she was properly registered to vote by mail. This is a place we can make a difference.”
Dayenu’s effort is strengthened by more than 20 partner organizations including Interfaith Power and Light, Jewish Climate Action Network-NY, Jewish Council on Public Affairs, T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Avodah, Keshet, Uri L’Tzedek, Arizona Jews for Justice, and Jewish Youth Climate Movement.
Dayenu’s voter universe for the Chutzpah 2020 campaign was informed by modeling and research from the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication. Yale’s research has categorized Americans into six groups based on their climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, and found that the Alarmed segment has nearly tripled in size while the Dismissive and Doubtful segments have decreased, between 2014 and 2019. Polls from key states report similar climate concerns, such as a poll finding 71% of Arizona voters agree the federal government “needs to do more to combat climate change” and 66% support stronger action by the Governor and state legislature.
Dayenu leaders and Jewish community volunteers are available to speak to the press about their experiences mobilizing for climate justice in this crucial election year. Please contact email@example.com to arrange interviews.
Media are also invited to virtually join Chutzpah 2020 campaign phone banks and text banks, by prior arrangement.
For more information about the Chutzpah 2020 campaign, visit https://dayenu.org/chutzpah.
As the founder of a new organization building a Jewish movement to confront the climate crisis, the lead-up to the High Holidays this year is painfully resonant.
“Who by fire?” the Unetaneh Tokef prayer asks. “Who by water?”
This year, we will recite the prayer amid unprecedented fires, destruction and toxic smoke in the West and flooding in the South, where a series of slow-moving storms have left communities underwater.
Both of these disasters are fueled by climate change and the policies and inaction that continue to make it worse. Most years, the shofar blasts awaken us. This year, we are already painfully awake.
Millions of Americans are living through the unimaginable. Those of us in other parts of the country are pierced by daily images of destruction and surreal statistics. We talk with family, friends and colleagues out West who tell us it is “apocalyptic.” We catch a glimpse of what will soon be our reality — if not by fire then by water, or heat, or drought. The devastation of climate change is not a distant future. It is now.
Today, Dayenu joined more than 30 Jewish communal organizations from around the country to press Members of Congress to advance a just, green recovery to address the economic recession caused in part by the coronavirus pandemic.
While organizational sign-ons are closed, you can add your name to this letter to Congress here.
Dear Member of Congress:
As Jewish communities that care deeply for the future of this country, we pray for your strength as you continue your work to heal our nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you for the efforts you have already made to address the pandemic. As the COVID-19 crisis surges, we ask you to act with compassion to continue to ensure robust funding for public health and economic assistance for those in need. Assistance must be provided at levels that are commensurate with the devastating impact of this crisis and directed especially to communities disproportionately impacted. We are concerned that stimulus funds intended to support small businesses and vulnerable individuals have been misdirected to polluting industries that are compromising our collective future.
As you turn your attention from immediate needs to long-term recovery, we urge you to recognize that the global climate crisis also continues to imperil our health, safety and economy. While COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, 2020 is on track to being the hottest year on record. In our most northern state of Alaska, permafrost is melting and tides are rising, forcing villages to relocate. While Southern and Eastern states face record flooding and heat waves, Western states continue to suffer a multi-year mega-drought, and agriculture is in crisis in the Midwest. The climate crisis is worsening, and costing taxpayers, insurers, and governments at all levels; Since January, according to NOAA, there have been 10 climate-related weather disasters in the United States that have each cost over $1 billion.
We also know that climate change exacerbates the coronavirus crisis. Burning fossil fuels releases particulates and emissions that negatively impact respiratory health, which can make COVID-19 even more dangerous, especially in Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-income communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the consequences of neglecting to listen to science and prepare for disaster. This is the time to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, equitable economy in order to achieve more resilient communities and provide cheaper, renewable sources of energy.
We urge you to act boldly to preserve human lives and all of God’s creation by adopting a stimulus and recovery plan that:
- Accelerates the transition to 100% clean energy by 2030 by incentivizing the deployment of clean energy and investing in sustainable infrastructure;
- Creates growth in the green jobs sector by requiring high standards for good jobs and provides for job training and a just transition for workers in greenhouse gas intensive industries and their communities;
- Furthers environmental justice by working in concert with community leaders to ensure that communities on the frontlines of poverty and pollution benefit from the recovery and transition to clean energy; and
- Discontinues investment in and subsidies for fossil fuel infrastructure and takes steps to hold polluters accountable.
As Jews, in moments of danger we encourage each other with the words that Moses spoke to his successor Joshua as he took responsibility for leading the Children of Israel to the promised land: chazak v’ematz, be strong and courageous (Deuteronomy 31:23). Our future depends on your strength and courage. We urge you to seize this moment to take action for a more just, sustainable, and healthy world for generations to come.
Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action
Jewish Earth Alliance
On July 23, Dayenu held a powerful discussion with academics and activists on why we need a just, green recovery in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Watch Dr. Mark Paul, assistant professor of economics and environmental studies at New College of Florida, Aracely Jimenez, Deputy Director of Communications for Sunrise Movement, and Adrien Salazar, Senior Campaign Strategist at Demos, in conversation with Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu, in a discussion on why we need a Just, Green Recovery.
In this profound and beautiful conversation, we talk with Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu - a movement of American Jews confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. She shares powerful stories from the Jewish faith - which provide insight, light and courage in facing dark times. She also shares rituals from the Jewish tradition that help to navigate grief, fight for justice, and honor the historic journey of Jews from oppression and slavery, through years in the wilderness, and ultimately to freedom. Her wisdom will inspire you regardless of your religion or lack thereof.
The climate movement in the United States has grown increasingly diverse in recent years, with young people and front-line communities leading the way. But what has been missing, according to Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, is a strong Jewish mobilization effort at the national level.
Rosenn’s newly launched organization, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, wants to change that.
The Hebrew phrase “dayenu” is well-known among Jews. It’s the title of a popular song communities have sung at Passover celebrations for a millennium now. In English, dayenu is typically translated as “it would have been enough,” reflecting gratitude for all of God’s gifts.
But there is another possible translation, rooted more in urgency than thanks, that Jewish environmentalists say speaks to the current moment.
“‘We’ve had enough,’” Rosenn, Dayenu’s founder and CEO, said in a telephone interview. “It’s time for us all to act. We’ve had enough with the climate changing and there not being robust enough action.”
A new national Jewish group dedicated to tackling the climate crisis is emphasizing the connections between racial injustice and a degraded environment.
Minority communities, says Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder and CEO of the new group, Dayenu, “are more likely to have polluting industries close by, less access to cooling in extreme heat, and significantly limited access to quality medical care.”
Launched one month before George Floyd’s killing in police custody led to weeks of demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice, Dayenu aims to link the issues in its push for clean energy and a “Just Green Recovery” — a pledge by the presidential candidates to rebuild the world after the coronavirus so that it is more just and sustainable rather than supporting the coal and gas industries.
In this time of intense anger and grief, in a country where Black communities are targeted by police violence, we want to acknowledge the collective pain that this moment represents.
George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. All killed in acts of violence, targeted because of the color of their skin.
It’s no accident that police violence, coronavirus, and climate change all disproportionately impact Black communities. Our healthcare, housing, food, transportation and energy systems put Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities at much higher risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus, whether from poverty or dirty air.
The painful words that George Floyd uttered as he was choked to death, “I can’t breathe” reflect both the devastating, immediate human cost of police brutality and the longer-term crisis of environmental racism.
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn has spent most of her career working on Jewish social justice causes. Until recently, however, there was one issue that didn’t resonate as strong.
“The environment was something that I knew was important, but I wasn’t passionate in my kishkes [gut] about it the way that I was other issues,” said the New-York based rabbi, who until 2017 led community engagement for the Jewish refugee resettlement group HIAS.
That changed over the last few years, especially after Rosenn experienced a heat wave firsthand one summer in the San Francisco Bay Area “that felt apocalyptic.”
She decided last summer that she wanted to found an organization dedicated to fighting the climate crisis, and on Monday the rabbi launched Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action.