Purim is, among other things, a festival of blame. We gather as a community to publicly name and boo the bad guy.
I have always hated this aspect of Purim; it feels wrong to revel in the evil of another human being. As a kid, I would cover my ears and shift uncomfortably in my seat. As an adult, I try not to focus on the final chapters where we read about the violent vengeance wrought by the hanging of Haman’s sons.
But the Megillah is unfurled each year for good reason: it’s a warning that evil really does exist in the world, and that we as Jews have the power to stop it in its tracks.
As it rolls out a multiyear campaign to press financial institutions to divest from fossil fuels, Dayenu, a Jewish group combating climate change, does not plan to place pressure on the endowments of Jewish organizations, Dayenu CEO Rabbi Jennie Rosenn told eJewishPhilanthropy.
The campaign, called “All Our Might,” is being launched tonight at a virtual event and will initially focus on pressuring asset managers, investors and banks to divest from fossil fuels. Its name is drawn from the first paragraph of the Shema, and it comes after a year when two New York City pension funds as well as Harvard University announced that they would no longer invest in companies that burn coal, oil and natural gas.
When Beth Sirull took over the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego five years ago, she moved quickly to offer its donors — including local Jewish groups — the option to put their money in a fund that “applies a Jewish lens” to its investments. That meant buying Israel bonds, bankrolling affordable housing and using shareholder advocacy to push companies on social and environmental causes.
Lisa Colton plans to galvanize the Jewish community around climate change the same way she once sold Girl Scout cookies: with new ideas. As a scout, Colton purchased a box of each flavor cookie with her own money, cut the individual cookies into small pieces and offered them as samples. She sold more than 1,000 boxes.
Now at 47 years old, Colton, who lives in Seattle in Washington State, has applied her marketing smarts to causes she cares about. She spearheaded last year’s The Great Big Jewish Food Fest and the upcoming The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest. The latter runs next Monday thru Friday to coincide with Tu B’Shvat, starting Sunday evening.
As American Jews, we have long played active roles in our world’s most pressing challenges and crises. This was true of the Black-led Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and efforts to end the genocide in Darfur in the 2000s. Our current climate crisis demands our attention, our action and our voice. We are facing an existential threat at a scale unlike anything humans have faced in history; the Jewish community must bring all of its people and power to ensure a livable and sustainable planet for generations to come.
New York, NY – With the House of Representatives passing a major reconciliation package, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, issued the following statement:
“Today, the House of Representatives took a long overdue step toward addressing the climate crisis. The United States government is finally on the precipice of approving transformative investments in clean energy solutions that will lead to a more just and sustainable future for all.
“In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the generations that follow our biblical ancestors, and God promises: ‘I will make your offspring as numerous as the grains of sand along the sea.’ Our collective future is at stake today – and our fight is far from over.
“Already, the fossil fuel industry has successfully lobbied to whittle down the scope of this package. Our children and our children’s children cannot afford the price of delay or inaction. It is imperative that the Senate act without delay to pass this legislation into law. If we want to ensure a thriving planet and society l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation, our leaders must act urgently and pass the full Build Back Better agenda.
“We are grateful for the tireless efforts of grassroots and organizational leaders across the country, whose relentless advocacy helped make House passage a reality. It is thanks to the multiracial, multigenerational, multifaith coalition mobilized across the country that we stand close to the climate action we so desperately need.”
New York, NY – After negotiations at COP26 concluded and as Congress deliberates on the Build Back Better legislative package, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action issued the following statement:
“COP26 may be over, but the real work is only just beginning. The global community has a long way to go to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which scientists say is needed to avert the most harmful impacts of the climate crisis, as well as to respect and honor human rights. At the same time, we’re encouraged by many of the announcements and partnerships, like the launch of a global alliance to phase out oil and gas extraction, the multilateral commitment to reduce potent global methane emissions, and the recommitment to end deforestation by decade’s end. These initiatives have tremendous potential, but promises alone won’t solve the climate crisis. We need meaningful action.
“We call on the United States to follow through on the commitments it made over the past two weeks in Glasgow. A critical first step is passing the Build Back Better Act, which would enable the U.S. to deliver on its greenhouse gas emissions reductions pledge under the Paris Agreement. And we’re looking to the Biden Administration to go further by taking aggressive executive action, including banning oil and gas extraction on public lands, canceling ongoing and future fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and introducing new regulations to rapidly cut transportation and electricity emissions.”
“Time and time again, our leaders have made bold promises on climate, only to back down when the stage lights fade. In Judaism, we believe that words are significant and vows are sacred. We cannot afford for history to repeat itself, which is why Dayenu is helping to build a multigenerational Jewish climate movement to hold U.S. leaders to account and address the climate crisis at the scale that science and justice demand.”
Dayenu Calls for Passage of full Build Back Better package as Infrastructure Bill heads to President Biden’s desk
New York – With the House of Representatives passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Dahlia Rockowitz, Washington Director of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action issued the following statement:
“We applaud the House of Representatives’ passage of legislation that provides critical investments in rail and public transit, clean water, high-speed internet, electric vehicle charging stations, and pollution remediation. This legislation is an initial step towards updating our nation’s outdated infrastructure.
“But alone, this legislation will not significantly reduce emissions or address environmental injustice. The Senate and House must now pass a reconciliation package that includes transformative investments in climate, care, good jobs, and justice that can deliver a better future for all. Jewish Americans, alongside a multiracial, multigenerational, and multifaith coalition, will continue to push this country forward and ensure that Congress delivers on its promises. It is time for our leaders to act with the moral courage and clarity needed to meet this moment.”
This week all eyes have turned to Glasgow, Scotland, as world leaders gathered for COP26, the annual UN climate conference. While COP26 feels like a distant set of high-stakes negotiations, the success of these meetings hinges on whether the United States delivers serious climate action on the homefront, which in turn hinges on how we show up as a community.
What do you see as your role in confronting the climate crisis?
Most of my decisions as an adult have been defined by the reality of climate change. I became a farmer and farm educator to help people come into proximity with the food they eat, and understand the challenges in our industrial food system. And I became a spiritual guide, rooted in my own ancestral tradition, to help people meet the fallacies of our capitalist system and find ways to transcend it.