Dayenu urges Jewish institutions to use their investments to spur climate action.
As we approach Hanukkah, we recall the story of the Maccabees, who against steep odds, took a moral stand so that the Jewish people could survive and thrive. During the holiday we celebrate miracles, but the Jewish community does not need a miracle to confront the climate crisis. We have enough – “Dayenu.” Working together, we can ensure a just and livable world for all, for generations to come.
Dayenu’s new report, with groundbreaking research into Jewish communal institutions, lays out a clear path for the American Jewish community to make its moral voice heard and mobilize its $100 billion in assets to help turn the tide of the climate crisis. It calls on major American Jewish institutions to leave behind fossil fuels and invest in clean energy – and to urge the world’s largest banks and asset managers to do the same.
The American Jewish community is poised to take bold action to confront the climate crisis. Eighty percent of American Jews are concerned about climate change, and Jewish voters, and especially young Jews, consistently rank climate as a top priority.
Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which invests $370 billion in clean energy and climate, will help jumpstart the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, but it does not slash emissions deeply enough, quickly enough to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
To keep temperatures from rising 2°C, causing famines and floods, and making extreme weather events the norm, we must leave the majority of coal, oil and gas reserves underground and unburned. The world’s largest banks and asset managers are responsible for financing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Because their investment dollars often come from institutional endowments and pension funds, most investors have money backing coal, oil, and gas, whether or not they know it.
That’s why 1550 institutions representing more than $40 trillion in assets – including Harvard and Yale Universities, New York City and New York State pension funds, MacArthur and Ford Foundations, and the Vatican – have already committed to aligning their investments with their values and moving their money out of fossil fuels, the leading driver of the climate crisis.
This new report establishes a baseline for major Jewish communal investments in fossil fuels; and provides a pathway and resources for institutions to align their investments with Jewish values, helping to shift financial support away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.
Dayenu analyzed the publicly available records of the four major denominational movements, 20 Federations and their Jewish Community Foundations of the largest Jewish communities (representing 80% of the US Jewish population) and the national Federation body, and 20 largest endowed American Jewish foundations.
Key findings from the report:
- These institutions hold $34.7 billion in total investments, representing one-third of the estimated $100 billion in total Jewish communal assets.
- Of the $34.7 billion total investment, nearly $3.3 billion currently backs coal, oil and gas companies that continue to extract and burn fossil fuels, a median of 5.54% exposure. (For samples of the sort this report used, best practice is to use *medians* to reduce distortion by outliers)
- Jewish institutions aren’t alone, and this report does not single out individual institutions – most investors have some exposure to fossil fuels either through direct investments, or by investing in index funds that include fossil fuels – the market average is around 5.68%.
- The $3.3 billion invested in fossil fuel equities represents 2.6 megatons of carbon, the equivalent of emissions from more than 561,000 gas-powered cars or 6.5 natural-gas fired power plants operating for a year.
- Major denominational movement organizations hold nearly $3.9 billion in total investments, and at least an estimated $218 million in fossil fuel investments, with a median exposure to fossil fuels of 5.66%.
- Major Federations and Jewish Community Foundations, and the national Federation body hold $15.6 billion in investments, and an estimated $716 million in fossil fuel investments, with a median exposure to fossil fuels of 5.51%.
- The large Jewish foundations examined in this report hold $15.3 billion in investments, and an estimated $2.3 billion in fossil fuel investments. There was a much wider range of total investments in fossil fuels among foundations, but a median exposure to fossil fuels of 5.50%.
- To date, only a handful of Jewish institutions have screened out fossil fuels from their investment portfolios.
Jewish institutions should seize the opportunity to invest in the common sense climate solutions we need. As clean, renewable energy continues to become more accessible and affordable, it allows these institutions to take meaningful climate action while reducing portfolio risk and without sacrificing returns.
Jewish communal institutions have collective power as customers, clients, and even shareholders to move their own money, and to help change the priorities of the banks and asset managers that are keeping fossil fuel companies afloat.
Using the roadmap presented in the report, Jewish institutions can shift investments away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, and urge the world’s largest asset managers and banks to do the same.
In the V’ahavta prayer in the Sh’ma, we are called to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. Some rabbis interpret the phrase “all our might” as “all our property” or “all our money.” Our tradition recognizes the power of money, and indeed, finance is a key lever for climate action. Today, we offer a roadmap to support Jewish institutions to move into action, ensure we are doing everything in our power to avert the worst of climate devastation, and raise up a powerful communal voice for a just, livable future for all people, for generations to come.
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Dayenu Founder and CEO
Informed asset owners, portfolio managers and investment advisors with a long term view are tuned in to the material investment risks and opportunities resulting from climate change. They know the world is already on an inexorable path toward decarbonization and that they don’t need to sacrifice returns to invest in a sustainable future. Private capital is one of the most effective tools we have available to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. The time is ripe for Jewish institutions, private endowments, and families to align their portfolios with the shift to a net zero carbon economy. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to lead.
Joshua Arnow, Arnow Family Fund
As we look to our investment portfolios to make an impact on the climate crisis, we recognize that this is a moment for bold action. If the Jewish community leans into our tradition of adaptability and smart risk taking, we can make investing with values the norm. If we fail to meet this moment, what will we tell the Jewish leaders of the future? What will we tell our future generations.”
Charlene Seidle, Leichtag Foundation
Wherever one stands politically, there’s no doubt that most Jews care about climate change, especially the young. This report is an important conversation starter, and an important contribution to a communal discussion.”
Andrés Spokoiny, Jewish Funders Network
Dayenu’s report offers a valuable opportunity for institutions and activists to understand how we can and must confront the climate crisis by aligning our investments with our Jewish values.
Jakir Manela, CEO of Hazon and Pearlstone Hazon
Faith communities have long been the moral conscience of our movements for justice, protecting the most vulnerable and stewarding creation for future generations. Now, Jewish institutions have the opportunity to join the more than 550 other faith groups across the globe in leaving behind the fossil fuel industry. If not now, then when?
Bill McKibben, Third Act