Why is this “A Time to Build?”

Last year, Dayenu launched a campaign named A Time To Build, which took its inspiration from “Kohelet” (Ecclesiastes), 3:3. Rabbi Rosenn explores the origins and reasons for this campaign.

by Rabbi Jennie Rosenn

Last year brought wild weather extremes in the U.S.

In June, the skies of New York City turned orange, choked with wildfire smoke. In July, Phoenix endured a heatwave of 31 consecutive days at or above 110 degrees. In August, a heat dome suffocated the Central Plains, Midwest, and South with record heat and humidity. In Hawaii, wildfires burned the town of Lahaina to the ground, and swaths of California and Florida flooded due to massive ocean storms. Record rainfall in New York City and flash floods were just the latest impact of the massive climate crisis-driven change we are all experiencing. 

In the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation released in October, he calls the world to action: “We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes.” Jewish Americans know that we need to act decisively in our neighborhoods and communities. Collective action on the part of grassroots leaders, organizers, and ordinary citizens across the nation has delivered exactly the tools we need to act concretely and locally.

In 2022, after decades of mounting public pressure and a sustained 18-month campaign, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — the first major piece of federal legislation to confront the climate crisis, and a catalyst for America’s rapid transition to clean energy. The Jewish community, led in part by Dayenu, showed up with people, power, and spirit. The result of this collective effort was a commitment to $370 billion of investments in clean energy, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing electrification, and other climate solutions.

The IRA legislation is far from perfect; fossil fuel companies and those politicians who do their bidding won dangerous concessions that will harm Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities and could delay immediate action. Even the negotiations around a government shutdown could hinder its implementation. However, these investments ushered in a new season. On Sukkot, we read the words of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes): “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven,” including “a time for tearing down and a time for building up.” 

Now is the time to build. With hundreds of billions in new federal investments, we need to build electric grids fueled by free, abundant sun and wind. Pollution-free electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in every neighborhood can power affordable clean cars. Schools, homes, houses of worship, and businesses can run on affordable, renewable energy. Expansive public transit systems and a new fleet of electric school buses can save our lungs while making getting to work and school easier.

All this can be made possible by good, family-sustaining jobs in clean energy and long overdue investment in underserved communities. But only if the money is deployed expeditiously, effectively, and equitably.

This vision and its implementation is the focus of Dayenu’s campaign, A Time To Build: Climate, Jobs, and Justice for All. Our Jewish communities must paint such a compelling picture of a just, livable future that Americans are inspired to demand their policymakers take action at the scale that science and justice demand. Because, as the most recent National Climate Assessment showed, time is the scarcest resource of all.

We don’t have a minute to waste.

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