In the wake of U.S. election results, Americans attending COP22 started getting a lot of questions from their global colleagues: What do we think of the president-elect? What positions will he take? Who will he appoint to be in his Cabinet? But mostly—since we were at a conference focused on international cooperation on dealing with our shared planetary climate crisis—the question was: “What does the election mean for U.S. action on climate change?” Continue reading
If a person of learning participates in public affairs and serves as judge or arbiter, she gives stability to the land… But if she sits in her home and says to herself, ‘What have the affairs of society to do with me?…. Why should I trouble myself with the people’s voices of protest? Let my soul dwell in peace!’—if she does this, she overthrows the world. -from Midrash Tanhuma, Mishpatim 2
I wish there was no need to protest, that there was no tar sands oil pipeline threatening to encroach upon sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux or to imperil the safety of water for whole communities. But the strength, dignity, and purpose displayed by Native water defenders under intense pressure—including violence from highly militarized authorities—inspires my respect. The excited shouts from defenders as they see buffalo approaching on the horizon brings me tears of joy. Watching white religious leaders from across the country answer the call to stand in solidarity with Native leaders—knowing this nation’s history of systematic abuse, oppression, and extermination of Native peoples perpetrated by Whites—moves me deeply and gives me hope for something new. Continue reading
According to everything I read, the global climate negotiations (COP21) happening in Paris Nov. 30-Dec. 11 are the most significant chance the world has for coming to a meaningful and effective climate agreement this decade. With climate change, time is not on our side, so a positive outcome from these talks is crucial. To that goal, people all around the planet are planning fasts, prayer vigils, marches, coordinated social media, etc. to help raise a unified, global voice calling for #ClimateAction. Continue reading
“We do this because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.” —Sandra Cisneros
We do this — the work of tikkun olam
Because the world we live in is a house on fire: Racism. Hunger. Economic Justice. Climate. Education. Domestic Violence. Poverty. More.
And the people we love are: Oppressed. Attacked. Desperately poor. Sick. Afraid. Hungry. Vulnerable. Suffering.
Burning. The people we love and the world we live in are burning.
Sometimes, this is how it feels — like the world is on fire — and in the face of systemic racism, climate change, or the widening gap between rich and poor, it’s difficult to see what difference my individual actions could possibly make. Continue reading
When I first learned how some Jewish social justice and environmental activists are re-imagining the Sabbatical Year, my mind and heart started racing with the beauty of this ancient teaching. In teachings about the Sabbatical Year, God’s concern for land overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for animals, which overlaps and is entwined with God’s concern for people. Here, there is no dichotomy between social justice issues and environmental issues; no “jobs vs. the environment” mantra that I hear so often in political and activist discourse here in the U.S. Land and animal and human are connected to each other, and to God. Beautiful! Continue reading
Almost two months ago, I was in Budapest for a conference with other Jewish young adults from around the world, each of us professionals engaged in some way in the work of tikkun olam, of repairing the world.
There was a doctor from Australia who offered medical services in areas devastated by a tsunami; an environmental educator who focuses on welcoming young, unaffiliated American Jews; a Talmud teacher who leads text study sessions for social change activists in Jerusalem; and a Jewish community professional who struggles to bridge still-gaping racial divides in her home country of South Africa. Those were just four of us. We were seventy total, from all around the world.
While at the conference, I learned about Jewish responses to global human trafficking; about challenges facing Jewish community life in Mexico; about the enduring effects of the Holocaust, Communism, and still-existing anti-Semitism on today’s Eastern European Jews; about the persecution of the Roma people throughout Europe; about social change organizations in Israel….
So many people, in so many places, doing such important work on so many pressing social, environmental, and community issues. Thank goodness, because it all needs doing and no one person can do it all!
And that’s the thing. I do care about interfaith efforts in Hungary, and Jewish farming in Connecticut, and the struggle to make the land and people of Israel the dream that it could and should be. I am so thankful to be connected to these people, and to continue to learn from them. And yet…
My work and my community are right here in Texas.
If you are among the despairing would-be climate activists of the world — overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, frustrated by lack of political will, horrified by the ever-more-dire predictions of climate scientists, and simultaneously consumed with both the urgency and the hopelessness of the situation — you are not alone.
As understanding grows that climate change is happening in the here and now — good-bye, Antarctic ice sheet — and that it poses a military threat and endangers corporate bottom lines, even people in corporate boardrooms and executive offices are beginning to pay attention. Our planet’s climate is changing because of things we humans have done, and I stand — and sometimes hide under my covers — right there with you, terrified. Continue reading