Don’t Try to Save the World All by Yourself!

partners_optTrying to accomplish any kind of activism, community, or systems change on your own is a recipe for disaster. First, it won’t work. More importantly, it’s sure to burn you out, make you crazy, and leave you lying in an angry or despairing puddle of ineffectiveness on your kitchen floor.

The Buddy System. In the Jewish tradition, people are not supposed to study all by themselves! People study in pairs—with a partner, called havruta (meaning friendship). Why do people study in pairs? For all kinds of reasons: because it’s not possible to find all the answers on our own; because studying with a partner makes each person accountable to the other; because having to articulate your ideas to someone else helps you express those ideas better. According to the Talmud, “Two scholars sharpen one another” (BT Ta’anit 7a).

In your advocacy and community work, you need a buddy.  Continue reading

Climate, Communities, and Resilience: A Post-Election Interfaith Press Conference @COP22

syrian-childIn 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

From Standing Rock to Marrakech

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

climate-justice-nowI 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

A Prayer for Paris Climate Talks

hamsa in backyardAccording 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

Uncertain Certain Joy

sukkah-Aaron MI don’t like uncertainty. I doubt that anyone does.

Lately, though, I’ve been swimming in it. In early July, I had the incredible opportunity to study for two weeks with the Jewish Renewal movement. I immersed in community life; met smart, dedicated, and interesting people; and took classes on holy relationships, Hasidic stories, and medieval philosophy. I was there to learn, but also to evaluate…and be evaluated. Continue reading