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

Stop with the Blame Game Already: Stop Finger Pointing, Start Fixing

finger-pointingIn the aftermath of the brutal attacks in Paris last week, not to mention the horrific slaughter in Nigeria, we’re hearing the same sound bytes from the same sources. Conservatives questioning where Muslim condemnation of violent, extreme Islam can be found. The answer is here, here, here and lots of other places. Moderate Muslims in anguish, using the hashtag #NotInMyName to distance themselves from and denounce the terror. Jews, afraid. Again.

On my Facebook wall, every time I post something that promotes peaceful understanding or bridge-building between Jews and Muslims, some members of my community rush to remind me that it is the Muslim world today that produces the worst oppression of women, the most violent terrorist attacks, and the most abject hatred of Jews.

I don’t know. Maybe they’re right. The news coming from some Muslim corners of the globe right now is bleak, to say the least.

When it comes to ranking social ills, though, I get a little tripped up. How exactly should we compare Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers with the fact that US demand for cheap produce results in child labor and squalor for some of the people who grow our food?

Is there a simple chart that can help me rank global oppression and systemic evil?  Continue reading

Love Sustains: How My Everyday Practices Make My Everyday Activism Possible

“We do this because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning.” —Sandra Cisneros

heartWe 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

A People-First Approach to Climate Justice: Thinking Jewishly about Change

battery-park-tunnel-floodedIf 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

A Journey Stey-by-Step: Counting the Walk

sinaiWe are walking now. Together, in the wilderness, walking. It’s hot, and dry. Sometimes there’s no water, or the water we find has a bitter taste. We haven’t always known where our next meal will come from. Some people wish we’d never left Egypt, and there’s a lot of complaining. Some days are really hard.

In these days in-between Pesach and Shavuot, between the Jewish festivals of liberation and revelation, we walk—and we count. Beginning on the second night of Pesach, we count each day between escape from Egypt and the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai. This practice is called “counting the Omer.” Each night we say a blessing, thanking God for the commandment to count the Omer. Then we count the day: “Today is ten days, which is one week and three days of the Omer.” We do this for 49 days, until the festival of Shavuot.

This year, I really appreciate the counting.  Continue reading

Elephant in the Global Jewish Room

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“One day, the king ordered that an elephant be brought into the palace, along with the five wisest sages from the outskirts of the city, who all happened to be blind. The king instructed each sage to stand at a different place around the elephant, each touching a different part of the animal. ‘You are each touching one thing,’ the king said to the sages, ‘Tell me: what is it?’  Continue reading

Choosing My Religion

cereal-aisleI stand in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, dazed by the overwhelming number of choices. I like the pecans in one, the wheat flakes in another, the dried strawberries in that one—and oh, let’s not forget about raisins and nut clusters! There are so many different kinds of cereal, all with something good to offer… how can I choose just one?

Growing up, I was taught that all religions are different manifestations of a singular Truth. My religious upbringing included stories of Krishna and dancing gopi girls, Native American trickster tales, Prince Siddartha’s search for truth, and a little baby born in a manger. In some ways, it was like standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, surrounded by good and nourishing choices—and a little overwhelmed by the variety.  Continue reading