47 years… and the next ten days

From Nigel Savage

April 20th, 2017 | 24th Nisan 5777 | 9th day of the omer; gevurah she’b’gevurah


Dear All,

Nearly half a century ago, on April 22, 1970, twenty million people took to the streets for the first Earth Day – which happened to fall during Pesach, the holiday of mass protest against injustice. Within months, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts passed Congress, and the Environmental Protection Agency was born. America showed the world that industrial might could be paired with respect for the health of people and the planet.

Hazon seeks to build a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all. We share many of the aims of those who brought about a transformation in our country’s approach to the environment 47 years ago.

In our retreats and our immersive programs we touch people’s lives very directly, one by one, sometimes in profound ways.

Our riders have raised several million dollars to support our work, to support the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and in mini-grants that have gone to a wide range of organizations.

Our curricula resources have underpinned educational work across the Jewish world, especially in relationship to food, the treatment of animals, and shmita.

If we just did this we might say, dayenu – that’s a not inconsiderable impact for a still small and young organization.

But, as we all know, that’s not enough. As well as our educational work, it’s vital also that we play our part in mobilizing the Jewish community around some of the largest issues of our time.

Climate change is not abstract. From Katrina and Sandy to Syria and the Sudan, changes in the climate are inflicting direct harm on human society, and/or exacerbating tensions that were already serious to begin with.

2016 was the hottest year on record, breaking the record set in 2015, which in turn beat the record set in 2014, and so on…The last time the world had a record breaking cold year was over a century ago.

Hazon’s offices sit on the eighth floor of a skyscraper in Lower Manhattan. According to some estimates, sea level will rise up to 70 feet in the coming centuries, which would have water lapping at our window-sills. Hundreds of millions of people are in harm’s way in coastal communities across the world.

It is not unreasonable to feel impotent against challenges that seem so outside our control. Not unreasonable – but also not ok. Jewish tradition means standing up for what’s right, against whatever odds, and having a sense of hope for the future – and commitment to influence the future.

As we make our journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from freedom to responsibility, we’ll be asking our legislators to confront the challenges of climate change – and create a world with good jobs, clean air, and safe communities for all.

So, on the eve of Earth Day (this Shabbat, April 22nd), and the People’s Climate Mobilization (next Shabbat, April 29th), here are a raft of things you can do.

  1. Join Hazon and the Jewish community at the People’s Climate Shabbat in Washington, DC or cities across the country on April 29. Register and learn more at hazon.org/advocacy.
  2. If you live in the Northeast, join our Shabbat-friendly bus traveling from NYC to DC on Friday morning, April 28 and returning on Sunday, April 30. Register here.
  3. Ask your Rabbi to speak about climate change this coming Earth Day Shabbat or on April 29, the People’s Climate March Shabbat. D’var Torah ideas are on our website.
  4. Educate and advocate at a groundbreaking Jewish environmental advocacy retreat at Pearlstone Center on April 26-27. Meet fellow Jewish climate change activists, learn how to talk to elected officials, and advocate for climate action through Interfaith Power & Light. Learn more.
  5. Organize a Sustainability Event during Earth Week, from Earth Day (April 22) through the People’s Climate March Shabbat on April 29. Invite an environmental speaker, plan a sustainable kiddush, educate your youth group or preschool, or contact a local climate justice group for advocacy ideas.
  6. Make sure to mark yourself as “going” on our Facebook event.Six hundred buses are expected to roll into DC next weekend, from as far away as Wichita, Kansas. Volunteers in more than 20 cities are working to organize their respective Jewish communities for the People’s Climate March & Shabbat, from St. Louis to Baltimore, Palo Alto to Miami. This coming week could be a second blossoming of the Earth Day movement, and we need you.

Finally: please give a donation to support Hazon’s work. What we are doing is important and vitally necessary. Any first-time or increased gift you give will be matched. We really need your help. Your gift supports all of our work – and we hope that you’ll feel that, at the very least, you’re helping to create the kind of Jewish community, and engender the kind of world, that we believe in.

Shabbat shalom,