This year, thanks to support from the Jewish Agency for Israel and several supporting foundations, our first-ever Jewish Youth Climate Movement delegation traveled to COP27: ten Jewish climate activists from campuses across North America, and ten Israelis from the educational youth village, Nitzana. We were there alongside 35,000 participants from all over the world.
I was honored to speak about our work on Friday November 11th at a session called Faith Communities Leading on Climate–you can see the recording here. It was inspiring to connect with multifaith allies at that session and throughout the conference.
I traveled with Nigel Savage (Hazon’s founder), Yossi Abramowitz (American-Israeli CEO of Energiya Global Capital and co-founder of the Arava Power Company), David Miron-Wapner (board chair of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development), and Sue Surkes (British-Israeli reporter for the Times of Israel). We drove to a small bedouin village at the foot of what locals believe to be Mount Sinai, or as it’s known in Arabic, Gebel Musa. We woke at 1:30am and spent the night hiking up the mountain, arriving at the summit just before dawn.
The Sinai wilderness is majestic and awe-inspiring, beautiful beyond words, and quite powerful to be on the summit alongside religious pilgrims from all over the world–America, Israel, Cameroon, Philippines, Korea, and beyond. There were many there who also came from COP27, seeking spiritual sustenance amidst the unending work of the fight against climate change. We conducted a climate repentance ceremony atop the mountain there, culminating in the smashing of tablets to evoke the sense of global outrage in the face of inaction from world leaders.
The holiest moment of our journey came on the walk down the mountain, when we met Flora Vano: community leader, social worker, and COP27 delegate from Vanuatu–a small Pacific Island nation existentially threatened by rising sea levels and climate disasters. Please meet Flora and hear her voice directly in this video.
After recording this video, this woman from across the world, who I just met, she just leaned into me and wept into my arms. And I did what anyone would do; I wept into her arms, too. And after a while we turned and walked down the mountain together, sharing stories about our kids, our communities, our hopes for the future and how we might work together to get there, somehow. I’ve never felt so viscerally connected to the life and death stakes of this crisis, and I hope you do, too. Learn more about Flora’s Women-Led Climate Resilience and Adaptation project, empowering Vanuatu women with the knowledge and networks to claim their place as galvanizing community leaders.
One of the bedrock principles in Jewish law and wisdom is pikuach nefesh- the overriding sanctity of life. How can we ever hope for Jewish values to live on if we do not stand up for the lives of Flora and her people on Vanuatu, and for other island communities, developing nations, and vulnerable populations hit hardest by climate disasters everywhere? How can we allow this to be? Jewish teachings do not allow it. Our Torah, our values, our ancestors call upon us to change.
COP27 ended with incremental progress: the establishment of a historic fund for Loss and Damage from climate disasters in places like Vanuatu. This is an important milestone–and a testament to Flora’s leadership and all those COP27 delegates from the hardest hit nations who refused to leave the conference until this Loss & Damage fund was established. But with so few other accomplishments emerging from the conference, there is now even greater need for more aggressive emission-cutting measures at every level of society: from the global level at COP28 next year (in the UAE), to the federal and municipal level in every country, to the local level: in every community, every culture, everywhere.
So what can you do about it?
Join the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition. Create and implement the most ambitious Climate Action Plan you can. Advocate for every Jewish community and organization to do the same.
Start a Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM) chapter at your synagogue, day school, JCC, or Hillel. Empower emerging young Jewish leaders to activate powerful Jewish voices engaged with the most profound moral crisis of our time. We have 43 high school chapters nationwide, and growing… and a whole new phase of growth on college campuses about to begin.
Talk about the crisis, with Compassion and Conviction. Learn from an awesome panel of Jewish climate leaders: Amber Marcus-Blink, Bella Weksler, Janna Diamond and Yoni Stadlin (a JYCM high school leader, a JYCM Amitim college student recently returned from Hazon’s delegation to COP27, an Adamah alum and a Teva alum who happens to also be our Chief Program Officer).
And as we head into Thanksgiving, don’t forget to breathe. It’s true: war continues in Ukraine, mass shootings continue across America, and a global climate crisis threatens all of humanity. And yes, Thanksgiving itself is tied to a history of colonialism and genocide. We cannot deny the state of the world.
But, if we are lucky, we can slow down. We can spend a few days with our loved ones, enjoying each other’s company and giving thanks for all that we have. And we can look into the eyes of our family and friends, our children and grandchildren, and say “I love you. And just as my ancestors planted for me, so I plant for my children1. We are not giving up.”
When you sit down at your table, know that there is a growing global movement for justice and sustainability by your side, that a rising generation is going to lead us forward, that all of us are interconnected and interdependent and part of a story much longer and bigger than any one of us by ourselves. And with that knowledge, let us give thanks.
Hinei Ma Tov Umanayim, shevet achim gam yachad.
How good and pleasant it is to dwell together with family. Our human family. People and planet, together.
Wishing you and your family a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving!
Chief Executive Officer
Interested in learning more?
- Read “The New World: Envisioning Life After Climate Change”- by David Wallace Wells, for the New York Times Magazine
- The Ezra Klein Show:
- The Daily Sunday Read: What Does Sustainable Living Look Like? Maybe Like Uruguay
Our mission at Hazon-Pearlstone is to lead a transformative movement deeply weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable world for all. We connect people to the earth and to each other, catalyzing culture change and systemic change through Immersive Retreats, Jewish Environmental Education, and Climate Action.