PROVIDENCE – On Feb. 7, some 40 people gathered to learn about the Jewish climate movement’s efforts to fight climate change both locally and nationally.
Jakir Manela, CEO of the nonprofit organization Hazon, along with Rachel Siegal, chief development officer at Hazon, were featured speakers at “A Jewish Response to Climate Change: A Briefing and Conversation with Hazon.” The program, held at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, was chaired by Mitzi Berkelhammer and sponsored by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
Manela and Siegal explained how the climate crisis affects everyone around the world.
Their words had a uniquely Jewish focus as they discussed what groups in the United States are doing to help local communities. And they pointed out that the climate crisis is deeply affecting Israel, a situation that we often don’t consider here in the U.S. Israel is one of the regions most impacted by the changing climate, Sigel said.
Hazon, according to its mission statement, is “leading a transformative movement weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable and more equitable world for all.” Siegal talked to the group about the reality of climate-change anxiety.
“One of the challenges is how do we create solutions,” she said. “We know climate change is human-induced, and we don’t all experience it equally.”
Hazon has organized groups across the U.S. into the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition. The Alliance has signed on. Like the other organizations involved, the Alliance will put together a climate action plan to work toward carbon neutrality, said Adam Greenman, president and CEO.
“The Alliance is already one of the leaders in this area,” he said after the program. “We get nearly 100% of our electricity from solar.”
At the program, Greenman explained why the Alliance is taking a leadership role in environmental action. “I am excited to be talking about this topic and partnering with Hazon,” he said. “It all came into focus last summer as to how much of a threat this really is.” He then told the story of a particularly heavy rainstorm in the summer of 2022, which led to water pouring out of the pipes on the lower level of the JCC.
“It was far beyond anything we had ever seen,” Greenman said. “You can’t say that wasn’t related to climate change. It’s incumbent upon us to do this work.”
The Alliance is also working with Congregation Beth Sholom, which worships in the JCC building, to implement a composting program. Manela pointed out that the Alliance’s efforts rank among the top in the country for similar organizations.
The audience was also introduced to Madelyn Canfield, a Brown University student and member of the Hazon-sponsored Jewish Youth Climate Movement, who spoke about leveraging the voice of young Jews. A Houston native, Canfield felt the need to act after seeing the effects of several floods on the Jewish institutions in her hometown. She now works part time for Hazon, helping to organize and educate her peers to fight climate change.
Manela, Siegal, Greenman and Canfield spoke about the need to pass down a healthy planet to the community’s young people. As Greenman said,
“The Torah talks about taking care of the environment. So it’s incumbent to pass down a healthy planet. D’or l’dor.”