turn the hearts of the parents to children and the hearts of children to parents so that when I come, I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction.Malachi 3:23-24
In a letter to investors, Morgan Stanley analysts noted that the “movement to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing and impacting fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in the field of fertility decline.”Osaka, Shannon. “Should You Not Have Kids because of Climate Change? It’s Complicated.” Washington Post, December 2, 2022
For Gen-Z and Millennials, the climate crisis is existential. For many, it is their top concern, the source of their anxiety. Climate anxiety and climate grief are real, diagnosable disorders, harming the mental health and wellbeing of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren — and people of all ages. A recent headline read, “American teens are unwell because American society is unwell,” reflecting the escalating, intersectional nature of simultaneous overlapping crises in public health, climate, politics, and mental health.
This state is an echo of the archetypal story of humanity in the garden. Humans, as represented by Adam, know that we are not put here to merely extract from the land, but in fact “placed here on Earth, this Garden of Eden, to serve and protect it.” However, once the damage to the garden’s Edenic state is done the Creator asks – “Ayekah?” Meaning where are you? Where have you gone? What are you going to do about this? Adam in the garden is paralyzed with anxiety and just too ashamed to answer; so too with humanity today. How do we support younger generations as they come of age in such a time? How do they access the inner strength and resilience to sustain them for the long path ahead?
Adamah’s teen leadership program, the Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM), is a Gen-Z youth-led movement spreading rapidly across the country, with over 50 chapters established since its launch in early 2020. JYCM empowers the next generation of Jewish leadership through Jewish environmental education, community building, and climate action. Upon graduating high school, JYCM members have now begun to create an Adamah College Campus Network anchored in the JYCM movement “DNA” of leadership development, Jewish community building, education, and action. These young leaders give me hope. And as more Jewish communal leaders hear their voices, I believe their passion will bring us together in new and powerful ways, for the sake of a bright, sustainable Jewish future.
The Purim story has many levels and layers to it. One scene that always fascinated me was Esther’s moment of hesitation, fear, uncertainty—and Mordechai’s advice: “Who knows? Maybe you were chosen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) What does it mean to be chosen, or called, to live and show up in a certain time and place? What does it mean to be—as President Obama said—the “first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it”?
How do we come together in this moment? Across generations, across difference and disagreement, as families, as communities, as leaders and organizations, as businesses, as artists, academics, and elected officials. All of us, committed to Jewish Peoplehood & Planethood, figuring out how to live together in harmony with each other and with the natural world. This Purim, let’s try on the radical idea that, for whatever reason, our generation has been “chosen for just such a time as this.”
In Genesis, G!d searches again to see if humanity is ready to answer the call. This time, Avraham stands up and answers the Ayeka/where are you question posed to humanity. G!d is asking us again, right now, in this moment in history, “Where are you?” May we respond as our ancestor Avraham did, when he said “Hineini. Here I am.”
Hineinu. We are here. May we celebrate with love and laughter, joy, and community. And may we respond to the call for this generation to create powerful change.
A Freilichen (Happy) Purim!
Jakir Manela, CEO
If you know of a Jewish teen who could benefit from connecting to a JYCM kvutzah (group) in their community, please encourage them to reach out to email@example.com.