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Talmud inspired Jewish winner of Goldman Environmental Prize

Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
SAN FRANCISCO, April 20 (JTA) — It was a morsel by talmudic scholar Rashi that spurred Nick Carter to pursue a life of environmental activism. Rashi offers an interpretation of the Hebrew word for dominion mentioned in a Genesis passage. The word, a compound, has two parts. One translates literally to “dominion,” the other to “descent.” Rashi’s interpretation “is that if a man is worthy, he has dominion,” said Carter, a Jewish resident of Zambia. If a man is not worthy, then “he goes below the level of the animal.” “That set me thinking,” said Carter, a 69-year-old British native who received last week the Goldman Environmental Prize for his fight against the illegal wildlife trade. “The amount of insight Rashi had into this word was for me wonderful. It effectively changed my life.” That change came 40 years ago. Carter had left the British army and was searching for his life course. He found it in the environmentalist movement, working with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He made his mark as the first person in the world to document and expose large-scale pirate whaling. Last week, Carter was recognized for his work in creating the first multinational organization that combats illegal wildlife trade around the world. Carter’s group, formed in Africa, helps to apprehend poachers and dealers trafficking in endangered species. The $5 billion wildlife trade industry is the world’s most profitable form of organized crime, after arms and drug dealing. The annual Goldman Environmental Prize is a project of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, established in 1989 by San Francisco philanthropist Richard Goldman and his late wife Rhoda to recognize grass-roots environmental heroes around the world. Each winner of the prize receives $75,000. Carter, one of seven winners of this year’s prize, says his money will go to the Fighting Wildlife Crime Fund, which he co-founded. Carter, whom Goldman calls “the first admitted Jewish recipient” of this prize, said his practice of Judaism has taken a hit as a result of his work. Lusaka, Zambia, after all, can hardly be called a hub of Jewish life. “I miss going to shul when I’m in Zambia,” said Carter, adding that he has plenty of Jewish texts to keep him company at his home in the African nation. These, he said, help him experience Judaism through the avenue that suits him best — intellectual exploration and questioning. “I suppose I’ve got an investigative mind,” he said. “I like to look into things.”