500 Rabbis Vow Action on Climate Crisis


Over 500 rabbis and Jewish leaders have signed a call to action to fight climate change. The list includes rabbis from across the Jewish spectrum, including social justice leaders like Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar in Los Angeles and Rabbi Jill Jacobs of the rabbinic human rights organization T’ruah.

The statement was initiated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, a longtime leader in the Jewish Renewal movement and a human rights advocate.

“I think it’s fair to say that many people in the Jewish community have been concerned about the environment for a really long time,” said Ruth Messinger, who served as president of the American Jewish World Service for 20 years and was one of the initiating signatories of the call to action. “But in the last few years it’s become sort of a dramatic crisis that’s visible to everyone, that requires the community to be that much more concerned and focused.”

Though environmentalism has long been a principle of liberal Jewish movements, with resolutions from the Union for Reform Judaism calling for environmental conservation dating as far back as the 1960s, the issue has attracted a heightened sense of urgency after wildfires in California and Australia left dozens dead and thousands homeless in recent months.

Messinger sees a connection between the effects of climate change and her work at AJWS, which was involved in disaster relief in places like Liberia and Nepal. “There will unfortunately be millions of people who are climate refugees who are not able to continue to live in their own countries,” said Messinger.

The statement, notable for the large number of signatories, calls for wide-reaching actions on personal, communal and national scales. Suggestions include “urging our banks and our politicians to … move away from investments in and subsidies of Carbon Corporations and Protect by investing in renewable wind and solar energy,” as well as “persuading ourselves and our congregations and communities to move our own money, create solar energy coops, establish carpools to lessen reliance on gas, and adopt additional modes of kashrut to include foods and energy sources that heal, not harm, our planet.”