Mitzvah Fatigue and the Power of Interfaith Climate Action



This past weekend, I attended the Religions for Peace USA Earth-Faith-Peace Teach In with a group of my fellow young faith leaders engaged in climate justice work. The group included participants from a wide array of religious traditions, from Franciscans to Zoroastrians, who flew in to the Teach-In from as far as Bombay and Brazil, as nearby as Boston and Washington, D.C. Together, our group explored sites of environmental degradation and pollution, learned about cap and trade and carbon tax models for mitigating climate change and shared environmental education and advocacy best practices from our communities.

For me, a lot has changed since I came to the Religious Action Center a year ago to work on environmental issues. The more I learned about the dangers of climate disruption and the potential impact of both individual and collective action to slow the changing of our earth, the more conscious I have become about the way I live my life outside of work hours. I began to see the importance of buying local food, and switching from a weekly grocery store trip to a farmer’s market. My roommates and I worked to insulate our apartment and turn down our thermostat to use less energy. I became aware of drippy faucets and long showers as the drought in California worsened. While all of these steps were important, both to reduce my carbon footprint and to educate by example with the people around me, becoming someone who cared deeply about the future of our earth was exhausting.

The exhaustion I feel at my heightened awareness about environmental issues is what one rabbi mentor of mine calls “mitzvah fatigue.” Mitzvah fatigue is most notable after the days a bar or bat mitzvah finishes their big social justice project as they enter the world of adult Jewish learning. It’s the feeling we get after attending a rally or having a long conversation about an issue that matters to us.

This weekend, for me, was about finding a cure for mitzvah fatigue. More than learning about tax models or the right messaging to speak to skeptics about climate change, meeting the fellow participants at the Earth-Faith-Peace Teach-In reminded me that there was strength in numbers. Speaking to a Mennonite from Syracuse and a Catholic from Spain, a board member of Green Muslims and a Reform Jewish cantor who is also a GreenFaith fellow, I was reminded of how central environmentalism is to so many different faith traditions. Climate change is an inherently global issue.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the ecosystems of the earth that are all being disrupted by climate change transcend national and faith divides. Therefore, climate change requires a global solution, one that comes in form of events like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, convening world leaders to negotiation a mitigation plan, and even small gatherings, like the Religions for Peace interfaith collaboration I attended this weekend.

You can talk to your local churches and mosques and see if you can collaborate on an environmental project, like creating a congregational garden together. You can also check out our webinar with Religious Action Center Director, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, and leading Catholic experts discussing the importance of interfaith action after Pope Francis’s recent statements on the environment. Let Congress know that you care about protecting our earth by filling out this action alert for the Green Climate Fund.

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Liya Rechtman

About Liya Rechtman

Liya Rechtman is a legislative assistant from Brooklyn, New York, where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Liya graduated from Amherst College.

One Response to “Mitzvah Fatigue and the Power of Interfaith Climate Action”

  1. nice comments on last weekend’s meeting. count on our unity and efforts!

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