Tag Archives: Environment
Reform CA at Lobby Day 2014

Reform CA Lobby Day: Do Your Congregations Build Affordable Housing?

By Rabbi Stephanie Kolin

On Monday, June 2, 2014, nearly 30 Reform CA leaders from all across California, descended on the Capitol building in Sacramento. We started our morning at Congregation B’nai Israel for breakfast, lobbying training, and a briefing by coalition leader Shamus Roller, Executive Director of Sacramento Housing Alliance. After our minds, hearts, and bellies were full, we jumped into our cars and headed to the Capitol. Rabbi Jocee Hudson of Temple Israel of Hollywood led us in a powerful prayer and kavvanah on the steps of the Capitol, as we held a tallit, our ritual shelter, above our heads.

Our first meeting was as a group, with Senate President Pro Tempore, Darrell Steinberg. Steinberg, a member of congregation B’nai Israel, noted our deeply impactful work on the TRUST Act last year, and gave us focus for the long day ahead. We shared our gratitude with him for creating the opportunity for using Cap and Trade funding for building affordable homes near transit and then continued on our day.

Throughout Lobby Day, Reform California leaders met with over 25 of our legislators, including Senate Pro Tem Steinberg, the office of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, the office of Pro Tempore Elect Kevin De Leon, and Governor Brown’s staff members who cover environmental and housing issues. Reform CA leaders asked hard questions, shared why as Jews we are committed to the preservation of our planet as well as those who inhabit it, and urged our state leadership to allocate significant Cap and Trade funds for building affordable housing near transit, not just for this year’s funds, but for the long term.

One of the many stories that emerged from this day encapsulates the power of raising a faith voice in the public square.

The team that met with Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas, Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Rabbi Dara Frimmer, and Rabbi Tamara Eskenazi, reported back that they had a wonderful meeting with him in which they had a lively exchange about Cap and Trade funding, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and building affordable homes near transit. The beginning of the meeting, however, was quite remarkable. After they explained why they were there, Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas asked them: “So, do your congregations build affordable homes or are you involved in construction or development?”

They answered (somewhat confused): “No.” So he inquired about what they were doing there if they were not positioned to gain from the building of these homes. And they told him that they were there because they are Jews. They explained that we are charged with caring for the earth and for the people who inhabit it. They care about people who are suffering and struggling, they shared. Rabbi Eskenazi said: “We have an interest in living in a California that is just and compassionate for all people.” They shared that they were there because it is our job to repair what is broken in our world.

The members of that team reported back to the Lobby Day participants that Assembly Member Riddley-Thomas nodded his head in understanding and then the conversation began in earnest! We will learn again and again that our voice, a moral faith voice, has a different kind of impact in Sacramento. We are not a special interest lobby group – we speak for what is just and right for the most vulnerable in California, for our own families, and for our neighbors across lines of race, class, and faith. We have serious interests in living in an economically and environmentally just state that allows all of its citizens to thrive and grow.

When we take action in the public square, when we enact justice through the lens of Torah, we play a sacred role in creating the California that we dream of.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin is the Co-Director of Just Congregations. She is the lead organizer of Reform California, a joint campaign of the Peace and Justice Committee of the CCAR, the Religious Action Center, and the URJ’s Just Congregations. You can join the email list and learn more about the upcoming housing campaign at rac.org/reformca  

CO2 pic

Reform Jewish Movement Responds to Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a new proposal to set the first ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants in our nation’s history. Last June, President Obama announced his Climate Action Plan aimed at addressing the devastation of climate change. Under that plan, President Obama has called on the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants.

Carbon emissions are leading contributors to climate change and air pollution, and power plants are our nation’s largest stationary source of carbon pollution. By the administration’s estimate, today’s proposed standards, when implemented, will curb carbon pollution from the power sector by 30% by the year 2030, significantly reducing detrimental impacts to the environment and human health.

In response to today’s proposal, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the RAC, issued a statement in support of the new carbon pollution standards, saying: Read more…

goats in field

Reflecting on the Jewish Environmental Movement

This piece was originally published on the Jew & the Carrot on May 29, 2014 

Smash! Squeeze! Study! These were three tasks to choose from: the smashers would be taking hammers or use their fists to crush the apples, the squeezers would be sweeping the apple chunks into the wooden juicer to press, and the studiers would be reading and discussing Jewish texts related to apples, eating and the sabbatical year, Shmita. Everyone got a chance to perform each of the tasks and at the end of the activity, we sipped the delicious, fresh, homemade apple juice.

I participated in this apple juice making program in October at the Green Hevra council meeting. At the time, I had no idea what to expect from the retreat. I knew that I was attending the meeting with leaders of different Jewish environmental organizations throughout North America and I knew we would be collaborating, sharing ideas, and presenting unique but complementary perspectives on Judaism and environmental stewardship. Read more…

Teva logo

Attend the Teva Seminar on Jewish Environmentalism!

Are you interested in heightening your synagogue’s efforts in greening and environmentalism? Do you want to learn more and acquire the necessary skills and tools to educate your congregation about recycling, conserving energy and gardening? Mark your calendar and register for…

The Teva Seminar on Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education
June 9-13 at the
Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

The Teva Seminar is the premier annual professional development opportunity in the field of JOFEE: Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education. Now in its 20th year, this four-day, hands-on training program is designed for educators, camp counselors, community leaders, and anyone who is seeking training in the emerging field of Jewish experiential, environmental education. Participation in the Teva Seminar will help you enhance your work in this field, whether you are a looking to build a garden and gardening curriculum in your congregation or heightened your community’s environmental advocacy efforts. Read more…

Rabbi Everett Gendler

A Heavenly Earth Day

By Rabbi Everett Gendler

Thirty six years ago, when Jimmy Carter was president, he established a number of regional Solar Energy Centers to encourage the use of sun-fueled electricity.  Attracted to the idea of plugging our temple Eternal Light directly into the sun, I and several members of Temple Emanuel, Lowell, MA, investigated the feasibility of converting our Ner Tamid to solar power.

Its symbolic appropriateness is evident.  Non-polluting, not in danger of imminent depletion, it seemed perfectly suited as a pure symbol of illumination and eternity.  We obtained two solar panels, storage batteries for hours of darkness and periods of heavy cloud cover, and at the dark of the year, during Hanukkah, 1978, we celebrated its installation.  People appreciated its symbolic value, and in December, 1991, we celebrated its Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

During my remaining years as rabbi of the temple, the light ever so gently kept nudging me:  Why only a symbol?  Why not real production of more usable electricity for your temple?  The question was not easily answered.  Succeeding U. S. administrations did not maintain the solar energy centers, and the necessary technical information was hard to obtain.  Even though the Light was included in a Union of Concerned Scientists-Real Goods book, Renewables Are Ready, published in 1995, by then I was retiring from the temple, and so it remained symbolic, not pragmatic. Read more…

Map of Climate Change in the US

It’s Time to Act Now: Climate Change is No Longer a “Distant Threat”

Summers are getting longer and hotter across the country. Rainfall has become more intense, increasing the threat of coastal flooding. Droughts throughout the country are contributing to dry conditions that are driving wildfires. Cold waves have reached the lowest levels on record (since 1985). All of these trends are due to changes in our climate and the global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities.

Yesterday, as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the Third National Climate Assessment. The report further confirms that climate change is human-induced and affecting every region in the country. On the report’s interactive website, globalchange.gov, you can better understand the specifics of how our global climate is changing, the observed and the projected effects of climate change in the United States and the ways in which we can best mitigate the most devastating effects and adapt to our changing world.

Further, the National Climate Assessment allows you to see specifically how climate change poses severe challenges to the environmental, social and economic systems of every region in our nation. How is your state, town or community at risk? How will climate change affect health, agriculture, energy, water and transportation? Read more…

Map of Keystone pipeline

Keystone XL Decision Delayed…Again.

To approve the Keystone XL pipeline or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline? That is the question. And yet, there remains no answer, because as announced last Friday, the Obama administration will be delaying its decision again.

As you may recall, the Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed extension of the existing Keystone pipeline system, designed to transport crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska. The first proposal was in 2008 and over the last 6 years, it has become a hot-button issue for politicians, landowners, environmentalists and the energy industry in both the U.S. and Canada.

Early this year, the State Department released a report indicating that the pipeline would not have a significantly negative impact on the environment. It seemed that this report would catalyze President Obama’s decision to approve the pipeline. However, after a public comment period that yielded a staggering 2.5 million responses, and a 90-day period for interagency comments that was supposed to end May 7th, the process is not nearing an end. In February, a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling posed concern that might, yet again, change the route of the pipeline. Read more…

Rabbi Stone

Noah: It’s Time for Righteous Anger About the Silent Genocide of Species

By Rabbi Warren Stone

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post on April 22, 2014

I once was hiking in the Sahara desert and arrived at a mountaintop Berber village. A little boy approached me and opened his palm to show me something he had found in a cave in the upper reaches of the desert: to my wonder, it was a fossilized shell completely crystallized within. It had survived hundreds of millions of years since the time that this desert was an ocean. I keep that shell on my rabbi’s desk. I show it to children to remind them of the Noah story and how we are on this earth to protect all life — the interconnected life of every other species and our own.

The recently released film Noah likewise is a call to all viewers to tread gently on the earth and to treat our environment with care, raising a moral parallel between the flood and the continuing onslaught of climate change on our earth. One of the most powerful moments in the film for me as a rabbi was when all the world’s species were racing toward the ark. Each group of animals came with its own kind, from slithering reptiles, to amphibians and larger mammals and ultimately Noah and his family, representing the last people on earth. Witnessing this unity represents to me what we must do — people of different backgrounds must all move swiftly. Together, we must make of our daily actions and choices an ark. Read more…