Yesterday I was one of over 310,000 people to march across Manhattan the weekend before the UN Climate Summit with the People’s Climate March. Together, we asked our leaders both domestically and internationally to support a strong, global commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the most vulnerable communities worldwide from the devastating effects of climate change. The march included a broad swath of people from environmental, labor, scientific and faith communities. In the hours leading up to the March, Reform Jews stood side by side with Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Unitarians, Southern Baptists, seekers and pagans for an interfaith prayer service. On a stage propped up in front of an inflatable mosque and an interfaith arc, we watched Rabbi Arthur Waskow give a benediction, Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach lead a niggun, monks, preachers, imams and priests all provide blessing in their traditions for the march, the UN Summit leaders, and the earth.
In advance of the UN Climate Summit beginning tomorrow, Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Director of the Commission on Social Action, issued the following statement:
“We are pleased to join with others in the environmental, scientific and faith communities in urging our domestic and international leaders this week to make a strong commitment to curbing climate change and its effects. This past weekend, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis were proud to partner with HUC-JIR and Reform congregants and congregations from the greater New York area and beyond to be part of the 300,000-plus who participated in the People’s Climate March to express our shared commitment to achieving a solution to the current climate crisis.
As people of faith, blessed to live in a nation with the resources and ability to be a climate leader, we have a moral obligation to address the devastation of climate change that is already wreaking havoc on the air we breathe, water we drink and earth that sustains us. Yet only with a concerted international commitment to tackling this challenge can we ensure that we pass on a healthy earth as we pass on our sacred traditions l’dor v’dor, from one generation to the next. We must act in particular for the sake of the most vulnerable – the sick, children, the elderly and others living in communities ill-equipped to respond to the increasing instances of flooding, drought, food shortages, and disease associated with climate change.
We look forward to this week’s summit renewing the global commitment to stemming climate change and to meaningful engagement from individuals, corporations, communities, and nations.”
On Wednesday, September 17, in a ceremony held in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, attended by ambassadors, Members of Congress, religious leaders, and others, Ambassador Rudolf Bekink of the Netherlands presented Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, with the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance. The honor acknowledges those who have worked to “confront intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination while upholding freedom and equal rights.”
“The Netherlands and the United States have been friends for more than 400 years, in part because both our nations share a respect for justice and human rights,” Ambassador Bekink said after the ceremony. “Rabbi Saperstein has dedicated his life to confronting intolerance and anti-Semitism, upholding human rights, and helping people of different backgrounds understand each other. I can think of no one better qualified to receive the inaugural Anne Frank Award for Human Dignity and Tolerance.”
The Jewish people have long been active in lifting up the voices of minorities and fighting for their rights and protection. Whether in the 1960s when Reform Jews supported and participated in the Civil Rights Movement or as recently as last month when the president and chief executive of the CCAR issued a statement denouncing the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, the Reform Movement has consistently cherished opportunities to work with and support other religious, racial, or ethnic communities. With ISIS’s influence spreading in the Middle East and concern growing in the international community, one might be tempted to assume that the region is hostile to religious freedom and diversity — the crisis of the Yazidi people has been particularly alarming. Fortunately, an article from Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs provides encouraging data about religious tolerance in the Arab World that is encouraging to all who value religious freedom. Read more…
On Tuesday, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress published this Op-Ed in the New York Times, callingfor a collective voice standing in defense of the Christian minority being persecuted for their religious beliefs in Iraq and the Middle East.
He writes, “In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East.”
The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 last week, which describes in great detail the state of religious freedom in many different countries. Identifying “Countries of Particular Concern” is one of the things the annual International Religious Freedom Report is tasked with doing. This year, Turkmenistan was added to the list of CPCs. The eight other countries on the list, all of which have been on the CPC list previously, are Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Read more…
I am moving apartments this week. It’s a tough and emotional process, but like everyone else coping with these kind of challenges these days, how can you complain? Proportionality has become a fact of life in Israel, just like the sirens and the terrible images from southern Israel and Gaza. I spent this Shabbat in an empty apartment, surrounded by boxes, not sure where I packed my reading glasses, fully aware that my quiet desperation paled in comparison with the feelings of the thousands of mothers who spent this Shabbat unsure of where their sons or spouses are. Read more…
Yesterday began the three-week period leading up to Tisha B’Av (August 4-5 this year), the darkest, saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On Tisha B’Av, we fast and we mourn for the destruction of the ancient temples, as well as many other devastations throughout Jewish history.