Green Cities

A Faithful Call to Action on Earth Day

As inheritors of a tradition of environmental stewardship that stretches back to the Book of Genesis, Jews know that we have a crucial role to play in protecting our planet and responding to climate change. We also recognize that our responsibility to care of the environment is not only part of our covenant with God to “till and tend” to our earth (Genesis 2:15), but also part of our covenant with our children, so that they may inherit a habitable planet. Within the Jewish community, occasions like Earth Day provide us with the opportunity to celebrate our planet’s natural beauty and reenergize the conversation around what we can do to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. For these reasons, I hope you will join us in celebrating Earth Day Shabbat – the weekend preceding Earth Day – on April 17-18, 2015. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has created a guide for how to connect your Shabbat observance with Earth Day, and how to bring messages about the environment into your congregation. Earth Day Shabbat is an important reminder of the kind of role individual faith communities can have in the conversation about climate change. According to a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute, “Americans who say their clergy leader speaks at least occasionally about climate change are more likely to be climate change believers than Americans who tend not to hear about climate change in church (49% and 36%, respectively).” Furthermore, the same study found that “more than 6-in-10 (62%) Americans who report hearing about climate change from their clergy leader at least occasionally are very or somewhat concerned about climate change, compared to approximately 4-in-10 (39%) Americans who attend congregations where the issue is rarely or never raised.” These statistics illustrate the important role that faith leaders have in their communities, and why it is so important for us to engage our congregational leadership around the topics of climate change. At the RAC, we are particularly proud of our work in convening and participating in the broad interfaith community’s efforts to curb climate change. We know that our individual voices are many times magnified when we join together with our interfaith partners as the Reform Jewish community around a particular social justice issue. And, our voices are even more magnified when we partner across faith traditions. As your community learns more about climate change and seeks to strengthen your current service projects (i.e. greening your congregation or cleaning up your local parks) and advocacy efforts, don’t forget to reach out to your friends and neighbors to figure out how you can collaborate on efforts to raise awareness about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. No matter what faith tradition you are a part of, or if you don’t identify with a faith tradition, Earth Day reminds us that we are all stewards and protectors of the environment, and thus, it’s on each of us to ensure that the world our children will inherit will be a healthy and beautiful one. Earth Day is every day.   Rachel Laser, Deputy Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Guest Blogger