20 major Jewish organizations join new coalition addressing climate change.
A new international initiative amongst Jewish community leaders is addressing climate change.
As the first-of-its-kind mobilization, 20 major Jewish organizations have joined forces as the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition, which will face the urgency of climate change head on.
Together, they’ve signed the Coalition Founding Statement, which publicly shares a joint consensus that climate action is necessary and that the Jewish community is responding.
Each organization is committed to taking action by developing and releasing climate action plans annually, detailing climate actions taken-to-date and setting strategic goals for the coming year.
One of the most pressing needs is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which, as of 2020, are 50% higher than when the industrial revolution began.
Hazon, the leading Jewish environmental organization, is taking charge of the coalition.
Jewish partners that have joined will receive support through peer networks, one-on-one consultation and be eligible for funding via interest-free loans and matching grants through Hazon’s new Jewish Climate Action Fund.
“This new effort to drive down the Jewish community’s greenhouse gas emissions offers a valuable entry point for Jewish institutions to confront the climate crisis and orient their culture toward climate action,” says CEO Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, founder of Dayenu, a strategic partner. Dayenu is a movement of American Jews who are confronting the climate crisis.
“As we face the immediate reality of historic heatwaves, droughts, fires and floods, and look toward the opportunities that a thriving clean-energy economy can offer, every Jewish institution must take up the call to climate action.”
Coalition partners include Jewish Federations of North America, Birthright Israel, Moishe House, Hillel International and more. Yet while the scale of the effort spans the globe, it’s the impact on a local level that will perhaps be felt the most.
“One of the things that we’re doing with these founding partners, or these umbrella organizations, is developing communities of practice that are going to meet quarterly,” explains Hazon chief climate officer Risa Alyson Cooper. “They will be able to share best practices with one another, share resources and troubleshoot challenges they’re facing.”
Community efforts will include workshops, coaching, education initiatives and driving general awareness for the ongoing climate crisis.
“We feel really well-positioned to meet the moment and hit the ground running,” says Amit Weitzer, director of Hazon Detroit.
Over the last five years, Hazon Detroit has already partnered with more than 40 Jewish organizations on sustainability programs. It’s a foundation, Weitzer says, the organization can continue to build from in this new effort.
The coalition also plans to put heavy focus on engaging teens and younger adults, who are the future of the community (and addressing the climate crisis for generations to come).
“We’re going to be working with groups of young people within Jewish congregations and organizations locally,” says Julia Cunnien, Seal of Sustainability program manager in Detroit. “We’re going to be having conversations about Jewish identity and the climate crisis.”
Addressing climate change ties closely to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam or repairing the world. It’s a value many Jewish leaders agree is part of the foundation of Jewish responsibility.
“The climate crisis is daunting,” Cooper says. “There’s a lot of overwhelming anxiety when looking into a future that can seem unknown and scary.”
In that space is a chance to take action, she adds. “In place of anxiety, we can respond with hope and with a sense of urgency, a sense of obligation to take action.”
Still, while each individual action matters in addressing the climate crisis, it’s the group effort that can truly make a difference. “Through our combined efforts, the Jewish community can create a meaningful role in creating the world we envision and so desperately need,” Rosenn says.
“One of the things that’s so powerful about this coalition is the collective power,” Cooper explains, “such as the resources, the energy and the visibility of the Jewish community.”
Weitzer believes that Judaism calls upon the community to join forces against climate change.
“We don’t have to complete the work, but we certainly have to be involved in it,” she says. “You can’t possibly do it all on your own, and that’s why we have community.”