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Working With Israeli Orthodox Rabbis To Reduce Climate Threats

Working with Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Yonatan Neril. founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, I have put together a statement on climate change (below) that urges Israel and Israelis to become more actively involved in reducing climate threats. The names and affiliations of the 23 rabbis who already signed the statement are also below, as is a press release for a major interfaith climate forum that is taking place at the Jerusalem Press Club on July 26, in conjunction with the release of the rabbinic statement and signatures.

We hope to increase the impact of the statement by getting many more, so please pass the message below to rIsraeli Orthodox rabbis whom you know and please ask them to contact me (VeggieRich@gmail.com) with their name and affiliation if they would like to join the signers.

We are also setting up a separate list for female Torah teachers and scholars, so please share the message with any such people that you know of as well with a brief note.

Many thanks,

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Shalom Rabbi _______ ,

Please join the 23 Israeli Orthodox rabbis listed below in signing a statement (also below) about the urgency of responding to climate change threats. In doing so you would be contributing to a major kiddush Hashem, improving the image of Israel and Judaism,  potentially bringing many alienated Jews closer to Judaism, while also helping to shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.

The statement and the list of signers will be released to the media next week, in conjunction with a major interfaith event on July 26 at the Jerusalem Press Club, at which Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, will speak, along with a distinguished Christian leader and a distinguished Muslim leader. A press release for that event is at the end of this message.

Very truly yours,

Rabbi Yonatan Neril, founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., professor emeritus, College of Staten Island

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Here are the 23 Israeli Orthodox rabbis who have already signed the rabbinic statement.

Rabbi Elan Adler, teacher and counselor, Maale Adumim

Rabbi Dov Berkovits, Bet Av – Creativity and Renewal in Torah

Rabbi David Bigman, Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gedola

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau: Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivat Orayta

Rabbi Bob Carroll, Former Program Director, Edah, and Board Member of the Interfaith Encounter Association

Rabbi Dov Ber Cohen, Director of Education: Justifi: Jewish Social Justice

Rabbi Chaim Dovrat, Modi’in, formerly at Wellington Hebrew Congrgation

Rabbi Fivel Yedidya Glasser, Director, Nesiya

Rabbi Dr. Meesh hammer-Kossoy, FACULTY/DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS
DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL JUSTICE TRACK, Pardes Year Program alumna

Rabbi Tzvi Koren, Rav of Kehilat Kinor David, Ra’anana

Rabbi Daniel Landes, Former Director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Rabbi Aharon Ariel Lavie, Founder of the Hakhel Incubator for Jewish Intentional Communities

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, Sulam Yaakov – Dean, Jerusalem City Council Member

Rabbi Dave Mason, Author of The Age of Prophecy series

Rabbi Michael Melchior Rav of Kehilat Talpiyot Hachadasha, Yerushalayim

Rabbi Yonatan Neril Founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth V’AhavT”A – TLV Jewish Experience

Rabbi Ariel Picard, Hartman Institute

Rabbi David Rosen KSG CBE, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, AJC; International President, Religions for Peace

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Director of International Relations, Roots/Shorashim/Judur

Rabbi Yuval Sherlow, Rosh Yeshiva of Emit Orot Shaul.

Rabbi Yedidyah Sinclair, Israeli environmental activist and author

Rabbi Daniel Sperber, Professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University

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Here is the statement that they signed:

STATEMENT BY ISRAELI ORTHODOX RABBIS ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS

“In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, he took him and let him pass before all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him: “See my works, how fine and excellent they are. Now all that I created I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt or destroy my world. For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.” (Midrash: Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)

Today, 97% of climate scientists and all the major science academies worldwide– an overwhelming consensus– state that climate change is occurring, is primarily caused by human activities, and must be addressed immediately in order for life on earth to continue to survive and thrive. Their conclusion is reinforced by many facts on the ground:

• Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 17 warmest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. The three previous years have successively broken worldwide temperature records.
• Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused an increase elevation in oceans worldwide with the potential for major flooding.
• There has been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.
• Many climates experts believe that we are close to a tipping point due to positive feedback loops, when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur. A just released report in the respected science publication Nature, signed by over 60 leading climate scientists, that warned that failing to start to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 would likely result in increasingly severe climate events.
• While many climate scientists think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 400 ppm in 2014, and the amount is increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.
• While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), largely because that is the best that can be hoped for with current trends and momentum, the world is now on track for an increase of 4 – 6 degrees Celsius, which would result in major threats to human civilization.
• The Pentagon and other military groups think that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refugees to flee from droughts, wildfire, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.

In light of the above and more, we, the Israeli Orthodox rabbis whose signatures are below, believe that Jewish teachings mandate that we do everything possible to help avert a climate catastrophe and other environmental disasters and to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Here are just two of these teachings:

Genesis 2:15 indicates that the human role is to work the land but also to guard and preserve it: “The Lord God took the human being, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and conserve it.”

“Who is the wise person? The one who considers the future consequences of his or her actions.” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Tamid 32a)

Based on these and other Jewish teachings, we believe Jews should be on the forefront of efforts to help avert a climate catastrophe. Making this even more important is that Israel is especially threatened by climate change. The Middle East is a very hot, dry area and projections are that it will become hotter and dryer, making instability, violence, terrorism, and war more likely. Also, much of Israel’s population and infrastructure are threatened by a rising Mediterranean Sea inundating Israel’s coastal plain.

Reducing climate change must be a central focus of Jewish life today. We strongly recommend that our fellow rabbis, Jewish educators, and other Jewish leaders, and our synagogues, Jewish schools, and other Jewish individuals and organizations take major steps to increase awareness of climate threats and steps that must be taken to reduce them. We urge the Israeli government to shift from its widespread use of fossil fuels to a far greater emphasis on renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, and we urge the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to prioritize legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Very truly yours

Signatures of the Orthodox rabbis (alphabetically) follows with information about each rabbi for identification only.

List at just the beginning stage
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Here is the Press Release for the July 26 interfaith climate event
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Rabbi Yonatan Neril
054-723-4973 yneril@interfaithsustain.com

Special Media Event:
Crushing Summer Heat Compels Israel’s Interfaith Leaders to Speak Out
on Climate Change

JERUSALEM, JULY 18 – As Jerusalem endures punishing heat and electricity use nears record levels, Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders will speak at a joint appearance to urge people of all faiths to help curb climate change.

Rabbi David Rosen; Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land; and Kadi Iyad Zahalha, head judge of the Muslim Sharia Courts in Israel will bring their urgent message to the Jerusalem Press Club on Wednesday, July 26 at 11 am.

The rare interfaith event will focus on the critical role of faith leaders in increasing public awareness about the moral obligation to address what many consider to be the most serious problem facing humanity today: environmental sustainability and climate change.

The event is organized by The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (www.interfaithsustain.com), which works to catalyze a transition to a sustainable, thriving, and spiritually-aware society through the leadership of faith communities. As Rabbi Yonatan Neril, the ICSD director and event moderator said, “We can only address climate change by religious figures taking a leading role in helping to reorient humanity toward sustainable lifestyles.”

The Jerusalem Press Club is located at 2 Sh.A Nachon St. in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Pre-registration is recommended but not required for the event. To register, to https://docs.google.com/forms/u/0/d/e/1FAIpQLSeLkjuiUUgdaBgrk_IfB5dpgbW8FmDEuljhyrbI9N-ca03dxQ/viewform?usp=sf_link).

Interviews with the speakers are available by replying to this email.

Speaker bios:

Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs, has been advancing understanding and good relations between religious communities for more than 40 years – from the time he served as rabbi of the largest Orthodox Jewish congregation in South Africa, during his tenure as Chief Rabbi of Ireland ; and throughout the last 30-plus years based in Jerusalem. In addition to interreligious representation and education, his work involves mediation and peace-building and he is deeply involved in multi-religious engagement on ecological issues. Widely recognized for his work, Rabbi Rosen was granted a papal Knighthood in 2005 for his contribution to Jewish-Catholic reconciliation and was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2010 by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II for his work promoting interfaith understanding and cooperation.

Father Francesco Patton is Custos of the Holy Land. The Custody of the Holy Land is a custodian priory of the Franciscan order in Jerusalem, founded as Province of the Holy Land in 1217 by Saint Francis of Assisi, who also founded the Franciscan Order. Fr. Patton served in various capacities in his province and also within the Order. He was twice Secretary General of the General Chapters in 2003 and 2009; Visitator General in 2003; Minister Provincial of St. Vigilium (Trent, Italy) from 2008 to – 2016; and President of the Conference of Provincial Ministers of Italy and Albania (COMPI). He also served in many capacities outside of the Order: as member of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Trent; professor of Social Communications at the Studio Teologico Accademico Tridentino; collaborator of the Diocesan Weekly, the Diocesan Radio and Telepace Trento; and has been enrolled with the journalists of Trentino-Alto Adige as publicist since 1991.

Kadi Iyad Zahalka is is the head judge of the Muslim Sharia Court of the State of Israel in Jerusalem. Born in the village of Kafr Kara, in the Wadi Ara section of Israel, south of Haifa. Kadi Zahalka is an accomplished judge, lecturer, author, and activist. He has filled several important positions in the Shar’i court system, including that of Director. Kadi Zahalka obtained his LL.B. from Tel Aviv University, and his M.A. and PhD from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with his thesis on the Muslim Minority Jurisprudence Doctrine (Fiqh al Aqalliyyat). He also served as the kadi (judge) of Haifa. He is the author of two books and many articles and has spoken widely abroad.

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Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Mathematics and Global Survival, and Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and over 250 articles at JewishVeg.org/schwartz
President Emeritus, Jewish Veg, for merly Jewish Vegetarians of North America (www.JewishVeg.org); President, Society Of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV):
Associate producer of A SACRED DUTY (www.aSacredDuty.com);
“Like” Jewish Veg on Facebook at www.facebook.org/JewishVeg

Member since 2011
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