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Wangari Maathai and a billion trees

(Reposted from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin's Blog from October 3, 2011: http://blog.bjen.org/)

In the run-up to the New Year, a bit of news may have escaped noticed:

"Wangari Muta Maathai died on September 25 (1940–2011). She was a Nobel Peace Laureate; environmentalist; scientist; parliamentarian; founder of the Green Belt Movement; advocate for social justice, human rights, and democracy; elder; and peacemaker. She lived and worked in Nairobi, Kenya."

Her pioneering work, her unquenchable pursuit of justice, her unending optimism inspired millions around the world.

She died at a time heavy with meaning in the Jewish tradition. This week and next, during our Yamim Noraim, these Days of Awe, we celebrate the creation of the world, circle back to the freshness and promise when all was new, when both we and the world were young.

Every year, no matter the disappointments or losses or frustrations we knew, our tradition infuses us with daring, with hope, with what we can do tomorrow.

Such, too, were the native attributes of this remarkable woman. Every day a new day in this astonishingly awesome, unique and fragile world of ours.

In her memory, in your yard, at your congregation, in Israel or somewhere else around the world, plant a tree. Give the world a little more life to remember, in gratitude, one grand life.

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