More than 100 Rabbis, Cantors, and other Jewish spiritual leaders have signed the Rabbinic Call to Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet. (Providentially, not planned by us, the initials spell “MOM/POP.”).!
There are now four initiatives we want to take toward giving additional reality to this Call:
1) Sabbatical/ Shmita Year
In Leviticus 25, the Torah calls for the human community to let the Earth rest from organized agriculture every seventh year — a Sabbatical Year called Shabbat shabbaton or Shmita ("Release" or "Non-attachment"). For millennia, the count for the seventh year — the Shmita — has been kept. Beginning next Rosh Hashanah (September 24-26), the next Jewish year will be a Shmita.
We cannot instantly halt all farming, mining, drilling. How then can we bring into our own lives, our own societies, and the world at large these Shmita values of protecting and healing the Earth?
One way is the public commitment of congregations and their households to act on the Rabbinic Call to Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet. This effort will isolate and weaken the deadly fossil-fuel industries while strengthening renewable energy companies and other life-giving enterprises. It will at the same time engage households and congregations in achievable direct change, and carry more clout for public policy change than (e.g.) changing light bulbs.
Arranging for your congregation to announce its commitment to Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet just before Rosh HaShanah or during the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur could be an important forward step, creating ripples of excitement and change throughout the Jewish community and beyond.
2. Moving from a Call to a Campaign.
I hope that you will invite your colleagues, congregants, and chevra to actually begin moving to make the Moving of Our Money begin.
That might mean asking your congregants to examine their own purchases and check out their banks. It might mean asking your synagogue or organization Board to do the same. If you have a say in a denominational or communal fund, you might begin exploring with them.
Since the festival of Shavuot (June 3-5) evokes both the Revelation on Mount Sinai and the completion of the spring wheat harvest in ancient Israel — tying together Earth and Torah, Words and Wheat — that might be an excellent moment to raise these questions with your congregation.
We have prepared an extraordinarily careful and precise Action Handbook for Moving Our Money to Protect Our Planet. We especially recommend using that specific item to walk the walk, as well as continuing to talk the talk. It’s at —
3. People’s Climate March/ Jewish contingent
On Saturday September 20 or Sunday September 21, there will be a mammoth People’s Climate March in New York City. It is being timed to come close to a Summit conference (called by the UN Secretary-General) of world leaders, governmental and otherwise, to address the intensifying climate crisis. It sole demand is very general — “Act Now on Climate!” – and it will be a peaceful, legal, family-friendly event.
The Shalom Center has begun working toward organizing a Jewish contingent on the March. We want 100 shofar-blowers to lead the Jewish contingent, caling out "Sleepers Awake!" as only the shofar can.
We are also working in and with Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) toward an interfaith contingent.
Holding the March on Saturday will pose problems to many Jews who observe Shabbat. So the March organizers (and of course we) prefer Sunday afternoon, Sept. 21. But the organizers are not certain whether March permits may be approved for Saturday afternoon instead. If the March is held on Shabbat, we at The Shalom Center have already begun arranging a welcome from local synagogues to Shabbat morning services for Jews who want to come for the March.
For those of you within reach of New York City, we encourage you to begin alerting friends and fellow-congregants to the plans. When the date, time, and route of the March and the Jewish and Interfaith contingents become definite, we will let you know.
4. The Ten-City Jewish Climate Action Project
Beginning last fall, The Shalom Center worked with Jewish climate activists in Boston who organized themselves into the Jewish Climate Action Network (JCAN).
They invited me to meet with them in March. After a wonderful open conversation I asked whether they thought they could persuade ten Boston-area synagogues to commit themselves to acting on Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet, and to announcing their commitment between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
They looked around the room at each other, nodded, and said they thought so.
Building on this experience, The Shalom Center has begun discussions with local Jewish climate activists in Washington DC and Philadelphia, and has decided to begin working toward helping such networks come into being in seven more cities.
On all four of these initiatives, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, critiques, etc. (Write me at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org ) And I welcome your gift to help us go forward with the sacred, life-giving work to heal our wounded Earth. You can make a (tax-deductible) gift by clicking on the "Donate" button on our website Https://www.theshalomcenter.org. Thanks!
With blessings of shalom within and between adamah (Earth) and adam (human earthlings) — Eco-Rebbe Arthur