Jews of the Earth at Ohalah

A Conference for Rabbis and Cantors Dedicated to Renewing Judaism

Jews of the Earth, also known as J.O.T.E., had a very visible presence at the Ohalah Conference which was held in January 2020. Before the planning for the conference started, the members advocated for the theme to be about the climate crisis and it was: Lizkor et Ha Brit – To Remember the Covenant: Inspiring Hope and Vision.” 

“I will remember my covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature (Genesis 9:15).” “And Elohim heard their cry and remembered the covenant with Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov (Exodus 2:24).” 

Just as the cries of the Hebrew slaves stirred G!d’s memory of the covenant with our ancestors, we should remember the Covenant that followed the Great Flood as we live in turmoil and critical environmental distress. How do we understand our covenantal relationship with the Earth and all her creatures, including the all people around the planet?  And can we feel the G!d Stream (the flow of blessings from the Divine, from G!d), and the Shefa (abundance), that flows through each of us?  How can we activate our 2020 vision to penetrate a paralyzing darkness and reveal the light of hopeful action? Together we will explore our covenantal relationships, our dreams, and our call to serve.

At the conference, Rabbi Rain Zohav led a workshop based on the psalms that focused on how we can reduce our carbon footprint with the goal of becoming carbon neutral. The workshop delved into Psalm 24, “The Earth is G-d’s  and the fullness thereof” and Psalm 148 (lines 8 – 10 below), which explains how the forces of nature do G!d’s bidding :

Fire and hail, snow and vapor, a storm wind, performing His word.
חאֵ֣שׁ וּ֖בָרָד שֶׁ֥לֶג וְקִיט֑וֹר ר֥וּחַ סְ֜עָרָ֗ה עֹ֘שָׂ֥ה דְבָרֽוֹ:
The mountains and all the hills, fruit trees and all cedars. טהֶהָרִים
וְכָל־גְּבָע֑וֹת עֵ֥ץ פְּ֜רִ֗י וְכָל־אֲרָזִֽים:
Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged fowl.

We shared what we already do to reduce our carbon footprint, We worked in pairs to discern the next step and then made collages as reminders of what we had learned. Interestingly enough, several participants also decided to write a letter directly to G!d, as it were, apologizing and committing to do better. It was good to listen to people learning from each other and taking on their next steps. One participant didn’t realize how easy it is to switch to renewable energy and committed to doing that at home after the conference. Another said, “Eat less meat–I can do that! When people push me to become vegan, I get rebellious and then do nothing. But I can certainly switch to chicken and reduce that and dairy to less.” 

We had a table set up in the lobby leading to the dining hall where we signed people up to join Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, and to thank  those members who had already joined Jews of the Earth. Each member received a sticker provided by the Interfaith Power and Light organizations from Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia as small thank you to those who attended. The sticker can be put on an electric outlet to remind us to turn off our lights when not in use. Later we were able to display some of the results of the workshop that Rabbi Rain offered.

Because the theme was centered on Creation, the art committee made amazing displays to remind of us this daily throughout the conference. Take a look at the awesome photos.

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