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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology intended for use by community leaders.


Blogs

The Climate Crisis, Our Addictions, and How Judaism Can Help

The other day there was a blackout in our neighborhood. Not a long or serious one. Our block was dark for only about an hour because of some mechanical problem. But for that hour, something interesting happened. The kids all came out of their rooms and even our upstairs neighbor, a young teenager whom we rarely see, said he was home alone and wanted company in the dark. Everyone gathered in our kitchen. Ilana, my wife, was cooking so everyone helped out cutting vegetables by candle light. Naturally, people started talking to each other. Then the lights came on and every...

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My Strategy For Getting Climate Change, Veganism, and Related Issues Onto the Jewish Agenda

===      I urge the strongest, most widespread effort that can possibly be made to get climate threats and the need for shifts toward veganism onto the Jewish agenda. Why? Please consider the following facts (they are backed up by supporting material at the end of this article). There is a very strong scientific consensus, based on overwhelming evidence, that the world is rapidly heading toward an irreversible climate tipping point when climate change will spin out of control, with catastrophic results.  Several scientific studies have shown that animal-based ...

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L’Shanah Tova and a thank you to our Earth Etudes for Elul Contributors

Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. Many of these earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism–Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We would like to thank Rabbi Katy Z. Allen for bringing together these awe-inspiring contributors, whose essays, poems and thoughts help us understand the meaning of our lives and how we can repair our world. And our Earth Etudes can be helpful throughout the year. So you can read them here: Earth Etude for Elul 1: Rabbi ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 29 –Waking up to the Climate Crisis

by Rabbi David Jaffe ~ My guess is that many readers of the Elul Etudes are fully awakened to the climate crisis and read these blogs with the hope of gaining perspective and spiritual resilience to keep facing the crisis without panicking and burning out. This blog post is for a difference audience – those, like me, who intellectually understand the crisis but don’t feel the urgency.  Despite reading articles and watching videos about the famines, flooding and other impacts of rising temperatures on people in the Global South and here in parts of the United ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 28 — Swimming in Circles in Life

by Rabbi Judy Kummer ~ Every August I participate in a 1-mile breast cancer fundraising swim at a pond on Cape Cod. I have done this swim every year since 2007, training each summer day to swim further and faster.  I especially delight in swimming outdoors. Sometimes my practice swims are in daytime, sometimes at “golden hour” as the sun is setting,  and sometimes at dusk, when I can watch the moon rising, cycling inexorably through its phases towards the High Holidays.  What a feast for the senses:  I find myself savoring the sunlight ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 27 — A Vegetarian Journey

by Susan Levine ~ When I think about Elul, I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but wouldn’t touch the food. My mom didn’t see the point of being kosher if her mother-in-law still wouldn’t eat in her home. Instead she went full treif. As a child I pretty much ate ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 26: What do animals feel and think? Who are they?

by Rabbi David Seidenberg ~ That’s too broad a question by many degrees, but the difference between asking “who are they?” and “what are they?” is the gulf between civilizations, between epochs, between a world in which humans dominate and destroy, and a world in which humans collaborate with other species in the great project of the universe--Life. Since Descartes, the idea that the other animals (besides human beings) are not subjects has reigned in science. It became forbidden to say that animals have feelings, consciousness, thinking, despite the fact ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 25*– To the Silent Stones

by Sarah Chandler ~ Do you count your days in footsteps? In strollers? In sunlight? Cement and concrete Below my feet I take a peek at the patterns And the places Where tiny rocks gather Solid, safe, secure What was it was like To move your entire being From a quarry of friends To this square of sidewalk? City stones Bricks, brownstone, marble Are your family now You The eyes of Our neighborhood My commute My shabbat walk Sometimes the trees Insist that their roots Decorate your patterns And Your cracks keep my steps whole Each journey down the ...

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Forbidden Fruit, Rosh HaShanah, and Our Climate Crisis

According to Hasidic traditions, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, worked in a deeper way than we usually think about it. It’s not just that after the eating of the fruit we humans could distinguish between good and evil. The test of “to eat or not to eat” kind of assumed that we had that ability already. What kind of a test would it have been if we couldn’t distinguish between good and bad? No, the real problem that came from eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was that we might ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 24 –If Not Here, Where

by Maggid David Arfa ~ For Reb Bob in honor of his ordination Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? If not here, where?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14+ The High Ledges Audubon Sanctuary, Shelburne, MA Ok, he didn’t say that last part. He didn’t have to. Back in the ancient world it was not so easy to get lost in the global view. Today it is different. The daily news causes international heartache on every page. We witness environmental degradation, rise of authoritarian ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 23 — The Prayer for Rain

by Rabbi Louis Polisson ~The Hebrew month of Elul is well-known as the month of preparation for the Jewish holidays Rosh Ha-Shanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In Jewish literature, it is often called a month of teshuvah (repentance, self-improvement, and returning to the good parts of ourselves). However, one might also view Elul as a time to prepare for the fall harvest festival of Sukkot (which literally means Booths or Huts), when we eat all of our meals in a temporary dwelling, symbolizing our fragile yet joyous and sacred ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 22 — Lessons from Alaska

by Rabbi Suri Levow Krieger Alaska... Hut in Alaska surrounded by flowers. I expected to be awed by the Glaciers. I was not disappointed.  I anticipated being enLightened by 22 consecutive hours of sunlight. It was outstanding. What I did not expect, was day after day of 80 degree weather. And the following week… Anchorage registered 90 degrees as a massive ‘heat dome’ hovered over the city. This topped the previous record set at Anchorage International Airport of 85 degrees on June 14, 1969. It is good news for the Flora and Fauna! ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 21 — A Little Omer on the Prairie

by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein ~ I live on the prairie. In the Prairie State of Illinois. On a summer’s day with large clouds towering over the cornfields, it is spectacular. Awe-inspiring. I remember to be grateful. For several decades, I have followed the practice of Rabbi Everett Gendler of planting winter wheat, rye or barley at Sukkot and harvesting it during the counting of the Omer, the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot. I have done this with generations of Hebrew School students and their parents. It roots the Jewish year in the agricultural cycle. ...

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Strike for the Climate, Albany NY: Friday Sept. 20th, 11 am – 2 pm

The People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE) are joining with the students from local high schools and colleges to hold a march and rally. Our specific purpose is to call upon Governor Cuomo to enact aggressive measures that can lead the nation and the world in lowering our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to a safe level. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that we have until 2030 to lower GHG by 45% from the 2010 level. Every report the IPCC puts out is cautiously moderate and needs to be replaced by more dire predictions ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 20 — Past and Present Pain

by Rabbi Katy Allen ~ What if...the feelings we have when we pass through...zones of destruction are actually arising from the land itself? What if it is the grief of the forest registering in our bodies and psyches—the sorrow of the redwoods, voles, sorrel, ferns, owls, and deer, all those who lost their homes and lives as a result of this plunder of living beings? What if we are not separate from the world at all? It is our spiritual responsibility to acknowledge these losses. What if this is the anima mundi, the soul of the world, weeping through us? We know ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 19– Teshuvah in the Desert

by Rabbi Mike Comins ~ In order to acquire wisdom and Torah, one must make oneself hefker, open and abandoned, like this desert. (BaMidbar Rabbah 1) Of the many reasons our tradition offers for why the Torah was given at Sinai, one is particularly relevant for Elul. The desert is an optimal environment to do Teshuvah. More than that. To reach our full potential, we are advised to become like the desert. Why does the desert have the power to change us? First and foremost, the desert is a dangerous place. Like Hagar1 or Elijah2, you can easily lose the way, ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 17 — Slow Down

by Nyanna S. Tobin ~ Slow food folding like a snail over her slime. I remember my Dad in his slow down days. Even his deep lined smile crept slowly over his face. A thought made Jack Benny sound like a whirled-gig. Perhaps my Dad was waiting for his angel, While she was waiting for him to scream her name. And he never did. He seemed to be a life-long prisoner of Fear. But my escape from that realm, Invited me to gaze around the corner To play hide-and-seek at ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 14 –Inner and Outer Climate Change

by Rabbi Robin Damsky A local toad finds a home in the pot of a rooting African violet (yes, the leaf got displaced). ~It’s been a year of change. Not just a move, but a move to a new climate zone and a very new culture. I moved from outside Chicago to Durham, NC, the South. The trees here are glorious – pines everywhere, wisteria in April blooming in the wild, crepe myrtle in vivid fuchsia and pale pastels just now. It’s hot. Average days are in the 90s and one can almost swim in the humidity. A long growing season brought daffodils in February, while I just ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 16 — Prayer for the Two-Leggeds

by Daniel Kieval To listen or join in prayer: This is the time for us to finally come home This is the time to know that we are not alone To find our selves in a deep ancient web This is the time to be embraced by the land Kissed by oceans, taken by the hand Rooted down into this deep ancient web Receive us now Retrieve us now Redeem us now This is the way that we awake from a dream Wander out into life's ever-flowing stream Listen now to the deep ancient web This is the place that gave birth to us in love We are the children that Earth is dreaming ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 13 –Spiritual Lessons from God’s “Art Museum”

by Rabbi Dorit Edut “Ma rabu ma’asecha, Adonai; kulam b’hochma aseeta; malu ha-aretz kinyanecha-- How numerous are Your works, O Lord; with wisdom You fashioned them all; the earth abounds with Your creations!” These words from the weekday morning blessings before the Shema prayer, were on my lips constantly as I traveled through “God’s Art Museum” in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon this summer. At every turn was another gasp at an amazing sight – truly photographers’ and artists’ paradise! Using only wind, water, red sandstone, white ...

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