The Climate Crisis & The Jewish People: From “Why” to “What and How….”

[This introduction is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 28 – “The Climate Crisis & The Jewish People”- published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]

By Shlomi Ravid

This issue of the Peoplehood Papers, jointly produced by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education and Hazon, The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, is dedicated to the topic of addressing the global climate crisis. What is the role of the Jewish people? What can, could, or should we do?

Global warming is a modern-day development that challenges us as Jews to respond. We need to interpret our personal and collective responses to this crisis as Jews, in the spirit of our heritage, our texts and our ethos. Are we bystanders or should we be activists as Jewish tradition compels us to assume responsibility and act upon it? And what does that mean, in practice?

Global warming is a challenge to all of humanity, but we wanted to explore how we can interweave responses to the climate crisis with normative understandings of Jewishness, gathered and built upon over centuries? How can we utilize the collective wisdom and energies of the Jewish people to accelerate the velocity of best practice around our response to climate change? Can we reach the point that just as Jews are required to be responsible for each other (kol Israel arievim ze laze) they will also feel obligated to the wellbeing of our world (kol Israel arievim la’olam)?

In addition to the above questions we challenged our article contributors to address the following:

  • What do you think has been most impactful in this work so far?
  • What do you think the greatest challenges are?
  • What are key things that you think Jewish institutions or Jewish people could or should do?
  • How can we mobilize more resources and synergize our efforts across our Jewish communities?
  • What is required politically and educationally to bring about this change?
  • What would be required to shift our actions?
  • What would it mean for Jewish communal, national and global organizations to respond? What will it mean for the Jewish people if we do not respond?
  • Where and how should Israel fit into the process of response?
  • Do we, in the Jewish world, have an obligation to act independently of Israel? What does such an organized response look like, and how does it reflect on our dialogue with Israel?
  • What new interactions between Jewish communities, faith, and climate have been revealed because of Covid-19?
  • How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we think about communal responses, and how might that change how we interact with climate change?
  • Does our commitment to Tikkun Olam also cover fixing the damages humans brought upon our world? I want to thank our article contributors for sharing their thoughts, insights and passion for this topic. We hope that their articles and the questions framed here will inspire further conversations. Special thanks to Hannah Henza from Hazon who was our partner in this production from the first day to its completion; to Sarah Wolk for the word- proofing of the text, and to Eliezer Weinbach who carried the bulk of the editing work. This collection of essays could not have happened without them.

Shlomi Ravid is Editor of the Peoplehood Papers.

The complete PDF containing all the essays from this issue is available here.