Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Rabbi Speaks Out Against Mercury

COEJL supports Rabbi Kevin Kleinman’s testimony before the Environmental Protection Agency.  Rabbi Kleinman spoke in favor of a reduction in levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals that are released into the air each and every day.  The following is his blog post from the RAC website (http://blogs.rj.org/rac/2011/05/testifying_to_save_lives_suppo.html)

Testifying to Save Lives: Supporting Changes to the EPA’s Clean Air Act

Rabbi Kevin Kleinman
Elkins Park, PA
This past Tuesday, May 24, I testified in front of a panel of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials in support of a proposed rule that would reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution put into our atmosphere each day by coal fired power plants. I sat before the panel as a congregational rabbi, a leader in the interfaith religious environmental movement, and as a dad because I find it unconscionable that there is little regulation on air pollution from coal fired power plants, when it is widely known that these pollutants cause irreparable harm to fetuses, newborns, and growing children – the very future of our country and our congregation. I joined activists, scientists, doctors, and citizens who have been adversely affected by mercury pollution in supporting the EPA’s efforts. If you feel similarly, you too can comment directly to the EPA.
In Jewish texts and teachings, we are instructed that while God created the earth, it is the responsibility of man and woman to care for creation. The mandate for environmental stewardship is at the core of the Reform Movement’s decades of work to change both policies and practices that affect our environment and all the species, including humans, which inhabit and rely on our natural world. Additionally, the Jewish tradition insists that saving a life take precedence over all concerns, be they religious or economic. These values lead directly to my support for creating higher pollution restrictions for power plants.

By updating safeguards under the Clean Air Act to reduce mercury, acid gases, and other life-threatening pollution in our air, I believe the EPA is acting to protect our health and our families from the illnesses – and premature deaths – linked to these pollutants. Uncontrolled releases of toxic air pollutants like mercury from power plants damage children’s developing brains, reducing their IQ and their ability to learn. They also lead to a range of dangerous health problems in adults as well.  
These standards will save lives. Each year up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, and 45,000 cases of chronic bronchitis will be prevented. Think not only about the emotional costs saved but actual costs for families and hospitals to treat these patients. The value of the air quality improvements totals $59 to $140 billion each year.
This rule will also lead to the creation of new, American jobs. Money spent on pollution control at power plants creates high-quality American jobs in manufacturing steel, cement, and other materials needed to build pollution control equipment, in creating and assembling pollution control equipment, in installing the equipment at power plants and operation and maintaining the equipment once it is installed. The EPA estimates this proposed rule will create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs. We all know how important job creation is right now to the well-being of our nation.
Additionally, this proposed rule would be better for the health of our planet and all the species that live upon it. The pollution from the power plants settles into the eco-system and effects microorganisms that larger species feed off, eventually working its way into the food that we eat. Our oceans and waterways are already over fished. There is serious concern that much of the fish that are caught are not fit for human consumption, due to the toxics that we put into the air to generate electricity. This is exactly why pregnant women are told not to eat tuna.
Lastly, this rule will level the playing field for cleaner energy sources. These updated and long overdue Clean Air Act standards will provide regulatory certainty, opening up opportunities for investment in cleaner energy. It has been shown that power plants are able to install the technology to reduce pollution within the proposed time frame. The technology already exists and certain plants have voluntarily installed the necessary scrubbers already. Installing these widely available controls will help modernize the aging fleet of uncontrolled power plants – significantly reducing the toxins put into the air each year. In time, I hope that we as a nation reduce the amount of electricity we use as well as seek to supplement traditional coal and oil-fired plants with alternative sources to generate energy. This will be the only way to truly lessen the harm to our children and our planet.
I support the proposed rule change to the Clean Air Act. This rule will save lives. This rule will save money. This rule will create jobs. As a leader who is part of the religious environmental movement, I take to heart the teachings of Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, to save lives, and to take seriously our obligation to care for the earth.

Read my full testimony to the EPA and take action to support these rules today.
Rabbi Kevin Kleinman is the Assistant Rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, PA. He is a trained Teva Educator and a proud father.

Posted by COEJL in 19:21:42 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Saving Samar: Together We Can Protect the Last of Israel’s Sahara

by David Krantz, President, Green Zionist Alliance
Originally posted on GreenZionism.org

NEW YORK (May 26, 2011) — Picture a desert and you’ll probably envision rolling hills of sand like those traversed by the nomadic caravans of the Sahara. Yet, even though the majority of Israel is desert, almost none of it is like the Sahara except for a small section near the southern tip of Israel in the Arava Valley: the Samar sand dunes.

Originally about five square miles in size, today less than one square mile of the Samar sand dunes remains, in part because of agricultural use, and mostly due to the carting away of the dunes’ sand to make concrete. Now most of the last remaining dunes — and the unique species that live in them — are threatened with destruction. But with your help we can save the last remaining dunes of Israel’s Sahara.

The governmental agency that controls the sand dunes has licensed the rights to the sand to a developer who intends on turning the dunes into concrete for construction in nearby Eilat. The developer already has paid the government a one-million-shekel ($287,000) deposit, and he plans to start mining the sand soon. However, thanks to pressure from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and three Green Zionist Alliance sister organizations in Israel — the Green Movement, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies — the developer is reconsidering whether or not to mine the dunes. If we can show the developer and the government that thousands of Jews around the world care about Israel’s environment, and are willing to back up that care with action, we may be able to buy back the mining rights to the dunes — or convince the government to cancel the mining contract — and preserve Samar as a national park. So, beginning today, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Together with the Green Movement, we are going to show the Israeli government that the dunes are worth saving. Please sign the pledge to save the dunes and commit any amount — large or small — to help save the dunes.

If together we’re willing to commit one million shekels, we may save Samar. (Hebrew-language speakers can sign the pledge by clicking here.) The pledge is simply a commitment to donate later, when necessary. No money will be collected until the government agrees to let us buy Samar’s development rights, but if you want to donate now, you can do so through the Green Zionist Alliance by designating your donation to the “GZA Samar Campaign.”

“There is really no reason to mine these dunes now, especially in light of their ecological significance,” said Dr. Alon Tal, a co-founder of the Green Zionist Alliance and chairman of the Green Movement.

And their ecological significance is great. Although the dunes are similar to those of the central Sahara, the Samar dunes possess one key element missing from the Sahara’s dunes: Life. Plants and animals both live on Samar’s dunes. At least two unique species of spider can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The Lesser Gerbil (pictured) thrives in Samar’s shifting dunes. Hyenas, foxes, wolves, rabbits, warblers, snakes and geckos also call the Samar home.

And these animals seem to have genetic variations that make them different from the same animals in other regions, David Lehrer, director of the Arava Institute, told The Jerusalem Post. Lehrer said that the dunes’ isolated location, surrounded by different terrain, has caused the species to evolve differently.

“This is an area that is certainly unique with endemic species that are specific to this area,” Lehrer told The Post. “The animals that live on these sand dunes are like on an island.”

If we don’t intervene, that island will be turned into concrete. The demand for sand is fueled by Eilat’s growth, but mining the Samar sands isn’t the answer. While the dunes would provide easily accessible sand, the mining of Samar would only represent a one-percent cost savings compared to alternative sand sources, according to the Green Movement. And since the total excavatable sand in Samar’s dunes — estimated at between 500,000 and 1.8 million tons — only adds up to about one percent or less of Eilat’s annual sand consumption of 150 million tons, Samar is literally a drop in Eilat’s sand bucket.

A better alternative would be to return to the areas of Samar’s dunes that have been quarried already — and dig deeper. According to Tal, already developed sand mines in the Samar area could yield an additional 10 million tons of sand — far more than could be retrieved from Samar’s remaining dunes.

Eilat’s further construction should not come at the cost of Samar’s destruction. If we don’t save Samar the dunes will be lost, becoming a memory in the sands of time. Please pledge to save Samar today — because together we can make a difference. And together we can save Samar.

Posted by COEJL in 19:03:42 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Repairing the World through Green Synagogues

by Jen Singer, COEJL guest blogger

Growing up in a reform Jewish household, I was always committed to tikkun olam (repairing the world). I spent my years in college and graduate school pursuing environmental studies and doing what I could to improve the environment around me. From setting up a campus-wide recycling program at Brandeis to working with local communities in the Boston area on greenhouse gas emissions inventories and reduction plans, I have always viewed my responsibility to protect natural resources as an extension of my Judaism.

Since joining the Orthodox community in college, I have sought to apply my love of the environment to my Jewish halahic (legal) observance. In a world of strict adherence to the mitzvot (commandments), making the case for greening the planet has not always been an easy road.

It’s hard enough for families and individuals committed to a strictly kosher and shomer Shabbat lifestyle to find the time or the financial resources to buy organic or install state of the art technology to “go green.” But being environmentally conscious can also be both an investment in the health and wellbeing of your family, and fiscally beneficial in terms of offsetting healthcare costs and drastically reducing utility bills (even without installing solar panels and driving an electric car).

When I joined Ohev Sholom—The National Synagogue with my husband in 2007, I was looking for a way to contribute to this fast growing community of committed individuals. Starting a green group and creating environmental goals to lessen our environmental footprint over time seemed like the normal progression for someone with my background.

In 2007, we started a basic recycling program, gathering paper from the staff offices and collecting bottles and cans from our weekly Kiddush lunch. In 2008, we had an informal energy audit by the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, which identified a number of energy efficient challenges facing the synagogue. Since then, we have made a commitment to focus on low cost and no cost efforts by replacing our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents and retrofitting our outdated exit signs with light emitting diode (LED) counterparts. We also switched to environmentally friendly cleaners and installed our first low flow toilet.

It is important to note that our efforts extend beyond physical changes. In 2010, we launched an environmental education campaign aimed at children and their families using the holidays as a basis for our teachings. We held a Tu B’shvat seder and organized an arts and crafts booth at our annual Purim carnival to make recycled mishloach manot containers.

Yet we remain committed to increasing energy efficiency and decreasing the environmental footprint of our facility. While our previous audit identified some basic improvements, we had no baseline of our energy consumption and could not establish reduction targets. Falling on my expertise, we turned to ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager tool. We collected the minimum of a year’s worth of energy data for all fuels (and later added data from 2008-2011) as well as some basic space characteristics about the synagogue including the square footage, number of computers and more.

Portfolio Manager provides a 1-100 rating of energy performance and facilities earning a score of 75 or higher are eligible to apply to earn the ENERGY STAR label, indicating that they are performing amongst the top 25% of similar buildings across the country. Soon we found out that Ohev Sholom earned the label AND became the first synagogue in the country awarded this distinction. We are overjoyed with our accomplishment and inspired to do more. We plan to build upon our efforts and demonstrate that Orthodox Judaism takes the responsibility to be shomrim (guardians) of the environment seriously. Our hope is to serve as a role model for others in the Jewish community and I personally welcome the opportunity to work with other synagogues to take that vital first step.

To learn more about Ohev Sholom’s greening efforts, please visit www.ostns.org

Jen Singer works in environmental consulting and lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband and two adorable children.

Posted by COEJL in 20:20:58 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vatican report shines light on divisions within the U.S. faith community

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter
Originally reported on Environment and Energy Daily

When the Vatican released a report last week calling man-made climate change “serious and potentially irreversible” and advocating aggressive action to curb emissions, it stirred up old divisions within the U.S. faith community over whether human activity can affect creation and what should be done about it.

It is a question that divides people of the same religion and denomination.

Some, like the interfaith members of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care who visited Capitol Hill last week to lobby for climate change legislation, believe that man-made greenhouse gases are an example of human activity threatening creation and unjustly subjecting the Earth’s most vulnerable populations to climate-related privation and violence.

Others — often from relatively similar religious backgrounds — point to scripture as the basis for their belief that only God can cause a destructive change in climate and that the poor are more likely to suffer from expensive energy than from weather disasters.

The Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, is firmly in the first camp. He said last week that he expects Christians in particular to play a key role in eventually persuading lawmakers, especially Republicans, to support curbs on emissions.

Hescox said the religious community was already making inroads on the issue when the economy tanked in 2008 and would do so again when the economy is fully recovered.

“I think the fear over job loss has sort of trumped the issue of climate change for a short time,” he said.

While acknowledging that evangelical Christians are far from unanimous in viewing climate change as a threat, Hescox predicted that would change. He noted that evangelical Christian attitudes toward the AIDS epidemic evolved radically from a decade ago, when the disease was viewed by conservative Christians as part of the homosexual lifestyle, to today’s view that it is a pandemic that affects people from all walks of life.

“I think that’s the educational place we are in now” on climate, he said. “This isn’t just a sound bite, this isn’t limited to one people, this isn’t just the former vice president talking about an inconvenient truth, this is something that affects hundreds of thousands of lives each year right now and is going to put tremendous strains on the developing world.”

Hescox said Christian concern about man-made climate change would be awakened when it became clear that vulnerable populations would have to shoulder the worst effects. Like the Vatican report (ClimateWire, May 6), Hescox predicted that these would include famine, war, unrest and less access to water.

Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and another supporter of curbs to climate emissions, said that one tool in convincing evangelicals and Catholics to lobby for climate change — and Christian politicians to listen to them — is to encourage them to think about judgment day.

“The only strategy is to convince enough evangelicals and Catholics — these two enormous constituencies in America — that this is in their best interest — the best interest of the country, of the planet, and importantly the best interest of themselves eternally,” Cizik said. “Because we will be held accountable.”

“I’m not shy,” he said, describing meetings with pro-fossil fuels lawmakers when he called them out for putting “temporal” concerns like re-election ahead of the health of their souls.

Still, Cizik said too few evangelicals now share his view that climate mitigation is a moral and spiritual imperative, which makes his work more complicated.

“We’re going to have to spend a whole lot more effort trying to energize grass-roots evangelicals and Republican lawmakers than frankly we’ve had the capacity to do in this small evangelical movement that we have going here, that hasn’t proven up to the task thus far,” he said.

Climate science vs. ‘omniscient designer’

Meanwhile, many of the larger evangelical groups continue to believe that man-made climate change is not happening, or if it is happening that the results are modest.

This view is in part based on theology.

At a 2009 hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee partly devoted to the religious community’s views on climate change, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) quoted from Genesis.

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his has been evil from childhood,” Shimkus said. “And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.”

The view that only God can usher in catastrophic climate change is counter to the idea of free will, Hescox said.

“You can only have it one way,” Hescox said. “You can either have us being truly puppets, and God controls every one of our moves or who gives us complete free will, and then there are consequences to our actions.”

But E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, another Christian group, said Hescox’s argument misses the point.

“A biblical faith tells us that the Earth is the effect of an omniscient designer, and therefore we should not anticipate that it’s going to be an extremely fragile system that can be knocked into catastrophe by miniscule changes in that system,” he said.

The post-Industrial Revolution increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions is tiny, compared with pre-historic levels, he said.

Beisner said that while human emissions might have a small impact on global temperature, both his religious worldview and his understanding of the current state of science raised many doubts about a scenario under which human activity could create sweeping changes leading to famine and flood.

“It’s not consistent with the understanding that Earth is the product of a wise creator’s design to think that way,” he said.

Beisner said he was primarily concerned with the welfare of poor people around the globe as well but that efforts to cut down on carbon-based fuels would actually hurt them by making energy less affordable and available.

“We actually do more harm by attempting to fight global warming — to mitigate it — than we do by continuing to use the most reliable and affordable energy sources,” he said.

Some Catholics also disputed the validity of the Vatican report, which was conducted under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the scientific arm at the Catholic church headquarters.

“This is not a scientific report, it’s an advocacy piece,” said Donna Bethell, an undersecretary of Energy during the Goerge H.W. Bush administration who now serves on the board of Chistendom College, a Catholic college in Virginia.

Bethell said the Vatican is right to support scientific research but said the report offered no new scientific findings. Furthermore, she disagreed with the report’s assertion that the environmental and health consequences of climate change would be felt primarily by “those ‘bottom 3 billion’ people who are too poor to avail of the protections made possible by fossil fuel use and industrialization.”

But Bethell agreed with Beisner that poorer parts of the world would suffer most from actions aimed at limiting fossil-fuels consumption, because it would inhibit their economic growth. She recalled making that argument in the late 1980s, when DOE and other federal agencies began to discuss ways to mitigate the causes of climate change at home and abroad.

“What you are proposing is just flatly immoral,” she said. “You are telling a third of the world that the pie is empty — there isn’t anything for them.”

Christians are not the only ones who feel called by their faith to take a position on climate change, or to push lawmakers to act on that position.

The National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, which Thursday offered U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson an award for her agency’s work in regulating heat-trapping emissions, includes Muslims, Jews, Protestants and Catholics among its members.

Sybil Sanchez, director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, said environmental stewardship fits naturally into the Jewish faith, with its strong emphasis on interconnectedness and community.

“Civic engagement is embedded within Jewish life and with it the awareness of one’s own actions and one’s own responsibilities, also embedded within Jewish life,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez added that beyond concerns about climate change, many Jews are interested in reducing petroleum consumption, because the international oil market helps to prop up repressive and often unfriendly governments in the Middle East.

“It’s about Israel, but it’s also about the national security of the United States, it’s also about not wanting to support dictators,” she said. “It’s all wrapped up together.”

Posted by COEJL in 16:27:27 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Count it forward with me: Today is 16 days of the Omer

by Sybil Sanchez, COEJL Director

When I started working with non-profits, I figured that the contribution of my blood, sweat, and tears to the cause was enough. I didn’t feel the need to make a financial donation. Yet today, the single largest gift I make is to my own organization.

How did I go from one extreme to the other? In fact, today is 16 days of the Omer, and that has a lot to do with it!

The Omer tracks the 49 days during which we wandered in the desert until the Torah was revealed to us on Mount Sinai. It also refers to the measurement of barley that was brought to the Temple daily in lead up to the first harvest, which falls on Shavuot, which is the 50th day.

Counting each day represents our spiritual preparation in anticipation of receiving the Torah and reminds us of our relationship with Creation.

Here is where the connection lies. When I initially resisted giving, I was acting like the wicked child that we read about on Passover. I didn’t see why I should give to them, because I didn’t see that they, in fact, were us.

Now several years later, I give joyfully. I understand that contributing to COEJL is my own expression of fulfilling the Torah by seeking to protect Creation as best I can.

Giving makes me feel part of the greater good toward which I am working, brings me closer to others who give to COEJL, and inspires me to feel hope in the face of the grave human challenges we encounter in climate change, environmental degradation, and dependence on fossil fuels.

Most people know about paying it forward – in appreciation for our good fortune, we give back by helping others to also do well. This month, Jews get to count it forward as we invest our Omers in anticipation of revelation. We know that we are still in the desert, dependent on subsistence from a Force greater than us, but we also know that it is incumbent upon on us to keep counting forward.

A contribution to COEJL is an investment in our shared action as Jews to protect Creation and reflects our belief that we can make a difference. Today is 16 days of the Omer, will you count forward with us by donating now?

Posted by COEJL in 15:02:38 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hunger Fast: A reflection on the $4 per day food challenge

By Danielle Sundstrom, COEJL Program Fellow

I recently took the Hunger Fast challenge, where I committed to live on a food budget of four dollars per day. My first step was to try to live on whatever food I already had in my apartment for the rest of this week. That would mean stretching my $80 worth of groceries over three weeks, or $3.81 per day. With all of the canned food in my apartment, I didn’t expect to encounter much difficulty with stretching the food out until Friday, when I went home for Pesach.

By Wednesday, I already had to add extra food purchases to my $3.81 limit. Although I had initially purchased a good amount of fruits and veggies at the market, I quickly ran out. I try to eat at least two pieces of fruit and two types of vegetables in a normal day– when I’m not taking on Hunger Fast challenges. This goal is decidedly impossible to achieve on a less than $4 a day budget. One day I had to splurge on a banana (50 cents!). Another day I made it to $4.31 before eating any vegetables. Eating healthy on this budget was quite an ordeal.

The Hunger Fast challenge has helped me to understand the everyday challenges that families relying on food stamps, as well as the populations around the world experiencing food insecurity as the result of extreme weather conditions and climate change. While it is possible to survive on less than $4 a day, it is clear to me that there is no guarantee to obtain the government-recommended nutritional requirements, or to even eat three meals per day. I have only had a taste of the reality that the Hunger Fast challenge is trying to help the average consumer understand, and each day I found that I was anxious about how I’d be able to afford a nutritious meal.

Interested in getting involved? For more information about this year’s Hunger Fast, go to www.hungerfast.org.

Posted by COEJL in 19:01:55 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Celebrate Earth Day (and Beyond) – COEJL’s Favorite Green Tips

Danielle Sundstrom, COEJL Program Fellow

It’s Earth Day, and we’re living the green life! Not only is it beneficial for our natural environment, but becoming more environmentally friendly is economically smart too. So this year, consider the following Green Tips from COEJL, and try to work them into your new money-saving, eco-friendly lifestyle.

Reuse Use reusable items rather than disposables. Bring water bottles, shopping bags, mugs, utensils, plates, etc., to work and when traveling.

Energy Conserve electricity by unplugging as many surge protectors and appliances as you can while not at home, turn off lights in the work place and at home when not in use, and turn off computers and monitors when not in use. To save even more money, buy CFL eco light bulbs and other energy-saving appliances for your home and office.
Travel When traveling or commuting, opt to walk, ride your bike, carpool or take public transportation rather than drive alone.

Paper Go paperless when you can. Pay bills online, request paperless payments from work, try not to print unnecessarily, and send e-invites rather than paper invitations.

Water Turn off the water when washing dishes and brushing your teeth. When running the laundry and the dishwasher, wait until you have a full load in order to use less water per dish/article of clothing.

Click here to read why Earth Day is a Jewish holiday and here to read about greening your Passover.

Using even one of these tips to make a lifestyle change will make a positive impact on the environment and can save money too. Did we miss out on a great green tip? Leave us your favorites in the comments.

For more extensive suggestions and specific event and lifestyle greening, check out this guide from Treehugger.

Posted by COEJL in 19:17:04 | Permalink | Comments Off

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Get Hungry to Fight Hunger

Danielle Sundstrom, COEJL Program Fellow

Would you go hungry for a day to help those who go hungry every day?

As climate change affects nations around the world, food security is increasingly becoming an environmental issue as well. Despite being one of the richest developed nations in the world, poverty and hunger still threaten the United States. In America alone, over 50 million people live in food insecure households, and around the world, 925 million suffer from sever hunger and malnutrition. (For more stats like these, read about Tony Hall’s Hunger Fast goals).

Some members of Congress have pushed for cuts in anti-poverty and hunger programs both in the Unites States and internationally. The Hunger Fast is a campaign to protect vulnerable Americans from budget cuts, started in 1993 by then-Congressman Tony Hall. Hall fasted for 22 days in reaction to budget cuts that would have overwhelmed poor communities in America and around the world.

With Passover coming up, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs is planning Hunger Seders to celebrate the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, introduce the challenges our nation faces in regard to hunger and nutrition, and present opportunities for action and advocacy opportunities to combat hunger.

Reading the Haggadah every year for Passover reminds us to celebrate the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The traditions that originated thousands of years ago tell us not to eat certain foods that were unavailable to the Jewish people while they were escaping slavery. Today when we observe Passover traditions, we change our normal eating lifestyles to understand the hardships endured by our ancestors. Different families and sects of Judaism interpret these traditions in a variety of ways. This Passover, we can further our understanding by participating in the Hunger Seder.

Want to get involved?
Here’s how: Go to hungerfast.org and check out the hunger fast challenges. You can opt to
• pray for or reflect on those afflicted by hunger at least once a week,
• join in on the fast and skip at least one meal a week, or
• live on less and limit your food consumption or spending to $2 daily.

I’m committed to the “live on less” challenge and plan to get even the smallest taste of what living on $2-4 worth of food a day is like. 2.1 billion people live on less than $2 a day, and families that use food stamps live on $4 a day or less per member of household. Considering how much a veggie sandwich is the average New York City café, I have to admit my nervousness with taking on this challenge. However, I am inspired by Ambassador Hall and the rest of the participants of the Hunger Fast. Leave a comment below to let me know how you’re participating.

Want to read more about the Hunger Seder? Check out these articles:
Using the Seder plate As A Call to Action
End, Don’t Extend, the Scandal of Hunger in America

Posted by COEJL in 17:09:44 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shabbat Unplugged: The Sabbath Manifesto

Danielle Sundstrom, COEJL Program Fellow

Reboot, a New York-based nonprofit network of Jewish professionals, recently launched the 2011 Sabbath Manifesto project, which presented a challenge to commit to a National Day of Unplugging during the first weekend of March. As part of the challenge, people around the world slowed down their normally hectic routines to take advantage of the manifesto’s ten core principles. For one day, participants were encouraged to avoid technology and connect with loved ones—a concept we in the Jewish community are very familiar with. It might be hard to imagine the average American abiding by the ancient laws of The Sabbath, but the National Day of Unplugging gave participants a taste of tradition.
Posted by COEJL in 18:56:53 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, December 17, 2010

“Women and Climate Change: What You Don’t Know” by guest blogger Mirele Goldsmith

Top of the Crop

In her special to the Jewish Week on Thursday, December 9, 2010, “Women and Climate Change: What You Don’t Know,” long-time COEJL leader Mirele Goldsmith said, “The ways in which women are vulnerable, and their human rights are violated, have changed little through the millennia, and climate change will only exacerbate the same old suffering.”

Here is an excerpt:

In December 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, women died, in part, because they could not swim, because they put the needs of their children first, and most tragically of all, they drowned in their homes because they would not flee after debris had torn off their clothes. In the years since the tsunami, these shocking facts have motivated NGOs to develop programs to prepare women for the increasing number of disasters expected to result from climate change. Why bring up these unfortunate women now? Climate legislation has died in the Senate and is unlikely to be revived by the incoming Congress. And the next round of international climate change negotiations, about to take place in Cancun, seems destined for failure. Why focus on women?

Read the full article at the Jewish Week online.

Word on the Hill

Cancun Improves on Copenhagen. International negotiations on climate change concluded in Cancun, Mexico late Friday night with an agreement reached and a standing ovation by all delegates except that of Bolivia. The Cancun Agreements commit all major economies to greenhouse gas emission cuts and launch a fund to help vulnerable countries while sidestepping heavier political commitments like the future of the Kyoto Protocol, which creates specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.  Contrary to the big disappointment at last year’s Copenhagen conference, countries agreed for the first time in U.N. history to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, acknowledging that the emission cut pledges that America, China, and others made previously are just a start. The new Green Climate Fund will seek to raise $100 billion per year through 2020 for measures to help the world’s poor adapt to climate change, protect forests, and share clean technologies. While a step in the right direction, many expressed concern that the conference didn’t go far enough and much remains to be seen in terms of implementation and securing future goals.  In Reuters, COEJL Campaign Committee member David Waskow of Oxfam called for an increase in financial support for climate adaptation, stating, “There are going to have to be many tough choices made. We need, in the near term, to build communities to face the climate changes.” Recently, COEJL Governance Committee member, Rabbi David Saperstein chimed in on the issue signing an open letter to President Obama calling for the United States to meet its commitment to reduce the impacts of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable communities at home and abroad.

Jews on Cancun. Here are some recent Jewish environmental articles related to the Cancun conference and otherwise :  COEJL Director Sybil Sanchez wrote about conservation in the Jewish Exponent: “Turn Up the Heat, and Support Land and Water Conservation;” Rabbi Warren Stone wrote in his blog, Greening Reform Judaism: “Remembering Kiribati – the World’s First Climate Victim;” Mirele Goldsmith published a Jewish Week article Women and Climate Change: What You Don’t Know;” Green Prophet conducted an interview with an Israeli delegate to Cancun; and, the Green Zionist Alliance posted reports from their joint GZA/KKL/JNF delegate to Cancun.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar conference in early January 2011 featuring Jews who were at the Cancun climate talks!

SAVE THE DATE: COEJL Energy Forum, Wednesday, March 9th, Washington, D.C.

Posted by COEJL in 15:15:14 | Permalink | Comments Off