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A Call to Action on Climate Change and Environmental Justice

Nov. 5, 2014 — 12 Heshvan 5775


Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set guardians, who shall never be silent by day or by night. — Isaiah 62:6


The sound of the shofar is meant to arouse us, wake us up from our ethical torpor, confront our past deeds, and inspire us to new moral actions. (Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 3:4). If there is any time when we need to heed the call of the shofar it is now when climate change is the most critical human challenge.


Jewish tradition tells us that all of humanity is part of a great Order of Creation (Psalm 148) and that it is our role to protect that Order from damage and destruction (Genesis 2:15). As Jews we are also commanded to seek justice and equity not only for present generations but for future generations as well if we hope to live peaceably upon the Earth (Deuteronomy 16:20). But the Earth, as the most visible and active agent of God’s ongoing Creation, is threatened by humanity’s failure to remember that we are not owners but rather passing tenants on this planet (1 Chronicles 29:15). A midrash tells us that Abraham wondered if it was possible that the world lacked a manager, like someone who sees a building in flames and wonders if the building lacked a manager. God then spoke to him and said, “I am the Owner of the World.” (Midrash Breishit Rabbah 39:1)


The world is on fire and God is calling upon us to act. The crisis of climate change is not primarily a crisis of technology, political or economic policy. It is a moral crisis that demands that we respond. This moral crisis arises from inequities between those who have benefited most from carbon-based energy — and have the most abundant resources to deal with the consequences — versus those who benefited the least, are least responsible, will suffer the most, and have the most meager resources to deal with it. “These are the things you must do: speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.” (Zechariah 8:16)


Recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. government indicate that C02 levels are at all-time highs. More than ever, it is critical that religious communities and the Jewish community in particular raise their voices, since climate change is a moral and spiritual issue.


To this end, Aytzim and GreenFaith have created Shomrei Breitshit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, an international, multi-denominational network of rabbis and cantors providing a Jewish religious voice on environmental justice and climate change. Shomrei Breishit also will provide rabbis, cantors and Jewish seminary students from all Jewish movements with educational resources about environmental issues from a specifically Jewish perspective. Shomrei Breishit will partner with other Jewish, interfaith and secular environmental organizations in publicly advocating for strong climate action by national and local governments.


We, the undersigned, are the initial members of Shomrei Breitshit, and we call upon:


  • World governments to transition to non-carbon based energy over the next 10 years and to sign and act on a new climate change treaty in 2015.
  • Jewish institutions to advocate for strong national and international climate legislation; to become carbon neutral through conservation and the purchasing of carbon offsets; and to review investment portfolios and redirect funds to sustainable energy investment.


We personally pledge to become carbon neutral over the next two years through conservation, purchasing offsets and seeking to reinvest our own financial portfolios from fossil-fuel investments to sustainable-energy investments. We also pledge to encourage our own Jewish institutions to pursue equivalent actions. And we pledge to advocate for meaningful climate-change legislation in local and national governments and international bodies.


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the prophets of ancient Israel “remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” (The Prophets, p. 16). And as the rabbis in the Talmud once proclaimed: Anyone who can protest against a wrong that is being done and does not is held accountable for their inaction. (Shabbat 54b) We, as Jewish spiritual leaders, are impelled to speak out on what is one of the greatest moral challenges in human history.


Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai taught: It is to be compared to people who were in a boat, and one of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath him. His companions say, “Why are you doing this?” He replied: What concern is it of yours? Am I not drilling under myself? They replied: But you will flood the boat for us all! (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 4:6)


We call upon rabbis and cantors from every denomination and from every corner of the Jewish world to stop others from drilling holes in our boat and to join us in signing this statement and becoming part of Shomrei Breishit.


Rabbi Ron Aigen, Montreal, Canada

Rabbi Katy Allen, Boston, Mass.

Cantor Lisa Arbisser, New York, N.Y.

Rabbinical student Trisha Arlin, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cantor Barbara Barnett, Wheeling, Ill.

Rabbinical student Laura Bellows, Jamaica Plains, Mass.

Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum, Milwaukee, Wis.

Rabbi Edward C. Bernstein, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Amherst, Mass.

Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Neal Borovitz, River Edge, N.J.

Rabbi Charles Briskin, San Pedro, Calif.

Cantor Vera Broekhuysen, North Andover, Mass.

Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik, Northridge, Calif.

Rabbi and Cantor Mattisyahu Brown, Easton, Penn.

Rabbi Nadav Caine, Poway, Calif.

Rabbi Debra Cantor, Bloomfield, Conn.

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Baltimore, Md.

Rabbi Ken Chasen, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Shai Cherry, Del Mar, Calif.

Cantor Jack Chomsky, Columbus, Ohio

Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Howard Cohen, Marshfield, Mass.

Rabbi Michael Cohen, Kibbutz Ketura, Israel

Rabbi Yehoshua Cohen, Alto, N.M.

Rabbi Mike Comins, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Rachel Cowan, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Berkeley, Calif.

Rabbi Robin Damsky, Melrose Pak, Ill.

Rabbi Getzel Davis, Cambridge, Mass.

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Bel Air, Calif.

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Cindy Enger, Chicago, Ill.

Rabbi Morley Feinstein, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Lori Feldstein-Gardner, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Jacob Fine, Amherst, Mass.

Rabbi Brian Fink, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Nancy Flam, Northhampton, Mass.

Rabbi Josh Franklin, Wellesley, Mass.

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Ruth Gais, Summit, N.J.

Rabbi Laura Geller, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Everett Gendler, Lowell, Mass.

Rabbinical student Moshe Givental, Newton Center, Mass.

Rabbi Miriyam Glazer, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Shefa Gold, Jemez Springs, N.M.

Cantor Dorothy Goldberg, East Haven, Conn.

Rabbinical student, Maggid Zelig Golden, Oakland, Calif.

Rabbi Michael Goldman, White Plains, N.Y.

Cantor Rachel Goldsmith, Bethesda, Md.

Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser, East Greenwich, R.I.

Rabbi Maralee Gordon, Woodstock, Ill.

Rabbi Arthur Green, Newton Center, Mass.

Cantor Meredith Greenberg, Montclair, N.J.

Rabbi Victor Gross, Erie, Colo.

Rabbi Jill Hammer, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Stamford, Conn.

Rabbi Jocee Hudson, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbinical student Jamie Hyams, San Ramon, Calif.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Daria Jacobs-Velde, Sebastopol, Calif.

Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde, Sebastopol, Calif.

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Teaneck, N.J.

Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, Forest Hills, N.Y.

Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Kevin Kleinman, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Raquel S. Kosovske, Northhampton, Mass.

Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Westfield, N.J.

Rabbi Enid Lader, Cleveland, Ohio

Cantor David Landau, Highland Park, Ill.

Cantor Cathy Lawrence, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Shoshana Leis, Fort Collins, Colo.

Rabbi Amy Levin, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Rabbi Daniel Levin, Boca Raton, Fla.

Rabbi Leonard Levin, South Orange, N.J.

Cantor Sheldon Levin, Metuchen, N.J.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Pasadena, Calif.

Rabbi David C. Levy, Succasunna, N.J.

Rabbi Natan Levy, London, United Kingdom

Rabbi Valerie Lieber, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Neal Loevinger, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Rabbi Janet Madden, Santa Monica, Calif.

Cantor Ilan Mamber, Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Rabbi Natan Margalit, Newton, Mass.

Rabbi Marc Margolius, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Randall Mark, Wayne, N.J.

Rabbi Richard Marker, New York, N.Y.

Cantor Mitchell Martin, Lake Worth, Fla.

Rabbi Nathan Martin, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Janice Mehring, Atascadero, Calif.

Rabbi Shira Milgrom, White Plains, N.Y.

Rabbi Reuben Modek, Orangeburg, N.Y.

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, Mahwah, N.J.

Rabbi Nina Perlmutter, Chino Valley, Ariz.

Rabbinical student Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Jesse Olitsky, South Orange, N.J.

Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, Princeton, N.J.

Rabbi J. Adele Plotkin, Chino Valley, Ariz.

Rabbi Joshua Rabin, Jericho, N.Y.

Rabbi Joshua Ratner, Chesire, Conn.

Rabbi Or Rose, Newton Center, Mass.

Rabbi Ari Rosenberg, Springfield, N.J.

Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Apollo Beach, Fla.

Rabbi John Rosove, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Rabbi David B. Saltzman, Boonton, N.J.

Rabbi Michael Satz, Toronto, Canada

Rabbi and Cantor Daniel Sayani, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Bethesda, Md.

Rabbi Chaim Schneider, Aptos, Calif.

Rabbi Michael Schudrick, Warsaw, Poland

Rabbi Barry Schwartz, Leonia, N.J.

Rabbi David Seidenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Rabbi David Shneyer, Rockville, Md.

Cantor Eric Shulmiller, Plandome, N.Y.

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner, Roswell, Ga.

Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel, Needham, Mass.

Rabbi Garth Silberstein, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Barry Silver, Boca Raton, Fla.

Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Detroit, Mich.

Rabbi Joel Simonds, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Amy Small, Summit, N.J.

Rabbi Yisrael Smith, Tekoa, Israel

Rabbi Eric Solomon, Raleign, N.C.

Rabbi Marc Soloway, Boulder, Colo.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Waltham, Mass.

Rabbi Brent Spodek, Beacon, N.Y.

Rabbi Kaya Stern-Kaufman, Housatonic, Mass.

Rabbi Warren Stone, Kensington, Md.

Rabbi Micah Streiffer, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada

Rabbi Michael Swarttz, Newton Center, Mass.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Scranton, Penn.

Rabbi Elliot Tepperman, Montclair, N.J.

Rabbi David Teutsch, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Lennard Thal, New York, N.Y.

Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Los Angeles, Calif.

Rabbi Neil Tow, Glenrock, N.J.

Rabbi Lawrence Troster, Teaneck, N.J.

Rabbi Pamela Wax, Bronx, N.Y.

Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Tom Weiner, White Plains, N.Y.

Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, London, United Kingdom

Cantorial student, Deborah Wohl, West Orange, N.J.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Rabbi Lina Zerbarini, East Hills, N.Y.

Rabbi Gerald Zelizer, Metuchen, N.J.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Philadelphia, Penn.

Rabbi Rain Zohav, Rockville, Md.


  • You can sign the statement and join Shomrei Breishit by clicking here.

  • Without signing the statement, you can join Shomrei Breishit.





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