Progressively Speaking: We must raise our Jewish voice on climate change

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Progressively Speaking: We must raise our Jewish voice on climate change

WUPJ president  Rabbi Sergio Bergman takes a topical issue and looks at a progressive response

Polar bear
Polar bear

When you are sick, the root issue is not the fever – the fever is just the symptom. It is the same with climate change, which is the symptom showing us the earth is in ill health. But what can we, as Jewish communities, do to find a cure?

This urgent need is why the keynote discussion at the World Union For Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Connections 2021 event discusses this issue. I will be joined by experts from the UK, US and Israel, including Rabbis Jonathan Wittenberg and Tanya Sakhnovich of EcoSynagogue.

The EcoSynagogue is a very interesting movement that tells us, as Jewish communities, you can change nothing outside if you don’t change what’s inside. Climate change is a consequence of how we produce, how we consume and how much we waste. 

Our young people are changing the way they eat – becoming vegetarian and vegan – and the way they consume, becoming much more conscious. This is one area in which our children are the ones teaching us!

The second component of what must be done, as shown by groups such as Dayenu in the US, is how our Jewish activism can be used to inspire others to join us in this green agenda. We need to raise our Jewish voice.

When I became minister of environment and sustainable development in Argentina, everyone asked: “Why is a rabbi taking on this position?” And I explained that, for me, this was the most rabbinic and Jewish job I will ever have. Why? Just look at our Torah. Noah heard that the flood was coming and he was the only one who started to build the Ark. All the people said: “Don’t worry, it’s not possible, it’s a sunny day, we have no problems” and they continued to destroy nature. Now, climate change is the flood that is coming and the change in our ways and our activism is the Ark.

If there is one silver lining to the climate change crisis, it has made us realise something very important – as a world, we are only one family and we have only one house. No matter your nationality or religion, we are one and must act as one to save our planet.

  •  Rabbi Sergio Bergman is WUPJ president 
  • In last week’s Progressively Speaking by Rabbi Deborah Blausten, an editing error meant the original meaning was changed. The affected
    line should have read: “When it comes to social change, too often for too many of us study feels like action.” We apologise for this error. 

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