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What’s Next for Jews Mobilizing to Stop Climate Change

We won a huge victory in New York State when fracking was banned in New York State in December, 2014.  Since then we have continued our efforts to mobilize the Jewish community to work for a world safe from climate change.

In July, 2016, we participated in the March for Clean Energy in Philadelphia.

Shortly after the March we affiliated with Jewish Climate Action Network.  Our NYC chapter meets monthly and is currently supporting two important campaigns:

First, the campaign against the Pilgrim Pipelines, which are proposed to bring North Dakota fracked oil from Albany, NY, to Linden, NJ.

And second, the campaign in support of bringing off-shore wind generation to New York.

JCAN NYC is also a member of the NYRenews Coalition fighting for good jobs and climate justice with 100% renewable energy for NYS.

Please join us!  Find us on facebook  or by contacting [email protected]

 

Frack a Cookie!

JAH Rachel and Sarah at Shmita Art Fest August 2015

 

Lots of people stopped by our table at the Shmita Arts Fest on Governor’s Island.  They were attracted by the beautiful sign created by Rachel and Sarah that advertised, “Frack a Cookie!”  Our volunteers handed out toothpicks and challenged all comers to try to extract the chocolate chip cookies without destroying the cookie.  It was impossible…and it made our point.  Getting fossil fuels out of the ground is terribly destructive.  We need to stop fracking and switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible.  After destroying (and eating) a cookie, our visitors were invited to sign a petition for a ban on fracking on public lands.  We collected 65 signatures.  Our public lands are precious and irreplaceable.  Please sign the petition now.

May I Have Your Vote for Green Israel?

Vote Green Israel

Over the past few weeks I’ve learned that politics is a tough business. As a candidate for the Green Israel slate, running for the World Zionist Congress, I’ve gained a lot of respect for anyone willing to put themselves out there on the campaign trail.  My potential voters are asking a lot of hard questions.  Fortunately, I have the answers.  Here are the 5 questions I get most often.  I hope the answers are compelling enough to get you to click and vote for Green Israel.

What is the World Zionist Congress?  What can it possibly do?

The World Zionist Congress exists to give Jews in the diaspora a voice in Israeli affairs.  Before 1948, the World Zionist Congress was the prestate parliament of what would become Israel.  After Israel was established, most of its powers were taken over by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).   Since all Jews have a stake in what happens in Israel, the WZC was retained to give diaspora Jews a voice.

The WZC retains considerable influence over several important institutions.  These include the Jewish Agency (which is involved in immigration,) and most important for our purpose, the Jewish National Fund.  The JNF, which most people know as the organization that plants trees in Israel, owns 13% of the land in Israel.

With so much control over land, the environmental policies of the JNF have tremendous influence in Israel.  The composition of the WZC determines the makeup of the board of the JNF.  Today, through the WZC, the Green Israel slate — supported by Aytzim and its projects, the Green Zionist Alliance, Jewcology, and Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth — has named two of Israel’s leading environmentalists to the JNF board.   Alon Tal and Orr Karassin have pushed JNF to take the lead on a number of environmental issues, including taking stands for the protection of open space and against fracking.  The Green Israel slate must be reelected to continue to influence the JNF.

I’m not a Zionist, so why would I vote?

When I agreed to join the Green Israel slate, I anticipated that potential voters would assume that the WZC was an antiquated and irrelevant institution.  Somehow I didn’t realize how many Jews are uncomfortable with the terms Zionist and Zionism themselves.  My answer is simple.  Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish People.  It achieved its initial aim when Israel was established.  But no country is perfect.  Fortunately, there are ways we can help to make it better.  Voting in the WZC elections is one way.

I’m not so comfortable with the JNF either, so why should I support it? 

The JNF is a large, politicized, bureaucratic organization that is part of Israel’s establishment.  I don’t agree with everything that the JNF does.  That’s exactly why I’m on the Green Israel slate.  Because people voted for the Green Israel slate in past elections, there have been major improvements in how the JNF does business.  It has adopted significantly better policies on forestry, stream restoration, and soil reclamation.  JNF is taking the lead on green infrastructure such as bike lanes, solar energy, and wastewater reclamation.  Now JNF’s Sustainable Development Committee, chaired by Alon Tal, has established a program to prioritize quality of life improvements in Arab communities that have long been neglected by the JNF.  The JNF has power, and we can leverage that power by voting.

Why do I have to pay to vote?

The American Zionist Movement has contracted with an independent company to run the online election.  This is to insure that the election is fair.  The registration fee is being used exclusively to pay for the election.  It is not a donation to the WZO.  I wish there was no fee, but it is a small price to pay to make a real difference in the future of Israel.

In the last few weeks I have asked hundreds of people to vote for me.  In the last election, it only took 500 seats to get a seat at the WZC.  That means that every single vote matters.  Please vote right now at worldzionistcongress.org.

 

Tell Your Friends at Camp to Teach Their Campers About Fracking

Are you working at a summer camp?  Do you know someone who is?  Our fun guide, Teach Your Campers About Fracking, will help counselors teach their campers about fracking and empower them to protect themselves and our earth.

Check out our fun activities, “A Precious Drop of Water,” “Drilling Disaster” (this one involves chocolate chip cookies,) and “Exploring the Ethics of Fracking.”   A sing-along is also a great way to introduce a discussion about fracking.  Start with an old camp favorite like U’Shavtem Mayim and try out an updated classic like “I Don’t Want Your Millions Mister.”

We want campers to make up their own minds, and then empower them to decide how they can make a difference with action steps like teaching their peers about fracking, sharing their opinions with camp directors, and writing letters to political leaders.

Please encourage camp staffers you know to teach their campers about fracking this summer by sharing our guide to camp activities: Teach Your Campers About Fracking

Letter to Chair of the Commission on Social Justice Action

 

To:  Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman

Chair of the Commission on Social Justice Action of Reform Judiasm

CC:  Rabbi David Saperstein

 

Dear Ms. Kaufman,

 

We are the co-chairs of the Green Team at Temple Rodef Shamom, the largest Jewish congregation in Virginia. Recently we had the privilege to host Rabbi Saperstein for at our social action Shabbat, and to speak with him about our hopes that the Commission on Social Action and the Religious Action Center would speak out more forcefully on issues related to climate change.

 

We are very pleased to learn that the Commission will be taking up the issue of hydrofracking for natural gas at your meeting in Detroit on April 22-24. We thank you and the Commission for devoting time to this pressing issue and urge you to call for a ban on this dangerous and environmentally harmful practice.

 

The Jewish case against hydrofracking, like the broader case for action to address climate change, is based upon fundamental teachings of our faith about the sanctity of human life, concern for the poor, and love and protection of God’s creation. Many of the reasons that this new and extreme form of gas extraction is at odds with our values have been articulated with supporting documentation by the group Jews Against Hydrofracking. The reasons to call for a ban on hydrofracking include:

 

o      Despite claims that natural gas will increase U.S. “energy security” and reduce reliance on oil from the Middle East, natural gas is an internationally traded commodity and it seems increasingly likely that the profits from fracking as well as the gas itself, will flow overseas. (See Pipe Dreams. Food and Water Watch Issue Brief, April 2011)

o      Hydrofracking taxes water resources and pollutes water. It requires the use of toxic chemicals (the chemicals and amounts used are not publicly disclosed), brings radioactive elements in the rock to the surface, and results in contamination of water by gas.

o      Hydrofracking is exempt from many environmental laws due to years of lobbying by the industry.

o      Hydrofracking supports and prolongs our economy’s addiction to fossil fuels, by making available cheap natural gas that undercuts emerging low-carbon renewable alternatives, such as wind and solar.

o      Although natural gas is cleaner burning than coal and oil, it is nonetheless a fossil fuel that releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that increase the risk of runaway climate change.

o      Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas with many times the heat-trapping effect of CO2. New studies suggest that methane that escapes during fracking and subsequent transportation and processing makes natural gas extracted through hydrofracking as damaging to the climate as the equivalent energy generated by burning coal, the dirtiest of all fuels.

Since its creation more than 50 years ago, the RAC has been a prophetic voice for social justice, speaking out at decisive moments on issues ranging from civil rights, to nuclear proliferation, to genocide in Darfur and opposition to drilling in the arctic. These positions have not always been popular. Powerful voices have sometimes urged the RAC to avoid controversial issues. We are proud that the RAC and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism have consistently chosen the moral and ethical path, in line with the deeply held Jewish commitment to social justice. In view of the many problems and very high risk associated with hydrofracking, we hope that the Commission will speak with a strong, clear voice in favor of a ban.

 

Shalom,
Lawrence MacDonald

Geri Maskell

Green Team Co-Chairs

 

Temple Rodef Shalom

Falls Church, VA

 

PS: I apologize for sending this on the eve of your meeting, and hope it will not be too late to be taken into account in your proceedings. I am copying this to Susan Paykin, in hopes that she can help to ensure that it reaches those who will make a decision on this very important manner.