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Public Letter on Withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord

To leaders within the American Jewish Community:

Dear Friends,

We are Jews, organizational leaders and rabbis, teachers and students who work passionately towards a bright American Jewish future. 

We are also human beings who care deeply about all life. 

And from this integrated Jewish and universal perspective, we are shocked by our President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. 

This decision stands against common sense. Across the whole world, governments, corporations, non-profits, religious communities, and families and individuals are doing the hard work of slowly, slowly trying to wean ourselves away our own unhelpful behaviors and our fossil-fuel based economy, toward a brighter future that better protects our planet and all its inhabitants.

The Climate Accord is a voluntary framework, signed by every country in the world except for Syria and Nicaragua. The signing was one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in human history. The withdrawal of the United States is tragic, and deeply problematic.  As Jews living in a free society, we know the power of a shared framework which, even without legislative sanction, has a huge influence on the world. That’s what the Torah is; that’s why the Jewish people for twenty centuries have been on the right side of critical issues; and that’s why it is so critical that the Jewish community now stand up not merely to advocate for the Paris Climate Accord, but also to help implement it.

As Jews, we are also proud of our long history of economic innovation and entrepreneurship, so we are baffled by the false premise that withdrawing from the Paris Accords somehow prioritizes American jobs; on the contrary, our 21st century economy is driven by new energy technologies, our solar sector already far surpasses coal, and our nation’s economic interests are far better served by investments in this new energy economy than by the denial of climate science. Withdrawing from the Accord will weaken our economy – and threaten vulnerable populations both here at home and across the world.

In the face of this destructive decision, we applaud the leadership of mayors, governors, and businesses across the country who are taking responsibility for working towards the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.  The US federal government is a vital actor when it comes to fighting climate change, but there is much that we can do ourselves, as institutions and individuals. Our children’s future demands that we do all we can. 

Today, therefore, we call upon all Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues, camps, day-schools, Jewish organizations, leaders, businesses, and community members to identify ways in which we, the organized and powerful American Jewish community, can and must respond to this climate crisis.  There could not be more urgency at this moment, and our moral courage and bold leadership is needed on a national and global scale.  

Here are some of the things that you can do:

  • Commit yourself and your organization to the Paris goals, as Hazon, Pearlstone and a growing number of Jewish organizations have done. Amongst other things, that means reducing your carbon emissions by about a quarter (26 to 28%) over the next seven years. 
  • Make sure your institution has a Green Team, to develop a multi-year process to work on sustainability. More than three dozen organizations have so far joined the Hazon Seal of Sustainability, and we invite you and your institution to join the Seal.
  • Encourage your people – members, participants, staff, kids – to take some steps to live more lightly – ride your bike, or eat less meat, or eat more local produce. And if you can switch to solar or wind power, do so.

We are committed to working with interested parties within and beyond the Jewish community on this critical issue that will define our generation’s legacy. 

In the Mishna, Hillel teaches us, In a place where there are no people, stand up as a human being.” In the face of Presidential indifference, we stand together, united in our commitment to a sustainable future.

Signed (note: this list of signatories is incomplete)

  • Judith Belasco, Hody Nemes, Nigel Savage (Hazon)
  • Jakir Manela, Joan Plisko, Sara Shalva (Pearlstone)
  • Adam Berman (Urban Adamah)
  • Ruth Messinger (AJWS Global Ambassador)
  • Rabbi Deborah Waxman (Reconstructionist Rabbinic College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities)

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