Washington, D.C., September 21, 2015 – This summer, Pope Francis released a papal encyclical titled “Laudato Si’,” or “Praised Be.” This week, Pope Francis begins his first tour of the United States to speak to Congress and the United Nations General Assembly. Over two hundred rabbis and cantors from all the Jewish denominations and movements have joined together with the Coalition on the Environment in Jewish Life (COEJL), Shomrei Breishit, and The Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) to thank the Pope for his work championing climate change. The full list of Jewish clergy signers can be found here. They delivered the following letter to Pope Francis:
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). Pope Francis has blown the shofar to the world in his encyclical Laudato Si’ and we in Rabbinic leadership have heard the call. 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. There is a new international climate change treaty being negotiated this year and Pope Francis has spoken out to the world on the need to preserve our common home, the Earth.
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).
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 which is why Pope Francis’ call is being heard and being welcomed by us. 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)
More than ever, it is critical that religious communities and the Jewish community in particular raise their voices to confront the moral and spiritual crisis of climate change.
To this end, The Jewish Council on Public Affairs, (JCPA), COEJL (Coalition on Jewish on the Environment and Jewish Life) and Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors For the Earth are calling upon rabbis and other Jewish religious leaders to welcome Pope Francis who will be in the states from September 23 thru September 27. Let us honor him by speaking out during these upcoming High Holidays (Rosh Ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot) on climate change. We have created a sign on page for rabbis to both welcome the Pope and to publicly declare that they will preach at least once on this topic during the High Holiday season. We are also providing resources to help with this campaign. You can find them here.
We call upon rabbis and religious leaders from every denomination and from every corner of the Jewish world to raise their voices and join together with other people of faith and good will to call for real action on this great crisis.