Last month during Black History Month, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) Manager Liya Rechtman published an article in the Washington Jewish Week on why climate change was a racial justice issue. Focusing on climate change advocacy in the Jewish community is an avenue towards energy efficiency, national security, and relationship building with the black community. However, climate change is an area of concern for other communities as well.
This past week, Rechtman attended a daylong workshop sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Committee titled “Amplifying the Latino Voice.” Speaking on a panel about approaches to lobbying and tools for legislative advocacy, she highlighted the shared priorities of alleviating poverty and safeguarding national security that climate change advocacy addresses. Richard Foltin, AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs, Graie Hagans, POWER Community Organizer, and Laura Maristany, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the NALEO Education Fund, joined the COEJL representative.
In her remarks, Rechtman outlined the ways in which the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life worked on local, state, national, and international advocacy with partner communities. Before the Paris climate talks, Jewish environmental advocacy focused on Congressional engagement around appropriations for the Green Climate Fund, a resource for adaptation and mitigation in developing nations. Advocacy in Congress involved activating the Jewish community, particularly in key states like Illinois, and bringing top Jewish leaders to DC to meet with elected officials. Congressional advocacy also required the coordinated efforts of national faith-based partners, like the United Methodist Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As the Paris climate talks neared, advocacy shifted from national to international. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life worked with Green Muslims and Israeli clean energy professionals to ensure a strong agreement in Paris.
Now that the Green Climate Fund has been funded for 2016 and the agreement in Paris has been reached, advocacy has shifted once again; this time to local organizing in cities across the U.S. and key states. This work requires that Jewish, African-American, Latino, and other communities work together. Local organizing and community relations depend on these coalitional frameworks to make the lives of people in the community better and to strengthen relationships across dividing lines.