STATEMENT BY ISRAELI ORTHODOX RABBIS ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS
“In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, he took him and let him pass before all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him: “See my works, how fine and excellent they are. Now all that I created I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt or destroy my world. For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.” (Midrash: Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)
Today, 97% of climate scientists and all the major science academies worldwide– an overwhelming consensus– state that climate change is occurring, is primarily caused by human activities, and must be addressed immediately in order for life on earth to continue to survive and thrive. Their conclusion is reinforced by many facts on the ground:
• Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade and all of the 17 warmest years since temperature records were kept in 1880 have been since 1998. The three previous years have successively broken worldwide temperature records.
• Polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than scientific projections. This has caused an increase elevation in oceans worldwide with the potential for major flooding.
• There has been an increase in the number and severity of droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.
• Many climates experts believe that we are close to a tipping point due to positive feedback loops, when climate change will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless major positive changes soon occur. A just released report in the respected science publication Nature, signed by over 60 leading climate scientists, that warned that failing to start to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 would likely result in increasingly severe climate events.
• While many climate scientists think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for climate stability, the world reached 400 ppm in 2014, and the amount is increasing by 2 – 3 ppm per year.
• While climate scientists hope that temperature increases can be limited to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), largely because that is the best that can be hoped for with current trends and momentum, the world is now on track for an increase of 4 – 6 degrees Celsius, which would result in major threats to human civilization.
• The Pentagon and other military groups think that climate change will increase the potential for instability, terrorism, and war by reducing access to food and clean water and by causing tens of millions of desperate refugees to flee from droughts, wildfire, floods, storms, and other effects of climate change.
In light of the above and more, we, the Israeli Orthodox rabbis whose signatures are below, believe that Jewish teachings mandate that we do everything possible to help avert a climate catastrophe and other environmental disasters and to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Here are just two of these teachings:
Genesis 2:15 indicates that the human role is to work the land but also to guard and preserve it: “The Lord God took the human being, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and conserve it.”
“Who is the wise person? The one who considers the future consequences of his or her actions.” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Tamid 32a)
Based on these and other Jewish teachings, we believe Jews should be on the forefront of efforts to help avert a climate catastrophe. Making this even more important is that Israel is especially threatened by climate change. The Middle East is a very hot, dry area and projections are that it will become hotter and dryer, making instability, violence, terrorism, and war more likely. Also, much of Israel’s population and infrastructure are threatened by a rising Mediterranean Sea inundating Israel’s coastal plain.
Reducing climate change must be a central focus of Jewish life today. We strongly recommend that our fellow rabbis, Jewish educators, and other Jewish leaders, and our synagogues, Jewish schools, and other Jewish individuals and organizations take major steps to increase awareness of climate threats and steps that must be taken to reduce them. We urge the Israeli government to shift from its widespread use of fossil fuels to a far greater emphasis on renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, and we urge the Knesset (Israeli parliament) to prioritize legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Here are the 37 Israeli Orthodox rabbis who have already signed the rabbinic climate change statement.
Rabbi Elan Adler, teacher and counselor, Maale Adumim
Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple, Officer of the Order of Australia, emeritus rabbi of the Great
Rabbi Dov Berkovits, Bet Av – Creativity and Renewal in Torah
Rabbi David Bigman, Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa
Rabbi Yitzchak Blau: Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivat Orayta
Rabbi Bob Carroll, Former Program Director, Edah, and Board Member of the Interfaith
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rosh Yeshiva of Emit Orot Shaul.
Rabbi Dov Ber Cohen, Director of Education: Justifi: Jewish Social Justice
Rabbi Menachem Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Romania and rabbi of the Moshavim Movement in
Rabbi Chaim Dovrat, Modi’in, formerly at Wellington Hebrew Congrgation
Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman,
Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, Kehilat Netivot, Raanana
Rabbi Mike Feuer Sulam Yaakov – Educational Director
Rabbi Binny Freedman, Rosh Yeshivat (Dean ) Orayta
Rabbi Fivel Yedidya Glasser, Director, Nesiya
Rabbi Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Faculty/Director of Admissions, Director of SocialJustice Tract, Pardes Year Program Alumna
Rabbi Shaul David Judelman, Educator, guide at Teva Ivri
Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn, MS, PT, Founding Rabbi, The Tel Aviv International Synagogue – Beit El, Rabbinic Consultant, Tzohar
Rabbi Tzvi Koren, Rav of Kehilat Kinor David, Ra’anana
Rabbi Daniel Landes,
Rabbi Aharon Ariel Lavie, Founder of the Hakhel Incubator for Jewish Intentional Communities
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, Sulam Yaakov – Dean, Jerusalem City Council Member
Rabbi Hayim Leiter, Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies
Rabbi Ronen Lubitch, Rabbi Nir Etzion, president of the Ne’emanei Torah v’Avodah movement, member of the Executive Committee of the Adam, Teva VeDin Association.
Rabbi Dave Mason, Author of The Age of Prophecy series
Rabbi Michael Melchior Rav of Kehilat Talpiyot Hachadasha, Yerushalayim
Rabbi Yonatan Neril Founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth V’AhavT”A – TLV Jewish Experience
Rabbi Ariel Picard, Hartman Institute
Rabbi Chananel Rosen, Rabbi of Yakar Tel-Aviv, Director of Yakar Institutions
Rabbi David Rosen KSG CBE, International Director of Interreligious Affairs, AJC; International President, Religions for Peace
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Dov Rosen, Rabbi of the Yakar community in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Director of International Relations, Roots/ Shorashim/ Judur
Rabbi Meir Schweiger, Mashgiach Ruchani, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
Rabbi Yedidyah Sinclair,
Rabbi Daniel Sperber, Professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University
Rabbi Pesach Dahvid Stadlin, Author and spiritual director of Eden Village