Judaism and the Climate Crisis

December 17, 2020
Claudia Sachs

Richmond, Virginia, United States

Class of 2021

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I recently joined Rabbi Michael Knopf and Rabbi Jesse Olitzky on their podcast, “PopTorah,” to discuss the relationship between Judaism, the climate crisis, and youth activism. During the episode, we spoke about the new Hulu documentary, “I Am Greta,” and the inspiring young people who are on the frontlines of the school strike for the climate movement. “I am Greta” follows the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as she travels the world to speak about climate change and attend climate strikes.

Last year, Greta traveled (by sailboat) from Sweden to New York to attend the U.N. climate summit and a climate strike in DC. I was invited to participate in the DC strike outside the White House alongside Greta and other youth activists. At that strike, Greta requested that the DC leaders guide the event, intentionally taking herself out of the spotlight. She is a powerful force, yet she remains humble and dedicated to the movement rather than to fame or fortune.

Greta’s commitment to global climate justice cooperation inspired me to create the BBYO International Climate Crisis Task Force one year ago. Our Task Force now has 70 teens representing 15 countries. Teens from Mexico City to Melbourne work together each week to combat the climate crisis through BBYO On-Demand educational programs, waste reduction campaigns, and digital climate strikes. The Task Force is currently working on an international vegetarian cookbook, a Paris Climate Agreement letter writing campaign, and a BBYO fossil fuel divestment proposal. If you are interested in joining the BBYO International Climate Crisis Task Force and supporting our work, please sign up today.

Climate justice is a Jewish issue. Jewish holidays and rituals are centered around agriculture and the earth. During Sukkot, we joyfully celebrate the harvest, and on Tu BiShvat we gather to honor trees. In Deuteronomy 26:11, families are instructed to leave baskets of fruit for “the stranger in your midst,” which reminds us to do good for others even if we may never personally benefit from that action. Climate change is a justice issue because of its disproportionate impact on communities of color and indigenous populations. Those who are creating the most emissions can often protect themselves (with AC, homeowners’ insurance, and the ability to move), while those creating the least emissions are suffering the most from heat stress, agricultural loss, and sea-level rise. 

As Jews, we must focus our actions towards Tikkun Olam, the ancient calling to “repair the world.” I am hopeful that BBYO teens, staff, and alumni will continue to be on the frontlines of the climate justice movement. To continue learning about the relationship between Judaism and the climate crisis, I invite you to click here and listen to the PopTorah episode called “Judaism and the Climate Crisis, and ‘I am Greta.’”

Claudia Sachs (left) protests alongside Greta Thunberg (middle) outside the White House on September 13, 2019. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Claudia is a BBG from Cohen BBG in Eastern Region and she loves to travel!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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