New Website Shows Romney’s Iran Ties

— by David A. Harris

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, titled Mitt Romney and Iran, showing the troublesome economic ties Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to Iran. While Romney tries to talk tough on Iran, he allowed his personal investments and Massachusetts’s pension fund to directly benefit from business with Iran.

Jewish voters deserve to know the numerous financial ties Mitt Romney has with Iran. Governor Romney often talks a good game when speaking about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but when he had the opportunity to act-both as governor and with his personal investment-he came up far short. Former Congressman Mel Levine summed it up best:

If Romney has seemingly gotten away with this … in the name of gaining even more personal wealth, imagine what he would do as president when he actually has the responsibility to make tough decisions to stop Iran.

You can visit Mitt Romney and Iran by clicking here http://romneyandiran.com/.

Background after the jump.
The website Mitt Romney and Iran details Mitt Romney’s personal investments and the various ties many of his investments have with Iran. Such companies include China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Gazprom, and BNP Paribas. The website also covers various companies involved with Iran that the Massachusetts pension fund was invested in during the time Romney served as governor of the state. These companies include the AXA Group and Barclays.  

A Special Kol Nidre for Congress

Kol Nidre is the traditional Aramaic declaration recited for the Yom Kippur evening service. This solemn ceremony is meant to release the community from oaths which were made in error or under duress. The Rabbinical Assembly of New Haven has created a variant of the Kol Nidre formula for use by Congressmen, Senators and otehr politicians trapped by their pledge to Grover Norquist.

Dissolution of “No New Tax” Pledge

All vows, renunciations, bans, oaths, formulas of obligation, pledges,  and promises that were made by members of the House of Representatives or the Senate and other public officials, lawmakers,  city officials and candidates for office in the United States of America  before this Yom Kippur 5773 (17 September 2012), whether in writing or orally, to not raise taxes or impose new taxes, all are undone, repealed, cancelled, voided, annulled, and released, and regarded as neither valid nor binding by our community.  They are hereby released and forgiven by this Earthly Court, and so may they be released and forgiven by the Highest Court.

Thus ordered, thus decreed and thus released by the signatories below, constituting a rabbinic court of three under our authority and the authority of the Rabbinical Assembly of New Haven, Connecticut,  USA, and others who have joined with us.

Beit Din
  • Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen,  
  • Rabbi Yaakov Komisar, and
  • Rabbi Baruch A. Levine

Witnesses

  • Rabbi Murray Levine,
  • Rabbi Alan H. Lovins, and
  • Rabbi Joshua Ratner

כל נדרי ואסרי וחרמי וקנמי וכנויי וקנוסי ושבועות והבטחות והתחייבויות דנדרו ודאשתבּעו
ודאחרימו ודאסרו ודהבטחו והתחייבו חברי בית הנבחרים והסנאט ופקידי הציבור
ומחוקקים וחברי וועדי העיר ומועמדים למשרד בארצות הברית עד יום כפור זה שנת
ה׳תשע״ג בין בכתב ובין בעל פה בכוונה ללא להעלות מיסים וללא להטיל מיסים חדשים
כלּהון יהון שרן שביקין שביתין בטלין ומבוטלין לא שרירין ולא קימין.  אין כאן לא נדר
ולא אסור ולא חרם ולא קונם ולא קנס ולא שבועה ולא הבטחה ולא התחייבות ויש כאן
מחילה וסליחה וכפרה.  וכשם שמתירים בבית דין של מטה، כך יהיו מֻ תרים מבית דין של
מעלה.  

כך צוים וכך גוזרים וכך מתירים אנחנו، חתומי מטה، בישיבת בית דין של שלשה של כנסת
הרבנים בניו היבן ומצטרפים עלינו עוד רבנים מוסמכים כאן בעיר ניו היבן קנקטקט במדינת
אמריקה הצפונית.

   

Levine: Obama Has Kept His Promise to Israel

— by Danielle Lehrer

In an op-ed written in The Forward, former Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) asserts that President Barack Obama has kept his promise to stand with Israel against rocket attacks.

Extract follows the jump.
During his first term as president, Barack Obama has made good on this assurance. Most recently, on May 17, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the United States would immediately provide Israel with $70 million for the purchase of additional rocket defense batteries. This aid comes after the Obama administration had already given Israel $205 million in 2011, in addition to the $3 billion Israel receives in annual foreign aid…

American funding for David’s Sling, Israel’s missile-defense system, more than doubled over the last four years – from $52 million during the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration to $110.5 million this year. Funding for the advanced system, developed to defend against the ballistic- and cruise-missile threat from Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, has increased every year since President Obama took office in 2009. The system’s interceptor missile, the Stunner, has already been successfully tested, and the first operational David’s Sling battery is scheduled to be deployed in early 2013…

The Obama administration has expanded military cooperation with Israel in other vital ways as well. In late 2009, more than 1,400 American service members participated in Operation Juniper Cobra, the largest joint American-Israeli military exercise in history. An even bigger joint drill is scheduled for October, and will include the establishment of American command posts in Israel and a reciprocal arrangement at United States European Command headquarters in Germany.

President Obama has taken unparalleled steps to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge and ensure that the Jewish state is prepared to defend itself against a multitude of ever-present threats. The Obama administration has, in word and deed, strengthened America’s enduring commitment to Israel’s security – just ask the Israeli leadership.

After the recent announcement of new Iron Dome funding, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed that the U.S.- Israeli defense relationship had never been stronger: ‘The U.S. decision to support further enhancing Israel’s security is an important demonstration of the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel.’  Speaking to claims by the U.S. administration of unprecedented cooperation between the two countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said of President Obama: ‘He has backed those words with deeds.’

Golden Slipper Club’s 90th Anniversary Gala Raises $100,000


Honorary gala co-chairs (L) Ron Rubin of Narberth and (R) Ed Rosen of Bryn Mawr with
(C) gala co-chair Jerome Muchnick of Philadelphia.

— by Scott D. Bluebond and Ann Hilferty

On the evening of Thursday, June 7, 2012, the Golden Slipper Club & Charities (GSC) hosted its 90th annual anniversary gala at Vie at 600 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia. The gala co-chairs were Jerome N. Muchnick and Barbara Frishberg, the tribute book co-chairs were Nanci and Ken Gilberg and Joseph H. Levine, the honorary co-chairs were Edward H. Rosen and Ronald Rubin, the young gala co-chairs were Megan and Brian Gilberg and Rachel Giuliano and Matthew Bagell, and the executive director is Paul Geller. Approximately 213 guests enjoyed fabulous food, cocktails, live music with Eddie Bruce, dancing and more, all to benefit GSC.

The evening looked back throughout Golden Slipper history by honoring past presidents, gold medallion recipients, and Horatio Alger honorees. These individuals created the Golden Slipper overnight camp, the Center for Seniors, a scholarship program for college students, and the human needs and services program. They also celebrated the induction of the second term of club president, Stephen H. Frishberg and the incoming officers and board members.

More after the jump.


Chair Debra Rasansky of Radnor (right) swears in president, Stephen Frishberg of Blue Bell (left).

Frishberg comments on the evening: “I say with some humility that it was a most glorious evening, seeing all of our past leaders and honorees reconnect and interact. I cannot convey the warmth in the room and the fun that was had by all who attended…and cannot say enough about the service and honor and glory that each of our honorees have brought to Slipper at the time that they either served as president of the Club, the Home, the Center for Seniors, the Camp, or received our Horatio Alger award for services to the Camp, or gold medallion honor for their charitable services to the Jewish community at large.” This event raised approximately $100,000 to fund the many programs and services provided on a daily basis by Golden Slipper Clubs & Charities.


Honorees David Fineman of Merion Station (left) and Sherman Leis of Bala Cynwyd (right) accept a 90th Anniversary Pin.

Golden Slipper Club & Charities, celebrating 90 years in 2012, has taken a hands-on approach to support programs and services for the Greater Philadelphia area’s youth, needy and elderly, with some 600 active men and women who volunteer their time to serve people in need. Golden Slipper’s motto is charity, good fellowship and loyalty, first and foremost, in all its endeavors. It provides charitable services to those in need in the community. Golden Slipper Camp sends approximately 600 children to overnight camp in the beautiful Pocono Mountains. Golden Slipper Center for Seniors provides a daytime activities facility which offers social and recreational activities and meals for over 300 senior citizens. Other programs offered to help the community include HUNAS (Human Needs and Services) which gives emergency grants to those in need and the Slipper Scholarship Program, which provides college scholarships to deserving and promising young students.


Chair Debra Rasansky of Radnor (right) swears in the Golden Slipper Club & Charities executive committee (from left): Rabbi Eric Yanoff of Dresher, Sherry Horowitz of Wynnewood, Brian Levine of Dresher, Celeste Rose of Philadelphia, Betsy Klausman of Bala Cynwyd, Matt Bagell of Philadelphia, Megan and Brian Gilberg of Philadelphia, Ed Caine of Bryn Mawr, Howard Lapensohn of Gladwyne, Marc Feller of Wyncote, Fred Kaplan of Maple Glen and David Levy of Rydal.

Family Food Distribution Day Helps 220 Needy South Jersey Families

Collaboration between Golden Slipper Club & Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service Brings 253 Volunteers Together to Help the Cause


Volunteers line up to prepare boxes of food for those in need in South Jersey.

— by Scott D. Bluebond and Lara Barrett

(VOORHEES, NJ) Golden Slipper Club and Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey (JFCS) hosted the first Family Food Distribution Day in Voorhees on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Volunteers traveled to warehouse space donated by NFI Industries in Voorhees, New Jersey to help to pack and deliver supplemental food boxes to over 220 families in need in Camden, Gloucester, Burlington and Cumberland Counties in South Jersey. The day represented a way to give back to the community, family style, for volunteers from toddlers to senior citizens.

More after the jump.


Volunteers from Golden Slipper Club & Charities and Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Services load cars for food deliveries.

155 adults and 98 children came out to support this cause. A long line of yellow volunteer shirts weaved throughout the warehouse — each person with a smile, a heart full of giving, and an arm full of food.Children who were not busy packing food were able to enjoy a special craft activity about food and charity. The day was as meaningful to the volunteers as it was for those who received a box at their doorstep. Family Food Distribution Day was a huge success, and another such day is sure to follow. Over $4,000 worth of food was delivered.

Family Food Distribution Day is just one of the many ways that Golden Slipper Club & Charities helps out the community. Others include activities for seniors, camps for children, and emergency grants for those in need. Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey offers senior homecare and support, special needs programs, mental health counseling, and food pantries. JFCS also offers support groups and community seminars offer coping strategies and help individuals, couples, and families learn new and effective ways of dealing with the challenges and transitions in their lives.


Golden Slipper Club & Charities chair of the board Steve Frishberg helps keep the volunteers organized.

Golden Slipper Club & Charities, celebrating 90 years in 2012, has taken a hands-on approach to support programs and services for the Greater Philadelphia area’s youth, needy and elderly, with some 600 active men and women who volunteer their time to serve people in need. Golden Slipper’s motto is charity, good fellowship and loyalty, first and foremost, in all its endeavors. It provides charitable services to those in need in the community. Golden Slipper Camp sends approximately 600 children to overnight camp in the beautiful Pocono Mountains. Golden Slipper Center for Seniors provides a daytime activities facility which offers social and recreational activities and meals for over 300 senior citizens. Other programs offered to help the community include HUNAS (Human Needs and Services)
which gives emergency grants to those in need and the Slipper Scholarship Program, which provides college scholarships to deserving and promising young students.


Golden Slipper Club member Janet Levine pitches in.

Samost Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey has been providing comprehensive, caring social services to South Jersey residents of all ages, faiths, and economic backgrounds – strengthening the individual, the family, and the community, for over 65 years. JFCS is dedicated to helping people successfully meet the challenges of daily life. They are a nonprofit human services agency that provides quality, affordable, and accessible social services to Jewish individuals and families in need. JFCS places the highest value upon treating people with dignity and respect and are guided by the Jewish tradition of helping people help themselves. JFCS services are available to residents of Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties in Southern New Jersey. No one is ever turned away because of financial hardship.

Group Picture (L-R): GSC volunteers in front in yellow shirts: Barbara and Steve Frishberg,
Megan Gilberg, Robin Cohen, and Brian Gilberg. JFCS volunteers in back in green shirts:
Jessica Gomel-Veksland, Steven Veksland, Mike Staff, and Michael Veksland.

Local Film Shown in Israel & Across US for Yom Hazikaron

A Green Kippah, a film directed and produced by Philadelphia’s Sally Mitlas, was aired numerous times throughout Yom HaZikron on Israel’s Channel 10.

This moving documentary, originally created for Philadelphia’s 2011 Yom HaZikron ceremony, chronicles the lives and tragic death of three Pennsylvania Jews: David Solomonov (z”l), Rita Levine (z”l) and Michael Levin (z”l).

All three heroes died in the prime of their lives — through an act of terror, a sniper’s bullet and defending Israel’s border — reminding us that when Israel loses a son or daughter, it is felt by every Jew around the world.

Following the Channel 10 screenings, Sally received a flood of emails from Israelis who were moved by the documentary. One said

I have just finished watching the movie Green Kippah on Israeli television. I would like to thank you for sharing these stories with us. It is because of families like you, who have a deep love for Israel, that all of us can have quiet peaceful lives. My heart and love is with you…

A Green Kippah was screened at many memorial ceremonies and educational programs across our region (and in the U.S.) including locally at Drexel University, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, and Politz Hebrew Academy.  

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Speaks To Hadassah

— by Max Samis

Last month, Democratic National Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) gave an interview to Charley J. Levine of Hadassah Magazine. Wasserman Schultz discussed a number of issues pertaining to the Jewish community including Israel, President Barack Obama’s record, and the Jewish vote.

Wasserman Schultz said regarding Obama and Israel

:[Obama] proposed more than $3 billion in aid to Israel in a very difficult economy because he recognizes how important Israel’s security is. He authorized and supported $205 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is effective against rocket attacks that have been occurring mercilessly against Israel. He authorized the sale of the bunker buster bombs, where President Bush had declined. I would argue he has been a better, more consistent friend to Israel than previous administrations.

More after the jump.
She explained regarding Jewish support of the Democratic Party:

Polling continues to show overwhelming support for Democrats and President Obama in the Jewish community. There appears to be no danger that we are going to lose the Jewish vote. Republicans are doing their best to cut into this, saying anything-regardless of the facts-because in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio there are sizable Jewish populations…

We have 20 Jewish members in the House; 19 are Democrats and 1 is a Republican. I am the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. There are zero Jewish Republicans yet several Democrats in the Senate. The natural political home for Jewish voters in America is my party, due both to our traditional, strong support for Israel and all the other issues that matter to Jews.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Republican attempts to politicize support for Israel:

There is just no daylight between both parties’ support for Israel. The Republicans…are unfortunately working overtime to create the perception that they are the more pro-Israel body…

What the Republicans are doing is dangerous. They are using Israel as a political football…. Israel’s ambassador [to the United   States], Michael Oren, has said this. If there is any perception of daylight between the parties on support for Israel, that strengthens Israel’s enemies. The president rejects what some Republican candidates have been saying, that America should review all its foreign aid commitments from zero, making each country justify the support it receives.

She spoke about one of her most memorable Israel visits:

I went with the American Jewish Committee in a young leadership program. I have always been a part of a large Jewish community, but you are always still aware that you are a minority. I was always aware I was different, and did experience some anti-Semitic incidents. So when I was walking down the street in Jerusalem it suddenly occurred to me that the bus driver is Jewish, the clerk at the supermarket is Jewish and the taxi driver is Jewish…. This helped me fully appreciate how important it is that we have the Jewish State of Israel-which is our homeland and our rightful place. We belong there and, God forbid, I remember thinking, if history repeated itself, there has to be a place for us to go.

Is This Romney’s Idea of Increased Support for Israel?

— Jason Attermann

Former Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) helped differentiate between the facts of President Barack Obama’s extensive pro-Israel record and the distorted portrayals created by many of the Republican presidential candidates. In his op-ed in Haaretz, Levine took special aim at former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for disregarding Obama’s efforts to protect Israel and isolate the Iranian regime. Levine wrote:

Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama’s record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama’s foreign policy conveniently ignores the president’s leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran….

And, ironically, in terms of inventing his own facts, the core policies Romney advocates have already been accomplished by President Obama. (Perhaps the former Governor has not been paying attention.) For example, Romney argues that current sanctions against Iran are weak and specifically states that ‘if there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin’s support for tougher sanctions against Tehran … President Obama foreclosed it.’ But he fails to recognize that President Obama succeeded, where others had failed, in obtaining both Russian and Chinese support for international sanctions against Iran, sanctions as a result of the president’s leadership are the strongest that have been obtained by any U.S. president.

During the GOP presidential debates, Romney agreed with Texas Governor Rick Perry’s call for all U.S. aid to other countries to begin at “zero.” For Perry,  Israel is included. Levine questioned, “Is this his idea of how the U.S. should increase needed support for Israel?”

President Obama’s policies toward Iran have been tough and clear. As has been his staunch support for Israel. This president understands the threat which a nuclear Iran poses to the international community. That a serious candidate for the Presidency would intentionally distort and misrepresent that clear policy does a disservice to our nation.


A Rabbi’s Journey to Rome Building Bridges of Hope


Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action

– Rabbi Warren Stone

I was invited to Rome to speak by the U.S. Embassy and the Vatican’s  Pontifical Gregorian University for a major one-day conference on October 12, entitled:  “Building Bridges of Hope: Success Stories and Strategies for Interfaith Action.”  The program’s vision was to include the Abrahamic faith traditions on three global issues panels, each of which included a Christian, Jewish and Muslim leader. The issues were:

  1. Equitable and Ethical Development,
  2. Caring for the Environment and
  3. Preventing Conflict.

Atttending the conference were worldwide ambassadors to the Vatican, Vatican Bishops and officials, seminary students from Gregorian and the international media.
U.S. Ambassador Miguel Diaz envisioned this conference as  a concrete expression of President Obama’s interfaith goals. He spoke about the critical importance of having religious voices work on world issues: “We believe that interfaith strategies can solve many of the world’s biggest problems.”

A special banquet was held at the US Vatican Embassy in honor of the speakers, with kosher/halal food thoughtfully provided to the Jewish and Muslim participants. Together we shared our interreligious visions for cooperation and bold action on environmental and climate challenges, the alleviation of world poverty and hunger, and the development of courageous paths to ease world conflicts.  The press was pleased to get many pictures of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders fully engaged in friendship and dialogue.

Joshua Dubois, head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, offered greetings from President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  His keynote address encouraged faith communities to actively engage on these global political issues: “Every day, brick by brick by brick, men and women of faith continuously lay the moral and intellectual foundation of our public life and dialogue, and you are the first responders when for various reasons, that foundation is shaken.”

The vision of this conference was to turn interreligious dialogue into interreligious action.  I served on a panel with Father Joseph Rozansky, the justice chair of the World Franciscans, and Fazlun Khalid, founder and director of the UK’s Islamic Foundation for Ecology and the Environment.  We concurred that religious leadership from all traditions must act to alleviate environmental despoliation and the world-wide threats of climate change.

The other two Jewish representatives, each of whom sat on a panel, were Dr. Hillel Levine, founder of the International Center for Conciliation, and Dr. Edward Kessler, founder of Cambridge University’s Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.  The conference ended with Dr. Levine embracing Archbishop Chacour, a Palestinian priest, on the podium after the archibishop gave an emotionally moving talk about his life in Israel. Cameras went off to capture this moment of embrace.

We were given an “insider’s tour” of the Vatican, which included the Pope’s inner sanctum behind the Sistine Chapel, and I spent a bit of time seeing the Coliseum and the Jewish Ghetto. Of course, I went to see the Arch of Titus, which bears the famous sculpted relief of the Roman soldiers taking the Second Temple’s Golden Menorah and the phrase, “Judea Vanquished.”  It felt good to be in Rome in our time, where we as Jews stood in partnership with representatives of Christianity and Islam to confront our world problems.

We left united in the hope and with the commitment that the message of interreligious dialogue and action will grow throughout our communities.  It was a most inspiring and uplifting conference. We focused on the positive and the doable rather than the divisiveness found too often between faith traditions.

And now it’s time for all of us to act.  

“Building Bridges of Hope” An Interfaith Conference                                                  

           An ancient Jewish Midrash describes how God took Adam around the Garden of Eden and said to him:  “Look at My Creation, how beautiful and perfect is everything that I created.  I created it for you.  Be careful not to ruin and destroy My world.  If you ruin it, there is nobody to restore it after you.” (Ecclesiastes Rabba 7:28)        

           Those words ring mightily today, for the very future of life as we know it is at stake.  I fervently believe that climate change and our human despoliation of our sacred and fragile Earth has become the most profound religious issue of our times.  Like Adam, we have been warned and cannot plead ignorance.  Like Adam, will we fail to heed God’s words?  The mythic story of Creation warns us that we are guardians of all creation, human and all other species.

           Ancient Jewish traditions call for justice, equity and the Deuteronomic commandment, “Baal tashchit,” meaning, “thou shalt not destroy.”  The reference is to the trees and fruits of future generations and hence, human survival.  Ancient Jewish traditions call for the corners of the fields and the produce of our harvest to be left for the orphan, the widow and the most vulnerable of society.  Yet in our world, it will be the most vulnerable, with the least resources, who first reap the consequences of our environmental failures.  I am referring to the peoples of Micronesia and Bangladesh and hundreds of millions of other of the world’s most impoverished people living close to the seas, who are on the front lines of climate change and have become the first of our world’s environmental refugees. While at the UN in Copenhagen, I met with leaders from the Micronesian island of Kiribati who are already planning the emigration of their entire population.  They have already run out of fresh water and soon will be threatened with food scarcity.

           For all of us, impoverished and comfortable alike, our future will be tied to the scarcity of fresh water and food, as our glaciers melt and water sources, including the Jordan River in our holy lands which has been diminished.  Who is responsible for responding to these threats to our environment?  We may believe that our political leaders and bodies, which came together at the United Nations in Kyoto and Copenhagen and which will meet again in Cancun, or our individual nations’ leaders and lawmakers will have the political will to solve these issues. Others put the burden on our scientists and particularly, our environmentalists. But climate change and the despoliation of our earth and its limited resources are the most urgent moral and spiritual issues for all of us, and we are going to have to be active instruments for driving the necessary changes.   In this regard, people of our faith traditions have a great deal to say. Our futures and the futures of our families are at stake. This conference is meant to express the urgency of people of all faith traditions, represented here by the Abrahamic faiths, to take the bold lead in insisting that world leaders act to protect our earth-changing climate and threats to humanity that those changes portend.  Like Biblical Joseph of old, we have been forewarned and need to plan our survival particularly with water and food issues for our planet. The future will bring environmental refugees in numbers unknown in previous ages.  As a result of climate change and habitat destruction, a myriad of species now faces a silent genocide. We are caretakers of God’s creation. We must never forget that along with the creatures of our earth, the fish of our seas and the birds of our air, we, too are part of the great change of life. We are all interdependent for our common survival of life.

           It is incumbent upon every religious leader, religious institution and person of faith to serve as beacons to our communities, illustrating by our actions and example our spiritual commitment to our earth and its threatened and limited resources.

        In a world where matters of faith seem so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space.  I experienced this shared conviction most profoundly when in 1997, I served as the Jewish NGO representative at the United Nations climate talks in Kyoto and this past year at the UN in Copenhagen. I met with Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders from around the world.  We spoke at Kyoto’s largest Buddhist Temple and in forums throughout Copenhagen.  We led an interfaith march and vigil in our religious garb to the center of Copenhagen to share our concerns as faith leaders on this world stage.

           We all concurred from our diverse faith traditions that our human actions, our human failing and sins, have damaged the environment.  Each speaking from the voice of his or her own authentic spiritual tradition, we affirmed our religious responsibility to act. Amidst chanting from Christians of the Psalms and the reading of the Koran, I blew the shofar, a ram’s horn, the blast of sound that has been Judaism’s ancient call to action since the days we wandered, searching for our way in the desert.

           I carried this mandate for bold action on the environment back to my own country and my own religious community.  Here, too, I found that faith traditions can readily unite on issues of climate change.  Working for many years with the National Partnership on Religion and the Environment, and as Chair of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, I have joined interfaith leaders to engage Washington’s Capitol Hill leaders and to meet with White House staff.  Political leaders are eager to hear our religious point of view. As interfaith leaders, we also met with the leadership of the World Bank asking them to devote resources to sustainability in the world and cultivating the development of the world’s alternative energy sources.

           Statements by Catholic Bishops, Protestant leaders, Rabbis and Muslim Leaders have symbolic power and carry political weight. Formal resolutions  affirmed by hundreds of thousands of persons of faith help embolden our legislators to act.  Our country witnessed what has been considered the worst oil spill in our world’s history, with the BP massive oil spill of millions of gallons into the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. There is an urgent need to regulate worldwide corporate energy companies and put prioritize caring for our sacred Earth as the primary moral concern. Now is the time for religious leadership to be heard, now is the time to engage our world bodies and speak out for Creation.

           As chair of the Environmental Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I have joined with many committed colleagues to use our faith tradition to increase awareness and encourage action in response to climate change and other environmental challenges.  We have passed national resolutions on climate change and energy policy and have established environmentally conscious guidelines for our myriad congregations around the country.  We have worked with the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light to green religious communities around America in order to serve as a model of the millions of people who observe faith traditions.

               And finally, I believe that our religious voice must be strongest closest to home, manifest in how we daily live.  And, of course, our collective, interfaith efforts gather their strength from the work each of us does within our own particular communities.  The congregation I serve, Temple Emanuel of the Greater Washington area, has worked on greening its agenda for over 20 years.  We believe that local action by religious communities can have a national and international impact.  How have we implemented our agenda?  Let me mention some of the ways:

  • We installed solar panels on the roof for our eternal light, added wind power from a regional collective, made use of energy efficient zoning, lighting and office equipment and during a building phase, made use of passive solar throughout the building.
  • We planted sustainable gardens to meet our annual ritual needs, growing grapes, horseradish, and indoor olive and pomegranate trees.
  • We regularly schedule environmental Shabbats and other opportunities for learning with our state representative and national leaders.
  • We sell CPF bulbs and have information about climate change on our coffee tables.
  • We have become an EPA energy star community and one of the nation’s first “zero carbon footprint’ communities by supporting alternative energy investments.
  • Our webpage includes our Green Shalom action guide which is designed to educate and spur further community involvement and environmental action in our own homes and community.
  • Let us all work with people of every disciplines, be they diplomats, scientists, environmentalists, engineers, architects, writers, artist, poets and journalists to create programming that changes hearts and minds and helps to refocus us on sustainable living and a culture of meaning, not possessing.

           This community focus has borne fruit, with a good number of our young people choosing science, media, religion and public policy arenas that deal directly with environmental issues.  We in faith communities must train our future religious and lay leaders to see the close connection between caring for the Earth and our own spiritual traditions.

           People of faith around our world number in the billions. We are the largest constituency of any nation of our world.  The opportunity to be heard is greater than in previous decades, and we have a prophetic responsibility to seize it.   There is so much that each of us can and must do, within our own homes, congregations, and countries, and beyond, as we work together as a global family in common cause, to preserve and sanctity life.

         As Rabbi Tarphon of the second century reminds us: “It is not your duty to finish all the work, but neither are you are liberty to desist from it.”  May it be that years hence, our children and our children’s children will look back with appreciation to this moment when we heeded one of the great moral imperatives of our time.  May they know that we had the vision and the strength to fulfill our sacred obligation to preserve and protect the earth in all of its majesty, this garden with which we have been entrusted, for those who will follow.