Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015 – This week Pope Francis came to the United States to speak to Congress and the United Nations General Assembly. Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Chair of the Coalition on the Environment in Jewish Life (COEJL), issued the following statement in response to Pope Francis’s address to Congress today and at the White House Rose Garden yesterday:
Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis said of climate change: “I am convinced that we can make a difference. I am sure.” The day before, at the White House, the Pope called for immediate action, calling climate change “a problem that can no longer be left for future generations.”
The need for new commitments to protect our environment was central to the Pope’s agenda on throughout his time in Washington, a theme which echoed his recent encyclical, titled “Laudito Si: On Care for Our Common Home.” There he wrote eloquently of our moral obligation to protect the earth, future generations, and the global poor who are most impacted by environmental degradation.
The Pope’s statements “on care for our common home” resonate deeply for us as Jews. The Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life, with our Jewish community across the United States, has long advocated for environmental conservation and climate change mitigation.
Our sacred texts insist that we safeguard the earth, working with the Divine as partners in the miracle of creation. This week we read Parshat Haazinu, in which Moses reminds the people of all the blessings God has given, including setting them “atop the highlands to feast on the yield of the earth” (Deut. 32:13). The earth and our natural resources are considered the first of our blessings throughout our Jewish teachings. Pope Francis speaks from the same sacred awareness.
The Pope also highlighted the urgent need for a global conversation on the environment, specifically on the human roots of climate change. We echo this call, understanding that climate change is a global issue of the highest magnitude, which requires global solutions. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life recognizes the importance of not just local, Jewish, or national action, but also for concerted international, interfaith, and cross-sector efforts to combat the climate crisis.
Spurred by Pope Francis’s words, and inspired by our own tradition, we reaffirm our efforts to move the needle on environmental issues, from Congress to state legislatures to individual Jewish homes and institutions. In the reflective spirit of the season, we hope that all Americans acknowledge our outsized historic contribution to climate change, and urge our elected officials to accept our moral obligation to address it.
Specifically, we call on Congress to assist international adaptation and mitigation through the Green Climate Fund, and to recognize the reality of climate change with the bipartisan House Resolution 424, “Expressing the Commitment of the House of Representatives to Conservative Environmental Stewardship.” The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Celebrates Pope’s Speeches in Washingtone is no more urgent priority than turning around the juggernaut of climate change.
COEJL has been an initiative of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs since 1993 and serves as the Jewish partner in the National Religious Partnership on the Environment. Today, COEJL’s priorities are to mobilize the Jewish community to address the climate crisis through advocacy for appropriate legislation as well as action to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions.
JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 16 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.