[NOTE: This is a written version of a talk I gave this past Friday, September 20th, at an Interfaith gathering at Grace Episcopal Church to support the Global Climate Strike.]
It is my pleasure to be at this Interfaith gathering on behalf of my synagogue, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in my role as President of our congregation. Our Rabbi asked me to fill in for her as she is extremely busy preparing for the High Holy Days and I am glad to do so. Note that I said Holy Days, not holidays, because the period from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is known as the Days of Awe, because this is a period of intense reflection on how we can improve ourselves both individually and collectively.
Shaarei Shamayim is an inclusive community, so it is fitting that I stand here today with people from all different faiths, including, Muslims, Christians and pagans, who are gathered here today in common cause to support the Global Climate Strike. Despite living in Madison for 34 years, I have never been inside the chapel of this beautiful church and it is an inspiring setting for this gathering.
As a representative of the Jewish community, I am here to share with you the concept of tikkun olam, which is the imperative that we must repair the world. While the world is, indeed, in need of repair in so many ways, it is abundantly clear that if we do not act both individually and collectively to address the climate crisis, our world may soon be beyond repair.
The question for each and every one of us, of course, is what can we do to truly engage in tikkun olam, in order to repair our world? To answer that I want to share my own personal philosophy, which is, “we are what we do.” So, while I hope my words, and the words of other faith leaders today, give you inspiration to address the climate crisis, simply talking about it is not enough. Each and every one of us must take action.
For me, as a civil rights lawyer, I hope my work helps to repair the world every single day. But my professional work does not touch on the climate crisis. Moreover, not everyone has a job which allows them to repair the world through their work.
So, each of our actions to repair the world can be great and small, from remembering to turn off the light switch when we leave a room, to voting for candidates who will take immediate action to address the climate crisis, and perhaps for some of you, even running for office, to fight this battle. The most important thing is to remember that each and every one of us must act.
I know that life can be very hard, and this particular battle feels incredibly daunting. But, we do not have the luxury to wallow in despair as the very fate of our planet requires each and every one of us to act. This challenge reminds me of a talmudic saying:
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly now,
Love mercy now,
Walk humbly now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
So, join the youth engaged in the Global Climate Strike today, and do what you can, both great and small in the days to come, to engage in tikkun olam, so together we can repair our world.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.