Step It Up on Shabbat Shmini

Step It Up(because when the truth gets inconvenient, the Jews … respond with menschlich integrity?)

by Jo:

The usual suspects haven’t said this yet, so I’m going to say it: Jewish communities should participate in their local Step it Up rally for climate action on Shabbat Shmini (April 14).

Step it Up is going to be the largest citizen action focused on global warming in American history. People who have seen An Inconvenient Truth, who took the lessons of Katrina to heart, who are tired of driving cars with shitty mileage and who are frightened of the kind of world their children and grandchildren are growing into, are organizing locally. Communities have come forward to hold more than a thousand actions in all fifty states. Every action will be saying the same thing: “Step It Up, Congress! Cut Carbon 80% or more by 2050.” These actions are planned for all over. If you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Boston, DC, Philly, New Haven, Baltimore, Albany, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco or just about anywhere else in the USA, there’s a Step it Up action on Shabbat Shmini in your neighborhood.

But why should we as Jews turn out for this on a Shabbes afternoon? What do our Jewish commitments and values have to say in the face of the climate crisis? For me, Judaism is a way of being fully human. And when fully human people make a big mess that will foul things up for everyone, fully human people stay and clean up. We’ve been spewing tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and it’s now clear that dire refugee situations, food scarcity, and disease will result down the road if we let these emissions irrevocably alter the climate. Naturally, a fully human people would conclude, we’ll have to work together and make big changes together to curb the crisis.

But for years now, that’s not what America’s leaders have been doing. They didn’t respond the way you’d expect human people to, and here’s one reason why: The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published a 63 page report: Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science. ExxonMobil has made the biggest profits in the history of corporations making money. They’ve made billions of dollars annually selling us fuel, and according to UCS, they spent a little chunk of it to:
“* raise doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence
* fund an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings
* attempt to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for “sound science” rather than business self-interest
* use its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming.”

The folks at ExxonMobil worked hard to delay the day when we would understand the climate problem or be able to respond. We have a brief ten year window to prevent the worst. This report documents how we lost precious time while this corporation, and others, contradicted science and spread confusion.

And here’s what gets me: every single ExxonMobil employee is a person. People work there. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every single ExxonMobil employee is a person who lives on Earth. A fully human person does not sink the ship he and everyone else is riding in. But somehow, people – people whose bread comes min haaretz (from the Earth) and whose children and grandchildren will probably also have to live here – acted to hasten a global disaster. And all that I can imagine is that people who do this must be acting from a very narrow place. I imagine that when they went to work and obscurred the risks we’re all facing, they did so by leaving most of themselves at home.

For me, Jewish life is about taking your whole self to work and home again, about affirming that spiritual truths are the truest, and that the prospect of human suffering isn’t just sad – it cries out to us, and makes demands of us. That’s why, in the week after Pesach, no matter what we do in our day jobs, we are called to get out of that Mitzrayim, that narrow place where somehow this isn’t our problem. If you’re a person who cultivates your humanity in Jewish community, look up a Step It Up action; get some folks together after shul; and join in. In honor of all that is sacred about people and the way that nature has worked up until now, I’m going to be marching on April 14, in the DC “Jew-tingent,” side-by-side with my neigbhors. The fully human way to respond to global warming is for a national movement of real people to demand that Congress take the kinds of large-scale action that can really address the problem.

How are Jewish communities participating in Step It Up?
§ Here in DC, we’re gathering for a Shabbat picnic before heading over together to the DC Step it Up Rally in front of the Capitol.
§ At Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York, they’ll be davening a “climate-protection-infused” shabbat service before walking together to a major rally in Battery Park.
§ In New Hartford, Connecticut, a kid named Nat Bedford has announced that his bar mitzvah is a Step It Up action.
§ The Shalom Center sent around a suggestion that, as Shabbat Shmini is the day we read the Biblical rules of kashrut, congregations could re-commit to “eco-kashrut” in honor of Step It Up.
Any more info? Please post news of additional Jewish community participation in Step it Up in the comments.

Filed under Environment

15 Responses to “Step It Up on Shabbat Shmini”

  1. Great idea, maybe someone could work on doing a step it up event that would allow observant Jews to particpate as well….


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · April 5th, 2007 at 4:47 pm
  2. What’s un-”observant” about these events? Talking on Shabbat about things that will happen after Shabbat?


    BZ · April 5th, 2007 at 5:04 pm
  3. getting there?


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · April 5th, 2007 at 8:20 pm
  4. The high temperature in DC that day is 61, and the evite gives walking directions.


    BZ · April 5th, 2007 at 8:56 pm
  5. That would be great, should I be willing to begin walking the night before.
    It’s a pet peeve of mine that orgainaztions that could otherwise really benefit from Jewish participation don’t consider (even if they consider Jews at all – and this includes many Jewish organizations-) that not everyone who might participate is an urban Dupont circle studio dweller…I could easily have gotten quite a few people interested and motivated from a local shul -local meaning not in DC, but in Maryland, and not walking distance by any stretch of the imagination- where there is a great deal of interest in environmental matters – and Im sure that theone I am thinking of, in this relatvely liberal town, is far from the only one- if theorganization considered having an event that a shul could publicise – which it really can’t, if it’s on shabbat, since it would be violating shabbat to encourage people to go.

    I will point out only that although this site focuses on a particular demographic, effective organizing ought not to ignore boring old farts over 35 – they have a lot of resources, ideas, and heck presence and experience, that may, just may,be useful to the rest of us.
    (hmm, was that a genuine onset of crotchets?)


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · April 5th, 2007 at 10:15 pm
  6. Not to imply, of course, that everyone in the burbs are over 35. IN fact, the boring old farts under 35 in the burbs may have something to contribute as well.


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · April 5th, 2007 at 10:19 pm
  7. Please note that Step it Up is not a “March on Washington” which aims to gather all participants in a single place. There are 1200+ local actions across the country, which means that many of them are walking distance for somebody. (And less than three of these 1200 grassroots gatherings are walking distance for the “Dupont Circle dwellers” of DC – hardly a case of bias.)

    To see if there is an action near you on April 14, check out events.stepitup2007.org, and click the map.

    (Or sign up your community for its own Step it Up action that it could comfortably promote, at a time and place that works for you — a text study on Shabbat 4/14, a havdalah gathering, or something else on Sunday April 15. Click “Start an Action” at www.stepitup07.org.)


    Jo · April 5th, 2007 at 10:27 pm
  8. “Step It Up, Congress! Cut Carbon 80% or more by 2050.”

    Wow, what an ambitious plan. It was gonna happen anyway, because of technological progress, but now you can take credit for it.


    formermuslim · April 6th, 2007 at 8:02 am
  9. “Those of us who know that climate change is the greatest threat civilization now faces have science on our side; we have economists and policy specialists, courageous mayors and governors, engineers with cool new technology.
    “But we don’t have a movement—the largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we’re going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn’t enough.”
    – Bill McKibben, www.stepitup07.org


    Jo · April 6th, 2007 at 8:58 am
  10. Ah yes, the intelligentsia Left have found their rallying cry again. This should be an excellent event for those of you convinced that global warming is man made and that CO2 is the cause as opposed to an effect.

    Those of us that aren’t convinced will continue to take notes from both sides of this argument before we go marching anywhere.

    For every ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ I can point you to the ‘Sceptical Environmentalist’.

    A bit of balance in the green camp would go a long way.


    Matityahu · April 6th, 2007 at 12:21 pm
  11. First of all, I’m going to ignore the above comment.

    Second, I’d like to point out (as one of the organizers of CBST’s Liberal Minyan) that we actually made sure that our participation in the Manhattan event would not violate anyone’s practices. Our Shabbat morning service will incorporate discussion of our responsibility to be active participants in environmental tikkun olam, and after the service (and lunch) we’ll all walk over to the rally, where we’ll participate in making a chain of people that delineates the the new coastline of Manhattan if nothing changes in the next 50 years. Everyone is welcome to join us!


    Marisa · April 6th, 2007 at 1:26 pm
  12. You know, if you read the last two comments in a row, it’s actually a very subtle but funny joke.


    formermuslim · April 6th, 2007 at 5:39 pm
  13. We’ll be doing an early havdala at around 4:30 at Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles. And no I’m not happy about having to chose between Shabbat and Stepitup, although I do drive on Shabbat.

    The Golem


    The Golem · April 6th, 2007 at 8:53 pm
  14. Go CBST Liberal Minyan!


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · April 7th, 2007 at 9:38 pm
  15. These great Step it Up handouts might be good for giving out in shul this Shabbes … (even if your congregation can’t participate in a local Step it Up action)

    “What is Global Warming?”
    “Reducing Your Impact”
    and more …
    stepitup2007.org/article.php?id=198


    Jo · April 9th, 2007 at 9:27 pm

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