We are in a global environmental crisis.
Jewish tradition compels us to respond.
What is teshuva?
From the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul through the last day of Sukkot, we turn inward and reflect on how we can strive to be our best selves in the coming year.
Teshuva can be translated as repentance, return, answer, self-actualization, and/or lifting your inner voice for good. It is about reconnecting and reaffirming one’s commitment to living a healthy and good life.
What is environmental teshuva?
Environmental teshuva is the outward manifestation of our commitment to doing better for the planet. As you examine your individual impact on the planet, consider:
- How do you relate to the planet or the climate crisis?
- Which of your behaviors do you know are less than ideal?
- What are one or two areas in the coming year in which you will commit to try to do better?
In August 2019, Hazon had four video billboards displayed in Times Square. We debuted the message “5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva.” Watch the video.
We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
We are reaching a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community – and Hazon as an organization – feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this. Hazon is here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis.
We enthusiastically encourage you to read We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is a superb, readable, and very Jewish explication of how and why and in what ways our food choices matter. Hazon created a discussion guide for Jewish communities to accompany the book, which you can download for free here.
Some people reject the fact, overwhelmingly supported by scientists, that our planet is warming because of human activity. But do those of us who accept the reality of human-caused climate change truly believe it? If we did, surely we would be roused to act on what we know. Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?
In We Are the Weather, Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves—with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life. And it all starts with what we eat—and don’t eat—for breakfast.
If you’re interested in hosting a book group or other program related to We Are the Weather, or anything at the intersection of Judaism, food, and climate, contact Becky O’Brien, Hazon’s Director of Food & Climate, firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to download our free WATW Discussion Guide for Jewish Communities.
One of the things that has made me most proud of being Jewish is our people’s emphasis on action. More than our thoughts and our feelings, we are defined by our choices… We must not be content with words. We must change our behaviors, as individuals and as a community.
What is JTree?
Hazon is proud to host the US site for JTree. JTree is an emerging international effort of Jewish organizations to mobilize Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world to plant trees as a response to the global climate crisis.
Join the Jewish Climate Coalition
What is the Jewish Climate Coalition?
- The Jewish Climate Coalition was formed by Hazon, The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC, and The Jewish Theological Seminary of America about three weeks before the Global Climate Strike – it came out of a letter that was aimed at getting other Jewish organizations to sign on
- To date we have over 30 organizations signed up
- The current purpose of the group is to mobilize the Jewish community around the Global Climate Strike
- After the strike, the goal is to call a meeting for member organizations to join, and decide what the fate of this coalition will be. The Global Climate Strike, which is very much ground-up, has coincided (we believe) with a greater desire in the Jewish community to step up. We’ve sent out materials to rabbis asking them to give sermons on “Environmental Teshuva” and it’s clear that a growing number are planning to do so
Become a member organization and help us help our planet and our children’s planet!Join the Jewish Climate Coalition
- Hazon (steering committee)
- Jewish Climate Action Network NYC (steering committee)
- The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (steering committee)
- The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (steering committee)
- Ansche Chesed
- Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
- Based in Harlem
- B’nai Jeshurun
- Central Synagogue
- Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
- Congregation Habonim
- Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center
- Fort Tryon Jewish Center
- Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
- Jewish Veg
- Kehillat Harlem
- North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
- Park Avenue Synagogue
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Repair the World Harlem
- Riverdale YM-YWHA
- SAJ – Judaism That Stand for All
- Sid Jacobson JCC
- Society for Humanistic Judaism
- Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
- Torah Trumps Hate
- Town & Village Synagogue
- UJA-Federation of New York
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
- Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
1) Eat a plant-rich diet.
Commit to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and eggs. The Worldwatch Institute’s research indicates that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Everyone is starting from a different place, so “less” is different for everyone. Any amount of reduction is a step in the right direction.
2) Waste less food.
Buy only what you need. Eat leftovers. Create an “eat me first” section in your fridge for food that’s running out of time. “Best by,” “sell by,” and other dates are not expiration dates; trust your senses to tell you whether food is still safe to eat. 50% of produce in the US is never consumed and globally, “a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.” (from Project Drawdown)
3) Get to know and buy from local farmers.
Give local farmers your money (in exchange, of course, for delicious food)! Sukkot is the harvest festival. Invite your favorite farmer into your sukkah for a meal and ask him/her how the harvest is going. Don’t know a farmer? Go to a local farmers market or farm stand and introduce yourself. And then, support these hardworking people by spending some of your food budget with them.
4) Reduce packaging, especially plastic.
Pay attention to how your food is packaged and aim for less packaging overall and for better packaging. Avoid plastics, especially single-use. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Buy in bulk. Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping – small ones for bulk products and produce, and large ones for all the groceries. Support companies that strive to reduce the amount of packaging they use and incorporate recycled content into their packaging.
Sermons and Divrei Torah
Hazon has collected close to 30 sermons and d’vrei Torah that focus on Environmental Teshuva. Take a moment to explore the ways that Jewish clergy and spiritual leaders across the country have engaged with Environmental Teshuva this holiday season. View the full list on our Resources For Rabbis & Spiritual Leaders page. If you would like us to share your words, please email Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein.
Learn Where Your Food Comes From
Most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition, but they’re far less aware that individual food choices are among the top anthropogenic drivers of climate change. Hazon has compiled these resources for you to make educated food choices.
Hazon Seal of Sustainability
The Hazon Seal of Sustainability is an annual program that provides guidance and support to advance sustainability-related education, action, and advocacy in your Jewish institution, organization, and community. Rooted in Jewish tradition, participation in the Hazon Seal program will, over time, make your community healthier and more sustainable, both Jewishly and environmentally!
Over the past 5 years, JOFEE Fellows and JOFEE educators around the world have been creating thoughtful curricula for engaging participants from young to old. In particular, check out the resources on Food and Climate or Environmental Justice.
For inspiration and reflections on our weekly parsha, be sure to check out the D’varim HaMakom blog – each week JOFEE Fellows reflect on how their environmental work relates to the weekly Torah portion. We recommend Light in the Dark, Blessing Family and the Earth, and Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser.
For more information about JOFEE or to find a JOFEE organization in your area, visit JOFEE.org.