Relief Work Leads to Environmental Justice

by Laura Landau, Revson Fellow for Community Organizing, Congregation Beth Elohim Park Slope

In August, when I started my new job, my very first meeting was with two community members who were concerned that greening was getting lost in Congregation Beth Elohim’s long list of social justice initiatives. As an area of focus, this coincided well with my goals and values. I was eager to re-engage the community on this important issue, but was not so confident that I had the tools to do so on my own. That’s where the Jewish Greening Fellowship came in. Attending several JGF trainings has connected me with leaders who work in similar positions, and has given me the resources to begin to build a new Green Team at CBE. We’ve built on the progress that CBE had already made in environmentalism, and have begun to look at ways that we can get involved as activists in the fight for environmental justice.

One of my goals with the new Green Team is to emphasize the importance of environmental advocacy as a method of social change. Too often when we think of greening, we forget to think of the communities that are most affected. To engage the CBE community, I decided to build on an issue in which we are already very much engaged: Hurricane Sandy relief work. Since Hurricane Sandy, CBE has been making and delivering sandwiches to impacted communities every day. While we are very aware of the needs of these areas, it is easy to forget that the cause is linked to something much greater–climate change. I’m currently planning a community bike ride in Red Hook that will bring awareness to the important link between climate change, environmental justice, and the city’s resiliency plans for future natural disasters. I am eager to work with the Red Hook community to teach CBE members about the important connection between global warming and social justice.

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