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Our Tradition, Our Eating Habits, and Climate Change 

09/28/2021 01:19:39 PM


by Marta Karlov and Marcia Vandercook

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch spoke movingly about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to evaluate our food choices. He urged us to turn our attention to global climate change as we slowly emerge from our confinements of the recent past.
In his sermon, Rabbi Biatch leaned on the 2019 book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, by Jonathan Safran Foer, to deliver a powerful message: Our nature may be to avoid difficult choices, but the time is now to do just that. The rabbi recounted how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter reacted when confronted by the realities of the Holocaust in 1943 by a member of the Polish underground. Justice Frankfurter simply said, “I am unable to believe what you told me.”
But we can no longer act like Justice Frankfurter; our tradition calls on us to act. Rabbi Biatch quotes Rabbi Shimon, who said, “Three things are equally important: earth, humanity, and rain” (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 13:3), and Rabbi Israel bar Hiyah, who elaborated, “We must attend to Rabbi Shimon. These three terms are each composed of three Hebrew letters—eretz, adam, and matar—and are, therefore, equivalent to one another. They teach that without the earth there is no rain, without the rain there is no earth, and without them both there is no humanity.”

Rabbi Biatch then talked about something that most of us do every day: eat animal products. He quoted the book by Safran Foer as saying, “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that methane-producing livestock—that is, cattle, goats, and sheep—are a leading cause of climate change.” More specifically, the animal-derived protein we eat produces the following amount of CO2 per serving:


We encourage you to read the full sermon here or watch it below. 

Taking the next step on this important issue, the Environment and Climate Change Action Team (ECCAT) would like to invite you to read We Are the Weather and join us to discuss it on Tuesday night, November 16. We will be meeting jointly with the Sisterhood Book Club, the Men’s Book Club, and ECCAT members. We will reflect on what we found helpful and on whether what the author proposes can drive change in us and/or our communities. Please sign up here

We would also like to share a very personal and very Jewish 16-minute TEDx Talk on “Storytelling and Climate Change.” Judith Black is an American Jewish professional storyteller who talks about how she has learned to communicate about climate change and the actions large and small that people can take.

Finally, the ECCAT is just getting started. We meet monthly on the fourth Wednesday of most months by Zoom, and we welcome your energy and ideas! Contact Marta Karlov, chair, to discuss how it might be best for you to get involved.

October 24, 2021 18 Cheshvan 5782