In 2007 our focus was on Sustainability (balancing environmental, social, economic and spiritual life in our congregations and larger communities). See the text packet atached to this post.
Rabbis, Hazzanim (cantors), Educators and members of JRF congregations commented on classic Jewish texts in the light of the sustainability work being done in their congregations.
For ongoing work see www.ajws.org
The JRF Board resolves to join the JEWISH COALITION RESPONDING TO HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA. As a member of the Coalition, JRF commits to mobilizing the Reconstructionist community to encourage education, advocacy, and tzedakah for this important issue. read more »
The Jewish obligation to respond to the AIDS crisis derives from the Jewish values which require that we not stand idly by when others are suffering, that we help heal the sick.
Our obligation is also driven by pikuach nefesh, the mitzvah which requires us "to save life" and the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, visiting and tending to the needs of those who are suffering from illness.
We are taught that every person is created betzelem elohim - in the image of God - and therefore deserves basic human rights and dignity. As we learn in the Talmud, "Each person, tall or short, deformed or normal, sinner or non-sinner, has a life whose value is infinite, equal to the value of the entire world."
As Jews, we must act in the world in response to need, regardless of race, religion or nationality, acting as Jews doing our part to help heal the world. We need to do this work because our faith, our history and our texts mandate our obligation to address poverty, hunger, oppression and disease wherever we encounter them. We need to do this work because we are enjoined to remember what it means to be strangers. We need to do this work because we are instructed that these are the ways of peace.
In addition, Jewish attention to the crisis imposed by this pandemic will make us better local citizens. As we become active around HIV/AIDS in Africa issues, we will, in many cities, become partners with one of the few U.S. groups that is focused on the African AIDS problem, African-American clergy and community leaders. The opportunity exists to create partnerships of critical importance in our communities as we work on an immense and pressing world problem.
Becoming an active member of The Jewish Coalition Responding to HIV/AIDS in Africa allows us to become Jewish global citizens. In doing so, we make a better world for ourselves, our neighbors, and our children.
On May 17, 2007, representatives from eight JRF congregations, national and regional JRF staff, and representatives from the Jewish Funds for Justice gathered via conference call to discuss their ongoing community organizing efforts.
To learn more about community organizing and ways in which JRF can assist your congregation's tikkun olam activities, please contact Rabbi Shawn Zevit at JRF, 215-782-8500, ex.24, and see our Step-by-Step Guide to community organizing.
Is it not enough for you to graze on choice grazing ground, but you must also trample with your feet what is left from your grazing? And is it not enough for you to drink clear water, but you must also muddy with your feet what is left? – Ezekiel 34:18 read more »
These words prophesied by Ezekiel are spoken on behalf of God to the people Israel. Israel is likened to a flock of sheep or cattle that has abused the natural resources that God has provided. Just as Israel has acted as habituated animals who themselves are out of sync with their own natural order and have trampled the earth and muddied the water, so too are we, today, leaving behind a dirty footprint in the environment.
Green Views. Join me at 37,000 feet. You take the window seat (but sitting next to a rabbi, expect some Judaic commentary on the scenery). Land-use issues are clearest from up here. If you’ve gotta contribute all that carbon through flying, you might as well enjoy the free and educational “movie ” unfolding below. Surrounding what little is left of what we’ve been given, we see out the cabin window what we as a society have chosen. We see the land, patterned after our own likeness.
Blessed are you, THE PROVIDENT, our God, life of all the worlds, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night.
The second blessing of Birchot HaShachar, the Morning Blessings, in Kol Haneshamah reads, Baruch atah adonay eloheynu chey ha'olamim hanoten lasechvi vinah lehavchin beyn yom uveyn laylah. It is translated, “Blessed are you, THE PROVIDENT, our God, life of all the worlds, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night.” read more »
In other Siddurim (prayer books) this blessing is often the first blessing, but that is not our concern for the sake of this discussion, nor is the Reconstructionist use of the gender-neutral opening of the blessing. What I wish to focus on here is how the ending of the blessing is translated.
Our responsibility for all that dwells in the earth and for the earth itself extends into the future. The earth is not ours to destroy (cf. Dt 20:19), but to hand on in trust to future generations. We cannot, therefore, recklessly consume its resources to satisfy needs that are artificially created and sustained by a society that tends to live only for the present. We also need to act, together whenever feasible, to assure that sound practices, guaranteed by law, are established in our countries and local communities for the future preservation of the environment…Respect for God’s creation, of which we are a part, must become a way of life.—International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, “A Common Declaration on the Environment.” March 1998. read more »
At Kol HaLev in Cleveland, Ohio, a group of members with a common urge to become more vigilant shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth) formed a task force this past February to identify environmental priorities for us to work on as a community.
The transition from paganism to monotheism was marked, in part, by the insight that God is not fully expressed by the workings of creation but rather is above nature, beyond or outside it. As important as this insight is, it has the potential of playing into human egotism. For if we are created in God’s image and God is above and beyond the world, then are we not also above and beyond the world? read more »
In addition, the blessing in Genesis for humans to “manage” or “rule over” the world can lead us to think of nature solely as an instrument for our use. These ideas support the view that nature can be molded to our will and that human control of nature is not only necessary for human comfort or survival, but is commanded by God.
It should not be believed that all the beings exist for the sake of humanity. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes, and not for the sake of something else. (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 456) read more »
“But Miss Paula! There’s one still alive!” Sixteen pairs of concerned eyes gazed up at me expectantly. Looking closely, I saw that one worm out of a thousand still remained in the shipping box, whereas its fellows were happily ensconced in their new worm bin. The worm was trying to get out of the light and I couldn’t dislodge it from the seam of the box. “That’s okay—I’ll just take it home and put it in my compost bin.” Or, I thought, just chuck the box, worm and all, in my recycle bin.