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by Ozzie Nogg
As Rabbi Tarfon of Yavneh famously said about 1,900 years ago in Pirke Avot, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but you are not free to avoid it.” In that spirit, Beth El will present Judaism and the Environment on Sunday, March 31 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. “This workshop is designed for multi-generations to examine the facts of climate change and think together about solutions and how we can act strategically,” said Marty Shukert who developed the sessions. “The program especially invites the participation of young people, including high school students, who will be most affected by the eventual impact of climate change. It will challenge us to think about the path we’re on today, what we can do to change it, and presents an opportunity for people of all ages to learn and work together to develop ideas for action that really can make a difference.”
The workshop will include three 20-minute presentation modules followed by a working session by participants:
1. The Environment in the Bible and Other Jewish Texts. Some religious groups have emerged as climate change deniers and use the Bible as a basis for inaction. This module, presented by Rabbi Steven Abraham, will investigate the ways Jewish texts emphasize the relationships between people and the environment, as well as our roles and responsibilities to God, ourselves, and future generations in our stewardship of the world.
2. The IPCC and NOAA Reports: A Visual Summary. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide alarming predictions of the impact of current trends on climate, the implications of failing to take action to slow and reverse these trends, and the narrow window of time open to us to act. This presentation, led by Marty Shukert, will review the findings and warnings of these two important documents. It will summarize the trends and consequences of climate change and set out the urgent need for action, the performance goals we must meet, and the consequences of inaction.
3. Promising Actions. This module, also presented by Marty Shukert, will examine promising directions that various people and organizations have recommended, with a special emphasis on policies that are capable of achieving broad agreement. In view of recent news, it will also review and evaluate the Green New Deal.
Following the three modules, participants will break into small group working lunches to consider information from the previous presentations and develop their own ideas for how to take action. They will report their ideas to the whole group, which will then be compiled and distributed to all participants.
“While we struggle with many national and international issues on a daily basis,” Shukert said, “there is one critical issue that overrides them all – the continued habitability of our planet and the type of environment we are leaving for future generations. There are people who tell us that climate change is normal; that there is nothing to worry about; and that the overwhelming evidence and near unanimous scientific consensus around the reality and effects of climate change on the earth and our very civilization are false and motivated by nefarious motives. I, for one, am unwilling to gamble the future of my grandchildren on the opinions of these people in the face of serious science and observable events. As Jews who traditionally see ourselves and the rest of humanity as God’s partners in creation, we have a special responsibility to be both informed and act on this challenge to not just ‘repair’ but also to save our world.
“Many of us do things that are useful in the name of saving the earth,” Shukert continued. “We recycle cans and newspapers and try to live our lives more efficiently. These are all helpful and should be continued, but much broader and more extensive action is necessary to meet the challenge before us. Our hope is that this Beth El initiative can be a first step toward doing what we can as individuals and a community to ensure a world that continues to sustain life l’dor va’dor.” 
To register for Judaism and the Environment, go to the Beth El website: bethel-omaha.org. or call the Synagogue at 402-492-8550.