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Tikkun olam is the call at third annual Jewish climate change conference

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Tikkun olam is the call at third annual Jewish climate change conference

JCAN’s banner being carried by members in Washington, D.C., in 2019.

WAYLAND – What action people can take to help repair the planet may be what participants learn from the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA’s third annual conference, an all-day virtual event of speakers, workshops, and storytelling on Saturday, April 25.

“What we really want people to come away with is a sense of what they can do,” said Rabbi Katy Allen, one of the co-conveners of the network, its president pro tem, and spiritual leader of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope in Wayland. Ma’yan Tikvah is an independent congregation that holds its Shabbat and holiday services outdoors.

For the second year in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will be held virtually from noon to 8 p.m.

Allen said the 2019 conference drew 250 participants. This year’s theme is “Everything Is Connected,” given the difficulty of making connections during the pandemic. Organizers are hoping the conference platform they will be using this year will make it possible for sponsors and participants to interact, network, and connect on their areas of interest.

Allen said the conference will feature both local and national speakers on a range of themes, including advocacy, soil and agriculture, carbon reduction, spiritual resilience, young people, and anti-racism and environmental justice.

“In general, we are focusing on action and what people can do to make a difference,” said Allen, noting Governor Charlie Baker’s support of legislation to tackle climate change, along with changes in policy at the federal level in the past couple of months since President Joe Biden took office.

When asked about what Jewish values dovetail with action on climate, Allen said “In my mind, I feel like there are so many ways to answer that.” The idea of preserving the planet is in the very first verse of the Torah, she said, the creation by God of the heavens and the earth. She called the planet “a sacred creation we are privileged to live upon and we are trashing it.” She said we need to be “caretakers and not destroyers.”

Jews also have a responsibility to the stranger and to the poor. Climate change also greatly impacts immigration patterns and communities of color, she said. Part of what the network is trying to do is “bring the sparks together” to create a more livable world, drawing on the notion in Judaism of tikkun olam, the repair of the world.

“Where is our t’shuvah?” she said. “How do we repair the things we have done?”

Amid these spiritual sentiments, the conference will offer practical things people can do to help spare the environment.

There’s a talk on “Jewish Gardening and Gardening Jewishly;” a session on Offshore Wind Power as it gains momentum in the U.S.; a workshop on heat pumps; and another session called “Your Path to a Low-Carbon Home: Customize and Motivate,” offering tips on “how homeowners can cut carbon emissions by improving their home’s efficiency, electrifying their systems, and installing solar.”

Another session called “Solar for Synagogues” will be looking at “JCAN’s highly successful local program, which attracted 22 synagogues, most of whom subsequently went ahead with solar.”

The conference also will feature songs, poetry, and storytelling.

Well-known Marblehead storyteller Judith Black will offer “climate storytelling” during the conference. She said as Jews, “We are supposed to take care of our world.”

She spoke about how storytelling can be powerful because “it speaks to the head through the heart.”

She plans to tell a story about the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmental advocates from 2014 to 2016 in protests that drew national attention. Many of the protesters were injured and arrested.

“Native people call pipelines ‘black snakes,’” Black said.

To learn more about the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA’s third annual conference and to register, go to jewishclimate.org.

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