FORUM2020 and Interfaith Prayer on Climate Emergency

October 16th 10am-1pm EST-FORUM2020: Science, Spirituality, the Climate Emergency and our Future
October 17th 10am-11:30am EST-Global Interfaith Prayer Service for the Earth

The Temple for Understanding and the Marble Collegiate Church are collaborating to offer a multifaith climate + prayer created by others on October 16 and 17.  The events are free with registration.

The Forum2020 gathering “Science, Spirituality, the Climate Emergency and Our Future” on Friday, October 16th, from 10:00am-1:00pm, consists of three 30-minute panels.  Speakers and panelists are listed here, including The Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light (national).

The multifaith prayer service will take place Saturday morning, October 17th from 10am-11:30am, with “prayers, affirmations and contemplations offered by Indigenous and world religious leaders and sacred music by renown international artists including Yungchen Lhamo, Samir Chatterjee and Steve Gorn, Marble Collegiate Church Choir, Marble Collegiate Church Gospel Choir.”

Proudly presented by the Temple of Understanding in collaboration with Marble Collegiate Church, New York City.

Laudato Si and the Sages

Five years ago, in advance of 5776, and following the September 2015 publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (addressed to all people in advance of the United Nations meeting and the Climate March) Rabbi Daniel Swartz prepared a text study to use on Yom Kippur or any time through the year.

On Yom Kippur at the fifth anniversary of the both the encyclical and the study, we are re-publishing this resource. Find the downloadable study here, and the opening letter republished below.

daniel headshot

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Shanah Tovah! As you prepare to welcome 5776, I invite you to connect with one of the most notable faith events of the year – Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just after Yom Kippur, during which he will speak about his encyclical on climate change and justice, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home. At this time of year, as we reflect on how we have treated our fellow human beings and how we might better live up to God’s expectations of us, we have a special opportunity to examine our relationship with all of God’s creation– and the Pope’s encyclical provides us with an excellent way to do just that.

To that end, I’ve selected a number of excerpts from the encyclical and paired them with Jewish sources ranging from the Tanakh, to midrashim, to Heschel, to rabbis of today. Here at Temple Hesed in Scranton, PA, I will be using this text study, “Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice,” on Yom Kippur afternoon, and we have invited the press and other faith communities as well. Please use it however it might work best for you: at High Holy Day Services, at a multi-faith gathering, at a social action weekend etc.

The texts are presented in two formats. The first is a more complete four-page selection, designed for in-depth or multi-session discussions; it can be studied in a larger group setting, in hevruta, in small groups or in some combination. The second is a single page of texts, meant to serve as a ready-made one-hour program. In both formats, I’ve included questions on each topic highlighted by the texts, as well as some summary questions. I’d love to hear how you’ve used it or if you have any questions – drop me an email.

I also hope this text study will inspire further action to combat climate change. (To help with this, some “next steps” are presented at the  end of each discussion guide) I present it in my role as board president of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, one of 40 IP&L affiliates, each of which works with communities, organizations, and individuals of faith to address climate change as a moral issue. If  you’d like to learn more about PA IPL, please feel free to email me or our Executive Director [2020 edit: Executive Director Daniel Heayn-Menendez, or rising Board President Rabbi Nathan Martin]

Lastly, I’d like to thank colleagues who reviewed this text study and made suggestions: Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein of Philly IPL, Rabbi Larry Troster of GreenFaith, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center.
In Hesed,
Rabbi Daniel Swartz

Before becoming the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed, Rabbi Daniel Swartz was the coordinator of Greater Washington IPL, executive director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network, Associate Director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and Congregational Relations Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he was the lead author of To Till and to Tend: a Guide to Jewish Environmental Study and Action.

Earth Seder for Everyone — via Zoom

When? 6:00pm, Friday, April 10th
What? An Earth Seder, with prayer and music
Where? Around your table, and via Zoom
Who? You — this is an all-faiths-welcome celebration of the Passover seder, cosponsored by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), Temple Hesed of Scranton, and PA IPL.
How? Register and get the link. Register now!

Why now?
This year, Passover comes just before the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  It also comes as a new and unique Passover Haggadah has just been published by a colleague of Rabbi Daniel,  Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, the founder of the first Jewish environmental group, Shomrei Adamah.

Before COVID-19 threw a wrench into the plans, Temple Hesed was going to host one of 10 inaugural “Earth Seders.”  Now, our seder has to go online, which, while it has its downsides, also means that we can be connected to presentations by Rabbi Bernstein and others from across the country.  So we will have a Zoom Earth Seder on April 10th at 6 pm — which you can join from wherever you are!
What is an Earth Seder?  
EARTH SEDERS understand that the freedom we celebrate on Passover depends on the earth’s well-being. If the earth and its systems are compromised, our freedom is compromised. Life itself is compromised.   EARTH SEDERS  are rooted in Rabbi Bernstein’s new Passover Haggadah, The Promise of the Land,  which blends traditional text with a modern ecological sensibility.   EARTH SEDERS offer an opportunity to deepen our connection to the natural world, and, to raise awareness, commitments, and funds for an environmental or conservation project. 

Everyone who signs up — and all are welcome, from within the Temple Hesed community and well beyond, even for those living far away — will be given guides for what to do in their own homes as they join the seder, as well as the link to join the Zoom Earth Seder on April 10th.  

Register now!
($5.75 or donation)

Seder or “table” is however many people join you on one Zoom connection.

All funds raised go to support the work of COEJL and PA IPL.

Register now!

Return to the home of your soul.

PA IPL’s 2018 Annual Conference was in Pittsburgh, on Saturday, October 27th, across the river from Squirrel Hill.  The terrible news broke just as the first people were arriving.  Most people heard the news at the conference.  We made space for prayers together, and songs and prayers already planned took on different significance.

Filmmaker Kirsi Jansa was there, and captured the audio from the song “Return Again” by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, led by Barb Ballenger, and sung by all present.  She set the audio to scenes from the following hours and days.  Despite what the screen below says, the video link will work well, it just will take you to Kirsi’s vimeo page.

Return Again from Kirsi Jansa on Vimeo.
Return again, return again
Return to the home of your soul
Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are
Born and reborn again.

The song followed a shared litany that had the repeated line “We have forgotten who we are.”

Comments by the president of the national IPL network, the Rev. Susan Hendershot, and some further reflection about connections can be found on our Facebook page, where you are welcome to join in the conversation.

MEDIA: EnergyStar for Congregations workshop

Join your hosts at Reformation Lutheran Church, Media to learn about a powerful tool to help track energy stewardship and energy savings in houses of worship.

The energy we choose and use has impacts on vulnerable people, and on the ecosystems on which we all depend. Even when we choose renewables, when we use no more than we need, we are better stewards of one another and our Common Home, and we can better light the way for others on the same path!

Invite members of your house of worship’s property committee,  business office, and building stewards as well as clergy and interested congregants — including those who may have small businesses!   RSVPs are helpful, but not required.

ENERGY STAR® Pennsylvania Stewardship Tour

Virtually every faith tradition teaches stewardship: Out of gratitude and appreciation for what we have been given, we are taught to make wise use of gifts and assets such as financial and natural resources, the time and talents of congregation members, and the house of worship, itself, in ways that are responsible and accountable.

  • However, like most U.S. commercial buildings, the typical worship facility wastes about 30 percent of the energy for which its congregants pay.

No-cost efficiency actions and careful investments can earn substantial savings to be returned to the mission of the congregation. What could your congregation do with funds equivalent to 30 percent of your annual energy bill? Also, while saving money, the pollution related to this wasted energy will be reduced—pollution that impacts human life and health. Further, natural resources will be conserved for our children and generations to come.

ENERGY STAR is the nation’s voluntary program helping congregations, businesses, schools, homeowners, and tenants save energy and water—and therefore money. Local Pennsylvania faith communities are hosting ENERGY STAR presentations on tools, training, and technical support freely available at

Get a flier for this event. See all the events.


  • Action Workbook for Congregations (PDF) for savings facts and strategies, action lists, no-cost/low-cost “Sure Savers” and more
  • Free, online Portfolio Manager® tool for tracking energy, water savings, and recycling/material management, and the resulting pollution prevention at