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.

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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.

Shareholders, stakeholders, and the Common Good

On July 10, several Pennsylvania religious leaders traveled to Washington DC to offer in-person testimony to the EPA regarding delay of implementation of New Source Performance Standards for Methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505

Sr. Nora Nash at EPA (1)

I am Sr. Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. I thank you for the opportunity to publicly recommend that the EPA implement the methane New Source Standards without delay.

I represent my congregation, a community of over four hundred Franciscan women, whose charism calls us to be strong proponents of climate justice, care for creation, and sustainability. I also speak for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and the Investor Environmental Health Network — two organizations who continue to have positive interaction with corporations on their social and environmental responsibilities and policies. Members work with corporations to build a more just and sustainable world by integrating social and environmental values into investor actions. We accept our moral responsibility to protect our environment, speak for the human rights of communities, human health and the over-all “common good” of society.

As responsible shareholders and stakeholders, we have consistently engaged major oil and gas companies on the need for monitoring and disclosure of methane leakage, on the grounds that what “gets measured gets managed.” Many of these companies have already established performance standards and Continue reading Shareholders, stakeholders, and the Common Good

Diocesan Conference 2016: A Revolution of Tenderness

Scranton Diocesan Congress logoPA IPL will have a table at the Diocese of Scranton’s 2016 Congress, themed A Revolution of Tenderness.  (Rabbi Daniel Swartz will be one of the friendly faces behind the table), and the workshops include

3B – Laudato Si and the Call for a New Lifestyle (Jezreel) Pope Francis calls the earth our “Home.” And he beckons us to commit ourselves to a new way of living that measures the impact–positive and negative–of our lifestyle choices. We will explore the theme of simplicity and how our lives can be enriched by a more creation-mindful life.

Registration, and LOTS more info on the conference website.  Check out the really impressive list of workshops and presenters, and don’t miss the link to the Year of Mercy Concert the night before the Congress begins.   Concert registration is separate.

The keynote speaker, Jim Martin, SJ, has won writing awards and appeared on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report more than once.

University of Scranton directions and campus map.

In Care of our Common Home #AllAreCalled

[This post was published just before Pope Francis released Laudato Si (Praised Be: In Care of our Common Home), an encyclical addressed not to all Catholics, as is usual, but to all people.  Multi-faith resources emerged quickly and are linked from a later post, here.]*PopeFrancis-01

You may have heard that Pope Francis will soon release an important teaching document about ecology and Creation that is expected to address climate change as “one symptom of an unsustainable consumption and wasteful use of resources.” (The document is called an encyclical, which is a formal letter issued by a pope to the Catholic Church concerning moral, doctrinal and disciplinary matters. It is a teaching document for bishops and Catholics everywhere.)

With this encyclical, Pope Francis is creating a beautiful opportunity; while meant for Catholics particularly, his instruction also opens space for all of us to reflect on climate justice, our values, and the teachings of our faiths–to hear the ways in which our diverse traditions speak in harmony and in unison on care of Creation. In this space, we have an opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, linked by our shared calls to care for the earth, care for the most vulnerable, and look together for solutions.

The statement is due out in just under a week – on Thursday, June 18, 2015, and will carry the title Laudato Sii: Sulla Cura Della Casa Comune – Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home.  It will expand on Biblical teaching, and build on work done by Continue reading In Care of our Common Home #AllAreCalled