“Our community cares deeply about climate change. As young people we really see how this issue affects us and continues to affect us.”
I was talking to Liz Aeschlimann, an organizer with Kavod, a social justice-focused Jewish community in the Boston area about why she and some of her colleagues from the Kavod Dayenu Circle were joining the Chutzpah 2022 phone bank.
“It’s not always easy to figure out how we can take concrete action and make a difference…so it has been great connecting with Dayenu to take concrete action around the elections in a way that also is focusing on Jewish practice and Jewish spiritual resources for this big scary thing we’re facing.”
Facing the climate crisis—and these midterm elections—can be exhausting and daunting. The stakes of the midterms are so big—democracy, climate, abortion—but many of us (I know I’m not alone) have found ourselves feeling helpless. Like we’re trying to move upriver without a paddle. But the Dayenu phone banks
have been a manageable place where we can all make a real, even measurable, difference. Because Dayenu has partnered with the Environmental Voter Project
the phone calls that are made—to date, over 150,000—are all to committed and seldom-voting climate voters in NH, PA, CO, VA and AZ where votes are most crucial. And their data shows that these calls really do increase the chance these voters will go to the polls.
Each of the phone banking evenings so far has echoed with a vibrant Jewish atmosphere, from the introductory kavanah (dedication) through other Jewish learning and supportive conversations all the way to the closing music. For Aeschlimann and Kavod, the grounding in Judaism is crucial and energizing.
“A lot of people on our team work on climate issues in their day jobs,” Aeschlimann told me, “But the reason they want to be part of the Kavod Dayenu Circle is because they want a place to do it in a way that comes from their Judaism and is part of their community.”
Annie Fortnow, a member of the Kavod Dayenu Circle, shared why these phone banks felt so good: “Sometimes when I’m speaking with voters, I can hear their excitement about voting. It’s especially meaningful to speak with voters whose top priority is the climate crisis. And it’s also really meaningful to do all this Jewishly. The Kavanah at the start of the shifts and the music at the end of the shifts is so special. You just don’t get that anywhere else.”
Kavod is a community founded in 2005, “committed to each other and to building a liberated world for all people.” That’s why Aeschlimann and the others in its Dayenu Circle, are organizing themselves to confront climate change. As I learned earlier this year when I stepped up to take environmental action
for the first time, one of the horrifying things about climate change is that it affects us all, but it affects vulnerable communities first and worst.
But the solidarity that comes from gathering together to face up to the reality of unequal hardship can be invigorating. At Passover, when I stood in front of the Chase Bank branch in Boston along with my Dayenu circle and others from across Boston, we were standing for and, in some cases, alongside people who we didn’t know but who had already suffered from climate change. The members of Kavod feel the same way, Aeschlimann says. At Kavod, they have been working to build partnerships with local environmental justice organizations to stand in solidarity.
With less than a week to the election it’s worth remembering all the hard times that our people have gone through in modern and Biblical history. It’s inspiring to realize that from generation to generation we can draw on our history to work through this on both shorter and longer timeframes.
“I think we all recognize how hard and exhausting this work can be,” said Aeschlimann. “And how hard it can be to face the depths of this crisis. So we have some Jewish grounding every time we gather, whether that’s music, or learning, or in the case of Chutzpah 2022, both. It is part of the atmosphere we are trying to build at Kavod: we are doing our work on sustainability at a pace that is sustainable.”
As Fortnow put it: “I am someone who feels really overwhelmed by the problem of climate change. It feels really hard to know what to do. It can be so easy to feel helpless. So when there are opportunities to get involved in something like Get-Out-the-Vote…I want to do it.”
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