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Reform Jewish Movement Celebrates 35th Anniversary of Earth Day
In honor of the 35th International Earth Day, Barbara Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement noting, "Today, as we survey polluted rivers, contaminated land, and unbreatheable air, we find that we have enslaved ourselves in a world that will not be indefinitely inhabitable."

Pelavin: Today, as we survey polluted rivers, contaminated land, and unbreatheable air, we find that we have enslaved ourselves in a world that will not be indefinitely inhabitable.  

Contact: Alexis Rice or Avital Weinberg 202.387.2800

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2005 - In honor of the 35th International Earth Day, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

    As people gather around the world to celebrate the 35th annual Earth Day, Reform Jews are reminded that an essential part of pursuing tikkun olam is protecting the miraculous work of creation. As we prepare to celebrate Passover, we are especially mindful of the fragility of our environment and the interconnectedness of humanity’s well-being with the earth’s.

    At the Seder on Saturday night we will remember the ten plagues, imposed by God in freeing the Israelites from slavery. The environmental plagues we face today are of our own making, caused by the hardening of our hearts to the evidence of destruction we are causing. We face new and significant public health crises in the form of increased rates of asthma, cancer, and the spread of tropical disease, just as the Egyptians faced the plagues of lice and boils. We face changing eco-systems and endangered species just as the Egyptians faced the plagues of frogs and of pestilence. We face changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, droughts, and floods, as the Egyptians faced hail. As we slowly pollute the water and air we rely on for sustenance, see our crops threatened by climate change and use excessive amounts of non-renewable energy sources, we understand the significance of God’s turning the Nile into an undrinkable water source, the scourge of locusts and the imposition of darkness onto biblical Egypt.

    Today’s plagues affect all citizens of the globe, no matter their nationality, religion, wealth, age or gender.  Here at home, environmental legislation is pending that would roll back standards protecting 58 million acres of national forest lands and decrease carbon dioxide emissions standards. The Administration, with the help of many in Congress, is attempting to open up the pristine wilderness of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling and roll back the Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Protection Agency has weakened mercury reduction requirements for power plants while many states now warn about the threat of mercury poisoning from the consumption of locally caught fish. Nearly 160 million Americans live in counties that violate air quality standards, and nearly half of American waterways remain unsafe for swimming and fishing.

    Today, as we survey polluted rivers, contaminated land, and unbreatheable air, we find that we have enslaved ourselves in a world that will not be indefinitely inhabitable.  This Earth Day we at once rejoice in God’s creation and rise up to fulfill the commandment: l’ovdah, u’l’shomrah, to serve, to till, to guard, to tend (Genesis 2:15).

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis. 



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