Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on Enforcement and Full Funding of the Endangered Species Act
Contact: Alexis Rice or Ariana Silverman (202) 387-2800
National Press Club
May 30, 2001
I stand before you today as a rabbi, a person of faith, and a representative of many faith groups, to implore the President and Congress to leave the Endangered Species Act intact and to fully fund its enforcement. Support for this vital legislation, and for the most vulnerable of God's creations, has been a priority for much of America's religious community, from the Evangelical Environmental Network to the National Council of Churches of Christ, to virtually the entire Jewish community.
The religious community is united by a love for God's creation, and a responsibility to protect it.
As we read in the book of Genesis, God left human beings last in the scheme of creation, creating the Earth and all its creatures first, both to instill a sense of humility, and to remind us that every part of God's creation was necessary for humanity to exist. And we learn that God placed the human in the Garden of Eden "to till and to tend it" - to be stewards of creation.
We confront this obligation to be stewards now.
For we are experiencing an extinction crisis. During the time of this press conference, at least 3 plant and animal species will be lost forever-species that might have produced medicines to save lives, or species that work to purify our air and water, creatures that are links in the food chain-all parts of God's interconnected creation.
We read in Genesis about the flood that God brought in response to humanity's wickedness; a flood that could have destroyed all of creation. But God ensured that each species was safe on the ark with Noah. And when it was over, God said to Noah and to his children, "I will now establish my covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you - birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well-all that have come out of the ark, every living thing on earth."
It was a covenant made with all of creation, and it is a powerful reminder to us.
So now we must ask ourselves: Will we, at this moment when so many species are vulnerable, be partners in God's covenant with creation? Will we be faithful stewards? Towards that goal, will we fully fund and fully enforce the Endangered Species Act and endangered species listing programs? Will we allow them to truly be the Noah's Ark of our time, protecting and nurturing the remnants of God's creation until they, like the bald eagle, can soar on their own once again? Or will we continue to tolerate efforts to weaken this Act, such as the proposed "Extinction Rider," and deny sufficient funding for the vital listing process to continue, during which species will be lost forever, victims of politics and bureaucracy just as much as natural causes? We cannot, as a nation, as caretakers of our planet, afford to make the wrong choices now.
Let us instead join together, people of all religious traditions, Democrat and Republican (and newly Independent), and defend an act that has defended God's creation for more than 25 years.
We are told in the story of Noah that Noah was a righteous person in his generation. We should be in ours.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.