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The Earth Justice Haggadah: Why on This Night Do We Talk About Climate Change?

The Earth Justice Haggadah: Why on This Night Do We Talk About Climate Change?

Hands breaking matzoh

“We don’t have time. The longer we wait, the more hurricane season we have to go through. We hate to let the island go, but we have to. It is like losing a family member. We know we are going to lose it. We just don’t know when.” These are the words of Albert Naquin, chief of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. The tribe’s home, the Isle de Jean Charles, located off the coast of Louisiana, has almost entirely eroded away. The tribe was forced to relocate in 2016, making them the first American climate refugees. According to tribal members, the hardest part of their forced migration was the collateral loss of tradition, culture and community.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaws are not alone in their situation. In the past six years, about 140 million people worldwide have been forced to move because of climate related disasters. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, unless strong climate adaptation and mitigation measures are implemented worldwide, this trend is expected to increase.  

In a few weeks, Jews all over the world will gather around seder tables to recount the story of Exodus, the story of the Israelites’ miraculous escape from enslavement under Pharaoh in Egypt. The Passover story is, like the story of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, a migration story. After the Israelites left Egypt, they wandered through the desert for forty years, unsure if they would ever reach the Promised Land. We can see a bit of our own story in the story of modern climate refugees, entire communities of people who are wandering, hoping to find their own version of a promised land.

This year, we feel a particular urgency to recognize the many human-experienced effects of climate change, from forced migration to unclean water to the spreading of diseases. The Passover seder brings up many environmental themes. Consider incorporating some of these themes into your seder with the Earth Justice Haggadah. The Earth Justice Haggadah brings an environmental perspective to the Passover seder. It can be used as a full haggadah, as a supplement or can be adapted to fit your seder.

Lizzie Stein is a leadership development associate at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she previously served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. In her current role, she leads fellowships for alumni of RAC programs and brings leadership skills training to the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminars and other programs. Lizzie also staffs the Urgency of Now: Transgender Rights Campaign. A graduate of Occidential College, she is a member of Temple Kol Ami in Phoenix, AZ, her hometown.

Lizzie Stein

Published: 3/31/2017