On Tishah B’Av, I Lobbied Congress to Save Temple Earth


By Amy Dick

I spent the days leading to Tishah B’Av lobbying my U.S. senators to pass legislation for solutions to threats from climate change. As I called out for our country to turn away from destruction, I felt the spirit of my ancestors who knew that they needed their leaders to take action or they would soon be overwhelmed by catastrophe.

As a leader of Jewish Earth Alliance, an all-volunteer group based in the Washington, D.C., area, I helped to organize Tishah B’Av Virtual Lobby Day for Climate Solutions. We chose Tishah B’Av as the time for our lobby day because of the fast day’s relevance to our message. Our ancestors viewed the temple as a microcosm of Earth. When the temples were destroyed, so were the lives built around them. Today it’s the Earth itself, and our civilization, that is facing destruction. We must not add the planet itself to the catastrophes we mourn on Tishah B’Av.

Over several months, I recruited and prepared Jews from across the country to participate. By the time the week of Tishah B’Av arrived, more than 200 Jews had signed up to participate in 28 meetings with United States Senate offices. We also had many co-sponsoring organizations, from national ones such as Adamah, based at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Baltimore; the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; to local groups like Climate Action Sea Turtles: Jewish Floridians for Climate Solutions.


We chose three priorities to raise with our senators: First, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which could send more than $1 billion to states and tribes annually to protect species threatened by changes in the climate. Second, funding climate solutions in the Farm Bill, such as training farmers to build healthier soil and install solar and wind energy systems on farms. And third, measures to ensure that changes in permitting rules for energy infrastructure will put in place master planning that prioritizes renewable energy while protecting communities.

Interest in advocacy has grown as Jews start to feel the urgency of climate change. I’m a good example of this. A few years ago, when I joined Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, I was not active in environmental issues. But then I joined the congregation’s climate action team and began to learn more about how communities can make a difference. Now my work is even more impactful because I’m organizing Jews across the country to build relationships with their federal legislators. This is especially important for me to do because I live in Maryland, close to the action on Capitol Hill.

I was able to recruit 17 Marylanders to meet with Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen’s offices. We prepared for the meetings and were ready to explain why the senators should co-sponsor the bills we presented. Cardin’s staffer told us that she appreciates hearing from religious people because we offer a different perspective. Van Hollen’s staffer had not heard of the agriculture bill we presented. She promised to look it up and discuss it with the senator. She told us that agriculture issues are very important to the senator and asked us to keep in touch and let her know about other bills he might want to support. Now we know our next steps to influence our senators’ votes.

The Tishah B’Av meetings reinforced my conviction that our advocacy, alongside that of many others, is making a difference. Congress is finally getting serious about climate change. The Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act are directing billions of dollars to the transition to renewable energy. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passed the House of Representatives in the last session, although it wasn’t voted on in the Senate.

Through my work with Jewish Earth Alliance, I’ve learned that members of Congress hear from industry lobbyists all the time. They need to hear from people like me who are moved by Jewish teachings to speak out for people and planet.

Although we still mourn what was lost when the temple was destroyed, we also know that thanks to the dedication and creativity of our ancestors, Judaism was transformed and thrived. That’s a message Jews will need to deliver again and again until everyone is safe from climate catastrophes. ■

Amy Dick is a member of the steering committee of Jewish Earth Alliance.

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