By Anna Dubey ‘21 and Raphaela Gold ‘21, Editors-in-Chief
When facing a threat as daunting as climate change, it can be difficult for teenagers to feel as though they are making a difference. But some young people have found a platform for their voices in the Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM). The group — supported by Hazon, an organization for sustainability in Judaism — gives youth the opportunity to create real, effective change. Liana Rothman, Hazon National Program Coordinator, and Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein, Rabbi-in-Residence at Hazon, co-founded and manage the movement.
The Founding Board of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement comprises 24 teenagers, three of whom — sophomore Isaiah Sokolic and juniors Anna Dubey and Raphaela Gold — are Heschel students. JYCM is divided into three teams. Public Relations focuses on outreach and representing the movement through writing and public speaking, the Communications team controls the online presence, and A&A (Actions and Advocacy) plans events like legislative lobbying and climate strikes. So far, members of the Founding Board have articulated the goals of the movement, set up a website, established active social media accounts, and spoken at virtual climate-related events.The board members have numerous other plans in the works. They hope to share virtual methods of fighting for climate justice, to build relationships with synagogues, and to host an environment-themed writing and art contest.
The founders also feel that Judaism plays an important role in the fight against climate change. Rothstein remarked, “There’s a prophecy in Isaiah, chapter 11, that says that the wolf will dwell with the lamb… and the beasts that usually eat other animals will actually eat grain together, and children will lead them.” He believes that the idea of youth leading a global movement is reminiscent of the prophecy.
10th-grade Heschel student Isaiah Sokolic was drawn to the movement because of his increasing awareness of climate change. Though he had made efforts to make his family’s household practices more eco-friendly, he was not satisfied. “Joining the movement granted me the opportunity to do more and create greater change. I now have the opportunity to turn my small individual acts of environmental consciousness into a movement of change across the country,” he said.
Asher Sochaczewski, a Floridian ninth-grader and member of the Founding Board, considers fighting climate change to be among the most important battles humanity will face. “I got involved with JYCM because I am not okay with the lack of climate action there is,” he said. “Especially since I live in Florida and we’re one of the most at-risk states, I want to actually act.” He finds it especially important that JYCM is dedicated to increasing environmentalism in the Jewish community, citing his experience with members of his father’s synagogue who doubt the science behind climate change.
The newly-formed movement welcomes involvement from all Jewish teens, as well as adults. The Heschel community can help build the movement by visiting the website (jewishyouthclimatemovement.org), signing up for the newsletter to receive regular updates about climate-related events, and taking the online pledge to join the movement.