Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest Returns

Second Annual Education & Advocacy Event Focuses on Investing in Sustainable Systems – As Individuals and Communities

NATIONAL—Tu BiShvat has undergone many iterations over the centuries. In the Rabbinic period, it was the date for marking the age of trees to tithe their fruit. During the flowering of Jewish mysticism in Tzfat, it became an occasion for mystical reflection on the Tree of Life. Most recently, it has become akin to ‘Jewish Earth Day’, a holiday most commonly celebrated by planting trees. 

And now, The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest aims to give new meaning to the holiday as an annual week of learning and action centered on the most existential environmental issue of our day: the climate crisis. This year’s festival takes place January 10-14, 2022, returning for the second year in a row to a hybrid virtual and in-person event format: a combination of curated virtual MainStage events, and a groundswell of community-produced events from Fest partners and experts.

Last year, more than 6,000 people came to be inspired, learn and act at The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest 2021. (A full archive of 2021 presentations can be found here.)

Planned 2022 session topics will include: 

  • How Jewish Federations are catalyzing and supporting powerful change in their communities, with case studies from Baltimore, Rhode Island and Vancouver;
  • How the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego and others are engaging issue-based younger Jews through climate action and philanthropy;
  • Why the money pipeline to fossil fuel companies is perpetuating the problem, and how banks and investors can use their influence to support system change;
  • How Jewish communities across the country are pushing elected officials to pass meaningful climate legislation;
  • Why greening your endowment is important, and how organizations have aligned their values and investments, while maintaining their returns;
  • How to decarbonize your organization, with case studies from synagogues and others;
  • Plus a whole track for youth and college students, including organizing on campus, effective use of media and storytelling and processing climate grief.

In addition to bringing the community together for inspiration, education, and action, the festival serves as an impetus for influential communal leaders to commit to major changes in their organizations. As Yossi Abramowitz, president and CEO of Energiya Global Capital and co-founder of the Arava Power Company, said at last year’s fest, “It should be treyf [nonkosher] to invest a rabbi’s retirement fund in fossil fuels.”

The Fest reflects a cross-collaboration of 100+  Jewish organizations committed to making climate action a central priority of the Jewish community. The core planning team includes leading Jewish organizations Hazon and DayenuDarim Online, which also produced the Great Big Jewish Food Fest, is the fiscal sponsor and executive producer of the Fest. 

“Making change alone is hard, but in collaboration we can create momentum, raise our voices together, and model the change we seek in the world,” says Lisa Colton, Event Producer, of Darim Online. “It is time for a new normal.”

Thanks to this year’s generous sponsors (Hazon, Dayenu, Darim Online, The Jewish Federations of North America, and Micah Philanthropies), participation in the festival is completely free. 

“American Jews are already feeling the direct impacts of the climate crisis, along with more than a third of Americans who have experienced widespread floods, droughts, fires, and storms. It’s no surprise that climate is the top issue that Jews report they care about when voting,” says Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, Founder and CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action. “The challenge to Jewish leaders, communities, and organizations is not to turn inward or think we can only make small changes, but instead bring the full strength of our people, power, and spirit to this existential and far reaching crisis.” 

Together, the pioneering leaders behind the Fest created an intentional event that combines theory, practice, and action that participants can carry forward into their personal, professional, and volunteer lives. All events are built around the following three themes for communal investment:

  • Capacity: Increase the Jewish community’s capacity to meet the climate crisis head-on (greening facilities, shifting endowments and retirement plans to responsible investments, and changing foundation giving priorities). 
  • Collective Voice: Leverage our community’s power to influence our elected leaders and help our country and world invest in clean energy.
  • Calm: Be a source of inspiration and support to those fighting on the front lines of climate change, and encourage community members to turn anxiety into hope-filled action.

Founded in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders of the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest saw a rare opportunity to bring the community together through collaboration to hold a top-tier international festival online that otherwise might have been impossible.  

“We are mobilizing Jewish communities nationwide and across the globe in order to confront the climate crisis as the moral, spiritual, political, and economic crisis of our time,” says Jakir Manela, CEO of Hazon. “Every day, more Jewish leaders and institutions are partnering with us, rising up to meet this challenge through education, action, and advocacy.  No matter how much or how little you’ve done, we can all do more.”

We have an opportunity to bring forth a new, more just and sustainable world by putting millions back to work building a 100% clean-energy economy, holding polluters accountable, and finally addressing environmental injustice — a just, green recovery, and the future we all deserve.

“Jews are good at systemic change,” says Colton. “When the Temple was destroyed, we pivoted to Rabbinic Judaism. When we got expelled, we wrote down the Oral Torah to maintain consistency.  This is our moment of historic systemic change, and we must face it with conviction, tenacity and moral purpose.”

“What is at stake is nothing less than our collective future,” adds Rabbi Rosenn. “The question is how we as a people will respond.” 

“We see this as a profound opportunity and obligation for the Jewish People to work together to build a sustainable future,” says Manela. “We need everyone to step up, and we can do this, together.”

For more information and to view a full list of events, visit www.jewishclimatefest.org

About Staff

They call me "NewsHound IV," because I'm a clever Finnegan, sniffing out stories all over the Boulder area. I love Jewish holidays because the food is GREAT, especially the brisket. Well all the food. I was a rescue pup and glad to be on the scent!

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