Adopted by the CCAR Board
November 3, 2022
Central Conference of American Rabbis
The Central Conference of American Rabbis is the Reform rabbinic leadership organization that fosters excellence in the Reform Jewish rabbinate. The oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America, the CCAR strengthens the Jewish community by providing religious, spiritual, ethical, and intellectual leadership and wisdom for the 2,200 rabbis who serve more than two million Reform Jews throughout North America, Israel, and the world. The CCAR’s unique contribution to a continued vibrant Jewish community and Reform Movement lies in its work fostering excellence in Reform rabbis, enhancing unity and connectedness among Reform Jews, applying Jewish values to a contemporary life, and creating a compelling and accessible Judaism for today and the future.
Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition
In spring of 2022, CCAR signed on as a founding signatory to the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition (JCLC). The JCLC is a coalition of major Jewish organizations committed to climate action. Each signatory publishes a Climate Action Plan (CAP). Inspired by Jewish values, JCLC members are working to do the Jewish community’s part to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and build a livable future together.
The Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition uses a nine-point framework for Climate Action Plans. Each year, certain areas may be more impactful or relevant for an organization than others. CAPs are revised annually, and organizations are encouraged to make their goals as robust as possible and build on previous years’ successes.
- Primary Energy Use (Quantity)
- Education & Celebration
Actions Prior to 2023
The CCAR and its members have a deep commitment to climate. CCAR Press publications have addressed climate change. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which engages in extensive advocacy, including on the topic of climate change, is a joint instrumentality of the CCAR and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).
In May 2022, the CCAR Board adopted a Resolution on the Global Climate Crisis. That resolution, far from the CCAR’s first on the topic, covered the science behind human-caused climate change, key Jewish wisdom informing our response, the intersections between climate change and other forms of oppression, including racism and sexism, the leadership of young people on this issue, and the need for action in a range of concrete ways. That resolution serves as the basis for this JCLC Climate Action Plan.
CCAR’s operations have seen substantial pivots because of the coronavirus pandemic, including a temporary reduction in travel and in food. As we seek to restore our robust programming and services, we will use 2019 as a baseline against which to measure ourselves.
Climate Action Plan for 2023
The CCAR’s most significant impact will be in our ability to inspire and engage our members and the communities we serve to advance action on climate.
- Primary energy use
CCAR has a relatively small staff, several of whom work remotely, and it utilizes rented office space. The CCAR does not have control over the building’s carbon footprint.
We will encourage all CCAR members who serve organizations that own their buildings to measure their emissions from direct energy use and to develop mitigation plans as part of their own CAPs.
While we do not currently have the capacity for a full-scale audit, we will partner with Hazon’s resources and staff support to benchmark our 2018–2019 greenhouse gas emissions from food served at events, where we have control over that, and work-related travel. This will enable us to have a baseline from which to measure future success.
See #1 above.
During the coronavirus pandemic, we developed creative ways to meet our mission without traveling. We commit to incorporating that learning and making climate impact a factor in evaluating travel post-pandemic.
Some work-related travel will remain essential to our mission of supporting Reform rabbis. For work-related travel, and for participant travel to conferences, we commit to exploring the possibility of offsetting the climate impact of that travel through purchasing climate offsets when information about the process and cost of doing that becomes available.
The CCAR rarely if ever serves mammalian meat at its own events and conferences, and fowl is only rarely served. Our 2022 resolution calls on all members and their organizations to seek to reduce the amount of animal protein served at events, recognizing conventionally farmed meat’s impact on the climate. Vegetarian meals are always offered on an equal basis with meals that include fish—or, rarely, meat. Meals that also do not include dairy are similarly offered on an equal basis with those that do.
See #3 above.
- Education & Celebration
CCAR provides support and resources to Reform rabbis across North America and worldwide. We will incorporate climate-related resources into what we offer to rabbis. We will especially seek to offer climate-related materials in advance of holidays. We are prepared to work with Hazon and/or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly and the Rabbinical Assembly, which are also JCLC members, to develop and compile the resources.
Ideas articulated in our May 2022 Resolution on the Global Climate Crisis include but are not limited to:
- Community engagement programs that address key aspects of climate change across lines of difference like race and religion;
- A speaker event or series on topics about climate change;
- A documentary or movie screening and discussion about climate change and what needs to be done;
- Hosting a service project or community event, paired with discussion of climate change.
CCAR Press has lifted the collective rabbinic voice to address climate change in several of its publications, including The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic and The Social Justice Torah Commentary. CCAR Press looks forward to the projected 2023 publication of an anthology devoted to the topic, The Sacred Earth: Jewish Perspectives on Our Planet.
Additionally, CCAR will play a leadership role in the Reform Movement and in other institutions served by CCAR rabbis. We will work with the URJ, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and our members to encourage and inspire Reform congregations, other Reform-affiliated organizations, and other Jewish organizations led and served by CCAR rabbis to participate in JCLC and develop their own Climate Action Plans. Collectively, the Reform Movement will be able to achieve significant scale and impact with our climate action.
We are proud that the Reform Pension Board has developed a Reform Jewish Values Stock Fund, which is an option for pension participants. The Reform Jewish Values Stock Fund does not invest in coal stocks and has a positive screen for renewables. We will engage in a campaign to educate our members about the Reform Jewish Values Stock Fund as an option for their consideration.
Through the Religious Action Center (RAC), CCAR already engages in extensive advocacy, including on climate change. This is an area where we take real leadership on behalf of the Jewish community. CCAR’s 2022 Resolution on the Global Climate Crisis highlighted a range of specific advocacy asks of the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch that we as an organization (through the RAC) will pursue and will encourage our members to pursue, including:
- Creating incentives for the most egregious greenhouse gas emitters to dramatically reduce the emissions they pump into the atmosphere;
- Transitioning to a low- or zero-emission clean, green economy by 2050 or earlier;
- Incorporating environmental justice into governmental action;
- Empowering the constituencies most impacted by climate change and centering them and their needs in the process of finding and implementing the best possible solutions to the crisis;
- Ensuring that the procurement of necessary materials for a zero-emission economy do not cause or advance unfair or exploitative labor practices, community harms, and/or human rights violations;
- Supporting a just transition of fossil fuel workers to meaningful and sustainable employment;
- Contacting local, state, and federal level legislators to express concerns about climate change, voicing support for proposed legislation that will help resolve climate change and protect the environment;
- Holding the governments of the United States and Canada accountable for our share of the problem, with special regard to our obligations to vulnerable nations experiencing the first and worst effects of climate change.
We will continue to support the RAC to elevate climate as a key issue with direct impact on the Jewish community. We may partner with organizations like Dayenu to support our climate advocacy.
A key piece of resiliency is supporting our CCAR rabbis, in their work to counsel congregants around the climate crisis. The educational resources and events mentioned above will be opportunities to do so. We will seek to weave climate explicitly as a topic into any resources we provide to rabbis around spiritual counseling.