Opposing the Practice of Environmental Racism

Resolution Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the

Central Conference of American Rabbis

March, 1996


Environmental Racism, the placement of significant and disproportionate

environmental risks on the health and safety of impoverished communities and

communities of color, has become a growing concern in the United States for

many years. These hazards include direct exposure to unsafe drinking water,

untreated sewage, toxic waste, and nuclear waste. Often these hazards are

placed within a community as “economic ventures”– placing landfills,

incinerators, and factories emitting toxic substances too close to

playgrounds, sacred Indian Burial sites, and water aquifers.

As rabbis, environmental justice is clearly implied in our deep concern for

justice, civil rights, and a clean environment. Our tradition has always

championed equal protection under the law, regardless of one’s economic status

or racial background. As the Torah teaches, “do not subvert the rights of

your needy” (Exodus 23:6); “do not favor the poor or show deference to the

rich” (Leviticus 19:15). This is because all humans are created b’tzelem

Elohim, and, since we are all equally God’s children, we should all equitably

share in the bounty– and travails– of the earth.

The threat to environmental justice is especially great now in the 104th

Congress. Anti-regulatory legislation, attempts to gut key environmental laws

such as the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air

Act, and severe cuts to environmental and public health agencies such as the

Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA, disproportionately affect minority

and impoverished communities.

In recent years religious organizations, community based organizations, civil

rights groups, and environmental groups have increasingly spoken out on this

issue, as reflected in our own community by a strong resolution on

environmental justice passed in 1995 by the National Jewish Community

Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

1. Affirms the right of all people to live and work in environments with clean

air, land, water, and food;

2. Recognizes the obligation of government to protect and promote public

health by ensuring the establishment of effective regulations and by

modernizing facilities to safely minimize, manage, and dispose of toxic,

nuclear, and other hazardous wastes;

3. Encourages all community members to participate in the planning and

implementation of public health regulations, environmental clean-ups, and

development projects in their communities.

4. Calls for the development of comprehensive strategies by local, state, and

national government to address the environmental degradation currently

suffered by affected communities

5. Urges state and federally supported agencies to ensure that their programs

do not inflict disproportionate environmental harm on poor and minority

communities, and that these communities have equal access to information on

polluting sources and environmental clean-up programs.

6. Requests that public and private sectors engage in practices contributing

to the development of a healthy economy and a sustainable and livable


7. Decries cuts to and limitations within the federal budget and

appropriations measures disallowing the federal government from enforcing

public health and safety standards on clean water, air, Superfund clean ups,

wetlands, and drinking water, will significantly increase exposure to toxics

and pollution.

8. Reaffirms the CCAR’s commitment to promote environmental protection and

environmental justice in the Jewish community through education and advocacy.