As a Jewish new year begins, reflections on my career and faith

My name is Leah Garden, and I’m GreenBiz’s Climate Tech Reporter. I even have a master’s degree in sustainability management in addition to an undergraduate degree in business for sustainability. I’m also Jewish. 

On the surface, my skilled accomplishments and my personal faith don’t have any connection. No bridge seemingly links the 2 disparate statements, and one can be forgiven for assuming that I live my life as a Jewish woman who also happens to work within the climate sector. However the deep connections between my skilled endeavors and my spiritual background are as connected and interwoven because the roots of the Tree of Life. And in as of late between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days and Jewish Recent 12 months, it is necessary for me to share just how my religion and skilled ambitions are interconnected.  

First, some background. On Rosh Hashanah, the day Adam and Eve were created, based on the Old Testament, the Jewish people usher in a sweet recent yr with the consumption of apples dipped in honey. Eight days afterward Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we sit in judgment of G-d for our actions of the past yr, grateful for the chance to show over a recent leaf and start again with the passage of time. 

Judaism (and Christianity) is founded on the assumption that without every living and naturally occurring entity, humanity would stop to exist.

The Old Testament makes many references to the reverence owed to the natural world. Judaism (and Christianity) is founded on the assumption that without every living and naturally occurring entity, humanity would stop to exist. 

Judaism repeatedly teaches us of the sanctity of the natural world. Within the bible, G-d created the Earth, the sunshine and the dark, the trees and mountains and deserts, the sheep and lion and lizard, all before creating man and woman. Nature was specifically created to facilitate the longevity of humanity, reinforcing the dependence of humans upon the plants, landscapes and animals. And when man and woman seemingly took advantage of the splendor of the harmony of nature for purely self-serving reasons, they were forged out, doomed to live in a world where nature could bite back and wipe humanity from existence.

And it does. Multiple times. When humans prove to be evil and selfish, G-d literally floods the world, using a natural disaster (an unfortunately recent and too-often occurring phenomenon) to wipe the plague of humanity from existence. But not before ensuring that each bug, reptile, mammal and bird is saved to continue to exist for one more day. Time and again, G-d punishes humanity with the might of the earth, from pestilence and frogs to locusts and diseased livestock. (Also, “The Prince of Egypt” is a stellar movie and the song below is a bop.)

But my personal and skilled drive to finish the climate crisis and restore the natural balance of our planet is on account of greater than just words written on a page, nevertheless holy. While I discover as Jewish, I don’t consider myself a very religious person. I don’t usually attend synagogue (sometimes referred to as shul) and except for my attendance of Hebrew school until my bat mitzvah at age 13, I received no further formal Jewish education.

But Judaism to me is so rather more than all that. It’s a faith anchored within the family and community. As long as you might be born to a Jewish mother, you might be considered Jewish, a member of the tribe. This familial connection to my religion is how I have a good time my Judaism.

My paternal grandparents were born in Ukraine and Poland at first of the twentieth century. My grandmother, Tonia, was on the run from Nazis, literally jumping off of a moving train along with her sister Genie to flee the soldiers of the Third Reich. After hiding in the house of Ukrainian peasants, Tonia and Genie eventually reunited with their parents, a rare comfortable ending for a European Jewish family.

My grandfather, Zenek, was not as lucky. As a young man in Poland in 1939, he was suspected by the invading Russian force to be an informant and subsequently sent to a Siberian work camp. Upon liberation, he made the horrific discovery that of his parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, he was the only survivor. 

I even have cousins included on the famous Schindler’s list, great aunts who to today bear the blue numerical tattoo of Auschwitz on their forearm. And since of my family’s strength and refusal to die on the behest of a small but powerful group of fascists, my father, and me by extension, received the privilege of a peaceful childhood, Jewish and protected in the USA. 

I live each day with the knowledge that my ancestors fought and died for my current religious freedom. And now, within the yr 2022, I cannot sit idly by in my family’s hardwon safety because the planet floods and burns because humanity once more decided that one other vulnerable community is well worth the price of shallow comfort.

For too long, different religious, ethnic and political groups have wantonly decided that one group or community could be sacrificed for almost all’s comfort. The Earth itself, and the hundreds of thousands of ecosystems housed inside it, is counted amongst that unacceptable list of expendables. Because the member of a community eternally housed on that roster, I refuse to assume the role of passive bystander. So, within the memory of my family who died to make sure my safety, I’ll fight for the vulnerable:

For the communities around the globe disproportionately affected by the worsening natural disasters attributable to the climate crisis.

For the families forced to work untenable hours in horrific conditions, making low-cost and unnecessary commodities for the rich to quickly use and discard.

For entire species quietly going extinct because humanity decided their homes within the forests, oceans, plains or mountains stood in the best way of precious minerals and resources. 

My decision to devote my life to the mitigation of climate change is enforced by millennia of selections. From the tenets of my faith first recorded over 5,000 years ago, to the frequent and bigoted persecution of my ancestors throughout history, to the courageous journey undergone by my grandparents throughout the last century. I’ll use my position of safety and privilege to fight for those without the voice or platform to achieve this.

And I’ll at all times credit much of my drive to my family and my faith.


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