Green Menorah Remarks at Energy Bill media conference in Washington, Dec 3, 2007

Remarks by Rabbi Jeff Sultar

Of The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Program,

And also on behalf of the Climate Crisis Coalition,

December 3, 2007

Office: (215) 438-2983
Cel: (215) 983-7820

Tomorrow night, we in the Jewish community will light the first candle of Hanukkah. We celebrate the miracle of a single cruze of olive oil burning for eight days. We celebrate, in other words, the use of one day’s worth of oil to fulfill eight day’s worth of energy needs. Seen in this way, Hanukkah can inspire us to use our energy more efficiently. Since the original menorah burned olive oil, it can inspire us to use renewable sources of energy. And it can inspire us to burn energy that is clean, that does not contribute carbon dioxide to our atmosphere.

Just as Hanukkah celebrates one day’s worth of oil burning for eight days in the menorah, we support Congress making the commitment to make sure that one gallon’s worth of oil burns for at least 35 miles.

And just as the original menorah burned clean, renewable olive oil, so too do we support Congress making the commitment to make sure that clean, renewable sources of energy are responsible for fulfilling an ever-increasing percentage of our electricity needs.

Hanukkah is also a celebration of the first successful struggle for religious freedom, for the preservation of minority rights in the face of overwhelming majority pressure. This aspect of Hanukkah can inspire us to address in any energy and climate bills the disproportionate impact of the global climate crisis on those who are most disenfranchised.

On this point I speak not only as a representative of Judaism, but with a wider religious voice, to the moral dimensions of environmental justice and equity. We in the religious community will not allow those people and countries who are most easily left out of the discussion to be ignored or forgotten. We will make sure that the inter-related realms of social, economic and environmental justice continue to be a major part of any energy and climate legislation.

We at The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Program and in the wider religious community are joined in all of these concerns by the Climate Crisis Coalition. We join our voices together on this day when the United Nations Climate Talks begin in Bali. To coincide with these talks, December 8 has been declared as an “International Day of Climate Action.” Actions will be held around the world in at least 75 countries. And they will be held all around the United States in at least 60 communities.

What each of these actions will have in common is people demanding bold action from our leaders. We are letting our leaders know, loud and clear, as the numbers of the recent Zogby poll demonstrate, that we as individuals and organizations are willing to make the changes and commitments necessary to confront the global climate crisis, and we expect no less than that from our leaders in the legislation that they pass.

We in the United States have a unique roll to play, because we are disproportionately responsible for carbon dioxide emissions. But this greater responsibility for the problems is accompanied by greater possibilities for the solutions. The world looks to us to take leadership in this area. And we the people must expect no less than this from ourselves and from our leaders.

We in the Jewish community are required by our tradition to “publicize the miracle” of Hanukkah, to broadcast widely that it is possible to burn one day’s worth of oil in such a way that we fulfill eight day’s worth of needs, to make known that it is possible to fill our world with light without filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

Some of our teachings explain that the true miracle of Hanukkah did not come from a Divine source, but rather the miracle was the faith that the people had and the action that they took. Because the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem was never supposed to go out. And so, without having enough oil to keep it burning for more than one day, the people never should have lit the menorah in the first place. But they did anyway. And that human act of chutzpah then allowed the miracle of the long-burning oil to occur.

Seen in this light, each year when we light our Hanukkah menorahs, we re-ignite the possibility once again of the miracle of our own action. May this Hanukkah be for us all a season of lighting a candle in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us. And may we, through the miracle of our own actions, bring light and make a difference in our lives and in our world.