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Looking ahead to the Shmita Year

By: Joanna Kobylivker  

Community OrganizerGeorgia Interfaith Power and Light 

The Jewish Climate Action Network of Georgia (JCAN GA) is a newly formed chapter of the Massachusetts based Jewish Climate Action Network. We began as a small but concerned group of Jewish community members who came together to raise awareness and create solutions around climate change.  Our diverse group represents several congregations, from spiritual leaders to climate scientists to moms and dads who simply want an earth for future generations to enjoy. We strongly believe the Atlanta Jewish community has a unique opportunity to be part of the solution. 

Our specific mission is to promote environmental stewardship though Jewish community building. By coming together, we can: 

  • Inspire and mobilize Jewish communities to take leadership and participate in bold climate campaigns and reduce carbon footprints. 
  • Develop and provide infrastructural, informational, and educational resources to any and all Jewish groups: synagogues, community centers, day schools, camps, youth groups, parent groups, all of us.  

How will we do this? By working with strong community partnerships both in Atlanta and around the country who are already doing this important work. We are very excited to announce a partnership with Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPLwith where I will be serving as a dedicated staff member, to Joanna Kobylivker, who will engage with our Jewish community.  

When will this work begin? It’s already started! JCAN GA members have already held several virtual events through partnerships with Repair the WorldLimmud Atlanta and Southeast, and various congregations.  

Much more is to come with the upcoming Shimta year.  The Shmita Year is part of a cycle analogous to the weekly Sabbath but taking place once every seven years as opposed to every seven days. Also known as the Year of Release, Shmita invites each of us to re-examine our relationship with the earth, with the Divine, and with one another. In the Shmita year, we rest alongside the land; we share the abundance of our landscapes as equals with one another and with the wild creatures; money is deemphasized; and debts are released.  

As a community, we are setting intentions and goals for how we will bring Shmita values to life in the form of environmental sustainability. Caring for our earth is part of being Jewish.  From the great philosopher Maimonides to the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we are taught and reminded in countless texts of our duty to honor this beautiful earth that G-d created. We say prayers, celebrate holidays, and are always encouraged to be humble and grateful for what we have been given. We can demonstrate that gratitude by protecting the earth, and there is no greater time than now.