The Jewish Youth Climate Movement is coming to Ottawa, as the first non-U.S. chapter of the organization takes root in the National Capital.
The Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM) was founded by Hazon, The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, in 2019. The organization is dedicated to mitigating climate change by empowering teens, mobilizing communities, and taking action using Jewish values as a motivation to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all.
While the Ottawa chapter hasn’t officially launched yet, Raphi Gold, one of the early JYCM members, is thrilled to see the organization expand.
“It’s so brilliant. I had no idea that this was brewing until the Ottawa Kvutzah (chapter) was added to the spreadsheet,” said Gold, who currently learning about organic farming in North Carolina on a gap year after finishing high school.
“I let out a little squeal of excitement. Having a Canada branch, it’s really going to open a door to more Canadian ones and build out further internationally and broaden our impact.”
Eliya Read, in Grade 6 at Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), became a member of the new Ottawa chapter because she wants to save the planet.
“And to teach people that the Earth gives us everything,” she said. “We've been taking [from the Earth] for a very long time and it's time to let it rest and to give back."
JYCM is run by a cohort of 33 middle and high school students who comprise the National Leadership Board. It’s entirely youth-led, with a few adult mentors at hand to help spearhead the efforts.
Their purpose? To tackle the climate crisis through a Jewish lens.
“We are in a global climate crisis, and Jewish tradition compels us to respond. We aim to live as the midrash Kohelet Rabbah instructs us: “For if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it for you,” (7:13:1),” says the JYCM website. “JYCM believes that our greater purpose is to be a resource for people of all ages and religions, spreading a multi-generational message to stand in the name of climate justice. Our young voices should not only be heard but recognized as having the power to make a change.”
Read said she’s learned that while we can’t control everything when it comes to the climate change crisis, she knows we can definitely help be part of the solution.
“We can do small things - like convince more people to compost and bring composting into our schools. Or stop buying plastic, or ban plastic bags,” said Read. “I want this to be a regular thing that people are doing, not just something we think about.”
For Gold, she shared that she felt “lucky” to have the JYCM fall into her lap.
“I was always interested in nature and the environment, but I didn't understand the gravity of the climate crisis until middle school. A friend and I started an environment club in tenth grade, and we invited Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein completely coincidentally,” said Gold. “He mentioned afterwards that they were working on founding JYCM. It seemed like an incredible opportunity.”
The idea was initially pre-pandemic, but once the pandemic hit the founders knew they needed to recalibrate.
“It was tough at first because we had no idea where to start. We were all very passionate, ...(but) none of us were planning to be experts,” said Gold. “Then the pandemic kind of exacerbated every issue.”
The JYCM format is unique — it allows each chapter, or Kvutzah, to customize the mission and outreach to their own community needs.
“We have institutions, synagogues, schools, camps … it looks different for everybody,” said Gold. “Everybody makes change in the ways that make the most sense for them.”
For a day school, it might look like pushing for sustainable options, like recycling programs or saving electricity. Synagogues might fundraise for solar panels.
More details on the Ottawa Kvutzah will be available soon. Want to know more about getting involved in the JYCM Ottawa Chapter? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, for those who are unable to join an institutional Kvutzah but still want to be a part of a JYCM community, they can join the Virtual Kvutzah. For more information, email email@example.com.
In addition, there are several community events taking place to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, which is a holiday often connected to helping the environment:
- Celebrate Tu B'Shvat with CMH and Genvironment
January 17th at 5:30 pm on Zoom
Register at: https://www.cmhottawa.com/events
- Virtual Tu B'Shvat Seder with Temple Israel
Jan. 17 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Register at: https://templeisraelottawa.ca/.
- Tu B'Shvat Virtual Seder with Beit Tikvah Sunday
January 16, 7 pm
Sign up at www.cbto.org/fruit
- Tu B'Shevat Family Program with Kehillat Beth Israel
Sunday, January 16
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register