We’re all in the same boat

By Gwynne Robins

Remember the story of the man in the boat caught drilling a hole under his seat?

“But it is only under my seat” he responds. “Yes, but when the water comes in, we shall all drown.” This is how Rabbi David Rosen summarised climate change, which after the temperature in Table Bay reached 45.2C on 23 January, cannot be ignored.

Climate change was the focus of our annual United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week event this year, at the suggestion of Ann Harris, Chairperson of our Interfaith & Intercommunity subcommittee. The subject was discussed with passion and a sense of urgency by our panelists Bishop Geoff Davies, founder of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI); Imam Salieg Isaacs, a Director of SAFCEI who serves on the Muslim Judicial Council; former ANC MP and peace activist, Ela Gandhi; Tahirih Matthee, former Director of the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs and a member of the International Environment Forum; and, our own former Marais Road Shul Rabbi David Rosen who has been knighted by the Pope, awarded a CBE by the Queen, is a Director of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s KAICIID Dialogue Center and serves on the World Council of Religious Leaders’ Board.

“We have been ignoring G-d’s commandment to look after the earth”, said Bishop Davies. “We are destroying our life support system with our reliance on fossil fuels causing global warming and leading to a mass extinction of life. Those in power,” he said, “do not want to sacrifice their wealth by replacing it with renewable energy.

“Communities must teach the mantra of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse”, said Ela Gandhi, who outlined the consequences of climate change, including water and resource shortages, land reduction through rising sea levels, environmental changes leading to more refugees, and more wars and violence. She gave examples from her grandfather Mahatma Gandhi who simplified his lifestyle, believing that although we could not remake the world, we could remake ourselves, saying, “Be the change you want to see.”

Imam Salieg Isaacs drew our attention to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, drawn up last year at an international symposium and calling on Muslims to do their part to eliminate dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and commit to renewable energy sources. He made the valid point that we have the tools for change, but lack broader education and knowledge on its importance across all communities.

Tahirih Matthee personalised the issue, outlining the steps she had taken to reduce global warming and arguing that it should not be someone else’s problem. She also suggested that in the same way the Government had held weekly interfaith meetings to update the religious communities about COVID-19, so too should they do so on climate change. She believes this would help conscientise religious leaders to emphasise the message to their congregations.

Religious leaders were betraying the heritage they claimed to represent if they did not affirm that the world was a creation of the Divine that must be preserved, said Rabbi Rosen, who drew our attention to the cruelty of the livestock trade and linked it to the rise of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. While our laws were intended to increase compassion, they still allowed animal slaughter. The Torah prohibited waste yet our lifestyle encouraged it, and the consequence of disobeying Hashem’s commandments was leading to the destruction of our planet. Rabbis should educate their communities to address these issues and lobby government to do so. The preservation of the earth was a religious imperative. It was the responsibility of all, and we are all in the boat together.

In thanking the speakers, our Chairperson, Tzvi Brivik said a document would be produced and distributed to different faith-based organisations and religious communities using the ideas that had come out of the meeting.

Click here to watch the full UN World Interfaith Harmony Week: Climate Change panel discussion on our Facebook channel (@Cape SAJBD).

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website: www.capesajbd.org, Instagram, and Facebook page.

• Published in the PDF edition of the March 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

• To advertise in the Cape Jewish Chronicle and on this website – contact Karyn on 021 464 6700 ext. 104 or email advertising@ctjc.co.za. For more information and advertising rate card click here.

Sign up for our newsletter and never miss another issue.

• Please support the Cape Jewish Chronicle with a voluntary Subscription for 2022. For payment info click here.

Visit our Portal to the Jewish Community to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites.

Follow the Chronicle: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here