The Jewish faith finds great meaning in gathering together. Births, namings, coming-of-age ceremonies and love are celebrated through community. Learning for all ages is accomplished in community. Death and mourning are experienced in community. Justice is advanced in community. God’s presence is fully experienced in community. All these important spiritual moments, and more, were thwarted throughout this pandemic.
This past year has challenged Georgia in unforeseeable ways, but even with the multitude of crises that our communities faced, we were able to show resolve and pivot. It was on that path forward we found we can accomplish incredible things when we come together. Prayer found meaning online. Learning for young and old was accomplished online. We mourned our loved ones and embraced mourners even from afar. Our faith teaches us to look out for one another. And even with our accomplishments, there were still areas that we could not fully find meaningful advances.
One such area is the climate crisis. Now more than ever, we must work for environmental justice and public health by addressing long-term threats posed by the climate crisis. With the proposed American Jobs Plan being debated in Washington, we have an opportunity to invest in the clean energy future while addressing the injustices of the past.
As members of the faith community, we again look to our religious and spiritual leaders to unite and to lead us forward through bold economic recovery and infrastructure plans that will make a difference in our community and across the nation. We must fulfill our moral obligation to leave a habitable world for future generations. With the American Jobs Plan, we can do this while providing immediate support to those who need it most.
Access to clean drinking water and clean air to breathe should not be a luxury only some enjoy. That’s why President [Joe] Biden’s American Jobs Plan invests in electrifying clean transportation to reduce carbon pollution and in major upgrades to ensure clean water infrastructure for all communities.
In metro Atlanta, these investments are sorely needed and popular too. A recent poll of two metro Atlanta congressional districts found that more than 65 percent of voters support investments in electric vehicles and charging stations to reduce pollution and help more Americans buy clean cars.
This [investment] package means significant improvements to our public health and quality of life. By modernizing our electric grid and expanding clean, renewable energy, we will see far fewer deadly climate disasters and extreme weather events such as floods and fires. From 2010 to 2020, Georgia experienced 46 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $20 billion in damages. We know that low-wealth communities and communities of color are among the most vulnerable to pollution and the impacts of climate change. Notably, the American Jobs Plan places these communities at the center of this historic infrastructure package, mandating at least 40 percent of the benefits of investments target disadvantaged communities.
Faith leaders from across the country have united in their call for a bold recovery and an infrastructure package that will help us rebuild in a way that makes us stronger than ever before. Just as they guided us through the darkest, most uncertain moments of the past year, faith leaders can also guide our nation in building back better. That’s why I have joined over 3,400 other faith leaders in adding my name to a letter to Congress urging passage of this common-sense and essential proposal. The American Jobs Plan is the future, and we’re counting on Congress to turn this vision into a reality. Our leaders in Washington must fully support passing this monumental legislation and help families get back on their feet while protecting our public health and beloved environment.
Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal is senior rabbi of Ahavath Achim Synagogue, immediate past president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association.