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Clergy rally behind pope on environment
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Clergy rally behind pope on environment

Interfaith group heads to Rome to welcome statement on climate

Rabbi Lawrence Troster said global change “from a Jewish perspective is a problem of justice.”
Rabbi Lawrence Troster said global change “from a Jewish perspective is a problem of justice.”

An interfaith group of environmentalists led by a rabbi from Teaneck will gather in Rome on June 27 to intensify their battle against global climate change.

Rabbi Lawrence Troster, rabbinic scholar-in-residence of GreenFaith, said the timing of the meeting is critical.

“We are focusing on the publication of Pope Francis I encyclical on June 18,” he told NJ Jewish News in a June 10 phone interview.

According to advance drafts released by the Vatican, the theme of the encyclical will be “safeguarding creation.” The pontiff is also expected to declare that the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics have a moral responsibility to protect the “poor in a climate-changing world.”

“This is part of his papal agenda,” said Troster. “He speaks about the connection between the degradation of actual ecology and the human ecology. He is going to be addressing the impact of environmental degradation on human society, especially poverty and income inequality.”

To promote the pope’s declaration and plan future actions by faith-based environmentalists from all over the world, the Highland Park-based GreenFaith has joined an international partnership called OurVoices.

They are organizing a rally in downtown Rome, followed by a march to Vatican City on Sunday, June 28.

“We will thank the pope for the encyclical,” Troster said. Immediately after the demonstration, OurVoices will begin a conference of 100 young environmental leaders between the ages of 21 and 40, “chosen carefully from every continent and representing a multitude of faith communities.”

“We see this not so much as a problem of technology but as a moral problem, and from a Jewish perspective it is a problem of justice,” Troster said. 

Asked how he responded to political conservatives who deny global warming or dismiss any human responsibility for climate change, Troster said, “Well, look. There are people who allow their ideology to ignore what is clear scientific evidence of climate change. It has been a consensus for a long time, and I don’t understand how some people can claim to be so religious and yet they are not following the dictates of their own faith.”

Troster is also one of 342 rabbis to sign onto a letter coordinated by the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center that calls for vigorous action to slow climate disruption and to seek “eco-social justice.” They include Rabbis Richard Hammerman of Caldwell, Sally Priesand of Ocean Township, Cy Stanway of Ocean, Brooks Susman of Freehold, and Donald Weber of Morganville.

When the conference ends, Troster and his wife, Elaine Kahn, will head to the town of Lorsch, Germany, for the installation of memorial plaques dedicated to her family and other local victims of the Holocaust. He will also speak at the local Catholic Church on the encyclical, then head to London to make similar presentations at three synagogues. 

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