You are here

ViewPoints: Climate Responsibility and Judaism

ViewPoints: Climate Responsibility and Judaism


Two experts on religion and the environment weigh in on the role of faith in responding to the climate crisis

Spertus Institute presents an online discussion September 10 on Climate Responsibility and Judaism

Even as a global pandemic and social unrest dominate the news cycle, the critical—even existential—nature of climate change hasn’t paused. In fact, in many ways, these issues are linked.

As part of its continuing exploration of how we might best respond to the climate crisis, Spertus Institute has invited two experts on religion and the environment—Dr. Rachel Havrelock and Rabbi Dr. Rachel Mikva—to explore the role of faith traditions and delve into what Judaism teaches about accountability to the natural world. Their conversation, part of the ViewPoints program series, will take place online on Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 7pm CT. Their conversation will be moderated by Spertus President and CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell.

“Through the ViewPoints series, Spertus addresses some of the most pressing issues facing the Jewish community and world today, reflecting our commitment to applying Jewish learning to solve critical contemporary challenges,” says Bell, who chairs a think tank on religion and the environment recently launched by Spertus. “Spertus is committed to sustainability in our own organization—as evidenced by our green building initiatives—and we are increasingly serving to bring this issue to the forefront in our programming. This ViewPoints presentation represents a natural outgrowth of our ongoing work in this crucial area.”

Rachel Mikva and Rachel HavrelockDr. Rachel Havrelock (left) is the founder and director of the UIC Freshwater Lab, a humanities-based initiative focused on research, teaching, and public awareness about the Great Lakes. She is a University of Illinois at Chicago and Spertus Institute faculty member.

“As the global pandemic has taught us, our human interconnection cannot be denied,” says Havrelock. “Our relationship with our environment is a social and collective issue. Jewish traditions have long taught that survival is a collective matter so, as we face existential issues of climate change, a deep consideration of these traditions can help us to navigate the future.”

Rabbi Dr. Rachel Mikva (right) is the Herman E. Schaalman Chair & Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Senior Faculty Fellow of the InterReligious Institute at Chicago Theological Seminary. Her work focuses on biblical interpretations across time and place, and how they shape and reflect the societies in which they unfold.

“The primary messaging strategy for climate action is to show the urgency of the matter: let’s make it better…or else.” Mikva explains. “But social scientists have demonstrated that, if you tell people that something must be done or we’re all going to die, most people opt for Door #2, however strange that seems. Overwhelming fear tends to distance people from the problem, leading to the same place as denial that we have a problem. Hope is essential.”

Tickets to the online discussion are $18 ($8 for students). For more information, visit spertus.edu/programs-event >


This is the 2020 Norman Asher Memorial Program.


Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership offers dynamic learning opportunities rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life. Public programs—including films, exhibitions, speakers, seminars, workshops, and concerts—take place online, and when safe to do so, at the Institute's Michigan Avenue facility and in the Chicago suburbs.

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020