Passover and the Clean Air Act
Joel Simonds is the Assistant Rabbi at University Synagogue in Los Angeles, CA. Ordained from the Hebrew Union College in 2009, he is passionate about Spirituality and Social Justice and serves on the National Board of ARZA. Cambria Gordon is the co-author of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the Natural Resources Defense Council and is a trustee at University Synagogue.
During our Passover Seder, we retell the Story of our redemption from slavery to freedom. As the seder draws to an end, we run to the door, open it wide and welcome the Prophet Elijah who ushers in the messianic age when all men and women can truly live and breathe a life of freedom. When that door opens wide we literally receive a breath of fresh air. Our bodies are cooled with the breeze that comes with the symbols of hope and redemption.
Yet this Passover, as we open our doors for the breath of messianic hope, we do so with caution and fear. Because Elijah is bringing something else in from the outside. Despair. The air that we breathe on this Passover is the air of freedom, yet that freedom that we fought for is slowly slipping away.
In 1971, Congress passed the Clean Air Act. For 40 years, the Clean Air Act has saved tens of thousands of lives and improved the quality of life for millions more.
-By reducing heart disease and asthma attacks through smog pollution standards.
-By restricting lead levels which affect children so precipitiously.
-By regulating global warming emissions from cars, trucks, and power plants.
It is a success story that has not only saved lives, it has saved money. Independent analysis by the White House Office of Management and Budget concluded that between 1992 and 2002, the Clean Air Act saved Americans between $121 billion and $193 billion.
But after 40 years, it is under attack. At the time of this writing, a number of different amendments are up for vote as early as today that will block or delay the EPA from implementing greenhouse gas regulations and protecting public health. These amendments are being attached to a small business bill in hopes that people won't notice. But guess what? We're noticing. And we want you to tell your representatives that you notice, too. Email or call your representatives letting them know that you want them to vote down anything that rolls back the power of the EPA. (For more ideas on how to take action, see this alert from the Natural Resources Defense Council)
As we open the door for the Prophet Elijah we know that we cannot simply wait for the messianic age, but we have to open the door for justice and work every day to bring it closer.
If we only read the word of the Haggadah, then we will miss the essence of the Passover message. Passover is not about a story that happened thousands of years ago; its about the story that happens every day. It's the story of injustice and the brave few who will stand up and lend their voices. This Passover, lets stand up and protect environmental justice.
When Israel was in Egypt's Land, Moses cried out, "Let my people go!"
Now that we are in a Free Person's Land, let us cry out, "Let our clean air flow!"
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is responsible for implementing the Clean Air Act must be allowed to do its job.
Let us welcome in The Prophet Elijah, not as our savior but as our partner. We cannot wait for the day when our environment will be as pure as the Garden of Eden, we have to work together to make it pure.