Central Conference of American Rabbis Supports Standing Rock Sioux Indians and Climate Justice

Monday, October 31, 2016


The Central Conference of American Rabbis opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline, and in particular to its route that threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Indian community and its sacred burial place. Reform rabbis have called for climate justice repeatedly over the decades, most recently in 2015, and have long supported the rights of Native American Indians and particularly expressed sensitivity for their burial sites.

The initial environmental assessment of the pipeline was determined to be a threat to the drinking water of the predominantly white residents of Bismarck.  Building that same dangerous pipeline within a half-mile of the tribal lands, with the same threat to drinking water, is emblematic of climate injustice in America and around the world.  If the pipeline is a risk to the mostly white residents of Bismarck, it is also a risk to the minority and poor residents of Standing Rock.

Moreover, the pipeline threatens to cross through lands the tribe has held sacred, including burial sites.  In Judaism, we take the command of kibud haMeit, honoring the dead, very seriously.  We know that pain of losing our ancestral burial sites and will not remain silent while this crime is perpetrated upon a Sioux community. 

Reform rabbis are equally disturbed by the response to the protest.  Some protesters are reporting being housed in mesh dog kennels with no bedding or furniture.  They claim they have been pelted with rubber bullets and had mace sprayed in their faces.  The charge that authorities are writing numbers on prisoners’ arms brings up painful images of the Holocaust.  While the majority of protesters have been prayerful and peaceful, in those rare instances where safety is called into question, we expect that those arrested will be treated with the respect that should be afforded to one made in the image of God.

Within the last week, Jews around the world read the story of creation as told in the Torah.  We are reminded that we are all one human family. We are commanded to take responsibility for preserving God’s creation.  The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the environment and violates the human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian residents.

In Leviticus 19:16 we are commanded, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” This pipeline is threatening the health and well-being of the residents of Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation; it poses unacceptable potential danger to our environment; it endangers the life giving water of the Missouri River; and it risks desecration of sacred burial places. We will not stand idly by; we stand with the protesters and reject the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger                         Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President                                          Chief Executive

      Central Conference of American Rabbis