Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Adopted by the 107th Annual Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
March, 1996

Background:

At present, our nation's biological diversity is under legislative attack. Measures threatening to dismantle key legislation for endangered species, clean water, clean air, and public lands are presently moving through Congress. Agencies charged with enforcing legislation and regulations protecting biological diversity, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, will face severe budget cuts and limits to their regulatory powers within the next year. If successful, these anti-environmental measures and budget cuts to federal agencies will have serious negative repercussions on all living beings and a particularly destructive impact on endangered animal and plant species.

Protecting endangered plant and animal species has both practical and religious significance for our communities. Maintaining biological diversity directly helps to ensure the public health and beauty of our nation by supplying medicinal ingredients, crops, invaluable natural resources, and indirectly by maintaining precious stable habitats and a healthy environment for generations to come.

Our tradition teaches us to respect and protect nature's diversity as a means of developing a spiritual connection with our Creator, reminding us that, "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness there of" (Psalms 24:1). We are instructed to protect all living beings regardless of their aesthetic beauty-- "Even those things you deem as superfluous, such as fleas, gnats and flies, even these too are purposefully included in the creation of the world." (Genesis Rabbah 10:7)

We are taught to treat all of the Eternal's creations as holy and of intrinsic value-- "Of all that the Holy One, blessed be God, created, nothing was created without purpose."(Shabbat 77b) In fact, we are told in Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) that human beings were not created until the "sixth day so that if so that if our minds become too proud, we could be reminded, 'Even the gnats preceded you in creation.'" The Rambam builds upon this theme, instructing us to value nature, not in relation to human use, but for its own intrinsic worth: "It should not be believed that all the beings exist for the sake of the existence of humanity. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes, and not for the sake of something else." (Guide for the Perplexed).

Thus, we are taught in our tradition not only the ethic of Bal Tashchit, do not waste or destroy, but also to preserve nature. To truly fulfill the obligations of our faith, we must act as stewards of Creation, making its care one of our core responsibilities.

Resolution Whereas Judaism recognizes in its tradition the interdependency between all living beings and holds great reverence for the protection of air, water, and land.

And whereas our environment and all living species have come under persistent and growing threats to their well-being in this previous year in domestic legislation and international treaty making:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

1. Reaffirms our strong commitment to the environment as articulated in its 1983 Resolution on Toxic Waste, 1990 Resolution on the Environment, and 1992 support for the goals of the Rio Biodiversity Conference.

2. Continues to create effective environmental education programs in synagogue schools, camps, and enrichment programs.

3. Renews our religious connection to the environment, by advocating conservation of all animal and plant species by:

A. recognition of the principal role habitat preservation plays in species conservation

B. preservation of threatened species recovery goals and continued listing of Endangered Species by the Secretary of the Interior,

C. maintenance of public lands, parks, and refuges with the original objective of land conservation and public recreation use.

4. Develops ties to other Jewish synagogues, community centers, and non-Jewish organizations in our communities to develop an effective community response to local environmental problems.