Inspiration from the past powers climate action in Ann Arbor

Inspiration from the Past Powers Climate Action in Ann Arbor

First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor members Ruth Mohr and Sandy Simon present a Climate Hero Award to Ed Lynn in December 2022. Read more stories of Climate Heroes here.

When Don Levitt learned that over 50% of people in Washtenaw County "rarely or never" talked about the climate crisis (see the Yale Climate Opinion maps), he realized that he could do something to change that. 


This statistic, shared by Michigan IPL Executive Director Leah Wiste during a 2021 webinar, was startling to Don Levitt, member of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor. Don and the other members of his temple’s Dayenu Circle recognized that if people are not even talking about climate change, then they are very unlikely to be taking action to address it.  Since then, the team at Temple Beth Emeth (TBE) has been on a mission to get folks talking and acting. 

TBE is now spearheading an 8-congregation partnership to recognize and celebrate local "Climate Heroes" and is gearing up for the first ever "A2 Climate Teach In": 

WHAT: A2 Climate Teach-In (info and registration)
WHEN: Sunday, May 7, 2023 from 1:30-5pm
WHERE: Genesis of Ann Arbor (2309 Packard St.)

The biggest threat to our future is thinking that someone else will lead-- that someone else will solve the climate crisis. -A2 Climate Teach-In website

Propelled by a feeling of helplessness regarding environmental decline, Don Levitt believes in the power of getting together with others in a faith-based community created opportunities to learn, share and strategize together with a common goal. Dayenu Circles, like a Green Team, are a group of people working on climate issues and are a way to make powerful, positive change by mobilizing Jewish values and community. The word dayenu is translated from Hebrew to English as "enough."

Seeing this lack of dialogue in Washtenaw County as a problem to be addressed, the Temple Beth Emeth team sought to increase discussion and create inspiration through the innovative act of locating local climate role models.  This idea took the form of finding everyday people who were making strides in environmental change to highlight and share with the Ann Arbor community.  The result was Climate Heroes. Climate Heroes are  people, without status, accomplishment, or stature, who serve the community in a way that brings about positive climate change. In launching Climate Heroes, the Dayenu Circle saw great value in the contributions of others in their Ann Arbor community, and successfully created a collaborative involving eight area congregations.  The result is now a climate based educational website, a monthly ad in the Ann Arbor Observer featuring the Hero of the Month, and a Facebook page for further inspiration, conversation and sharing. Be inspired and find out more by checking out the Climate Heroes website here.

A central principle of Judaism, Tikkun Olam, means "save and protect the world." This is a part of our faith. -Don Levitt, member of Temple Beth Emeth's Dayenu Circle

As this eight-congregation collaborative proceeded to look for more ways to live into their convictions regarding environmental education, inspiration came from the University of Michigan, in the unlikely year of 1965. Out of a need to combat the misinformation and lack of information regarding the Vietnam War, professors and students planned and implemented what came to be known as a Teach-In. 

The First Annual A2 Climate Teach-In builds on this legacy by addressing another critical issue which has been clouded by misinformation and lack of action. The 2023 Ann Arbor Teach-In will provide opportunity for attendees to become informed and find ways to engage in action towards the common goal of positive climate change. The first annual Climate Teach-In will feature Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor as a keynote speaker and will provide breakout sessions on the following topics:

  • What and How We Eat
  • A Zero Waste Lifestyle and the Circular Economy
  • Government Support to Help You Go Green
  • How Your Green Teams Can Take Action
  • Local Advocacy Opportunities Local Climate Justice

Teach-In attendees will have the opportunity to network with local climate action organizations, including Michigan IPL’s own Jennifer Young, and to learn how we can do things on our own, with others, and to advocate for those who are most affected by climate issues. We hope to see you there!

By the end of 2023, statistics about the number of people discussing climate issues will have changed for the better in Washtenaw County and, as a result, people will take action to address climate issues.

In the words of Don Levitt: "One person cannot do this alone. We need to collaborate to get things done." Congregations, inspired by their faith, have the ability to collaborate, open dialogue, and join with others who are also saying "Enough!"