The passage of the milestone $370 billion climate bill, titled the Inflation Reduction Act in mid-August, is major progress on a policy issue that American Jews rank above all others in recent surveys of voter priorities.
While climate change is not often pegged as a Jewish issue — unlike, for example, abortion or Israel — a set of poll results suggest concern about climate change is nearly a consensus in the Jewish community.
Already eight years ago, a survey from the nonpartisan group Public Religion Research Institute found that a far larger percentage of American Jews believed that climate change was a concern than Americans as a whole do. At the time, an estimated 8 in 10 American Jews said the planet is facing a crisis or a major problem.
It’s not just that Jews find the climate situation alarming because they tend to be liberal, and that liberals are far more likely than conservatives to prioritize the issue. According to recent polling, Jews not only care about climate — they also seem to prioritize it over almost any other issue.
For example, a 2020 election exit survey of 800 Jewish voters by J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, found that climate change ranked second after the COVID-19 pandemic among issues determining who they picked in the presidential contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden
Two subsequent polls added to this impression. In 2021 and 2022, the Jewish Electorate Institute, a group led by prominent Jewish Democrats, conducted national surveys of Jewish voters and found that the top issue they wanted Biden and Congress to focus on was climate change. Voting rights and the economy came in second and third in both cases.
About two years ago, a new group called Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action launched seeking to harness the overwhelming level of worry American Jews seem to have about how greenhouse gas emissions are wreaking havoc on our weather and oceans.
According to Dayenu’s chief strategy officer, Phil Aroneanu, there has long been a widespread desire among Jews to be much more green as individuals, and to organize as Jews for systemic change.
Margery Cooper, a member of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, was inspired to help start one of 80 local Dayenu chapters that now exist around the country and abroad. US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who spearheaded the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, attends services with Cooper as a fellow congregant at Beth Elohim.