Wednesday’s Climate Action Rally, hosted at Fountain Square, would have been incomplete without matzah.
Participants clutched pieces of the Jewish flatbread while demanding that Chase Bank, located across the street, divest from fossil fuels and strive for zero emissions.
The unleavened bread, which is part of the annual Seder service, symbolizes urgency, a feeling that also characterizes the need for climate action, said attendee Sally Nador, a member of Congregation Hakafa.
The bread’s symbolism is derived from its origins, which, according to legend followed the Hebrew exodus from Egypt, which was so hurried it left the bread no time to rise, Nador said.
Nador was joined by nearly 30 other people, including Jewish community members, climate advocates, Jewish allies and the rally’s organizers, leaders at Evanston Beth Emet Dayenu Circle and the Makom Solel Lakeside Synagogue in Highland Park.
“Move your dough!” rally participants cried, alluding to the matzah in their hands, but also to the billions of dollars they said Chase Bank invests in fossil fuels.
Chase Bank must join the fight for a more sustainable future, said one of the rally’s speakers, Hannah Rumsey.
Rumsey said when she was a child first hearing about the climate crisis, she felt unimportant and powerless. It wasn’t until she learned about the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg that she realized young people can be powerful and that they have a right to be angry, she said.
“We can roll over and give up, or we can come here together and refuse to stand idly by as the climate crisis gets dire,” said Rumsey.
Shortly before Chase Bank closed around 5 p.m., Rumsey and Nador entered the bank to deliver the branch manager a letter, addressed to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer.
The letter asked Dimon to take action and live up to the climate commitments made by Chase Bank.
Although the branch manager was not present, another individual employed by the bank’s management company promised to pass on the letter.
Nador explained that the Jewish faith values action rather than intent or belief, and this is why the Jewish community strives for events like public demonstrations to bring attention to issues.
A Jewish commitment to immediate climate action is also exemplified by several key principles, said Sharon Smaller, a leader at Beth Emet Dayenu Circle.
One of these key values is, “tikkun olam,” or “world repair,” she said. Another, is “L’dor v’dor,” which means “from generation to generation.” This value highlights the need to leave the world in a good condition so the next generation can thrive, Smaller said.
Dayenu leaders across the country are leading similar rallies outside the branches or offices of seven corporations, called the “The Schmutzy Sheva,” meaning “the dirty seven,” which have invested trillions of dollars in fossil fuels.
The Dirty Seven consists of four banks – Chase Bank, CitiGroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America – and three asset managers – BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street.
The rallies are occurring around Passover because the holiday symbolizes renewal, Smaller said.
One of the attendees, Madeline Amonick, a Social Justice Fellow at Northwestern Hillel, said the rally helped unite members of the Jewish community who are passionate about climate justice and helped spread the key values that push for action.
“We can come together to feel more grounded in our efforts to demand action from people in charge,” Amonick said.