Open Letter to President Obama

12/07/2009 05:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Mr. President,

For full disclosure, I voted for you, I worked hard to get you elected and I believe in your vision. As you came into office, I celebrated with my young children, twins age 8, that you could be a transformational and truly visionary leader, a man who had the capacity to lead our nation, and our world, into a new and more prosperous time. I still believe that. And even as you made the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, which I wish had not happened, I continue to trust you and your decisions. I know that you want peace, seek peace and desire peace, so I imagine that sending more troops into war was a painful choice. I hope it was the right one. However, this letter is not about Afghanistan, Mr. President. It is not about the economy or healthcare or education or immigration, all issues that are pressing. Rather, it is about the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen. To me, this is the most pressing and crucial issue of our time, one that is most critical to my children.

Reading the Los Angeles Times opinion page this Sunday morning, there were several short essays by leading experts as to what needs to be accomplished at Copenhagen. While most of them agreed that nothing substantial would emerge in terms of policy, which is a sad commentary in itself, one thing really grabbed my attention. They all referenced, either directly or indirectly, the fact that climate change is the main crisis of our time, one that will greatly affect our children and grandchildren. My Jewish beliefs, and the heart of my faith, teach me that my actions can and will affect my children; the decisions I make today cannot be seen as solely mine alone, for they have the capacity to radically alter the world which my children will inherit. My belief in God is grounded in the notion that we are partners with God, charged with the sacred obligation to be God's hands in our world, bringing the holiness and hope that we pray for in our daily services. In fact, two thousand years ago, the ancient rabbis understood this when they taught that if we destroy our world, there will be nobody after us to take care of it.

Mr. President, I urge you to go to Copenhagen and recapture the spirit of audacity and hope that you bred in all of us during the campaign, and do the unimaginable: say that we are going to combat global climate change today, right now, and America will be the leader. There should be no obstacle in our way: not money (we spend trillions on war and defense without blinking an eye), not fear of other nations not joining us, not waiting for others to step up. Now is the time, sir, and as one of your ardent supporters, I hope that you use your profound influence to make the commitments needed to stop the madness, change course and save our planet, for my children and yours. One of the more salient points made in the editorials today was that there is such a lack of trust between nations and nobody is willing to step forward for fear of being burned. We all share this Earth, the air, the oceans, the water and the pollution, yet we know that some of the smaller, poorer and more vulnerable nations might not only suffer, but could actually disappear, if we do nothing. I voted for you because you called for a better world, a more unified world, a more compassionate world. How can we stand idly by and watch as whole peoples might be eradicated because we want to drive our cars as much as we want, run our air conditioning as much as we want, consume as much as we want? Just as we had the capacity to bring about this destruction, we have the capacity to save ourselves: convert our country to renewable energy, solar and wind; demand that cars produced are electric or hybrids; help other nations do the same. That is money well spent, and I would pay more taxes for you to do it. And I believe millions of other Americans would too. Do more than show up at Copenhagen and hope for the best, Mr. President. This is the defining moral issue of our time. Lead the world and save our planet. That is why you won the Nobel Peace Prize. I stand behind you and await your great leadership in the coming days, months and years ahead.

In gratitude and with deep respect,

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater