Deb Kolodny: Recognizing a Climate Catastrophe

"We also need to talk about climate refugees ... Because at this point, disaster isn’t just coming. Disaster is here."
By | Apr 16, 2024
JPVP 2024
Deb Kolodny

This interview is part of Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project. To learn more about the project, click here. To see our other participants, click here. To see all posts from Deb, click here.

Age: 63
Occupation: Consultant and Freelance Rabbi

Location: Amherst, MA
Party Registration: Democrat
Jewish Denomination: Jewish Renewal
2020 Vote: Joe Biden
Current 2024 Vote: Joe Biden
Family: Married
News Sources: NPR, BBC, MSNBC, Ha’Aretz, The Daily Beast, The Forward, Social media, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian

What issues are you concerned about?

I feel blessed in terms of our politics here in Massachusetts, and I feel safe here in a way I did not in Oregon. Abortion rights and getting some federal legislation passed to protect the bodily autonomy of those who have uteruses, that’s salient. LGBTQI+ rights, specifically trans rights, is a huge issue here. Police accountability, which is not so much a federal issue, is also important.

I think we need to talk not just about climate catastrophe, mitigation, consciousness and action, but we also need to talk about climate refugees (when I mention this to people their ears perk up). Because at this point, disaster isn’t just coming. Disaster is here. We can mitigate the potentially worst impacts, but we need to recognize that Western Massachusetts happens to be a place that would be a climate refuge. 

Do you think Biden’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war will hurt him, particularly with the American left?

I’m really worried about that. Obviously, Michigan is a key swing state. So the damage is quantifiable and obvious and historically obvious. I think the anger of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans and the leftists Americans who want this war to end is legit.

What kind of overall impact has the October 7 attack had on you politically? 

Like every other Jew and probably Palestinian, I’ve been in a state of mourning since October 7. In the classic stages of mourning, the first stage is abject, utter grief, wailing, and an incapacity to think or speak. And I would say that state endured in my soul for ten days after October 7.

So now the grief from the October 7 massacre has merged with grief at Israel’s response, which I do believe is grotesque overreach. It’s a perfectly wonderful idea to want to eliminate Hamas leadership, but if you eliminate the current leadership, other leadership will emerge. It’s not Hamas in Palestinian Gaza that is the problem—there’s a whole global Islamic fundamentalist world that supports it. 

I asked myself, is this false binary that’s driving our perceptions of what’s happening in Israel-Palestine—this anti-Zionist versus Zionist binary—productive in the least? Every anti-Zionist and Zionist I know wants to end the occupation, end the settlements, make reparations to Palestinians and create sustainable long-term peace and justice for everybody who’s living in that land. 

The meme-ification is horrific. I’ve lost friends on the left who were posting lies. To me, there’s enough horror to pin on the current Israeli government that you don’t have to make stuff up. You don’t have to say that Jews are not indigenous to the land. There’s dual indigeneity. That’s the truth.

And while I want to see a cease-fire, I’m not holding up a sign that says “cease-fire now.” I say, return the hostages, return the political prisoners, cease-fire, disarm Hamas.

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