YPCCC Partnerships: Interview with Dahlia Rockowitz from Dayenu

Founded in 2020, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, is a spiritually-rooted,  multi-generational movement of American Jews advocating for climate justice. Through the network of local Dayenu Circles across the United States, Dayenu mobilizes and trains the Jewish community and takes action to advance bold solutions to the climate crisis. Dayenu works with other organizations–within and beyond the Jewish community– to uplift the voices of American Jews. 

Julia Lin from YPCCC’s Partnerships Program had the opportunity to sit down with Dahlia Rockowitz, Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Dayenu, to learn more about Dayenu’s climate communications, advocacy work, and partnership with YPCCC.

Julia: Thank you so much for speaking with us today. To start off the interview, I would love to know more about what led you here today. Can you introduce yourself and tell me about your role at Dayenu?

Dahlia: My name is Dahlia Rockowitz and I am the Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Dayenu. Dayenu is a spiritually-rooted, multi-generational movement of American Jews advocating for climate justice. Dayenu is less than 4 years old, so it is a fairly new organization. I have been with Dayenu for just over 3 years. I first got involved in environmental work working as an advocate for international development and natural resource issues. Recognizing that my faith was a big part of my identity, I spent 7 years at that Jewish social justice organization. Then, I received my Masters degree in environmental justice and policy from the University of Michigan. Most recently, I worked at the Climate Reality Project, where I planned various activist trainings. My experience is at the cross section of climate, education, organizing, campaigning and policy advocacy.

Julia: Could you tell me more about how you got introduced to climate work?  

Dahlia: The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions have been emitted during my lifetime, and I live in the country that is the largest historic emitter. Knowing this and that I wanted to make a difference, I realized that campaigning and advocacy was where I could contribute to the larger climate movement. I am also a firm believer of starting within your own community. Coming to Dayenu was a chance for me to help my Jewish community show up as part of the broader climate movement.  

Julia: I am excited to hear that you are trying to uplift your own community. To transition to Dayenu’s work, could you tell me more about Dayenu and the role it plays in the broader climate landscape?

Dahlia: Last year, the Public Religion Research Institute published a report called The Faith Factor in Climate Change: How Religion Impacts American Attitudes on Climate and Environmental Policy. This report – and a similar one a decade earlier — showed that American Jews, out of all faith groups, are the most likely to see climate change as a crisis. Yet, in the past, climate action was not central to Jewish life, nor seen as a core Jewish issue. Dayenu aims to mobilize what had previously been an unmobilized base, and help Jewish communities become more active in climate action. 

All of Dayenu’s work is rooted in the Jewish spirit. Using Jewish wisdom, rituals, music, and arts, we provide pathways for people to confront the hard feelings associated with the climate crisis and move to active hope. Through Jewish spirit, we can support and mobilize American Jews to confront the reality of the climate crisis. 

Through spiritual audacity and bold political action, Dayenu is building the Jewish climate movement, bringing American Jews off the sidelines, and engaging them in the climate fight. We are providing people with resources, training them, and mobilizing them to take collective action. We focus on systemic action by participating in campaigns to change policy, elect climate champions, and end our economy’s reliance on fossil fuels. To win a livable future, it is going to take all of us, all our gifts, and all our power! 

Julia: It is great that Dayenu is bridging the gap between climate and faith-based advocacy! You mentioned that Dayenu’s focus is on spiritual audacity and bold political action. How does a supporter get involved with your focus areas?

Dahlia: There are a few different entry points for people who are interested in getting involved with Dayenu. We host spiritual adaptation workshops for people of all ages, which are offered virtually and in-person. This 2 hour workshop focuses on confronting feelings of grief and anxiety in order to move towards climate action. We also run a virtual, climate organizing training called Taking Down Goliath for young people. During the training, we equip people with the necessary tools to take down the Goliath of the climate crisis– which, for Dayenu, are fossil fuel companies. Additionally, we have Dayenu Circles, and host regular Dayenu Circle Interest Meetings. Dayenu Circles are smaller groups of people working on climate action. In addition to participating in Dayenu campaigns, these regional groups can do their own policy, advocacy and organizing work. To learn more about these and other opportunities, visit Dayenu’s website to sign-up for updates or reach out to us directly at info@dayenu.org. 

Julia: In terms of the partnership between YPCCC and Dayenu, I was wondering how Dayenu has used the resources that YPCCC has provided. How have our strategic communication resources helped Dayenu’s efforts thus far?

Dahlia: We used YPCCC’s resources to support our Chutzpah campaign, which is our Get Out the Vote campaign. In order to identify climate Alarmed voters who had a high probability of identifying as a person of faith, we used YPCCC’s Alarmed microtargeting model available on the Catalist database and applied it to the voter files. YPCCC’s model helped us identify a segment of voters that were uniquely positioned to vote. 

Additionally, we have used key statistics from YPCCC’s Climate Change in the American Mind: Politics & Policy, Fall 2023 study to inform our work and educate our base of volunteers about policy awareness. 

What Dayenu has found insightful is that the study found that 63% of Americans have heard little or nothing about the Inflation Reduction Act and its benefits. Yet, the study also found that after reading a brief description of the law, 71% of respondents who were registered voters said that they would support the Inflation Reduction Act. These statistics helped us recognize that our friends, family, and neighbors are in the dark about these incredible investments and opportunities. If we can ensure people know these investments are actually reaching communities and yielding tangible benefits, more supporters will come aboard to champion ambitious climate action. These key insights encouraged Dayenu to lean into the education and storytelling side of our current campaign, A Time To Build

Julia: To transition to climate communications, how has Dayenu used climate communications to engage its base? Could you tell me more about what Dayenu does that other climate communicators could learn from.  

Dahlia: People are familiar with climate change as a concept. We learn about it in school, read about it in the news, and experience extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. In terms of climate communication, however, what we find is that it is less about persuading, and more about explaining opportunities to people about what their role is or could be to give them an entry point for climate action. For Dayenu’s base, we already know that American Jews are concerned about the climate crisis. Using climate change communication, we try to find ways to reach their head, reach their heart, and move them into action. 

At Dayenu, we really lean into Jewish concepts and the Jewish calendar. We help people draw the connections between some of these universal human concerns that we experience with the climate crisis, urgency and hope across generations, courageous leadership, and bold collective power. For example, we refer to this idea of L’dor Vador, which means “from generation to generation.” We use this idea as a way to emphasize the existential threat of the climate crisis. We look into the past, to our ancestors, and the resilience of past generations. We also look forward to what our obligation is to future generations. We make these connections to the climate crisis and hopefully inspire people to get involved. 

In terms of what other climate communicators could learn from, it is important to recognize that everyone is able to contribute a unique perspective in the rich and diverse climate movement.  For Dayenu, something that we uniquely can offer is our Jewish perspective, our Jewish history, our Jewish text. When we think about our climate communications, we think about our unique gifts and the power that we can bring. With everyone bringing their unique perspectives to their respective communities and constituencies, we will have the power to win! 

Julia: A lot of Dayenu’s work sounds like relational organizing, where you build a movement through your own networks. When you are building a narrative of hope and joy, bringing in the values of the Jewish community is a great way to organize people and their networks to take climate action. Has there been a surprising discovery for you when working on climate communications or organizing around climate?

Dahlia: One thing that has been exciting is how Dayenu has been able to grow both as an organization and in terms of our reach within a short period of time. We noticed that people are waiting for that invitation. They want to know what they can do to help. It is on us to go and organize them. It is powerful to tell people that there is something they can do right now, together. Our collective impact will be stronger than each of us as individuals. We have found that when we provide that invitation, plenty of people raise their hand and say, I’m in.

Julia: I love hearing about how Dayenu already has a strong foundation of people waiting to be invited into the movement! To end, how do you remain hopeful and inspired to build public will in the climate movement? 

Dahlia: When I look from the bottom up, I am really hopeful. I see so many committed people  stretching themselves and willing to move into action. They are willing to hold their elected officials and corporate executives accountable. Even just taking action instills a greater sense of hope because you know that you are moving towards the future that you want, regardless of what the outcome is. This is also where music, arts, and community building comes together. 

Dayenu recognizes that we need music, culture, and arts in the climate movement. The movement is supposed to focus on community building and joy. Even when the work is really hard, knowing that you are a part of a community is a really great way to reframe and capture the sense of possibility. At Dayenu, we motivate our supporters by reminding them that there have been existential crises before, which our ancestors have overcome, and we too can overcome this climate emergency. 

Thank you to Dahlia Rockowitz and Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action for their time, ongoing partnership with YPCCC, and important work in the climate space.