Jewish Ecological Thought: Lessons from Zazu Dreams

Cara Judea Alhadeff

About Cara Judea Alhadeff

I am an independent scholar, lecturer, performer, freelance writer, community activist, educator, and mother creating collective alternatives to what I call “petroleum-parenting.” My environmental justice work and daily life weave many forms of educational-action—both deeply personal and political (ranging from Jews-Of-Color education, reproductive justice, affordable/creative housing, social permaculture, body awareness, anti-racism coalitional work while resisting green colonialism). My collaborative Jewish, climate justice performance work mobilizes layered possibilities for creativity and vulnerability as personal and cultural healing. I offer my daily life as a model for resisting white dominant/industrialized, petroleum-pharmaceutical convenience culture.I did my doctoral work in Sephardic histories and social ecology, and have published dozens of books and essays on Jewish philosophy, climate justice, interfaith spirituality, performance studies, and ethnic studies. My photographs/performance-videos are in private and public collections including MoMASalzburg and SanFrancisco MoMA, and have been defended internationally by freedom-of-speech organizations. Alongside Vandana Shiva and Desmond Tutu, I received the Random Kindness Award, 2020. Former professor at UC Santa Cruz and Global Center for Advanced Studies and Program Director for Jews Of The Earth, I teach, perform, and parent a creative-zero-waste life. I live with my husband, Wild Menagerie and our son, Zazu, in a biocentric-art-installation converted school bus.

About Jewish Ecological Thought: Lessons from Zazu Dreams

I wrote a cross-cultural, intergenerational book about Jewish histories, climate justice, interracial families, love, and deep science. Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, A Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era unravels our climate crisis as it celebrates our interconnectedness through Sephardic wisdom traditions, economic, literary, environmental science, and Jewish historical resources. Zazu Dream explores the multiplicity of ethnic identities across the Jewish diaspora as well as principles found in Jewish languages, symbols, festivals, liturgy, life-cycle markers, and discussions of Torah as antidotes to our industrial-waste consumer culture. When asked his religion, Einstein replied: “Mosaic.” This commitment to unity in diversity is rooted in Zazu Dreams’ process of storytelling in which ambiguity is not a lack of clarity, but offers multiple clarities in order to confront contemporary ecological and humanitarian crises. It echoes the living pluralism implied in Elu V’Elu Divrei Elohim Chayim (These and These are the Words of the Living God), and Shivim Panim La’Torah (Multiple Perspectives Can Co-Exist), and Ribui HaShalom (The Multiplicity of Truths). These layered relationships can generate spiritual intelligence, guiding us to unlearn what we think we know, while learning love along the way.It explores contemporary manifestations of erasing cultural difference and ecosystem diversity. Zazu, the protagonist shares: “I understood more and more that there was so much work to be done; that the only way to heal ethnic and racial divisions and the ecology of our global body is to see how we are all intermeshed. We all have to take care of each other.” Zazu Dreams crosses the border between diasporic identities with environmental action. Lush illustrations and encyclopedic endnotes explore the intersections between the sciences and humanities. Intended to ignite dialogue and collective action, Zazu Dreams is a combination of magical realism and an interdisciplinary environmental-science resource guide.