Jewish activists are joining with Native American groups to fight climate change and destruction of sacred land

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“Most of the things I’ve done in my life resemble the other things I’ve done in my life,” Charlotte Levinson explained. “But not so with the Stronghold.”

After 30 years at the helm of the Max and Anna Levinson Foundation, she plans to step down next year to turn the reins over to the next generation of leadership. But there’s one project for which she’ll continue to advocate beyond the end of her tenure: Apache Stronghold, led by Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the San Carlos Apaches in Arizona.

The Apache Stronghold, which is a community association promoting neighborhood programs and civic engagement, has been vigorously defending itself against existential threats on two fronts: at their sacred mountain—Mount Graham, or Dzil Nchaa Si An—where the Apaches’ access to the summit has been sometimes curtailed by federal road closures due to the construction of telescopes by the University of Arizona; and at a ceremonial site called Oak Flat where Resolution Copper plans to gouge out one of the world’s largest copper mines.

According to Reuters, the mine “would tunnel 7,000 feet underground, where rocks radiate heat from the earth’s molten core. It would suck up enough water to supply a city and leave a crater a mile and a half wide and 1,000 feet deep.” The contents of that crater would be piled on the surface nearby in a mountain of 1.6 million tons of waste, blighting the landscape in perpetuity.

Mariel Nanasi, Rebecca Sobel, and Charlotte Levinson. (Photo courtesy the author)

The insensitivity to Apache concerns about the destruction of their sacred lands, medicinal plants, and cultural practices over many years has led the Stronghold, perhaps inevitably, to address the larger context of America’s founding with respect to First Peoples—mass extermination and theft of their homelands—and to work for a process of truth and reconciliation.

And that’s something that spoke to Levinson as president of the Max and Anna Levinson Foundation—named for her paternal grandparents, who fled the Holocaust. The philanthropic organization focuses on climate change, strengthening democracy and the free press, bolstering Jewish communal life in the Diaspora, and peace, social, and environmental issues in Israel.

“Germany has many monuments to the Holocaust, but we still haven’t gotten there with respect to the Native genocide,” Levinson said. “Their erasure is still not understood, faced, or in any way confronted in our educational system.”

Read the article in TABLETMAG