St. Louis-born ‘scuba diving rabbi’ is working to save the seas –


Dan Buffa, Special for Jewish Light

“People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they are taught.” ”

– Jacques Cousteau

According to Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, it is a simple fact. The ocean is dying. And if the ocean dies, we die. The St. Louis native is working to start a movement with his organization repair the sea and he wants your attention.

“For thousands of years, people have viewed the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers as an endless cornucopia. Because water is so readily available to us, we don’t give it a second thought. twice,” Rosenthal said. “The reality is that the degradation of the marine environment is one of the greatest existential threats to the future of humanity and the planet.”

Ed Rosenthal becomes rabbi

Caring about something deeply and passionately comes naturally to Rosenthal. Even when considering a career in music, the call to become a rabbi was something that stuck with him.

“My family was very involved in Temple Israel. When I was a kid, I used to blow the Shofar on major holidays, and Rabbi Alvin Rubin would tell me I was going to be a rabbi,” Rosenthal recounted. “My dream was to be a musician, but I realized in college that I wasn’t good enough to do it professionally. When I came home for spring break in my sophomore year, I went to talk to Rabbi Rubin about it. His response was ‘See. I told you you would be a rabbi. And he was right.


Stewardship of the marine environment and the care it needs has been something Rosenthal has been passionate about for 40 years.

Born in 1960 and raised in landlocked St. Louis, Rosenthal attended Parkway Central High School. Rosenthal says his passion for the marine environment can only be attributed to watching “The Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau” and reruns of “Sea Hunt” as a child.

When he was 16, he asked his parents if he could learn to dive. His mother’s response was, “If God wanted humans to be underwater, he would have given us gills.

So it was only while hiking during his first year of rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, that he had the chance to snorkel at Sharm el-Sheik, a resort Egyptian seaside resort between the Sinai Peninsula desert and the Red Sea.

“I was overwhelmed with awe and wonder of the depths,” Rosenthal said.

Tikun Hayam

Tikkun HaYam translates to “repairing the sea”, which is based on the Jewish principle tikkum olam (fix the world).

“The creation of Repair the Sea came after watching the decline of the world’s marine environment for decades and realizing that the Jewish community wasn’t even thinking about it, let alone taking any action,” Rosenthal said. . “I confess that I am ethnocentric. I believe that when Jews get involved in any issue, substantial change takes place.

Ensuring this change takes place is Repair the Sea’s mission: to share the spiritual wonders of the sea from a Jewish perspective and to raise awareness and encourage action to address the many threats to the seas.

“I believe when the Jewish community gets involved to protect water, we will make a difference,” Rosenthal said. “We just need to step up. There are many ways to make a difference, but it requires changes in our behavior, both individually and institutionally.

Reverse Tashlich

In 2016, Tikkun HaYam launched its largest shoreline cleanup, called Reverse Tashlich, a play about the ceremony of casting sins into water performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. For Tikkun HaYam, it means a chance to get things out of the sea.

“Imagine if the entire Jewish community went out and cleared debris from the waterfront areas around St. Louis,” Rosenthal said. “Not only would we be making a difference, but we would also be making a statement. If there are any synagogues or day schools in St. Louis that use single-use plastic products, our blue/green initiative can help them switch from plastic to easily compostable cutlery and plates.

In 2021, more than 2,000 people came together at 170 sites in 18 countries to clean up their local environment. This year’s event is scheduled for October 3. As of this writing, there are no events scheduled for the St. Louis area.

Repair The Sea is located in Tampa, Florida, but there are plenty of ways to get involved. For more information, visit their website.


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