Jane Goodall speaks at Beth El Synagoge

Meredith Gallagher

In 1960, a young British woman, accompanied by her mother, stepped onto the grassy planes of Tanzania. Jane Goodall, 27 at the time, was given six months and limited funds to observe a group of Chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park. Now, 50 years later, Dr. Jane Goodall has spread her inspiring message about awareness throughout the world.

One of her most recent stops on her journey across the globe was at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park on Monday, April 19 in a lecture sponsored by the Minnesota Zoo, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Beth El Synagogue. Titled “A Reason for Hope,” the lecture was an inspiring message about hope for the future of humanity and the animal kingdom. “Being with Jane Goodall is like a walk with Gandhi,” the Boston Herald wrote, and after listening to her speak, no audience could leave the room unchanged.

From the beginning of her speech–a spot-on impersonation of a chimpanzee pant-hoot, the greeting call of the primates–to the end, where Goodall introduced the audience to her famous, stuffed animal, Mr. H, Goodall’s soft British accent kept the packed synagogue captivated. She talked about her experience with the chimps–about their behavior, about studying them at the Gombe Stream, about her discovery that chimps knew how to construct simple tools—but her most important message was that we as people are all responsible for our environment.

Possibly no one else is as good an example of her message than Goodall herself. She started the Jane Goodall Institute–an organization that works to spread awareness of and conduct non-invasive research on chimpanzees–but most importantly, Goodall has shown that as humans, we have a responsibility to each other.

One of her most successful examples of this is a program she created called TACARE which aims to educate the impoverished people living around the Gombe Stream National Park on more efficient farming methods and proactive family planning. According to Goodall, she couldn’t reasonably work to save the Chimpanzees in the forest while the people who lived around it were starving.