A new initiative to help shuls go green has been launched on the eve of Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year of Trees, when Jews are encouraged to get together and plant.
More than 150 people gathered to launch Eco Synagogue at New North London Synagogue (NNLS), billed as a ground-breaking cross-communal initiative to help shuls across the country become more environmentally sustainable.
Attendees represented more than 20 different synagogues across all denominations, as well as former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who helped launch a similar initiative for churches two years ago.
Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of NNLS said he was thrilled that the founding members of Eco Synagogue represented the breadth of the Jewish community, adding: “The environment affects all of us. Sacrifice is needed and we as a community need to change our ways”.
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of Alyth gave an overview of Eco Synagogue and said: “We are investing in community building and Eco Synagogue will provide a blueprint for Synagogues to meet their environmental responsibilities.”
The project has been developed by A Rocha UK, whose Eco Church programme now has more than 500 churches involved, and among the shuls signing up are Finchley Progressive Synagogue, Finchley Reform Synagogue, NNLS, Muswell Hill Synagogue and Alyth Synagogue.
Eco Synagogue has been endorsed by the Board of Deputies and operates through an online survey which assesses synagogues’ activities, the energy-efficiency of their buildings and how they tend any land they own or care for.
Other considerations include any environmental impact of food served at events, the extent to which ecological principles are reinforced, and how members can be encouraged to become more environmentally responsible.
Participants were served organic fruit and drinks in reusable cups, with early adopting shuls applying for food waste recycling, switching to renewable energy providers, creating green travel plans, becoming affiliates of energy schemes that raise funding to invest in green projects, and establishing a regular series of farmers markets to promote organic and sustainable produce.