A new organisation has been formed called Eco Synagogue, stemming from Eco Church. Launched on Tu B’Shevat, it was created to help synagogues become more environmentally friendly, in areas such as solar panels; double glazing; switching to green energy suppliers; using Fairtrade tea and coffee; environmentally friendly, organic foods and any other initatives that can help improve the environment. The launch was introduced by Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and featured JVS patron Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg discussing environmental issues with former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.
Any synagogue which joins the scheme gets advice and a certificate. Depending on its activities, it can be awarded either a bronze, silver or gold plaque. Synagogues could follow Israel’s example of solar water heaters on all new roofs, which save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. A synagogue could plant a tree in its grounds or nearby to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It could be planted, or at least dedicated, on Tu B’Shevat, possibly with a plaque saying why it was planted. Another recommendation is to change to a green energy supplier to offset climate change and its harmful effects. Leviticus chapter 26, verse 3-4 tell us “if you observe my decrees and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce…” Although it is not only environmental laws we should keep, they are part of the picture. The rest of chapter 26 gives warnings on what will happen to the environment if we become lax.
A synagogue could install double glazing. This reduces the amount of energy needed for heating, and in so doing reduces the number of damaging greenhouse gases released in to the atmosphere. In Genesis chapter 2, verse 15 it says, “the Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Not only would you be taking care of it, but you save money on heating and create a warmer place for those who don’t like the cold.
Another initiative that is being encouraged is choosing to stock Fairtrade tea and coffee, thereby paying a just and fair price to producers in developing countries. As it says in Proverbs chapter 16, verse 8, “better a little through righteousness than much produce without justice.”
A synagogue could increase the number of organic and plant-based foods on its premises at communal events. As it says in Genesis chapter 1, verse29, our food shall be “all herbage yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed yielding fruit, it shall be yours for food.” The first kosher diet was a vegan one. Its ecological low carbon footprint has made it even more revelant in today’s much more heavily populated world. For more information, go to www.ecosynagogue.org.
Written by JVS member Jonathan Fitter, photo by Ian Morris.