Muswell Hill Synagogue goes green: Eco-Synagogue programme is faith response to climate crisis

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue - Credit: Archant

The Climate Crisis doesn’t stop at the doors of a synagogue.

For Muswell Hill's Rabbi David Mason and campaigning congregant Judith Devons, the last year has been about using the tight-knit community to make a difference locally.

The Eco-Synagogue scheme, inspireed by the similar Eco-Church programme, aims to get synagogues to more involved in environmentalism, as "a response to the Jewish community's desire to become more environmentally responsible".

Rabbi Mason told this newspaper what it entails.

He said: "It's to give a platform for congregants to address what they do in terms of the environment - I am on the steering committee and we are heavily involved in it. It's about bringing back lots of ideas into the community."

The rabbi said that a cautious start earlier this year had led to a number of changes at the synagogue - including getting rid of single-use plastics and making sure recycling is maximised.

The synagogue has been awarded its bronze Eco-Synagogue award, and is now working towards silver accreditation.

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It held its first Green Kiddush in December last year - catered by Temple Fortune's Daniel's Bakery, which delivers using recycled cartons.

Since then, biodegradable crockery has become the norm and a number of special events, including with local Extinction Rebellion members, have been held.

"We do quite a few events at the synagogue," Rabbi Mason added. "Often, they involve food. For these events we had to buy an lot of paper plates, but we've stopped that.

"We want to make it very clear to the community the leadership is very much in favour."

He added: "We have also made connections with other synagogues and are sharing ideas."

Judith told this newspaper: "The idea is it's starting with the feeling that as Jews we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth.

"As a synagogue we want to show good practice - we have made a point of changing what we do."

Judith said that although she had been initially nervous about broaching the subject, she had been encouraged by the response to the first Green Kiddush and the progress made over 2019.

"We have got a lot of older Jews thinking there has to be some other way of doing this," she said. "The rabbi's been great. He wants to take up social issues.

"I've been really pleased that it's picked up and been such a big thing."

Rabbi Mason agreed. He said: "There are people who are less into it, yes, but in general people - and particularly the synagogue's quite young leadership - are very in favour. There's a clear feeling that things need to change.

"Right down from the Chief Rabbi who's made this a really important thing to him."

A number of other local synagogues have also been involved, including those in Golders Green, Belsize Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Highgate.