EcoSynagogue: 'We all need to show responsibility for each other'

Muswell Hill Synagogue. Picture: Jelm6/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Muswell Hill Synagogue is now part of EcoSynagogue - Credit: Jelm6/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I was part of the launch, earlier this week, of a project by an organisation I lead, called EcoSynagogue.

With three other rabbis, from different Jewish denominations (showing that the environment crisis requires us to put differences aside), I have worked on the formation of what we call an "environmental audit".

Places of worship have carbon footprints, use energy, deal with food waste, may use disposable plastics for events. There are myriad aspects of communal life that may come in to contact with the orbit of protecting our environment. And so, our audit, allows synagogue communities to grade themselves after auditing their communal engagement with protecting the environment.

This could be how they use their land and their buildings. But it could also include whether the community has environment policies, or whether the clergy team preach about the issues at certain times throughout the year.

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Rabbi David Mason has launched EcoSynagogue - Credit: Muswell Hill Synagogue

The concept here is taking communities on a journey. We have a famous phrase in Judaism: "The work is not there to be completed, but neither are we free to desist from it’.

There is an urgency regarding what is happening to our environment. But if we look at improving our places of worship as an all or nothing decision, we may never move. We may not be able to complete the turnaround in one go. That may be financially too prohibitive, or not have enough support. But we can keep moving forward, and continually choose areas where we can improve.

My synagogue community at Muswell Hill is part of EcoSynagogue and has policies preventing food waste and on not using single use plastic disposables. We are moving beyond that too to include other areas of synagogue life. EcoSynagogue grew up, after the existence of EcoChurch; and there is an Eco Mosque in Cambridge.

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The environment is one area of concern where we all need to show responsibility for each other – not just for our brothers and sisters in faith, but our brothers and sisters across the world. 

  • David Mason is rabbi of Muswell Hill Synagogue.