BLOG: From green kippot to recycling – how United Synagogues are acting on the environment

As part of our ongoing commitment to raising awareness of environmental issues in the Jewish community, we will be hosting a series of blogs from Jewish communities, about the work they are doing on this area. Here is one from the United Synagogue:

Many United Synagogue communities are focusing on how they can operate in a more environmentally-friendly way.  As Jews, we want to act with respect and love for God’s world, especially at a time when we see rising global temperatures and the destruction of the natural world.

The United Synagogue has put in place some environmental practices centrally. These include promoting recycling and encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly disposables for events where possible, including on Tribe’s summer camps and other programmes.

Many of our synagogues are leading the way. Mill Hill United Synagogue has eliminated all single-use plastics. To mark Green Shabbat they gave out ‘green kippot’ made of biodegradable material with seeds in for members to plant after they’d worn them.

Muswell Hill United Synagogue had their first disposable-free Kiddush recently and are trying to improve their carbon footprint, with Rabbi David Mason spearheading further initiatives.

Golders Green United Synagogue has banished all disposables in the shul and they are using crockery for Kiddush and events. Stanmore United Synagogue now uses only environmentally-friendly disposables and South Hampstead and St Johns Wood United Synagogues are looking to do something similar.

Pinner United Synagogue has given up all plastic and both Bushey and Pinner United have managed to get recycling bins, which believe it or not has taken a great deal of persuasion from the local council! On this theme, Cockfosters and N Southgate United Synagogue have also been doing their own campaigning to get a recycling bin.

In other communities, Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue now have recycling bins and a recycling collection. They also have a committee that are campaigning for fewer free plastic bags in kosher shops!

Rabbi Liss, Chair of the Rabbinic Council of the United Synagogue, said recently:

‘’Judaism is clear that environmentalism is part of our tradition: Ecclesiastes Rabbah, a midrashic work written over 1,500 years ago, identifies the challenge:

‘Upon creating the first human beings, God guided them around the Garden of Eden, saying: “Look at my creations! See how beautiful and perfect they are! For your sake I created them all. Make sure you don’t ruin or devastate My world. If you do, there will be no-one else to repair it.”’ (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13)

While governments have a duty to work together to make large-scale changes to tackle climate change, we have a responsibility to play our part too. The Rabbis of the Talmud were aware of the challenge of persuading people to take small steps today which will have a profound impact on the generations ahead:

‘When Choni was travelling he saw an old man planting a carob tree. When Choni enquired how long it would take for this tree to bear fruit, the man told him it would take 70 years. Choni asked how the man could be sure he would live that long. The man answered that indeed he would not be alive, but his grandfather planted a tree so that he could benefit, and so he was planting this tree so that his descendants could likewise benefit.’ (Ta’anit 24a)

Climate change is a shared challenge. Our individual actions may be small but they are significant.

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