A cross-denominational initiative was set up in January 2018 to reflect the concerns many people have about our impact on the overall environment both now and for the future. Its generic name, Eco Synagogue, partners the project launched at St Paul’s Cathedral in January 2016, itself a successor to
Eco-Congregation, which started in 2000 or 2001. An Eco Mosque has also been established.
Eco Synagogue’s launch took place at New North London Synagogue under an enthusiastic Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, grandson of our founding rabbi, Dr Georg Salzberger, and was addressed by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (now Lord Williams of Oystermouth). It follows the Eco Church pattern of three levels of attainment signified by Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.
Belsize Square, led by Paul Fraylich, signed up to Eco Synagogue in May 2018. An initial assessment looked at areas we could improve: teaching, the building, the land we occupy, community and lifestyle.
The first anniversary of Eco Synagogue was held at New North London on 29 January. The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtman, the Church of England’s lead bishop on environment, talked about spirituality and the environment, and his early interest in the subject. Malini Mehra, Commissioner to the Mayor of London on sustainability, explained London-wide initiatives and how to get local information. Dr Joanna Setzer of the London School of Economics spoke on litigation with respect to
missing environmental targets. Dr Michal Nachmany, also of LSE, discussed climate change policy and how to get your voice heard.
Robin Clark, Director of Partnerships at Just Eat, a takeaway food delivery service, told us about the development of biodegradable packaging and how
his company is working with its partners towards goals such as replacing plastic sauce sachets with “green” alternatives. Focus sessions followed on the many issues involved. The event concluded with an address from Edwin Shuker, Vice President of the Board of Deputies, who declared the Board’s pride in being an active participant in Eco Synagogue.
This celebration closed with an awards ceremony for participating communities. Five synagogues received awards of merit and two communities gained a Bronze Award – our very own community, Belsize Square being one of them.
Since achieving our Bronze Award we have carried on trying to improve our environmental credentials. A short while ago we applied to The Woodland Trust for a package of wildlife hedgerow plants as we have some land in front of our synagogue suitable for such planting. We were successful in our application and have now planted the saplings, which are now thriving. We hope that when our hedge has matured somewhat that it will be a home to a wide range of wildlife and will be a point of interest for the younger (and older) members of the community. Currently, we have started to review our waste policy to see ways in which how we and the community can improve what we all use and what we can recycle. To this
end we are in the process of investigating some of the options provided by TerraCycle, a recycling initiative company. In addition we have made contact with Camden, our local Council, to see if there are ways in which the Belsize Square Synagogue community can complement that provided by them.
The beautiful plaque below is proudly displayed in the Kiddush Room. We are working towards obtaining silver status.