Judaism understands us not as masters, but as trustees, of God’s creation. We have a primary responsibility to care for the earth and leave it to our children in a state of wholeness and health. At the OJC we are trying to improve our eco profile in a multitude of ways which we detail below. For details of the Eco Synagogue project as a whole follow this link to their website.
After deciding to register with Eco Synagogue we completed the initial survey, then looked at where we stand on each of the areas specified by the questionnaire. Over the last twelve months we have been amending a variety of areas of synagogue practice and raising awareness amongst the community in line with the Eco Synagogue audit criteria. You can read, below, about the steps we took. We are delighted to have achieved their Silver Award status. There is a long way to go, but we hope to continue improving our eco credentials and, one day, go for Gold.
“The environmental crisis is not simply a technological problem to be resolved through better science. It is a moral and spiritual crisis in our relationship with the earth.” (Eco Synagogue)
Awareness in the community
Our starting point was to invite Rabbi Wittenberg to launch the project with a talk to the community; alongside this we began to make suggestions on a weekly basis to members of the community about how to be more eco-friendly at home through a new “Green Tips” section in our weekly bulletin and our monthly newsletter. We have also encouraged members to stop receiving the monthly bulletin as a paper copy and to receive it in digital form. We have been much more aware of reducing the number of unnecessary paper handouts – and making announcements orally or putting up a single notice on the notice board where possible.
In addition to adult education through short tips and monthly longer articles, the topic of going green was the “options” subject at the cheder in the summer term; as well as learning about our obligation as Jews to be aware of the environment and learning about Eco-Kashrut, they also undertook practical projects such as creating recycling bins for every cheder classroom which they now use. The cheder has stopped the previous system of a tuck shop with chocolate and other foods with high mileage and packaging; and has moved over to on-site popcorn provision and satsumas – healthier and with much lower transport and packaging. Playshul also spent part of the term on environmental issues in 2022.
Use of our building
The management committee looked at the use of energy in the building and has checked the insulation and changed light bulbs to more eco-efficient ones.
Kiddushim and food preparation
The kitchen now use food recycling bins in addition to the paper and plastic recycling bin we had before, and have enlarged facilities to cope. We have removed disposables from daily use and are now using glass or china – and we have moved from the plastic single use kiddush cups to glasses – more time on washing up but less plastic wastage.
We have several times had “eco –friendly” kiddushim – where we have labelled the transport and packaging levels of the different items in the kiddush to make people more aware of the resources going into our kiddush provisions – and on a few occasions had members bake on site so that we are not transporting kosher cake and biscuits 50 miles from London and often from kosher suppliers in Israel 2,250miles away.
Travel and transport issues
Many people travel to the synagogue by bus, bicycle or walk – because parking is such a nightmare in central Oxford – but we have also informed people of the need to think about carbon offsetting all their holiday travel and given them information about how to do this – to encourage everyone to be more aware. We also have bike racks available.