Reform aims for carbon neutral Judaism

By Jessica Elgot, February 10, 2011

Reform synagogues are to radically upgrade their green credentials to help the movement towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral.

The Assembly of Reform Rabbis has launched a sustainability plan on 15 key issues, including "food miles", waste, and use of pesticide, organic produce and Fairtrade goods.

Bournemouth Reform's Rabbi Neil Amswych devised the plan to coincide with the launch of the Big Green Jewish Campaign earlier this month.

The aim is to achieve zero carbon emissions across the movement in coming years and a time scale will be decided at the organisation's 2011 strategic review, once the new chief executive is in place.

Rabbi Amswych said the impetus came from the birth of his daughter Zafra five months ago. "I want to be able to tell her in 20 years time that I tried my best," he said. "Sustainability has always been top of the agenda but I'm really proud that we as a movement can do something like this together. To state the intention to become carbon neutral is an important first step. I hope it can inspire other movements too."

His congregants are taking the subject seriously, contemplating solar panels on its large, flat roof, or having a grass-covered "green" roof or a place in the garden to grow vegetables.

"Solar panels can be installed free under a government scheme and we're also considering the ionisation of our gas supply which reduces the amount of gas needed."

The shul already recycles and composts waste food and includes a policy on sustainable fish and organic vegetables in its kashrut guide. Responsibility for the environment is a key part of the cheder curriculum.

In Cheshire, Menorah Synagogue's building was designed to be environmentally friendly, with energy efficient measures including timers on electricity, heating and light fittings.

"We recycle almost everything and the food and drinks we buy are Fairtrade," said board member Jeffrey Krell.

Last updated: 1:17pm, February 16 2011