Chris Huhne helps with green push
Pupils at North West London Jewish Day School in Brondesbury learning some important environmental lessons at their “edible garden” planted last year
A campaign to motivate the community into becoming more environmentally conscious is being launched with the backing of Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.
The Big Green Jewish Campaign is an initiative of the Jewish Social Action Forum, a body of organisations including the Jewish Community Centre for London (JCC) and human rights group RenéCassin.
Organisers have set different themes for the first four years of the campaign, beginning with the Year of the Bagel, focusing on food packaging.
This will be followed by the Year of the Bicycle, geared to transport, the Year of the Bin, dealing with waste, and the Year of the Brick, showing how buildings such as synagogues can adapt.
Alexei Charkham selling vegetables from his allotment
David Brown, coordinator of JSAF, said: "The campaign is focused on action. Our Jewish tradition is based on a society committed to nature.
"The campaign shows Jewish values can speak to the most pressing concerns of a contemporary society.
"It will mobilise people and encourage them to take steps to reduce their carbon emissions."
The campaign is accompanied by the Big Green Jewish Website, offering environmental advice, blogs and events listings.
Organisations including the Union of Jewish Students and the London School of Jewish Studies have already begun their own initiatives in support of the drive.
"Being green has become an important priority for us," said UJS national development manager Elana Wall.
During the J-Soc summit in Leeds in December, eco-friendly products, Veg Ware, replaced crockery for all meals.
"This ensured that our waste was reduced and whatever did go in the bin was compostable," she explained.
Afterwards, UJS secured a 25 per cent discount on Veg Ware for all J-Socs.
"Encouraging a greener lifestyle that is easy and affordable is key to getting J-Socs on board."
The London School of Jewish Studies transformed a space outside the site into an allotment two years ago, growing olives, pomegranates and plants.
Rabbi Natan Levy, head of the Jewish responsibility unit, said: "We had a spot behind the school which was a waste land and we decided to use it as a model for how to transform small spaces into organic style gardens.
"It fits into the ethos of the school and we use it as a teaching tool.
"We give students a taste of the connection between Judaism and agriculture. It teaches about Torah and makes students aware of the environment and sustainability."
Rabbi Levy also goes into schools to teach pupils the importance of environmental awareness.
"I try to do as much as I can because the Jewish community isn't where it should be on this," he said. "It doesn't have the prominent place it should on the Jewish agenda."
Last year, Gefiltefest: The London Jewish Food Festival, raised more than £3,000 for food-related charities in the UK and Israel. This year's festival, being held on Lag b'Omer in May, aims to raise £10,000.
Organiser Michael Leventhal said: "Food - growing it, cooking it, eating it - is the most fundamental and intimate way in which we understand the world.
"Judaism understands that completely. It's expressed in the laws of kashrut, food customs associated with the festivals, the way food for us conveys love and culture and tradition and history.
"Gefiltefest is designed to reflect that and aims to increase our consciousness of the world through food, fun and tastings."
Primary school teacher Alexei Charkham, 37, from Mill Hill, writes a blog for the website about an allotment he runs.
"I got into veg growing because I saw it as a challenging hobby, which brings decent and tangible rewards," he said.
"I have three half-plots and spend a varying amount of time on them."
Others with initiatives include North West London Jewish Day School in Brondesbury which started an edible garden last year to teach about the environment and Moishe House in Willesden Green, which has three raised vegetable patches.
A series of events will take place during the Year of the Bagel, among them a JCC-organised Tu B'Shvat at Kew Gardens on January 30, including an alternative seder with ethically sourced produce.