Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue wins prestigious environmental award

BHPS is only the third shul to receive the award, and the first outside London


All the winners of a 2024 EcoJudaism award (Photo: EcoJudaism)

Brighton & Hove Progressive Synagogue (BHPS) has won a prestigious gold EcoJudaism award, with an ambitious programme of community engagement and environmental action.

“This is a very proud moment for our synagogue,” said Benita Matofska, the BHPS council member with responsibility for EcoJudaism and sustainability. “I am thrilled that our efforts to lower our carbon footprint, to protect and preserve our planet and become more sustainable, have paid off.”

Matofska runs the “Green Team”, whose projects have included making BHPS an officially vegetarian shul. “One of the biggest impacts we can have on the environment is mindful eating,” she told the JC, “so we take low carbon-eating very seriously.”

The Green Team leader also highlighted the importance of engaging the wider community in Brighton, and the synagogue has partnered with Martlets Hospice, which also runs a sustainability programme. For Tu Bishvat, members of the shul planted the first 12 trees in the hospice’s community garden, which they hope to revisit every year.

For Chanukah, BHPS hosted a clothes and toy shop, with the leftovers going to Martlets. “Every festival, there’s always an environmental angle,” Matofska explained. 

Matofska sees protecting the environment as integral to her Judaism and the ethos of the shul. “Part of looking after each other is looking after the planet,” she said.

Officially a carbon neutral synagogue, BHPS has made huge strides in its commitment to environmentalism. “It’s been a long journey, with some challenges, so to see our collaborative efforts to do our best for people and planet being recognised in this way makes us all very proud,” Matofska said.

Most importantly, EcoJudaism “is a project that brings people together across denominations, which means we put our differences aside for the good of the planet”.

BHPS is only the third shul in the UK to receive the environmental accolade, and the first outside London.

The Brighton synagogue was presented with their award at  EcoJudaism’s annual awards ceremony, which honours the shuls taking steps toward an environmentally responsible future.

BHPS’s eco-win wasn’t the only success story. Also celebrating were Barnet Synagogue (silver), Belmont Synagogue (bronze), Etz Chaim (bronze), Golders Green  Synagogue (silver), Liverpool Reform Synagogue (bronze), Maidenhead Synagogue (silver), Potters Bar & Brookmans Park Synagogue (bronze) and Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community (silver).

“The words that encapsulate the work of our award winners are: ‘Hineh ma tov uma na'im, Shevet achim gam yachad' - 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters) to dwell as one,'” said EcoJudaism’s CEO Naomi Verber Verber. “Working in unity and learning from each other, we are making progress together on this vital issue”.

More than 70 synagogues from all over the UK are now signed up to EcoJudaism, something which Verber called “a win-win for the community and the planet”.

“The 70-plus shuls now working with EcoJudasim to reduce their environmental footprint are testament to the fact that Jewish climate action is real and is now happening at pace across the British Jewish community,” Verber said.

EcoJudaism, following the Jewish value of tikkun olam (repair of the world), promotes the conservation and protection of the natural world. Its primary aim is to engage all synagogues to improve sustainability in the community. 

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