New North London synagogue achieves highest Jewish award in environmental awareness

Shul, which is 'passionate and enthusiastic about its role in the environment', scoops EcoSynagogue gold award


The New North London Synagogue has achieved the highest Jewish award in environmental awareness thanks to initiatives such as turning all its waste into furniture and producing an eco-blog.

The community in Finchley has received an EcoSynagogue gold award, making it only the second synagogue to win this signifier of environmental excellence.

As well as joining a special scheme, where all the waste it produces is upcycled into furniture, and creating a student-led environmental blog, the synagogue has also introduced a Carbon360 audit to track its carbon footprint, such as congregants’ travel habits.

Louise Froggett, the synagogue’s community engagement director, credited both the rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg, who “is so passionate and enthusiastic about our role in the environment and the difference we can make” and the community’s Green Team, which is made up of lay leaders and volunteers.

Further initiatives, including the installation of a ground-source heat-pump and the elimination of meat, earned the community a promotion from their previous silver award. EcoSynagogue, a programme from EcoJudaism, was inspired by the EcoChurch scheme, founded by a friend of Rabbi Wittenberg.

The former consists of bronze, silver and gold levels, awarded to synagogues that successfully achieve 40, 60 and 80 per cent respectively out of a list of environmental policies, teachings and actions.

Rabbi Wittenberg is one of the founders of EcoJudaism, but he did not sit on the judging panel for this award.

Andrea Passe of EcoJudaism stressed that the awards programme was “holistic” and acted as a “framework to start the environmental journey”, rather than being a one-size-fits-all manual for environmental improvement.

The programme has become increasingly popular, with 70 synagogues volunteering to take part.

Passe observed: “I don’t have to sell sustainability and environmental awareness to synagogues. Anything to improve the Jewish community’s environmental policy is a no-brainer now.”

The only common barrier is finding a volunteer or staff member with the capacity to lead on environmental improvements, she said.

NNLS followed the West London Synagogue, which won the gold award in 2021. Passe said that both communities “put the environment at the heart of everything they do. That is the key to being a gold award winner.”

However, this was not the only synagogue to receive awards. Silver awards were given to Edgware and Hendon Reform, Magen Avot United, Northwood United, and Southport and District Reform.

Bronze awards went to Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue, Southgate Progressive Synagogue and the Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community.

Passe noted that “what’s interesting [is that the synagogues] are a very mixed bag. People get very excited about the awards because it’s an accomplishment. They’ve worked hard in their community to achieve this.”

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