Introductions

General

Judaism teaches us that life is a precious gift in a beautiful world which belongs to God.    We are commanded to work the earth and enjoy its benefits in a spirit of thankfulness.

The Torah holds us responsible before God and one another for the wellbeing of all life. We are required to treat each other and all life with respect and concern. We are not entitled to exploit our planet or destroy its resources. We aspire to pass on to our children a world at least as healthy, beautiful and rich in diversity as we inherited from our ancestors.

Climate change is the greatest threat facing all life. It is also the issue which makes us feel most powerless. Yet there is much we can and must do. As faith communities we have power and influence.

‘Top down’ changes by governments, industry and finance are essential and urgent. Yet  ‘bottom up’ local actions by faith communities, and by each and every one of us, make a significant collective difference, have an impact on public opinion and influence law makers and business leaders.

The changes humanity needs to make are spiritual and moral, as well as practical. We need to rethink our relationship with nature, understand the earth and our fellow creatures better, love our world more deeply and take our privileges less for granted.

This website takes synagogues and their members through every facet of community life and offers resources on how we can make gradual but impactful changes in how we treat the earth and its resources.

We shouldn’t be intimidated. None of us can do everything, but, as Rabbi Tarfon said 1,900 years ago, we are not at liberty to do nothing. What is important is to make a good start. Further ideas and possibilities will follow. The website also tells us what others are doing: they will inspire us and we will inspire them.

This is a journey on which need to make together. Please join us.

Buildings

Our home, whether it’s a room, a flat, a house or our community centre expresses our values. Judaism’s central meditation, the Shema tells us to speak words of Torah when ‘we dwell in our house’ as well as when we travel ‘and walk by the way’.

There are likely to be features we can do little about, because we don’t have the authority or they’re too expensive. But there are also likely to be many things we can do: do we have a throw away culture, or do we waste as little as possible? Do we use energy from renewable sources? Do we leave lights and heating on unnecessarily?

This section of the survey considers all aspects of our communal and personal homes and provides practical resources for changes, many of which may be easier to make than we fear.

We can significantly reduce our ecological impact by thinking through these aspects of the survey – and by being less wasteful and more thoughtful, we are conveying powerfully to others that we care about our shared Earth.

Land

‘The earth is the Lord’s’, says the Psalmist. ‘Even a king is subservient to the soil’, adds the author of Proverbs.
We don’t own nature and it isn’t ours to exploit. Rather, it is our privilege to ‘work and care for’ the earth with respect and appreciation for its gifts.

Few synagogues own land, though some do. But many members of our communities have gardens, allotments or even fields and farms. This section of the survey asks if we tend them not only for our own benefit, but for the wellbeing of other people and the trees, animals, birds and insects which live there, as well as for the health of the soil itself.

When we enjoy nature on country walks and holidays, do we contribute to its long-term survival and replenishment, so that we pass on to our children and grandchildren as vital, beautiful, diverse and fertile a world as our ancestors gave us?

The Cycle of the Year, the Festivals and their Liturgy

The daily prayers frequently refer to God as the God of all life and the weekday Amidah includes a blessing for the years and their produce.

The Torah constantly reminds us of our responsibility to appreciate and share the gifts of the earth.

The Jewish year is rich in festivals which express our connection with nature, both in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.

Pesach is ‘the festival of spring’ and marks the beginning of the new harvest of grain. The Mishnah teaches that from Shavuot onwards we celebrate the fruit of the trees. Succot honours the harvest; the Succot itself is traditionally decorated in thanksgiving with the fruits and produce of the past year.

Tu Bishevat is the New Year for Trees, a time to plant them, hug them and learn to understand and value their critical place in the ecosystem on which all life depends.

This section of the survey challenges us to make the most of the many opportunities the liturgy, Torah and festivals offer.