Muswell Hill Synagogue
Mishpatim/Shekalim 21/22 February 2020 5.11pm 6.15pm

MHS’ Green Kiddush Report

On Shabbat 6th December 2018, Muswell Hill Synagogue had its  first ever GREEN KIDDUSH.

Here’s a bit about it to share in preparation for the Board’s next meeting in January.

The main aim of the Green Kiddush was to raise awareness of eco issues and start a conversation with members of the community so that by the next High Holy Days we have adopted specific eco-friendly initiatives such as banning single-use plastics.

After the Shabbat service, Rabbi David gave a talk connecting environmental themes with Jewish law and ethics, individual and collective responsibility. Then Judith Devons explained Eco Synagogue and our involvement in it – what we have done so far and plans for the future. The talks were followed by a lot of questions and answers – all positive and enthusiastic.

The kiddush consisted of donuts from Daniels Bakery in Temple Fortune (chosen because they delivered in recycled cartons), apples and other locally grown fruit, and crisps and crackers bought in large recyclable bags from Costco. On the walls around the hall were posters on recycling and eco issues – all adapted from the excellent ones produced by Alyth Synagogue. So discussions continued during the kiddush.

Below is a synopsis of Judith’s talk.
Talk for Green Kiddush at Muswell Hill Synagogue, 6 December 2019 – by Judith Devons

1) Intro: This initiative is really appropriate for Chanukah where oil assumed to last only one day lasted eight – great conservation!

The problem is vast and global, with up to 50,000 species of flora and fauna becoming extinct yearly, with humans pouring over five  million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans every year – demanding change from each one of us to reduce our use of the earth’s resources, change our consuming behaviour, alter our transport means and our energy use in our homes and work to reduce our carbon footprint.   Each of us can make a difference even though eco issues are global.

A parallel is the Talmudic quote: Save one life and one saves the world.

If you think that you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a room with a mosquito!

And in terms of ecological impact: If each family that buys two challot per week, each in a plastic bag, that adds up to over a hundred plastic bags per year per family just for challot. So if 5,000 families switch to reusable challah bags we could possibly take up to half a million plastic bags per year out of circulation – just with this one change!

2) What is Eco Syn – a cross-demominational group with members from many synagogues. It was inspired by Eco-Church, whose website was ‘translated’ for the Jewish community and then pioneered by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of New North London. It is supported by Chief Rabbi Mirvis and by the Board of Deputies. Run by a steering group representing the six early adopting shuls, Eco Synagogue has created an online survey that member synagogues fill in to assess and improve their level of environmentally responsible practices in their use of buildings, land, food consumed, amount recycled, what is taught in cheder and sermons and how social action initiatives are supported across congregations and in the wider community. So far, more than a dozen synagogues have become involved, including Highgate, South Hampstead, Belsize Square, Alyth, Norris Lea, Kol Nefesh and Finchley Reform. I have found it refreshing and exciting to have regular meetings with people from diverse religious affiliations all sharing a common goal.

3) Muswell Hill Synagogue has now joined Eco Synagogue. We have been filling in the survey, and it serves as a guide to help us distinguish between our perception of what we do and the actual reality. The aim is to change personal and collective habits one step at a time so we can play our full role in rebalancing our relationship with the natural world. Many of the questions concern building usage, so when we are planning our renovations here at Muswell Hill we can check our levels of eco-friendly measures.

As we tick off our increasingly eco-friendly measures in the survey, we get awards – bronze, silver and gold – as an added incentive and a gauge of progress. The aim to raise awareness in a gradual process so that we change our frame of mind and lifestyle behaviour to consume less and waste less – starting in the synagogueand moving beyond into the wider community.

4) We already have a lot of eco-friendly measures in place, thanks to members of our community. We use biodegradable plates/small bowls and plastic tumblers; and reusable plastic serving plates, dip trays and crisps bowls – all of which are washed. From process of awareness that we are sharing today, we hope to move away from disposable packaging, non-seasonal foods, and food wastage.

5) What is this Green Kiddush about?

Green Kiddush to begin the conversation on how we can reduce our environmental impact – starting here in the synagogue. It is a gradual process of raising awareness of issues, choices and consequences – not easy but worth it!

  • Not always clear what is the most ecologically sound thing to do – always choices. Have to consider plastic waste, deforestation, energy consumption and use, recyclable items. We are early in the project and we  want the community to be involved and help guide the direction of this initiative.
  • Eco posters (choices and consequences) around hall for people to read during kiddush, with people by them to answer questions and discuss (eg. question of paper plates vs washing up).
  • Also notes on kiddush tables explaining choice of food, suppliers and serving dishes/glasses.
  • Signs in kitchen re recycling and diff.disposal bins so sorted properly.

6) Follow-up:

  • Open discussion/debate to widen the conversation and give feedback for future action.   How we want to  move ahead as a community.
  • Five areas to become involved in: prayer and teaching; buildings; land; community and global; lifestyle.
  • Youth/cheder projects
  • We have the support of the Board and are sharing desired eco measures with building cttee

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