Tu B’Shevat, the annual new year for trees festival, will take on a new and “greener” aspect this week, with the launch of an ambitious new environmental initiative from the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue.
Dorot — the Hebrew for “generations” — consists of seven separate projects which will be rolled out in 2022. The lead project will be a campaign by the US to have one tree planted for each of its 37,000 members. It will take place under the auspices of the Queen’s Green Canopy project for the Queen’s Jubilee Celebration.
The “game-changing” environmental programme is being led by Naomi Verber, head of environmental policy at the US. She said: “We are in an environmental and ecological crisis. The United Synagogue is in a unique position, with its size and resources, to take fast, decisive and impactful steps to reduce our environmental harm.
“Many of our communities have already generated real change and we now have the opportunity to scale up the impact across the organisation in a strategic way.”
Other projects in the pipeline include the rewilding of unused United Synagogue land, to encourage biodiversity and provide a home for wildlife, and the phasing out of “disposables” from US shuls, nurseries and offices. The US also intends to look at its investment portfolio to ensure it meets high environmental standards, make its travel greener for staff, and initiate smart energy solutions for all synagogues. There may also be a different look for kiddushim, as the US wants to begin a conversation about responsible food consumption: how can the choices we make for breakfast, lunch and dinner better impact the planet?
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “The evidence could not be clearer that climate change is destroying our precious home. Indeed, rising sea levels and extreme weather events are already causing grave problems across the planet and are likely to pose far greater challenges for our children and grandchildren.
“This is why I have called for our communities to take meaningful and decisive action to tackle climate change. I firmly believe that the implementation of Dorot can serve as a watershed moment for the way that our communities respond to the climate crisis and threats to our biodiversity.”
Michael Goldstein, president of the United Synagogue, said: “Inspired by EcoSynagogue, Dorot will be a gamechanger in terms of its ambition and comprehensive coverage of our organisation’s environmental impact.
“Just as organisations had to act in the face of a global pandemic, so too must we act to prevent further global warming and biodiversity loss. The decisions we take in the coming years will affect our children and grandchildren in profound ways”.
The need to respond to the environmental crisis is felt across the generations of United Synagogue members. Anita Harding, 106, was one of the first members of Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue. She said: “I always say ‘Baruch Hashem’ for this world and this life…we must not waste it for the next generation.”
Climate activist and Edgware United Synagogue member, Elinor Joseph, 15, said: “We need drastic action —and we need it yesterday.”
And five-year-old Nadavya Fromson from Golders Green Synagogue, said: “We need to take care of Hashem’s creations so we all can live.”
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