Lockdown a lesson in how we can improve the world

(Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash via Jewish News)
(Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash via Jewish News)

For a number of weeks, we have all been considering how to ease the lockdown and coming to terms with the fact that things may never be absolutely the same as before. 

But surely that offers us tremendous opportunities, including imagining a stronger defence and protection of our climate. In our weekly Torah readings, we have been hearing about the journey of the children of Israel through the desert after leaving Mount Sinai. 

The reality of Mount Sinai was itself bubble-like. All needs were met by God. He spoke directly to the whole nation and revealed the Torah, the foundation of how this people would continue to live. 

Moving away from Sinai meant moving out of this bubble into a messy world where God’s presence would recede in its level of openness. And eventually, we would take the laws we had received and make them the legal, moral, and social foundation of our society in a new land.

We have also been spending times in bubbles. We have spent much more time at home, travelled much less and many of us have worked from home too. 

We have lived within a type of social bubble knowing, however, that we would exit the bubble at some point not yet determined. We are not clear about how this will end, but exit we will into a new reality. 

That newness brings with it trepidation and worry, just as the children of Israel would have feared their new reality as a nation in a new land.

To be sure, we would have done without the massive pain Covid-19 has brought on our society and societies throughout the world. But it is critical now that we reimagine how our society will look in what we often call the ‘new normal’. 

We can be part of shaping the future, and central to that reshaping will be wanting serious and deeper protection of the climate and environment. This desire is, of course, not a new one. But from seeing the quality of our local atmosphere improve without large amounts of traffic and welcoming more diverse wildlife into our gardens, we have been given a taste of something we will not want to lose.

And so, we at Eco Synagogue – a project spearheaded by a group of rabbis across the community in positive partnership with the Board of Deputies – are looking to deepen our work.

We have spent time growing a network of communities that have agreed to join the Eco Synagogue path and look at introducing real change within their own communities, such as policies to reduce waste, going plastic free and ensuring that lighting and heating is green. 

There has been a great deal of progress already and a number of communities across the UK Jewish community are developing synagogue-based policies to ensure they play their part in Eco Synagogue. 

We are thrilled the Chief Rabbi is supportive of what Eco Synagogue is achieving.

Spending more time at home has given many of us time to reflect on what sort of a world we want. It may be nigh on impossible to press some sort of reset button on our world, but this should not stop us from imagining and asserting the values that we hold dear – and ensuring the sustainability of our climate is high up the list.

  • Rabbi Mason is part of the Eco Synagogue steering group
About the Author
Rabbi David Mason is rabbi to an Orthodox community of over 1000 people in London and is on the executive of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue. He has an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies and undertakes a great deal of civic and inter faith work. He was recently appointed as trustee for FODIP (Forum for Discussion on Israel and Palestine) and the Council of Christians of Jews as well as now Chairing the Haringey Multi Faith Network. He also has two years training in family therapy.
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