Michael Goldstein
Michael Goldstein

What sort of world will our children and theirs inhabit?

Climate change. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash) Via Jewish News
Climate change. (Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash) Via Jewish News

In Glasgow last November, prime minister Boris Johnson said: “If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.”

As a father and new grandfather, this resonated with me. What world will my children, grandchildren and, please God, my great-grandchildren, inhabit? Will they struggle for food? For water? To keep cool in the baking summer heat?

That’s why I am proud the United Synagogue is launching a truly ground-breaking environmental initiative this weekend. On Tu B’Shvat we’ll be announcing the launch of Dorot, a joint initiative between the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue.

Dorot means “generations” in Hebrew and we’ve picked this name because if we act now, we can thrive for generations to come.  Inspired by the excellent EcoSynagogue audit, Dorot comprises seven projects that touch upon the key areas of our operation, including education, synagogue buildings, food, finance and land use.

We are launching the seven projects throughout this year and are thinking big: we’re going to lead a campaign to have a tree planted for every one of our 37,000 members to sequester carbon dioxide from the air. This will be part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project for the Queen’s Jubilee Celebration. We will rewild available United Synagogue land to help encourage biodiversity and provide a home for wildlife. A walk in our new meadow will also help improve our health and well-being.

We want to phase out the use of disposables from our nurseries, synagogues and offices, thereby reducing the amount the UK sends abroad to be burned or dumped in the oceans. We’re committed to investigating our investment portfolio from an environmental perspective to make sure it meets high environmental standards, using ESG and other relevant tools.We want to make our travel greener, prioritising train travel over air wherever possible. We’ve introduced an employee electric car leasing scheme alongside our existing cycling scheme. Smart energy solutions for our head office and synagogues will be introduced, following an energy audit and the use of ‘smart’ devices to measure, control and reduce energy consumption.

And we’re going to begin a conversation about responsible food consumption. Jewish culinary tradition stretches back millennia and spans almost the whole planet. But global food production is responsible for 26 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Later this year we’ll be holding online events, looking at how the choices we make for breakfast, lunch and dinner can better impact the planet.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has made social responsibility one of the central
planks of his chief rabbinate and I am delighted he is leading the launch of Dorot, having been closely involved in its design from the start.

He pointed out this week that in the Midrash, Rabban Shimon bar Yochai describes how a group of passengers sailing on a boat noticed a fellow traveller who took out a drill and started to bore a hole beneath his seat. They asked him: “What are you trying to do?” He replied: “Why are you concerned? I’m drilling under my place.” In shock they replied: “But you will surely cause all of us to drown!”

Rabban bar Yochai’s message is clear, says the Chief Rabbi: each of us has a responsibility to safeguard and protect the planet we all share. Not only for those who inhabit the earth now, but for the sake of all future generations.

All the Dorot projects have been designed to ensure our organisation plays its part in the global effort to protect humanity and all life on Earth. We can all make a difference. To quote Mr Johnson again: “The people who will judge us are children not yet born and their children, because if we fail they will not forgive us.”

Please join us.

• For information on Dorot see theus.org.uk/dorot

About the Author
Michael Goldstein is the President of the United Synagogue
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