Green Jews

Jews need to put environmental issues higher on their agenda, the author argues.

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As a rabbi I feel guilty for not doing more to present an authentically Jewish perspective on matters such as reforestation, recycling or globalisation. In a raft of "Green" issues Judaism has a balanced and reasoned approach that could be a source of pride to Jews and a source of inspiration to the non-Jewish world. More importantly, it could lead to positive action, and "action is the principle thing" (Ethics of the Fathers 1:17).

I think part of the reason is that in the minds of many people environmentalism has been hijacked by "eco-fascists" such as Earth First! vigilantes who absurdly endanger human life in furthering natural life (Joni Seager, Earth Follies). Animal welfare is discredited in the eyes of many Jews for its hostility to shehita, denying basic human rights even as it champions those of animals. But these objections, while correct in my view, don't de-legitimize the fundamental morality of environmental responsibility and compassion toward animals.

Rabbis can raise the issue in sermons, communal organizations could adopt environmentally friendly policies, Jewish charities can invest ethically, and individual Jews can buy with a social and ecological conscience. These things, among others, would make a difference.

Judaism, with its rich heritage and history of respect for nature and non-human life, is in a perfect position to articulate a better-adjusted and more balanced environmental ethic. It would be in keeping with our tradition to do so. We would be tuning a blind eye to our own values if we choose to say, "not mine problem."

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Rabbi Yossi Ives is the director of 3W Coaching, Inside Coaching (a successful consultancy and training practice), and of M-Power (a life skills training organization). He is a prison chaplain and the Rabbi of Richmond Synagogue, both in London.