As part of SCoJeC’s contribution to Scotland’s preparation for the COP26 climate conference to be held in Glasgow this coming November, we hosted a panel of experts to discuss Jewish and other faiths' positions on climate change, and how we can actively engage in making a difference.
The event also provided helpful information in the lead up to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference. It is not yet clear whether the continuing Covid crisis will prevent the conference taking place in Glasgow as planned and will instead be limited to a virtual forum. This uncertainty obviously creates barriers to the community’s participation that SCoJeC hopes to be able to help overcome once the landscape becomes clearer.
The panel began with Satya Dunning, Freelance Project Officer at Interfaith Glasgow, explaining the critical importance of the COP26 and how Interfaith Glasgow’s climate work in preparation for COP26 relates to international initiatives. She noted that Scottish Interfaith Week will begin this year with a prayer and meditation vigil in Glasgow’s main square led by Interfaith Scotland.
Glasgow City Councillor Stephen Curran followed this with a presentation about how we can actively make a difference even during the pandemic, both as individuals and as a community. Stephen is the manager of Eco-Congregation Scotland, a support network for more than 500 Scottish churches committed to environmental activities to address climate change and conservation, that is now extending its work to other faith groups. He went on to highlight current interfaith initiatives taking place and also discussed the challenges that can be faced by communities and individuals in their journeys to become more eco-conscious and ways that these could possibly be tackled.
We then turned to Rabbi David Mason and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, two of the four Rabbis who lead Eco Synagogue. Both born in Scotland, Rabbi Mason is Rabbi at Muswell Hill Synagogue and Executive member of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, and Rabbi Wittenberg is the Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK and is Rabbi at New North London Synagogue.
Rabbi Mason and Rabbi Wittenberg shared their views on what to expect and how to prepare for COP26 – by keeping up to date on how to get involved, how to open your homes to visitors of the conference, and how to take part where possible.
Explaining why faith communities should be making an effort to become more eco aware, Rabbi Wittenberg said that “huge numbers of the earth’s population belong to a faith community – it’s estimated at about 80%”, and that they should come together to make change.
The event then opened up to a Q&A led by Kirsty Robson, SCoJeC’s new Projects and Outreach Manager. During the discussion, Rabbi Mason paid tribute to Chief Rabbi Mirvis who has taken a strong and positive lead in supporting the work of Eco Synagogue, and Rabbi Wittenberg noted the comfort taken in all sectors from the religious community coming together to make a difference.
Rabbi Wittenberg asked us to reflect on “how we can act to make a difference.” By getting involved in these activities, we can take that first step.