UK Chief Rabbi praises Bennett’s coalition for promoting Jewish unity

EcoSynagogue initiative seeks to recruit UK Jewish communities in fighting climate change.

 Rabbis of the EcoSynagogue steering committee, with Rabbi David Mason in the middle, Board of Deputies CEO Michael Wegier, and Board of Deputies Social Action Manager Anthony Silkoff. (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Rabbis of the EcoSynagogue steering committee, with Rabbi David Mason in the middle, Board of Deputies CEO Michael Wegier, and Board of Deputies Social Action Manager Anthony Silkoff.
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is setting an important example by uniting different parts of Israeli society in his government, UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told him in a meeting after Bennett left the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Mirvis wished Bennett congratulations on forming his diverse governing coalition, a source in the meeting said. The rabbi said Bennett’s focus on unity is a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name, and what the world needs.

Bennett’s government includes a range of political views, from his own right-wing Yamina Party to the far-left Meretz Party, as well as an Islamist party Ra’am. It does not include any religious parties, though Bennett himself and other members of the Coalition are Orthodox.

The prime minister and chief rabbi discussed the polarization in the world and the importance of promoting unity, in Israel and between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

“We are Jews, we are one,” Bennett told the rabbi. “I view Israel as responsible for every Jew in the world, period. When one Jew in the world hurts, I hurt.”

They also discussed the climate conference and Israel’s contribution to battling climate change, including the interest that world leaders took in learning from and using Israeli technology.

Jewish values teach us to do good, to engage in the world and change it for the better, Mirvis told Bennett.

They also discussed the role that British Jewry plays in broader British society and how to strengthen ties between British Jewry and Israel.

Bennett and Mirvis connected instantly over their deep desire for unity, the source in the meeting said, and the prime minister felt strengthened by the meeting and the rabbi’s words. The meeting reinforced his will to do good for the Jewish people and not just the Jewish state.

 EcoSynagogue booth (credit: Lahav Harkov) EcoSynagogue booth (credit: Lahav Harkov)

After the meeting, Bennett tweeted that it was “of special significance,” and called Mirvis “a man of great depth and unique insight.”

“British Jewry is a shining example of how to turn Jewish values into actions which strengthen both the community and wider society,” he said.

Also at COP26, as the climate conference is called, was a booth for the EcoSynagogue initiative, in partnership with the Board of Deputies of British Jewry.

EcoSynagogue analyzes synagogue buildings and sets goals for the communities to move towards net-zero carbon.

Rabbis representing all four major Jewish denominations in the UK – Orthodox, Liberal, Masorti and Reform – are on EcoSynagogue’s steering committee, and 30 synagogues have already joined the initiative.

Rabbi David Mason, an Orthodox rabbi on the steering committee, said that climate and the environment are an issue that can bring Israelis and Diaspora Jews together.

Mason interviewed Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg last week for an EcoSynagogue event ahead of COP26, and said he “felt we understand each other.

“The environment can relieve tensions because it crosses a lot of boundaries. It unites us across denominations,” he said.