Rabbi arrested during Extinction Rebellion protests in capital

A rabbi has been arrested after kneeling and praying in the middle of the road as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.

Rabbi Emeritus of Finchley Reform Synagogue, north London, Jeffrey Newman, who was accompanied by around 30 Jewish activists, was arrested at around midday on Monday in the middle of a busy junction at Bank in central London.

They joined climate change activists from Extinction Rebellion who have been obstructing five roads since 7am.

The 77-year-old, who was wearing a white skullcap branded with the black Extinction Rebellion logo, said: “I see it as my religious and moral duty to stand up for what I believe in, and what I care about, for my grandchildren.

“I haven’t tried to involve the synagogue, because if you are asking for permission, you might not get it.

“I think it’s much more important to do what I’m doing, and they can approve or not approve at a later date.”

Mr Newman, who is also the adviser to the International Secretariat of the United Nations’ Earth Charter, a set of 16 principles for a sustainable global society, said he has been involved with global environmental movements for around 50 years.

The rabbi, carrying a lulav palm frond and etrog yellow citrus which protesters said symbolise human connection with the earth in Judaism, said: “This has been something that I have been involved with since the 60s.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman joins protesters blocking the road outside Mansion House (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“I am trying to get the Jewish community engaged with these issues.

“XR (Extinction Rebellion) Jews is a relatively new movement.

“Many of the younger people, the activists, have not had anything to do with the Jewish community for a long time.

“And for the first time, they have discovered that there is a potential for meaning within Judaism, because of its connection with issues that they really are concerned about.

“I think this is phenomenal.”

Protesting on the second day of Sukkot, a week-long Jewish holiday celebrating harvest, his supporters sang Jewish hymns and carried signs reading “conservation is a mitzvah” (meaning “religious duty’).

They circled the police van where Mr Newman was taken, waving banners and shouting about how the rabbi had been arrested to passers-by.

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