Zelig Golden

Zelig Golden is the co-found of Wilderness Torah, a Bay Area based organization that awakens and celebrates the earth-based roots of Judaism to nourish the connections between self, earth, community and Spirit. Zelig’s greatest passion is connecting people to their highest purpose through facilitating their connections to Nature and Spirit. A community Maggid, vision quest guide, and environmental educator and attorney, Zelig brings ten years of visionary leadership to the Jewish environmental community. He brings earth-based Jewish spirituality to the Bay Area by developing and guiding programs such as the Jewish Vision Quest, the B’nai Mitzvah Nature-Mentoring program, and Wilderness Torah’s annual cycle of land-based pilgrimage festivals. To help build the national Jewish Food Movement, Zelig is a member of the Hazon Board of Directors and co-chaired Hazon’s 2008 Food Conference. He is also active in the Jewish farm movement as an adviser and educator for the Jewish Farm School. Zelig derives much inspiration from his 2006 season farming, teaching and pickling at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center’s Adamah program; as well as his years as a Colorado Outward Bound instructor, an Alaskan backcountry park ranger and a life-long explorer of wild places. Zelig got his start in the Jewish environmental movement in 1998 as the first program director of the COEJL-affiliated Northwest Jewish Environmental Project. Until recently, he worked as an environmental attorney for the Center for Food Safety to protect our food and farms.

Zelig Golden's Website »

Supreme Court – Farmers and Consumers Win in Landmark GE Crop Case

On June 21st, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa case, leaving the ban on planting of roundup ready alfalfa in place. This is a historic moment as it’s the first time the Supremes have ruled on GE crops.

In Monsanto v. Geerston Farms, the first genetically modified crop case ever brought before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in favor of Monsanto, reversing part of the lower courts’ rulings. However, the judgment ruled that the ban on planting Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA) remains until the USDA once again deregulates the crop through a new agency action. This is a major victory for the Center for Food Safety, Farmers and Consumers. And I’m proud that I was part of this historic case!

Earth Based Judaism – Reclaiming Our Roots, Reconnecting to Nature

Originally Published by ZEEK.

Humanity’s current alienation from nature is unprecedented. As Wendell Berry explained in his seminal 1977 work The Unsettling of America, we are confronted with a “crisis of culture,” reflected in a “crisis of agriculture,” rooted in the simple fact that modern people have become disconnected from nature and the natural cycles we depend upon for survival. In less than fifty years, modern Western culture – particularly in the United States – has shifted from relying on small family farms that dotted the countryside to relying on an industrial food system run by massive corporate farms.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear GE Alfalfa Case

United States Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a first-time case about the risks of genetically engineered crops. Named Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the case before the high court will be yet another step in an ongoing battle waged by the Center for Food Safety to protect consumers and the environment from potentially harmful effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

USDA Set to Again Approve GE Alfalfa – Comment! Speak Up for Organic Farmers

It’s been sometime since I wrote on JCarrot, but I have some big news and I’m asking for your help!

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deregulating the crop. An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision. The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS.

Court rejects GMO sugar beets!

In another important case against Monsanto and the USDA, the Center for Food Safety has again prevailed, demonstrating that GMOs pose serious risk of harm to organic farmers and consumers, and that the USDA is failing to sufficiently protect us from the contamination that can result from the planting of these crops – this time in Sugar beets! As lead counsel for CFS on this case, I’m excited to share the news with you!

A Federal Court ruled yesterday that the Bush USDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) “RoundUp Ready” sugar beets was unlawful. The Court ordered the USDA to conduct a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of the crop on farmers and the environment.

Birkhat Hachama – Reconnecting to Creation – “Wilderness Torah”

The Sun

There is a deep yearning within me and within so many souls to reconnect with the very fabric of creation. We hear the call and many of us are taking steps to move closer to her. We see this in the Jewish back-to-the-land movement, manifest in a growing number of Jewish farm education projects, in the New Jewish Food Movement fueled by Hazon, and in the blossoming of a Jewish consciousness seeking to rediscover the ancient earth-based roots of our tradition. With the world moving through a period of deep economic transformation and environmental uncertainty, now is the time for us to respond to this yearning.

The 14th of Nisan 5769 (Wednesday April 8th, 2009) is a profoundly auspicious moment to heed this call. Sunrise on the 14th of Nisan is Birkhat HaChama, the Blessing of the Sun, the once-in-a-generation opportunity to celebrate the birthday of the sun and the birthday of all of creation. As the Babylonian Talmud instructs, each person who witnesses the sun “in its season” – meaning when the sun arrives at the place where it was at the beginning of creation – shall bless Hashem, “Blessed is the Maker of Creation.” (Babylon Talmud, Berakhot 59b). Birkat HaChama is not simply a rare moment to celebrate creation, however. It is the deepest moment of renewal, rebirth, and new beginning for our generation.

One Vision for our Food Movement – Re-Writing Our Mikketz Story of Today

The conference was something incredible. I feel so blessed to be a part of this growing community and movement, and I thank those of you who joined us at Asilomar and contributed in a myriad ways to the 3rd annual Food conference. I truly look forward to witness how we all take the next steps forward, through personal choices, communal activity, public policy outreach, the development of new educational opportunities, and ….

At the conference, I was given the honor of sharing my vision for the New Jewish Food Movement, and I thought I would also share it here. So, I have shared those words below. I hope you might get some inspiration from my vision, but more importantly, I hope you will be inspired to think of how your vision fits into Hazon’s work, and even share your vision here on JCarrot.

Happy New Year

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Monsanto To Dump Milk Hormone


Even as we approach Tisha B’Av and the broken, darkness this time symbolizes, a bright light is shining in our food world.

Monsanto has finally admitted defeat in a 20-year struggle to gain acceptance of its genetically engineered milk hormone, rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBST, recombinant bovine somatropin – trade name Posilac). Yesterday, Monsanto publicly gave up in the ‘milk wars,” when it announced that it was “pursuing a divestiture of its dairy product, POSILAC(R) bovine somatotropin, in the upcoming months.”

In 1994, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Monsanto’s controversial rBGH, but gave dairies the right to label milk produced without rBGH as rBGH-free. Since its approval in 1994, rBGH has been at the center of controversy.

Be-Har – On the Mountain, We Release


In this week’s parsha Be-Har (“on the mountain”) we are given the agricultural law of Shemita, a Sabbath for the land. “Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of complete rest.” (Lev. 25:2-4). In lieu of working the land, we are told to eat what the land produces without effort, and give freely of the bounty to all who are hungry.

Parsha Be-Har also gives us the jubilee – a complete release of all land ownership and release of all slaves every fifty years. (Lev. 25:8-10). “Seven times seven years—so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty-nine years… and you shall hallow the fiftieth year…You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants.” (Lev. 25:8-10).

It’s no coincidence that we are given Shemittah and jubilee during this holy time of counting the Omer.

Orthodox Union Calls Cloned Cows Kosher


Today, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an above-the-fold, front page article about our newest source of mystery meat – cloned cows.

In the article “Consumers May Not Be Able to Avoid Cloned Food,” the Chronicle reported that the Orthodox Union has publicly stated that food items derived from cloned animals are kosher. Rabbi Menachem Genack of the O.U. stated that cloned animals would be kosher as long as they belong to a single kosher species, such as cattle, sheep, and goats.

GE Sugar: Coming Soon to Candy In You?

Hey Friends,

Sorry to be the bearer of scary news on Valentines Day, but if you thought GMOs in your tofu was a bummer, guess what Monsanto is bringing you next – yep, GE sugar for your Valentine!

About half of sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets (the other half is cane sugar). In the next few weeks, sugar beet farmers throughout the U.S. will be considering what type of sugar beets to plant, and food companies will have to decide what types of sugar they will accept.

And this year, there is something new for farmers and the sugar cooperatives to choose from — Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet, genetically engineered to survive direct application of the weed killer, Roundup.

In addition to the specter of eating GE sugar, the sugar that comes from these novel plants will also have much heavier loads of pesticides on them. At the request of Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased the allowable amount of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup that kills plants) residues on sugar beetroots by a whopping 5000% at the time USDA permitted the growing us GE sugar beets. The inevitable result is more glyphosate pesticide in our sugar.

Indiana May Ban Hormone Labeling to Protect Monsanto


Hey friends,

Back again with my lawyer hat on – watching Monsanto in its state by state quest to prevent consumers from knowing what is really in our milk. We beat this back at the Federal FDA, we beat them back at the Federal Trade Commission, we beat them back in Pennsylvania…

Now they are going for Indiana.

A bill introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives by Bill Friend, a rep from the tiny town of Macy, Indiana, would make his state the first to prevent consumers from knowing how their milk was produced.
HB. 1300, which could be voted on any day, is couched as legislation to protect consumers from mislabeling. But it would prevent dairy labels that contain a “compositional or production-related claim that is supported solely by sworn statements, affidavits, or testimonials.” In other words, anything related to the moral or ethical dimensions of the product would be off-limits.

Eco Tu B’shvat Seder in the Bay Area – A New Wave on the West

The Potrero Hill Community Center in San Francisco is still ringing with the laughter, song, and meditative silence of 160 young adults who came together from across the Bay Area last night in an unprecedented Tu B’shvat gathering. It was really a blast!

We packed into the Community beyond its capacity (the event beyond sold-out), we drank wine from the four worlds (local, organic, kosher wine from Santa Cruz, CA) and we ate a bounty of fruits from the four directions (literally from all around the world). Even in this room packed wall to wall with tables and chairs, Josh Miller who co-lead the Seder, got everyone on their feet dancing to Tzadik Katimar.

Is Milk or Meat from a Cloned Animal Kosher?


As a staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, I was appalled that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cloned animals for use in our food today. I have to ask, “who does our federal government protect? How can they allow this into the food system without facts showing it is safe and without any labeling or public disclosure requirements?” As a Jew, it makes me ask other questions: “Will this be allowed in kosher milk? Kosher meat? What do our rabbis think? What about the eco-kosher movement?”

FDA Approves Cloned Animals for Our Food

Today’s FDA decision was a long-awaited regulatory assessment of cloned animals, proclaiming that food from cloned animals are just as safe as food from naturally raised animals. (See FDA on Cloning) And while the FDA did not address whether cloned milk and meat is kosher, they did decide today that it is safe for Americans to eat.

The FDA made this decision in the worst way possible. FDA based its decision on an incomplete and flawed review that relies on studies supplied by cloning companies that want to force this cloning technology on American consumers. Biotechnology companies such as ViaGen provided FDA with the “science” in this case. There are no peer reviewed studies showing that this stuff is safe for us to eat.