Archive for the 'Fair Trade' Category

The Price of Fish: Parshat Beha’alotcha

In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotcha, Bnei Yisrael continue their journey from Egypt to the promised land. They are provisioned during their desert wanderings by manna, a mysterious food which appears on the ground with the nightly dew, and, according to midrashim,[1] exhibited a variety of tastes. It is against this background that we read the Israelites’ astounding complaint:

“If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic.” [2]

The Israelites had only just been redeemed from tortuous oppression, so it is most perplexing that they would now long for the ‘free’ foods of slavery. Commentators have offered a number of explanations, claiming that perhaps the fish were so cheap or easy to catch such as to be considered free.[3] The Sifrei, however, provides a more profound interpretation.

The Bane & Blessing of Food Allergies

I eat in a pretty healthy manner. I cook most of my own meals, and even when I eat out or at other people’s homes I’m careful what and how much I eat. [I also keep kosher, so I guess by definition I think a lot about what I eat or don't eat, but it's rote by now--I've been doing it most of my life.]

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a host of food intolerances/allergies (still not sure which they are yet, still working on that part) and in addition to making sure I eat healthily, I also have to make sure I don’t eat things that make me sick.

Introducing Better Beans: Fair Trade, Kosher Coffee and Chocolate!

Better Beans

Good news for all you justice-seeking java-lovers and chocoholics! AJWS has teamed up with Equal Exchange and formed Better Beans – “ a new initiative to sell and distribute fairly traded, kosher coffee and chocolate. Better Beans products allow congregations, community organizations and individuals to order high-quality coffee and chocolate while supporting farmers and community cooperatives in the developing world.

Aftershocks: Haitian Rice

Image courtesy of vitasamb2001

Image courtesy of vitasamb2001

As I have watched the horrors of Haiti unfold from my safe and comfortable living room, I am continually saddened by a sense of ineffectiveness, of wanting to do more than write another check or say another prayer. I wish I could have an impact, do something to directly improve their lot, participate in a more meaningful way. I started to do some research to see if I could purchase goods from Haiti, and subsequently and came across information that was as familiar as it is disturbing. Despite adequate natural resources, Haiti cannot feed itself, much less produce many exports to support their own trade.

New Year – New Jewish Cuisine

New Years

What is Jewish food? Avoiding shellfish and pork and never eating meat with dairy? Hummus? Kreplach? Whatever your Bubbe used to make?

What makes a cuisine Jewish?  Other East Asian cultures have vegetarian diets, which by default wouldn’t be mixing meat with dairy.  Hummus is wildly popular throughout the Middle East. And are kreplach so very different than Italian tortellini?

So what is Jewish food?  It’s like what is asking what your comfort food is.  Probably whatever your family makes.  If you have an Eastern European background, brisket, matzoh ball soup and knishes may be the norm.  A Sephardic background may involve more Mediterranean dishes.

But can this identification with food change?  When I was in college, my comfort food was Macaroni and Cheese out of a box.  As an adult, my go-to comfort dish is sautéed mushrooms and kale.  So yes, I’m a believer that people can change.  So can what we think of as Jewish cuisine change?

Spotlight: Food Justice at the 2009 Hazon Food Conference

2009 Hazon Food Conference

In this article for JTA, Sue Fishkoff discusses the “food justice” track at last week’s Hazon Food Conference. Among the topics in focus: workers’ rights issues, food access in low-income neighborhoods, Fair Trade operations, and community gardens as a tool for empowerment.

Milk & Honey: Grown Across the Green Line

(Story excerpted from Tablet Magazine)


On the occasional Friday afternoon, a makeshift farmers market appears inside the popular soup shop Marakiya in Jerusalem’s city center. Israelis peruse the goods: dried figs, almonds, creamy labaneh, bottles of grape honey, and briny stuffed olives. It’s a familiar scene in a country known for its fresh produce and sumptuous food markets. But this souk aims to produce more than a good meal.

Behind one of the tables, Yahav Zohar, a 29-year-old tour guide and translator, chats with a customer about a bottle of organic olive oil. While his deep tan and scruffy beard might suggest otherwise, Zohar is not a farmer. Rather, he is something of an altruistic middleman—traveling once a week to the West Bank in search of growers and small-scale food producers whose products he buys and resells at a small markup. “The other day, I bought 500 eggs from a farmer at a shekel apiece,” he said. “In some cases, our purchases end up being a big share of a family’s income.”

Kosher, Organic and Fair Trade Vanilla

Mike Stein with JJ Keki, president of PK cooperative

What if you knew that the organic vanilla that you were using in your recipe was not only kosher, but was grown by farmers who would not, under any circumstances, work in their gardens, harvest their trees or deliver their crop from 18 minutes before sundown on Friday until tzeit hakochavim (the appearance of three stars in the sky) on Saturday—with the same applying to all Jewish Festivals.

What if you knew that these farmers live in the deepest regions of  sub-Saharan East Africa in the area Mbale, Uganda, and that their farming cooperative consisted of Jewish, Muslim and Christian members called Peace Kawomera?

What if you knew that these farmers were being paid two and a half times the fair trade price for their beans, because a volunteer organization run by a hazzan (cantor) in Los Angeles removes the middle-man and makes every attempt to allow the farmer to receive the most that he/she can?

What if you knew that this organization, Uniting Jewish Communities and Products, UJCP, is attempting to do this for as many communities as possible throughout the world, helping them become self sufficient, providing clothes, housing, health care and education.

Kosher and Food Ethics: Exploring Vegetarianism, Meat Production, Fair Labor and Other Food Related Ethical Issues

Darkhei Noam’s Scholar-in-Residence program with Rabbi Daniel Sperber is hosting a Shabbat luncheon this Saturday May 16, 2009 from 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM in New York City’s Heschel School (270 West 89th Street between West End Avenue and Broadway.)

Join Rabbi Sperber, Milan Roven Professor of Talmudic Research at Bar Ilan University, rabbi of Congregation Menachem Zion in the Old City of Jerusalem and Darkhei Noam’s halakhic adviser, at a lunch and learn program following services.   Rabbi Sperber will be speaking on the topic of “Kosher & Food Ethics: Exploring vegetarianism, meat production, fair labor and other food related ethical issue.”

Brooklyn Food Conference!

2009 Brooklyn Food Conference

This past Thursday I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn – for a garden.  Yeah, there were a bunch of other reasons, but I did some serious downsizing for the opportunity to be an urban gardener.  But more on that in a minute.

Moving in New york, if you’ve never done it, is a real big pain.  In a city where you can’t normally find parking, where are you going to put a 14-foot rental truck while your friends (for the price of some pizza and your eternal gratitude) help you load all your worldly possessions?  All things considered the move went pretty well until we showed up at my new apartment with all my stuff to find my new bedroom only half painted and an apologetic note from the new roommate.  So settling in was going to have to wait until the painters could finish the job – Saturday.  So with my life boxed up in the living room, I decided to head over to the Brooklyn Food Conference, which was free and a convenient walking distance from my new digs.

Can an Organic T-Shirt, Union Made, Spark a Revolution?

Thanks so much to Rachel Karpf for this special May Day guest post.  Rachel is the blogger for the NoSweat Shop, an initiative that seeks to help ease the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by supplying unionized jobs and living wages to Palestinians living in the Bethlehem in the West Bank. They’re a pioneer in fair trade fashion and believe that a global economy means a global labor movement.  Check them out here.

Organic Bethlehem Unisex Veggie-T

On the banner of the Jew and the Carrot reads a quote by Paul Cezanne, “There will come a day when a carrot, freshly observed, will spark a revolution.” What if the day has already come when a T-shirt, union-made, has sparked a revolution?

No Sweat, the brand name of Bienstar International is a radical new approach to making clothing.  All No Sweat Apparel is made by Union members who are paid living wages.  Most notable however is their factory located on Virgin Mary Street in Bethlehem, West Bank.  This factory, which is affiliated with Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), not only pays its workers living wages which allows them to support their families and thus have an alternative to terrorism, but also makes 100% organic cotton T-shirts.

According to Helen Exim Corporation,  ”conventional cotton crops occupy 3 % of the world cultivated areas. Nevertheless, it represents 25 % of pesticides and 10 % of insecticides bought in the world. This problem is eliminated by the use of 100% organic cotton, not to mention that many of our products  also contain no animal ingredients and have never been tested on animals.

Apply for the Israel Sustainable Food Tour with Hazon and Heschel


You are invited to apply for a highly subsidized five-day Tour of Israel (November 15-19, 2009), from the unique perspective of: food! Brought to you by Hazon and the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, this tour will not be a culinary Tour of Israeli gastronomy (though there will amazing eating). Instead, this one-of-a-kind mission will highlight developments in Israel towards more sustainable food production and consumption, including:

On Passover: Considering Child Slavery on Cocoa Farms

Thank you Rodney North and Susan Sklar of Equal Exchange for this great guest post.  Rodney North is The Answer Man for Equal Exchange, and as such is a resource for the public, academics, and the media.  He has been with Equal Exchange since 1996, and has been Equal Exchange’s point person on the forced child labor issue for the past five years. Susan Sklar grew up as a member of a Reform synagogue in Scranton, PA and supported the United Farm Workers grape boycott through her temple youth group in the 1970’s.  She continues to advocate for social justice and food issues at Equal Exchange through its Interfaith Program.

chocolate stack

On Passover every Jew is obligated to imagine that he or she had once been a slave in the land of Egypt. We try to envision the experience of our ancestors: the sadness of their lives under brutal day-to-day work conditions.  It’s unfortunate that in order for Jews (and others) to imagine slavery, we only need to look at slave labor conditions for cocoa workers in West Africa today, where 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown for the chocolate candy that many of us enjoy eating.

Eco-friendlier Mishloach Manot


Even as an adult I get a thrill out of receiving mishloach manot. The moment when I return home and view my doorstep with lots of little packages is exhilarating. I like to see who they are from and what’s inside. I like to taste a few things and then panic when I’ve realized that I’ve forgotten someone. But I’ve also become more environmentally and socially conscious as I’ve aged and realized that there are obstacles cluttering the way to my total mishloach manot happiness buzz. I think to myself, why is there so much in each package? How are we going to consume it all before Passover which arrives in a month? Look at all the wrappers and plastic and candy and junk.

Over the past few years I’ve seen people do so some pretty original and creative things that appeal to my innate mishloach manot excitement and were eco-friendly too. One time I received a package that came in a small tera cotta pot with goodies and a package of seeds. Another time someone filled a reusable cup with treats and I used the cup