Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Nearly 200 Jewish, foodie, environmentalist, justice-minded, passionate people of all ages walk into a Northern California ranch. Actually, this wasn’t a joke, it was Hazon’s Food Conference West, December 23-26, 2010.
This year’s conference featured program tracks in Creating a Just Food System, Do-It-Yourself: Food Preservations Skills, Food Systems and Sustainability, Jewish History and Culture, and Texts, Values, and Tradition. As a Jewish social justice communal professional, and personally as a foodie and Judeo-phile, I felt like a kid in the proverbial candy store (that is, a story selling organic candy made without high-fructose corn syrup and chemical additives). So many choices! Where to begin?
Coming out of our Chewing on Food Justice series here in the Bay Area, which concluded with Is Kosher, Kosher, I was interested in learning more about the Magen Tzedek, a new certification for kosher foods meeting labor, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and corporate transparency standards. This Friday morning session with Rabbi Iris Richman revealed the complexities of food certification as an attempt to reform the food system from within.
For me, the highlight of all of Friday’s sessions was “Power Lunch: Applying the Tools of Community Organizing to Food Justice,” with Rabbis Stephanie Kolin* of the Union of Reform Judaism’s Just Congregations initiative, and Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri L’Tzedek and UCLA Hillel. We practiced basics of one-on-one relational meetings and looked at Uri L’Tzedek’s Tav HaYosher as a case study. This very popular Food Justice session revealed the eagerness of participants to dig into real methods for making change.
After moving Shabbat services and dinner, the whole conference convened for an evening plenary session, “The State of the New Jewish Food Movement,” featuring local favorite Adam Berman of Urban Adamah, Rabbis Iris Richman and Shmuly Yanklowitz, and Albert Straus of another local favorite, Straus Family Creamery. Director of Hazon’s food programs, Judith Belasco, moderated the session in which each speaker shared about their work, the motivations behind it, and how it relates to Judaism.
Fellow Jewish social justice crusader Alana Alpert asked an important question about the perceived differences between the environmental sustainability and social justice movements . All the panelists agreed that for the Jewish Food Movement to really have impact moving forward, these false separations must be bridged to form one holistic approach for social change on multiple levels. Creating a just, safe, sustainable, environmentally sound food system will take all of us, whether we identify as social justice activists, environmentalists, observers of kashrut, ethical consumers, or beginners on this path.
Of the many excellent sessions and experiences at the conference, this message resonated most for me. It will take all of us, sustaining and fortifying ourselves through community, celebration, and tradition, to heal this broken food system, and world. Hazon is creating the spaces and resources we need to get there, together, and I’m grateful to have been a part of the conference.
To find out about Hazon’s next Food Conference in August 2011, click here.
*Folks in the Bay Area, come hear Rabbi Kolin at Congregation Emanu-El’s MLK Shabbat TODAY!
Jocelyn Berger is the Bay Area Program Officer for Pursue.