We interrupt our regularly scheduled ‘Haggadah Supplement of the Day’ theme of this week, for a recap of the recent New York City Food Justice Seder!
Included in this piece is a link to a text study about the food system created in the time of Joseph, “Joseph and Food Aid: Motivations and Impact“. It can make a great addition to a Seder – or any meal during Passover!
“Let all who are hungry come and eat!” Every year, we make this audacious pronouncement, inviting hungry men and women to sit next to us and share in our bounty. And of course, every year, they do not come. And maybe that’s better, for both guest and host, as it might be awkward for a hungry stranger to walk into your house, pull a chair to the table, and chow down.
But at last Sunday’s Food Justice Seder, we came pretty close. While, to my knowledge, those in need did not walk in off the street, the Seder featured an analysis of the problem of hunger and injustice along the food supply chain, a discussion of what we can –and are obligated to — do to correct it, and finally, some direct action.
The event, co-sponsored by Hazon, Pursue and Uri L’Tzedek, marked the first widespread, public use of Uri L’Tzedek’s Food & Justice Haggadah Supplement – a compilation of essays connecting the ancient liberation story with contemporary insights on Torah, ethics, and consumption. The supplement (available for free download) is formatted to be used in conjunction with your regular Haggadah, so take look and feel free to borrow some of these ideas for your Seder.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, some highlights from the sold-out event:
- Deborah Grieg introduced us to East New York Farms, where they’re not just bringing healthy, local food into a low-income neighborhood but growing it themselves, thereby building a local economy, promoting good nutrition, and creating green space.
- Nati Passow described some exciting happenings at Jewish Farm School, which promotes sustainable agriculture and supports food systems rooted in justice and Jewish traditions.
- Rabbi Ari Weiss, of Uri L’Tzedek, shared the successes of the Tav HaYosher, an ethical seal for Kosher restaurants that meet fair labor standards. Launched just 2 years ago, over 65 restaurants now have the Tav.
- Ari Hart, also of Uri L’Tzedek, gave us an update on the Flaum’s action to support workers in their struggle for back-pay. Many major groceries have agreed to pull the products from shelves until Flaum’s pays, including Fairway, Zabar’s, Associated, & Food Emporium.
- Audrey Sasson, a Program Officer for Pursue, shared insights about global hunger and the food sovereignty movement.
- Karin Fleisch (full disclosure: me), of the Food Bank for New York City, painted a snapshot of who is hungry in New York (hint: it’s not necessarily who you think).
- Judith Belasco, of Hazon, recounted the benefits and incredible growth of the CSA movement.
We took action…
- We broke into hevruta (groups) to analyze this biblical passage.
- We ate the maror (bitter herb) silently, in an 8-step guided meditation.
- We composted our waste (thanks, Anna and Naf)!
- We sent letters to Congress expressing outrage at budget cuts to global security programs which put millions of lives at risk
- We held a chametz-drive, collecting over 100 lbs of non-perishables to donate to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, which provides social services and emergency food to nearly 10,000 people each month.
Finally, we expressed gratitude for our abundance and freedom. May we all experience personal and collective liberation this Passover. May our food choices support freedom, nourishment, justice, peace, and security for all.
Karin Fleisch lives in Brooklyn, NY and works for the Food Bank For New York City as Manager of Member Services. Previously, she lived in a geodesic dome and farmed in Israel as an Eco-Israel apprentice, consulted for Leket Israel, worked on Teachers College, Columbia University’s LiFE (Linking Food & the Environment) curriculum, and served as a Senior Corps Member with City Year New York. She also serves on the board of Uri L’Tzedek, volunteers as a compliance officer with the Tav HaYosher, and likes pickles.