Goals for the Jewish Food Movement
What’s your vision for your synagogue, school, day-school, camp, or Hillel – for 2022, at the end of the next 7-year cycle in Jewish life? What food do you serve? Where does it come from? How are the workers treated, or the animals, or the land? How much sugar do you serve? Do you compost? Are your kids involved? Do you grow any of your own food? Do you have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project? What interfaith work are you doing? Are you advocating for more sustainable food systems?
Leading up to our second Jewish Food Conference, in December 2007, a few of us wrote a first-draft of “7-year goals for the Jewish Food Movement.” These were then publicly amended, and they were published in the fall of 2008 – at the start of the 7-year shmita cycle in Jewish life.
One of the original goals was indeed that we would “consciously prepare for the next shmita year.” Now we’re in that seventh year, and so it’s now time to look back at the last cycle, and time also to start visioning for the next seven years.
Below (and available for download here) is a brief synopsis of where we are 7 years later and a draft of the next “7-year goals for the Jewish Food Movement – September 2022”. Please email your comments, questions, or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2007 – the last shmita year – there were fewer than 10 Jewish CSAs; today there are more than 60 in Hazon’s CSA network alone, now the largest faith-based CSA network in North America. Our very first – the Tuv Ha’Aretz at Ansche Chesed in Manhattan, launched in 2004 – is still going strong, and the farm we partnered with for what was their first CSA is now supported by a large number of CSAs in the region.
In 2007 we were hosting only our second Jewish Food Conference. Our vision for 2014 was that 2,000 people would be attending it. We failed in that goal – but in a very fascinating way. It gradually became clear that the barriers to entry in relation to the Jewish Food Conference were not inconsiderable, in time and money and location – and half-way through the cycle we decided also to launch a series of local Jewish Food Festivals. We were inspired by Gefiltefest, in London; they, in turn, had been inspired by our Food Conference. Today we’re going into our 11th Jewish Food Conference; and there are also now Jewish Food Festivals in Boston, Denver, London, Palo Alto, Philadelphia and San Diego.
In 2007, the year when we first schechted [slaughtered] three goats at our Food Conference, the Agriprocessors plant in Postville Iowa was still open – and Grow & Behold, KOL Foods and other local ethical kosher meat producers had not yet been envisaged.
In 2007 Adamah was just three years old. Urban Adamah hadn’t been founded. Kosher Nation and Soil and Sacrament hadn’t been published. Artisanal and sustainability-focused Jewish food businesses and restaurants weren’t yet launched. That was the year we first talked about putting the Farm Bill on the agenda of the Jewish community – the Jewish Working Group on the Farm Bill was a few years away. We hadn’t yet produced – or imagined – an Israel Sustainable Food Tour.
The story of the last seven years is a fascinating study in the interplay between ideas and action; between organizations and individuals (and individuals within organizations); between planning and serendipity. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It is an endless regression backwards, but it plays forwards with choice and volition: what do I decide to do or not do, this coming year? Which book do I read, which conference do I attend, which vision do I choose to try to bring to fruition?
Over the past few years, a growing number of Jewish foodies, farmers, rabbis, chefs, teachers, students, families and many others have brought meaning to the words Jewish Food Movement, asking why and how one can eat in a way that is both deeply Jewish and deeply sustainable.
In 2008, we asked a new question: Where will this movement be in 7 years? We’ve begun the countdown to the end of the next shmita cycle in September 2015. Using the shmita cycle Rosh Hashanah 5776 (September 2015), with its wisdom about our relationship to the land as a guide, what should be the goals of the Jewish food movement? How do you envision that the Jewish community (in the United States, Israel and the entire world) will look and act differently in its relationship to food by September 2015?
A set of draft 7-year goals were unveiled at the 2008 Hazon Food Conference. These goals are a taste of what is possible.
Many of you who were at the Conference took the time to add your personal vision to these goals. Take a few minutes to read the draft 7-year goals below. What should be changed or added? What do you want to do in your community?
By 2015 we hope to have…
- An American Jewish community that is measurably healthier and more sustainable.
- An American Jewish community that is demonstrably playing a role in making the world healthier and more sustainable for all.
- An American Jewish community in which Jewish life has been strengthened and renewed by the work of the Jewish food movement.
These are some of the specific programmatic goals that we will aim to accomplish, bringing broader goals to fruition:
- Strong relationships with farms and farmers and a powerful Hazon CSA network. At least 180 CSAs in American Jewish communities around the country and other countries. At least 180 local organic farms being actively supported by Jewish communities; at least 10,000 families putting their purchasing power, as Jews, behind local sustainable agriculture. Most of all, at least 25,000 Jewish people having a direct relationship with a farmer, and to see her or him as growing food directly on their behalf.
- “Jewish food education” recognized as an important discrete discipline within the Jewish community. A growing number of Jewish food educators working with schools, synagogues, JCCs and camps to integrate teachings about food in relation to health, ethics, tradition and culture.
- More Jewish farmers and more sharing of Jewish farming wisdom. Adamah, Kayam, the Jewish Farm School and other equivalent programs: at least 180 Jewish 20-somethings a year graduating from programs that give hands-on knowledge about food, farming and Jewish tradition – and moving on to become leaders and role models within American Jewish life.
- American Jews will eat less meat and fewer animal products generally. The meat they do eat will be from animals that have lived animal-like lives, eaten foods those animals traditionally eat, been raised respectfully to animals and to the land, and that have been killed in ways that are consonant with the highest standards of shechitah and Jewish ethics. Magen Tzedek and other mechanisms to identify ethically/sustainably raised meat will be fully established and national chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes will offer meat with the Magen Tzedek.
- American Jews will engage seriously in issues of food security and hunger. Programs such as Challah for Hunger, Table to Table, Hazon Yeshayah, Mazon and AJWS will have grown strongly, so that American Jews are raising and donating more dollars to help people directly in need.
- We will consciously prepare for the next shmita year. We will, physically and spiritually prepare our communities and farmlands to implement the laws of shmita by the time of Rosh Hashanah/September 2015.
- As a community, we’ll play a growing role in changing public policy so that we create food systems that are healthy and sustainable for the land, its workers and consumers. As a community we will build power for change, so that we can be allies to the communities most affected by worker injustice: low wage farm workers, processing/packing house workers, truckers, hospitality/restaurant/hotel workers, etc. In doing so, we will work as a Jewish community to support their efforts for living wage, benefits, health/safety/training measures, as well as related policy concerns, such as immigrant rights/immigration reform, and full access to education, social services, and participation in civic life.
- We will re-learn the old rhythms of simplicity and feasting. If we’re successful, we hope that American Jews will be a role model to other communities in celebrating Shabbat and holidays – Jewish and secular, national and personal – with great joy, gatherings, song and wonderful feasts; and that during the other six days of the week we’ll eat more lightly and more simply. Our motto will be that of our teacher, Reb Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
- The Jewish Food Movement will have a voice/representative/ track in all major Jewish leaders’ conferences – RA, RRA, URJ, Aleph, Kallah, GA etc.
- This movement will exemplify celebration and inclusion. We’ll do this work with joy, with good humor, and delight that people are different and legitimately make different choices in their lives. The Jewish food movement is about ethics, justice and environmental sustainability. It’s also about family, memory, kashrut, culture, cooking, baking, davenning, food-writing, food photography, Israel, education, holidays, halacha… and the ancient rivalry of latkes and hamentaschen.
- The Hazon Food Conference will be a gathering of more than 2,000 people – one of the largest events in the annual calendar of the American Jewish community, a significant and powerful event in its own right. It will also be a place that enables leaders within the Jewish food movement to inspire and to build relationships that will sustain this work throughout the year. The Food Conference will be an inclusive event accessible to students and those with limited means.
These goals fit into the larger sustainability goals for the Jewish community that have been developed as part of the Jewish Climate Change Campaign. It is our hope that these goals can be added to and refined and solidified. This will give us a good foundation upon which to design and implement the systems that will help us reach these goals by 2015.
2022 Vision: Draft 7-Year Goals for the Jewish Food Movement for September 2022, at the end of the next shmita cycle in Jewish life
These are some of the key framing questions:
- How, by September 2022, will our relationship to food have helped to create a more sustainable world for all?
- How will our relationship to food have strengthened Jewish life, or deepened the relationship between Israeli and diaspora Jews, or helped to build interfaith partnerships in this country?
- Which existing ideas or projects need to be strengthened?
- What new ideas or projects need to come to fruition?
By 2022, we hope for – and intend to work for –
- An American Jewish community that is measurably healthier and more sustainable;
- An American Jewish community that is demonstrably playing a role in making the world healthier and more sustainable for all;
- An American Jewish community in which Jewish life has been strengthened and renewed by the work of the Jewish food movement;
And these are some specific goals. Note that some of these represent building on what is clearly already underway; some represent new focus or inflection; and one or two are quite new.
By 2022, there should be:
Stronger relationships connecting the food system to Jewish life, and vice versa. We need to build connections and relationships between farmers, farm workers, consumers, distributors, rabbis, Jewish leaders, business leaders and other faith leaders, among others. There should be more Jewish farmers, more Jewish CSAs, farmers markets at our synagogues and JCCs, local food sourced by Jewish summer camps should all continue to expand.
Deeper and more extensive interfaith work. This is a time of friction in American life; and also a time of great opportunity. What we first conceived as “the Jewish food movement” has gradually taken its place – to some extent a leading or pathbreaking place – in what may now be thought of as “the faith-based food movement.” The next seven years offers an opportunity to build relationships with other faith communities through the prism of food, both nationally and locally. Wouldn’t it be cool if, by 2022, it were clear that a/ food was strengthening the relationships between different faith and ethnic communities? b/ that faith communities and ethnic communities were strengthening food systems in this country? And c/ that the Jewish Food Movement had played a significant and catalytic role in helping all of this to happen.
Clear recognition that JOFEE – Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Education – is a vital discipline in strengthening Jewish life. That in turn will involve a strong and growing network of JOFEE- certified educators and JOFEE program alumni, and mechanisms for JOFEE leaders to interact with each other and with other key Jewish institutional leaders. There should be a growing number of JOFEE educators working with schools, synagogues, JCCs, and camps to integrate teachings about food in relation to health, ethics, Jewish tradition, and Jewish history. That in turn should lead to more synagogue gardens; taking students out of the classroom and into the forest; baking challah in Hebrew school; students conducting Food Audits at their synagogues; and so on. These activities should be seen not as niche programs but as core to how we transmit Jewish values into practice. JOFEE leaders should have a significant voice at major annual or biennial gatherings of the American Jewish community – the GA, JFN Conference, RA, RRA, URJ, etc.
More Jewish farmers and more sharing of Jewish farming wisdom. By 2022 Adamah, Urban Adamah, Pearlstone, Amir, the Jewish Farm School and other equivalent programs should continue to grow and strengthen – providing hands-on knowledge about food, farming and Jewish tradition, and equipping young adults to move on to become leaders and role models within American Jewish life and in the wider Food Movement.
Taking on sugar as an issue. Sugar consumption has grown immeasurably in the last 40 years, and this is doing immense damage to our health. Here’s a factsheet from the Harvard School of Public Health providing some stark statistics. By 2022 we should have started to take on sugar as a significant issue in Jewish life: raising questions about the sugar we serve in Jewish institutions; connecting diabetes campaigns in Israel and the US; and having the Jewish community take a lead-role in allying with other faith-communities to start to challenge the ubiquity of sugar.
A related topic: Healthier choices should become the easier choices in Jewish life. By reducing the amount of sugar, processed food and heavily packaged food that we serve during kiddush or at our organization’s meetings, by removing bottles of soda and other sweetened beverages from our tables, and by increasing the selection of seasonal, fresh fruit and vegetables we serve at our functions, we should be making it easier for everyone to fuel their body and minds for health and wellness. Our motto should simply be “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan.)
American Jews will eat less meat and fewer animal products generally. The meat that we do eat should be from animals that have lived animal-like lives; animals that have eaten foods those animals traditionally eat; animals that have lived within mixed-use farms; and animals whose deaths have been consonant with the highest standards of shechitah and of Jewish ethics. Sales of ethical, local kosher meat should continue to grow as a proportion of kosher meat sales.
American Jews will engage seriously in issues of food security and hunger. The Jewish Working Group on the Farm Bill could/should become a platform for a wider and more sustained push for civic advocacy. As a community we should be supporting organizations like AJWS, Challah for Hunger and Mazon, so that American Jews are raising and donating more dollars to help people directly in need. And programs like Double Up Bucks should get the support of the Jewish community so that more low-income people can use their SNAP dollars to access more local produce. As a community we should be working with others to support those whose disadvantage is invisibly connected to our own food choices: low-wage farm workers, processing/packing house workers, truckers, hospitality/restaurant/hotel workers, etc.
We will re-learn the old rhythms of simplicity and feasting. If we’re successful, we hope that American Jews will be a role model to other communities in celebrating Shabbat and holidays – Jewish and secular, national and personal – with great joy, gatherings, song and wonderful feasts; and that during the other six days of the week we’ll eat more lightly and more simply.
This movement will exemplify celebration and inclusion. We’ll do this work with joy, with good humor, and delight that people are different and legitimately make different choices in their lives. The Jewish food movement is about ethics, justice and environmental sustainability. It’s also about family, memory, kashrut, culture, cooking, baking, davenning, food-writing, food photography, Israel, education, holidays, halacha… and the ancient rivalry of latkes and hamentaschen.
The Jewish Food Conferences and Festivals will grow significantly. These are significant and powerful events that enable local and national leaders within the Jewish food movement to inspire and to build relationships that will sustain this work throughout the year. By 2029 there should be an annual Jewish Food Festival in most American Jewish communities; and by 2022 we should be well on-track towards that goal. And individual Jewish Food Festivals should be growing in size – not just a significant event on a Sunday, but the local rabbis speaking on food-related topics the Shabbat before, and other events taking place before or after the main day itself.
Connecting to students. Teva works with a number of Jewish day schools – but only a minority of Jewish day schools, nationally, have clear JOFEE progams. Similarly there have been a few college initiatives, but no systematic connections between Hillels and the Jewish Food Movement. By 2022 there should be systemic work going on in and with colleges, dayschools and Hebrew schools. A clear majority of Jewish summer camps should be growing food and integrating that work into their core programs.
Building on the momentum of 5775, we will consciously prepare for the next shmita year 5782. The head of the American Academy of Religion recently told 9,000 AAR members at their annual conference that they should not meet in 2021 – because of the shmita year. (And the NY Times article explaining her argument linked to Hazon’s website to explain what shmita is.) This next seven year period in American Jewish life should be the first one in which a consciousness of shmita permeates all seven years of the cycle, and thus in which the period from 2015 to 2021 represents an extensive conversation and planning process for how the next shmita year – in 2021-’22 – could or should be honored across the community.