Last Friday night I listened to a young Jewish farmer speak about his hopes to own his own farm, an integrative pediatric neurologist discuss her “food prescriptions”, and the president of a nonprofit organization talk about creating fair access to healthy food.
Leon Vehaba, Maya Shetreat-Klein and Oran Hesterman were sharing their personal visions at a keynote panel for the 2011 Hazon Food Conference at UC Davis. This four day immersion into the new Jewish food movement included discussions on food justice, food policy, health and nutrition, Jewish agriculture and tradition, and do-it-yourself workshops.
So what does being Jewish have to do with all this?
Jewish tradition bursts with daily, weekly, monthly, and annual rituals stemming from its agricultural heritage. Our holidays and prayers revolve around the agricultural cycle. Adam, as written in Genesis 2:7, is made of the earth (Adamah) – our environment is part of our essence.
Laws of sustainability and food justice permeates the Torah, the Jewish Bible, including; laws of shmita where land must lie fallow every seven years, Ba’al taschit, the prohibition of waste or needless destruction, and caring for those that are hungry and in need.
These laws are not limited to the lips of enthusiastic yeshiva students but alive in initiatives and programs throughout the country. This ancient tradition speaks to issues in our contemporary life, demonstrated by the 311 attendees of the California gathering including; authors like Oran Hesterman, Sue Fishkoff and Joan Nathan, rabbis, students, farmers, families, Jews across denominations and generations, and organizations like;
- Wilderness Torah: celebrating the holidays in their original context
- Urban Adamah: a community organic farm and Jewish environmental education center located in Berkeley, CA
- Adamah at Isabella Freedman: a leadership training program integrating organic farming and Jewish learning
- Kayam: hands-on Jewish agricultural education
- Jewish Farm School: educational programming for Jews to reconnect with the land
- Eden Village Camp: Jewish environmental overnight summercamp
- Kol Foods: grass-fed glatt kosher meat and pastured poultry
- Grow and Behold Foods: kosher pastured meats
- American Jewish World Service (AJWS): advocating for farm bill reform and food aid policies
- Uri L’Tzedek: an Orthodox social justice organization dedicated to combating suffering and oppression
- Mazon: A Jewish response to hunger
- Ample Harvest: suppplying food pantries with donated garden produce
- Canfei Nesharim: Torah-based resources to educate the Jewish community on environmental issues
- Mooshy: Meat only on Shabbat and holidays
- Netiya: establishing gardens in synagogues
- Farm Forward: promoting conscientious food choices, reduce farm animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture
- Fair Food Network: dedicated to building a more just and sustainable food system
I started the conference last Thursday exploring the connection between the Jewish holidays and its agricultural origins at the UC Davis student garden under the shade of a Gravenstein apple tree and smells of wildflowers and ripening figs. I watched the ritual slaughter of a chicken and helped pluck its feathers, and learned the intricacies of the farm bill including its affects on global food aid and how the Jewish community can make a difference.
Leon, Maya, and Oran all spoke about their personal visions, their quest or epiphanies, the time they realized they were doing “their life’s work.” Hazon is Hebrew for vision. The Hazon Food Conference is a distinctive time to bring all these visions together in the context of Jewish tradition to create just, sustainable, and healthy global communities.
Were you at the Food Conference? Please leave your thoughts, your favorite sessions, who and what inspired you, or just say hello!
More Food Conference Links Around the Web;
Food Conference Report: Food Writing Offers A Smorgasbord of Opportunities – The Jew and the Carrot
The Flores Family Declaration of Food Values – Aaron Flores
Food Conference Report: CSAs Creating Large Scale Change – The Jew and the Carrot
Farmville: The resurgence of Jewish Farming – Tablet Magazine
UC Davis on the Front Lines of the Food Revolution – Jeffrey Yoskowitz | JWeekly
On the Road with Fair Food – Hazon Food Conference – Fair Food Network
So What’s the “New Jewish Food Movement?” A Movement for Justice – American Jewish World Service
A Closer Look at the 2012 Farm Bill – Aliza Wasserman | The Jew and the Carrot