Judaism teaches that eating is a sacred act, and as a congregation we continue to explore what it means to honor both the earth and the human labor that goes into producing our food, and why it is that some of us have so much to eat, and others so little.
In 2008, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek embarked on a year-long study and action project that we named “Food Matters.” Children and adults studied Jewish traditions about food, sustainability, and economic justice—all the ways in which our tradition sanctifies the process of eating and of producing the food that we eat. “Food Matters” became an umbrella under which we organized a number of tikkun olam initiatives in the years to come: becoming a partner congregation with Family Table, to provide food for people in need in the greater Boston Jewish community; working with local churches and synagogues to open a Newton drop-off for the Red Fire Farm CSA, and enrolling member families to help support local agriculture; becoming a distribution center for organic, fair trade, kosher olive oil from Sindyanna of Galilee, an amazing Jewish-Arab women’s cooperative in Israel
In 2010, Dorshei Tzedek joined the New England Delegation for Farmworker Justice, an interfaith coalition supporting the organizing campaign of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworkers’ rights organization in Florida fighting for decent working conditions in the Florida tomato fields.
From this association, CDT developed a Haggadah Supplement, “In Every Generation: A Dorshei Tzedek Haggadah Insert on Farmworkers’ Rights” for the Passover holiday, drawing the connection between our obligation to remember the experience of our ancestors as slaves in Egypt and our responsibility to work for the freedom of all people from all types of enslavement and oppression.
One natural outgrowth of our Food Matters initiative was working with Ganei Beantown, who organizes, among other things, the Boston Jewish Food Conference (BJFC) Ganei Beantown’s mission is to “build community through experiential food and agriculture education rooted in Jewish text, tradition and culture.” CDT was a co-sponsor of the very first conference in 2012, and Rabbi Toba co-led the Beit Midrash at the BJFC in 2013 with Rabbi Natan Margalit. CDT’s ongoing partnership with Ganei Beantown has become an important component of our holiday programming, running workshops on sauerkraut making and local lulavim at Sukkot, making organic applesauce at Chanukah, and participating in their Sukkot on the Farm.
With a wide variety of people from all sectors of the Jewish community currently engaging in issues of food justice and sustainability, we can say now more than ever that “Food Matters!”