SHEHECHIYANU! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that’s been certified not to have been made with trafficked child labor! Why is this so important?
Every Passover we gather as family and community, to celebrate our people’s freedom. We are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus, our journey from slavery to liberation. As we celebrate this freedom during Passover, we are compelled to reflect on how freedom continues to be elusive for other people. Our history of slavery awakens us to the plight of the stranger, and to the alarming occurrence of modern day trafficking and slavery. For how can we celebrate our freedom, without recognizing that so many individuals still have not obtained theirs?
There is much documented evidence about the role of trafficked child labor in the cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and West Africa, where 40-50% of cocoa is grown and harvested. Hundreds of thousands of children work in the cocoa fields, many of whom are exposed to hazardous conditions where they:
-Spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear
-Use sharp tools, like machetes
-Sustain injuries from transporting heavy loads beyond permissible weight
-Do strenuous work like felling trees, and clearing and burning vegetation
But we don’t have to eat chocolate tainted by child labor, especially as we celebrate our people’s freedom on Pesach. We CAN CHOOSE to purchase chocolate from companies that certify their supply chains through Fair Trade monitoring and certification, committed to eliminating child labor.
And this year, we are able to celebrate with Fair Trade Kosher for Passover chocolate! Equal Exchange produces soy-free (lecithin-free) chocolate. Last year, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, gave a Rabbinic ruling that specific chocolates can be eaten on Passover, and this year, they are also included on the Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Approved for Passover 5774 list.
The gift of freedom our people received generations ago bestows upon us the obligation and responsibility to work for the liberation of all people. How can we fully celebrate our freedom without acknowledging millions of people today who are still forced to work, thousands of them young children who work in cocoa fields to bring us our delicious chocolate? What better way than celebrate with a Chocolate Flavored Charoset?
Here’s a special reading for eating Fair Trade Kosher for Passover chocolate:
Using mortar and bricks, the Jewish slaves built the pyramids. The charoset reminds us of the mortar, a symbol of unrewarded toil. We remember how our ancestors’ work enriched the Egyptians’ lives, and challenge ourselves to think about the ways that we currently benefit from exploited labor. Tonight we eat chocolate charoset to remember all the trafficked and enslaved children in the Ivory Coast who toil in the cocoa fields, harvesting the cocoa pods from which our favorite chocolates are made. For Jews, the descendants of slave laborers who build the pyramids, such profit should never be sweet. We eat charoset that is made with Fair Trade chocolate, the only chocolate that is free of child labor. We take the sweetness of this charoset as a symbol of resistance and the possibility of liberation for all.
This recipe was developed by Philip Gelb, a vegan/vegetarian personal chef and caterer in Oakland, CA.
1 cup toasted, chopped nuts (pistachio, walnuts, pecans)
1/4 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 ounce shaved Fair Trade dark chocolate (71%)
2 tablespoon port (or Kosher for Passover wine)
Mix all ingredients together. Let chill an hour before serving.
Philip Gelb is a vegan chef and musician in Oakland, California. He is known for catering, hosting cooking classes and a long running underground restaurant series, often featuring world renowned musicians.
Ilana Schatz is the founding director of Fair Trade Judaica. She lives in El Cerrito, CA and loves to hike, restore their backyard to its original oak tree habitat, and make wine and liqueur from the eight plum trees in their garden.