I’ve started noticing hamentaschen showing up in local bakeries, and it made me wonder if one of the reasons we say “Purim Sameach/Happy Purim” is because we know that we’ll be eating lots of hamentaschen, the traditional Eastern-European Purim dessert. This joyous day celebrates the repeal of the death decree against the Jewish inhabitants of ancient Persia (“They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”).
Who knew there could be good chocolate Hanukkah gelt? I figured it had to be waxy and tasteless, left in its foil to decorate a festive table rather than my mouth. A lovely audience in New Jersey shared their favorite Jewish chocolate experiences with me recently and mentioned, among other things, chocolate covered matzah and chocolate macaroons. They did not mention gelt. When I noted that omission, one woman sharply retorted, “Chocolate gelt is sucky.”
And so it often is. Or has been.
Several companies sell gelt. My quality test sampled some, not all. My criteria for gelt goodness includes whether the product is fair trade, kosher, and/or organic. I also care about appearance and taste and quality.
This summer is breaking lots of high temp records all across the country. The best antidote to the heat is staying hydrated, and there’s only so much plain water one can drink! We’ve gathered some awesomely delicious cold drinks that you can make at home, with a focus on Fair Trade ingredients.
Why Fair Trade? Because it’s such a Jewish form of ethical consumerism. Fair trade assures living wages, safe working conditions, no child labor, environmental sustainability - all basic Jewish values. For a matrix matching Fair Trade principles with Jewish Values, click here.
“But where do I find Fair Trade products?” you may ask.
Here is a list of Fair Trade and Kosher coffee/tea/chocolate products.
World Fair Trade Day is May 11, and thousands of people around the world will be celebrating the positive impact that Fair Trade has made on the lives of farmers and artisans. Fair Trade principles embody key Jewish values - Osek - prohibition about oppressing workers, B’Tzelem Elohim - honoring the humanity of each person, Bal Tashchit - do not waste or destroy natural resources, and Tzedek - creating a life of justice for everyone.
We often treat ourselves to special foods as we celebrate our Shabbat. Here are some recipes for special Shabbat treats using Fair Trade ingredients, so we know that the people who grew our food were treated with Jewish values. Here is a list of Fair Trade and Kosher chocolate, coffee and tea.
SHEHECHIYANU! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that’s been certified to not have been made with trafficked child labor!
Fair Trade Judaica received word from Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, that “Equal Exchange pareve chocolates (the 3.5 oz. or 100 g line and dark chocolate minis) may be purchased before Passover and consumed on Passover.” These products are also vegan, soy and gluten free. For people following Conservative Halacha, products must be in the house the day before Passover, prior to Bedikat Chametz.
It’s been the coldest week in California that I can remember in years - I know, nothing like the MidWest or the East Coast, but for us, it’s been freezing (yes, even going below 32 degrees). The lemon trees in people’s yards look very surprised and unhappy, and a photograph of an orange grove covered with icicles took my breath away. I can only expect that oranges will be more expensive in the next few months from crop damage.
Returning from a bundled up walk in the cold air and brisk wind, the image of holding a warm cup of hot cocoa in my chilly hands brought a bright smile to my face. I’m not sure what it is about hot cocoa that I love so much. It’s the perfect beverage: warm, creamy, milky, and filled with lots of chocolate. What’s not to love?
Many of us are blessed to have locally sourced organic honey available, made with the nectar of wild flowers. When local honey isn’t available, however, the only alternative is purchasing honey produced abroad. And our choice, in that situation, DOES make a difference!
Labor Day approaches predictably every year, on the first Monday in September. When it was declared a federal holiday in Connecticut in 1894, thirty states were already celebrating, many with street parades and festivals for workers and their families. The idea resonated for the American people then and it continues to resonate now.
While the picnic traditions and celebratory gatherings were with Americans from the beginning, backyard BBQ’s and the social ban on wearing white after Labor Day weekend evolved later. Of greater importance, is taking a moment to pause and reflect on the truer meaning of Labor Day. Personally, I’ll take the opportunity to reflect on the power of advocates of fair trade, conditions and wages. I’ll choose to pause and give thanks to workers who labor in all sorts of ways. Not so different from the impetus for the holiday in the first place!
One year ago I was sitting in an overly warm classroom at the University of California, Davis, at a workshop called “Chocolate: Our Dark Addiction,” which was part of the 2011 Hazon Food Conference. The session begins with the question, “What is good chocolate?” Hands shoot up and comments immediately start flying: “Texture”; “Mouth feel”; “Creaminess”; “Cacao percentage”; “Ratio of bitter to sweet; “Added ingredients like fruits and nuts”; “No fruits and nuts.” Etc.
I think about the word “good,” and then I raise my hand. “Chocolate that is produced without slave and child labor, by workers paid a fair wage?” I ask. I am a bit tentative, because I don’t want to sound like one of those holier-than-thou food-obsessed people who proclaim their ethical choices in a manner calculated to shame those around them . One of the two presenters pauses for a moment, smiles slightly, and says, “That’s what we’re going to talk about today: other meanings of ‘good’ as it pertains to chocolate.”
When is the last time a complete stranger asked you to tell your personal story explaining why you care about a political or social issue?
As part of my job as a community sales representative at Equal Exchange, I ask customers, who are, for the most part, strangers, to share their personal stories all the time. Why are they spending their limited time on Fair Trade, promoting the programs of our worker-owned co-operative? Why do they care so much about the farmers growing our food?
During phone calls, customers I’ve never met in person share stories of deeply humbling international trips to visit coffee farmers; stories about their grandfather, a small-scale tobacco farmer, being taken advantage of by a large agribusiness; and stories about the first time they heard a news report on the widespread use of child slaves in the cocoa industry.
These unique stories led to the same conclusion: The people who grow our food deserve higher wages and more humane treatment.
“In every generation a person is obligated to see him or herself as though he/she had personally been redeemed from Eqypt,” we read in the Haggadah during our Passover seders. In recalling our people’s experience in Egypt, we are urged to remember that we were once slaves. We tell the details of the story, act it out, and eat charoset, symbolizing the mortar with which our ancestors made bricks for the Egyptians — we attempt to “experience” what slavery felt like.
Though we may not be actual slaves ourselves today, our history moves us to ask “Where does slavery exist today?,” “Who is enslaved?,” “What is that slavery like?” Unfortunately, this is the issue with most chocolate in the world. The majority of all cocoa is grown in West Africa, where hundreds of thousands of children have been documented working in their cocoa fields. They spend long hours working in hazardous conditions, and losing their childhoods to bring us our favorite chocolate treats. The situation is particularly serious in the Ivory Coast (the source of about 50% of our cocoa), where the U. S. Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under “the worst forms of child labor,” and that some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement. Those who labor as slaves also suffer frequent beatings and other cruel treatment.
Hanukkah can be one of the messiest Jewish holidays; waste is generated from wrapping paper, gelt wrappers, and wax drippings. To top it off, all the frying in oil can be both unhealthy and unsustainable. But this year, it doesn’t have to be. JCarrot and Hazon offer sustainable, healthy Hanukkah resources to green your holiday, so you can spend more time enjoying, and less time worrying about your global impact. From eco-friendly candles to sustainable gifts, the following suggestions can help to enrich any Hanukkah celebration. Also, these sustainable resources can be used as activities that can make for a great addition to any Hanukkah party. This year, opt for sustainability when celebrating Hanukkah by incorporating all, or even a few, of the following suggestions.