When our synagogue, Beacon Hebrew Alliance, took on a community-wide listening campaign about two years ago, food quickly emerged as an important issue. Some of us were locavores, committed to eating regionally produced food; some were Jewish traditionalists, committed to eating kosher certified food, and some of us were lapsed vegetarians, some of us were price conscious and some had yet other commitments.
In addition to the many personal commitments, our community was growing quickly, and that meant there were more and more questions and disagreements about what we could and couldn’t eat in the synagogue. Our new rabbi was confused as to why our informal policy allowed us to bring in food from the local non-kosher deli but not to have a pot-luck with food prepared in members’ homes. At one point, a new mother in our community looked at the cake and candy that was put out during one of our kids programs and said “I don’t care if it’s ‘kosher,’ I don’t want to feed that junk to my kids.” It was clear that not only did we not have a consistent food policy that reflected our values, we didn’t even have a common language which we could use to talk about food.