Compost is a touchy subject. As anyone who’s collected food scraps in her kitchen can tell you, some people see a container full of cucumber peels and egg shells as a step toward sustainability, while others smell a stench. Last week, New Yorkers filed into each of these categories — and a few in between — when they learned that the Big Apple will start composting.
Thanks to successful pilot programs, “the Bloomberg administration is rolling out an ambitious plan to begin collecting food scraps across the city,” the New York Times reported last week.
The compost program could reach the entire city by 2015 or 16, with a requirement to separate unwanted food from other trash not far behind. As with New York’s recycling program, those who do not comply could face fines.
For some Jewish businesses, city composting would align with an interest in environmental responsibility or the sense of a religious imperative to care for the Earth. And, many well-known forces in the city’s Jewish community, in fact, already embrace the practice that has divided residents. But for others, it’s not a chief priority.
I love eating meat. While I am aware of how harmful conventional industrial meat production is to the environment and to our health, to say nothing of the issues of cruelty to animals and fair treatment of workers, I cannot imagine going without meat entirely. I even tried being vegetarian a couple of times, but always fell off the wagon rather quickly. By now, in the wake of the scandals at Agriprocessors, most of us know that kosher meat is not necessarily ethically superior to its non-kosher counterparts.
Some have suggested eating meat only on special occasions like Shabbat and holidays. While this practice puts healthy limits on one’s consumption of meat, and makes the consumption a meat part of the celebration and sanctification of religious occasions rather than a simple hedonistic indulgence, in some ways it seems backwards: if I think that the meat I’m eating is so morally problematic, is it really appropriate to reserve its consumption for holy occasions like the Sabbath or other holidays? If I’m going to eat meat whose production involve mistreatment of animals and workers, and degradation of the environment, it might be better to save that meat-eating for ordinary weekdays, and make more ethical (and therefore more holy), food choices on Shabbat and holidays
For many of the 1.4 million hungry people in New York there is little or no access to sustainable and locally sourced food. Out of necessity, many food pantries and soup kitchens historically stocked take-home bags and filled plates with mass-produced food from far away places, frozen veggies and canned legumes.
With the help of organizations like City Harvest and Grow NYC, that’s started to change. These types of organizations connect local farmers and restaurants with hunger fighting organizations. This summer, these efforts are coming to New York’s hungry and kosher-keeping community, with the help of Masbia a network of four kosher soup kitchens in Queens and Brooklyn that serves both a kosher and non-kosher community.
Gold’s borscht, once a mainstay of the Jewish food scene has slipped in popularity in recent years. The owners are hoping to make a comeback says the Wall Street Journal.
Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen with four locations in New York City, is struggling to feed a growing community that cannot afford to feed itself, reports the New York Daily News.
The Jerusalem Post explores Israel’s beer renaissance.
On Purim, the standard Jewish holiday cliffnote, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” gets a special addition: “Let’s help other people eat, too.” Purim, which starts Saturday night and goes through Sunday, is a holiday that not only requires a banquet (se’udah), but also that we send gifts of good food to our friends, and help out the less fortunate in our community, as per Mordecai’s specific request in the book of Esther: “And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters to all the Jews…that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending food one to another, and gifts to the poor.”(Esther 9:20-22)
What kind of a gift is food? Unlike other presents, food disappears once consumed (in this case, often leaving a trail of hamentaschen crumbs). Yet a gift of food — cookies, cakes, fruits, nuts and other treats are common on this holiday — sends two special messages that are appropriate for a day of celebrating our success escaping national collapse. Food keeps our physical bodies alive and is also a celebration of life, having within it the capacity to elevate the basic experience of eating into one of delight and joy. Giving the gift of food says at once: “I don’t want you to be hungry” and “I want you to really enjoy life.” In the face of the grim story of Purim, not only should we note that we’re indeed still alive enough to eat — we should revel in it.