If you’re like me, January prompts you to reexamine a few bothersome behaviors — and make a few (or more) resolutions for the coming year. Making resolutions is a dangerous proposition, of course. A strictly goal-oriented approach gives us a flat, “all or nothing” mandate that can lead to failure. By February, our resolution has dropped off our spiritual radar, and we marinate our inertia in the guilt of giving up. As the negative emotions pile up, we risk (as the rabbis say), “begetting one sin with another” — creating a vicious cycle that leaves us in a spiritual mess. Instead, let’s take a deeper approach. Make a few life adjustments — for promises that you can keep.
Since writing about this idea in 2012, I’ve received some great comments and suggestions. So in that spirit (and with a little nudge from an editor-friend), I’ve expanded our list to include five new ways to make life more meaningful. We can accomplish this by deepening our relationship to the food we eat, based on Judaism’s ancient wisdom.
Sabrina Malach is an inspiring leader of the New Jewish Food Movement in her native Toronto. She is currently the Director of Outreach and Development at Shoresh, a grassroots organization that aims to build a more ecologically sustainable Toronto Jewish community. Having received inspiration from her experiences as an Adamah Fellow and her work at Hazon, Sabrina has channeled her passion and knowledge into new food projects in the Toronto Jewish community. Most recently, she is one of the coordinators of the Shoresh Food Conference coming up this February.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her and hear about her work on the Shoresh Food Conference, and how the New Jewish Food Movement takes a Canadian twist north of the border.
With the New Year comes the New Year’s Resolution. Polls say 45% of all Americans make at least one resolution, the most popular of which is to lose weight. But according to Opinion Research Corporation, one out of every four people never follow through on their resolution because they set a goal they can’t achieve. I believe the whole process of goal-oriented resolutions is a bit dangerous. Goal-type resolutions set behavioral patterns that are often out of character for who we fundamentally are, and they risk our self-esteem when we miss our mark or give up. Think of it this way: If you resolve to lose 100 pounds but only lose 50, did you achieve your resolution? If you are too goal oriented, then your achievement (50 pounds!) is for naught. Resolutions based on goals are too flat. We need something deeper.
Elsewhere I wrote that the core problem of our food system is that our food has become flattened into mere objects or commodities to be consumed. The solution to this flattening is the reclamation of the depth our food represents. More than a mixture of ingredients, our food is freighted with values, memories, and political processes. When we place a morsel in our mouth we immerse ourselves into these depths. I called this process Deep Kashrut. When it comes to making resolutions for the New Year, instead of thinking of resolutions as flat goals, let’s think of them as life-adjustments to deepen ourselves.
When I walked into Roxbury Park’s Community Center this past Sunday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been involved with the New Jewish Food Movement for a number of years, and one of the many questions I keep asking is, “What exactly is the landscape of the Food Movement?” In my work as a community rabbi both within a congregation and outside of it, I know that community needs definition, even in the broadest possible sense. Without definitions, a community can fail, especially one that describes itself as a “Movement.” So when my food-based organization, Netiya, co-sponsored a food justice event, Harvesting Justice, along with JFSJ/PJA and IKAR, I walked in with a number of questions in my pocket: what is the message of this “movement,” who makes up its committed core, and what can we learn from each other? In short, my questions could be surmised into a single query: “Who are we, really?”
Harvesting Justice brought together a large swath of organizations and individuals who self-associate with the word “food.” In the courtyard of the community center, a number of invited groups put on a foodie fair with booths with everything from making vegan-raw chocolate pudding, to “shopping” (read: taking for free) from a selection of fallen fruits and vegetables from around Los Angeles, to advocates for restaurant worker justice. One would need a very wide-angle lens to capture the panorama of issues, programs, and initiatives associated with the Food Justice Movement, let alone the entire Food Movement.
This afternoon I picked up a radish and decided to taste it. When I rubbed it on my pants to take the soil off the spot I planned on biting, it came out this stunning crimson color that stopped me in my tracks. I took a second to imagine everything in my frame of vision as a photograph and marveled at the beauty of my pink smudge against the dull orb in my cracked, earth-caked hands, and then I made a blessing over it and took a bite. This is farm life — seeing God in a radish! Yes, it so happens that most of the people around me are devout Christians, and the Jews around here eat together at the Crab House on Rosh HaShanah morning, but in a very important way I’m living a more meaningful Jewish life than ever before.
So why do I sound apologetic and defensive?
In his recent article “A Jewish Farmer Grows in America” Ben Harris described the process that led him from the life of a journalist to the life of a farmer, a journey that resonates strongly with my own, and I daresay with those of many other young farmers as well. But one thing Harris does not discuss in his article is how he was received by those who populate the life he left behind. I don’t know the details of his experience, but I can speak for myself and share my own inside story.
The growing season in Colorado may only be about 150 days long, but the New Jewish Food Movement is growing here year round. Two years ago, Colorado sent 52 Participants to the Hazon Food Conference in Monterey, CA. Those participants came back to Colorado and began building one of the most diverse and dynamic local scenes in the New Jewish Food Movement today.
The Denver and Boulder areas are home to four Jewish run CSAs. The Minyan Na’Aleh, Denver JCC Edibly Fit, Boulder’s Tuv Ha’Aretz and the South Denver CSAs have grown out of the Hazon CSA program and offer a connection between the Jewish Community and local farms. Along with offering a way for community members to enjoy local produce, the CSAs also offer a spot for the local community to gather and connect with each other.