Volunteers from Detroit’s Eden Gardens Block Club and Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (a Hazon Seal site) work together to plant crops at the community gardens on Detroit’s east side.
“Because the poor will never cease to be in the midst of your land, therefore I command you, saying: open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to the poor in your land.” - Deuteronomy 15:11
Jewish tradition, firmly rooted in texts from the Torah, sees a direct connection between social justice, agriculture, and religious obligation.Food justice starts from the conviction that access to healthy food is a human rights issue. Sharing our bread and feeding the hungry are essential to the Jewish prophetic vision. Even in the US, people are hungry: 15 percent of all children are food insecure, including 34% of African American children. Food justice calls for organized responses to food security problems, responses that are locally driven and owned. We grow more than enough food to provide for everyone, but too many people lack access to it.
“Let the oppressed go free and break every yoke...Offer your compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished creature — then shall your light shine in darkness, and your gloom shall be like noonday.” - Isaiah 58:6,10
Sustainability is a social, economic, and environmental endeavor. The Fair Trade label embraces all aspects of sustainability. Fair Trade helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities and create a better quality of life. By requiring adequate wages and allowing laborers to organize, the certification ensures that workers are not exploited. Fair Trade certifiers usually require that profits be reinvested in the community. Lastly, farming methods must be environmentally sustainable, too. Certain products pose a particularly high risk of worker exploitation (including modern-day slavery) and damaging farming practices, including coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas. It’s especially important to buy these products with fair trade certification. Choosing Fair Trade products for your day-to-day needs can improve the quality of many people’s day-to-day lives.
Workers in the food industry are generally underpaid, under-insured, and often exploited. Behind almost every sector, there are people being taken advantage of. Waste handlers do high risk work for low pay. In meat processing plants, workers often suffer dangerous and inhumane conditions. Farmers themselves are increasingly locked into cycles of debt, forced upon them by corporations that encourage inhumane animal treatment and unsustainable farming methods. Jewish tradition emphasizes the value of each and every person, as well as the value of the collective. Worker justice is essential to any Jewish vision that honors and empowers both individuals and communities.
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