WHAT’S REALLY IN THE FOOD WE EAT?

WHAT”S REALLY IN THE FOOD WE EAT? (Click Here to see the original article published in the Winnipeg Jewish Review)

TEMPLE SHALOM LOOKS AT THE JEWISH IMPERITIVE TO BE CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS: ORGANIC? LOCAL? ECO-KASHRUT ?

by Jonathon Fine, December 12 , 2010

On November 20th, as a Board Member of Temple Shalom Synagogue, I arranged the screening of the Acadmey Award nominated documentary , “Food Inc” following a Havdallah Service.

The film “Food Inc” reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, and where we might makes changes in the future. The film portrays some of the dangers associated with massive factory produced food and tells much about the true source of our conventional food  The film also shows how we have become disconnected from the producers of our food.

This specific event allowed the participants to explore what Judaism has to say about ethical treatment of animals in food preparation. We also explored the topic of Echo Kashrut. As Jews we are aware of general Kashrut rules but I wanted to delve deeper and look at what people’s thoughts were on how “Kosher” ties in with food security and environmental sustainability.

The event, which I helped organize, targeted young adults between ages 25-45 as they are the future of our Jewish community. Previously, I have helped organize some events for J-PEG, a branch organization of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg that designs programming for  this age range.   This was the first time our synagogue targeted individuals in this age range and we saw many new faces to the synagogue at this event.   People who attended included members of the Organic Food Council of Manitoba as well as organizers of the Jewish Federation’s program Echo Shift. (a call to arms for environmentally friendly approaches in the Jewish Community)  Members of the synagogue as well as non –members from tthe general community ( both Jewish and non-Jewish)  participated in this event.

After the film was screened, all of the participants were involved in a lively discussion. Rabbi Soria gave us a brief overview of the history of kashrut and framed it within a reform Judaism perspective. People were curious what Judaism had to say about eating organic and local foods. Since the film was set in the United States, people wanted to know how it applied to the situation here in Canada.
The discussion involved a candid and open sharing of opinions. Some people pointed out that traditional kosher preparation of foods may not always be good for the animals or the earth. It quickly became apparent that there were a large range of opinions on what Echo-Kashrut meant for each individual. For some, Echo-Kashrut meant values (involving ethics) of the treatment of the animals and those processing the food. For some Echo-Kashrut represented taking care of the earth; for others it meant following some of the traditional dietary laws of not eating certain animals and combinations of foods.
Some people expressed their feelings of helplessness when going up against large corporations to ensure food security. Others thought that little changes could add up and that as conscious consumers we had a lot of power by making our voices heard by purchasing what we thought was the best for the planet.
There are actions that individuals can take to be more conscious consumers.
People can make choices in the selection of what they eat and where they purchased their food.. You can vote with your dollars. Don’t forget to read food labels to see what you are eating. Ask at your supermarket where the food you buy comes from and make requests for local and/or organic foods. You may also consider contacting your MP to make your voice heard.
At the event, we discussed shopping at local markets and making choices to buy food that has not travelled long distances to minimize the impact on the earth and depletion of the nutrient value of the food. For those that expressed concern about the high cost of organic food some suggested purchasing  only some  organic food types that are much less contaminated then  non organic foods (such as certain fruits and vegetables).
At Temple Shalom we are looking at doing regular multifaceted events such as movie screenings, discussions and dinners.  My hope is that we can incorporate themes that include environmental issues that could be applicable to Jewish concerns.   We may also look at partnering with J-Peg, which is part the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, to do a communal Shabbat dinner with this younger segment of our community.  My goal would be to minimize the impact of this dinner on the environment and serve as much local and organic food as is possible. I would also like to involve the younger segment of our community in more synagogue events at Temple Shalom..

What Do You Think? Ma Khosh’vim?

What Do You Think? Ma Khosh’vim?

December 20th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Jewish Living

I hate scary movies. I don’t go to them.Psycho may be a masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby may be a classic, but I’ve never seen them and never will. Drag me to a horror movie, and I’ll have my eyes closed the entire time with my hands over my ears.

But Saturday night November 20th, I voluntarily watched a movie that scared me more than any of Hollywood’s concoctions. Food Inc. was the feature presentation at Temple Shalom’s adult education that night. A fascinating discussion and background on the Jewish perspective of kashrut followed the showing. Later, both Saturday and Sunday nights I had nightmares about the farm-factory treatment of chickens and cows and a company that has “patented life.” And Monday I started my new life, post-horror movie: I bought only organic fruit, read every food label, and requested “free-roam” meat from the man at the meat counter. (My Loblaw’s doesn’t carry any, although it does have “free-from” meat – i.e., free from antibiotic loading, etc.) It was scary all right: all the chemicals, the small selection of organic fruits and veggies, and the smaller meat selection.

Food Inc. is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. And I’m glad I saw it. It is changing the way I shop and eat – and gives me a new perspective on the wisdom of Jewish food laws. The only problem with those Jewish food laws is that over the centuries they have been more and more narrowly defined, with the result that the foundation principles have been all but lost. But “kosher” isn’t determined by just the last few moments of an animal’s life and by keeping milk and meat separate. “Kosher” is about those larger issues. I say it’s time for Reform / Liberal / Progressive Jews to take back the language of Jewish food and restore its meaning of ‘fit, proper.’ It’s time to remind ourselves of the laws against mistreatment of animals, against the exploitation of labourers, about the connection between what we eat and our health, and about the sanctity of all life. That’s what kashrut is about – and we need to be talking about Reform ways to keep that kashrut.

And Food Inc. is one scary movie that I would see again; it’s that important.

What do you think? Ma khosh’vim?

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What do you think? Ma khosh’vim?

What right do we have to personal information about others? Where is the line between public and private? Who decides?

Let me tell you about the moment when I realized that the media had (nearly) sucked me into thinking I had an intimate relationship with someone. (To be honest, what I really realized was how I had always been sucked in before and why that was wrong.)

It was through a scene on a television show, whose star was a high school classmate of mine. You see, I graduated high school with David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff. We worked together on The Fantastiks. But we didn’t socialize; I couldn’t even say we were friends. Knowing what our relationship was and was not, when the television camera moved in for those close up shots of his character’s face, I was taken aback. And I thought, “I have no business seeing him this close. I’m not this close to him!”

Where is the line between public and private? The movie and television cameras tell us we have intimate relationships with people we have never met and will never know. The tabloids titillate us with details of celebrities’ and politicians’ lives and homes, where we are strangers and which we will never enter. Often we expect public figures to be ‘perfect’ (whatever that means), and when they don’t for whatever reason – divorce, badly behaved children, adultery, messy hair and unfashionable outfit, etc. – the media is quick to condemn them. If each of us were expected to maintain appearances constantly, most of us would fail miserably.

But what about being a “role-model”? Do those of us who may be (or are) seen as role-models have an obligation to tell details of our private life because of others who may be (or are) discriminated against?

That question has been seriously raised following the death of Debbie Friedman, singer, songwriter, feminist, and – apparently, per the 18th paragraph in her NY Times obituary – lesbian. Voices have been raised condemning her for her sexuality, and voices have been raised condemning her for being private about her sexuality. For the former, her music is now ‘different’ because written by a lesbian. For the latter, her life work is now diminished because she didn’t ‘come out’ as a lesbian.

Is Stephen Hawking’s understanding of the universe less brilliant because he divorced his first wife? Is Percy Grainger’s music less beautiful because of his pedophilic writings? Is Debbie Friedman’s music less spiritual and Jewish because she loved a woman? Or ~ on the other hand ~ is anyone whom we admire a less admirable whatever because we don’t know about part of his or her ** (fill in the blank). In short, does the worth of someone’s life work depend on the personal information we know about him or her?

Debbie Friedman said, “People are more uptight talking about God, more uptight about God language and God concepts, than they are about sex.” That was from a conversation with Jonathan Mark, as reported in The Jewish Week, Jan 13.

What right do we have to personal information about a person? What does it matter? Ma khosh’vim ~ what do you think?