Passover: Ending Slavery in our Food Systems

Child cocoa worker. Photo courtesy of Fair Trade Judaica

Child cocoa worker. Photo courtesy of Fair Trade Judaica

When we read at Passover, “This year we are slaves; next year, may we be free” we can do our part to ensure that our Pesach celebrations—and all year long–are free of the stains of modern day slavery. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibition against slavery, approximately 35.8 million men, women and children worldwide are enslaved, more people than at any point in the history of humanity. About 10 percent of enslaved people work in food industries, harvesting cacao, sugar, and tomatoes, raising cattle or catching fish. The frequent battle for cheaper prices in the global food marketplace might seem great for consumers, but “the reality is that competitive pricing is often the result of exploitative labor practices” where food is grown in disregard for human dignity and international laws. Continue reading


Passover: Liberate Yourself from Industrial Food

Peninsula Jewish Community Center. Foster City, CA

Peninsula Jewish Community Center’s Gan Tzedek (Justice Garden). Foster City, CA

Our nation is enslaved to an industrial food system that is making us sick and fat. It abuses workers (with many cases of modern day slavery), is inhumane to animals, pollutes our drinking water with manure and pesticides, and contributes to climate change. Eating is a religious act. These foods do not reflect Jewish values of humane treatment of animals, workers rights, protecting the environment and human health.

This Passover, we can liberate ourselves from this system by supporting farmers that grow food more sustainably. Below is a list of suggestions for your seder and throughout the year. There’s so much more that can be done, so please share your ideas in the comments section, at the bottom of the post.  Continue reading

Fair-Trade Kosher Chocolate Give-Away

Kosher, Fair Trade chocolate

Kosher, Fair Trade chocolate

Who can say no to Fair Trade, kosher for Passover chocolate? Fair Trade Judaica is generously giving-away chocolate to one lucky reader! Enter to win by March 20, 2015 by writing in the comments section, at the bottom, about why Fair Trade kosher for Passover chocolate is important to you.  Continue reading

Vaera: Slavery Now


Vaera: Maror Salad

In Vaera, we read that Pharoah digs in his heels, hardens his heart and refuses to liberate the Israelite slaves, thus launching plagues against the Egyptians. “Even from such hardened sinners as Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God did not withhold the opportunity of mending their ways. Before a plague visited them Moses was charged to warn them of its coming, to-morrow, if they remained obdurate.” (Exodus Rabba)

So, why does Pharoah continue to enslave the Israelites?

Commentary in Etz Hayyim notes that the Israelites “must be freed in such a way that they, the Egyptians, and all the nations of the world will understand that it was God’s doing, not Pharaoh’s goodwill” (p. 351). The Israelites understanding of God’s role in their liberation is important “to establish the principle that it is unacceptable for one human being to reduce another human being to slavery, that freedom is the will of God and not the choice of a despot” (p. 351). This story’s universal message is important today.

Maror Salad ingredients

Maror Salad ingredients

Despite religious teachings and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, slavery  exists in our world. Right now, 30 million people worldwide, from domestic workers to sex workers to food supply laborers are enslaved, the largest number of people in history.  Twenty percent of these people are children. This is not just a problem “elsewhere” but here in the United States. Los Angeles, where I live, “is a top point of entry into this country for victims of slavery and trafficking.” I see it in my life as an Uprising Yoga teacher at a juvenile detention center in Los Angeles. Some of the incarcerated youth there are sex-trafficked.

Continue reading