Archive - December 2010

Start 2011 with a Fair Trade Calendar

With 2011 just around the corner, I‘ve been looking for the right calendar to hang in my office – something beautiful and inspiring. Usually I choose scenes from nature, a good balance to the mental thinking I do when I’m working.

This year, I’ll be purchasing the Fair Trade 2011 Calendar, featuring stunning photos of artisans and farmers which won the 2010 fair trade photo contest. What was most exciting to discover is that one of the months features a photo of MayaWorks’ artisans from San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala actually crocheting their beautiful Kippot/Yamulkes!

The full color 13.5″ x 9.5″ calendar is printed on environmentally friendly New Leaf paper using earth-friendly printing processes.

And every month you’re introduced to a group of hard working artisans and farmers who create beautiful crafts or grow the coffee, cocoa, tea, and more that we depend on, and in return, are guaranteed a living wage, safe working conditions, and enough profits to send their children to school, build health clinics, or install safe drinking water.

What better way to be inspired each day?

Jewish and Mexican Paper Cut Craft Traditions Come Together!

We are excited that our partnership with Casa Bonampak has resulted in a new line of Judaica Papel Picado (paper cut) Banners. Current offerings include a metallic banner for Chanukah, and two tissue paper banners, one featuring Jewish spiritual symbols and a Mazel Tov celebratory banner. A new wedding banner to be used with a chuppah and at wedding celebrations is in development.

Chanukah BannerPapel picado (“perforated paper”) is the Mexican folk art of paper cutting into elaborate designs. The designs are commonly cut from tissue paper using a guide and small chisels, creating as many as forty banners at a time.

Common themes includes birds, floral designs, and skeletons. They are commonly displayed for Easter, Christmas and the Day of the Dead, as well as during weddings, quinceañeras and christenings. Papel picado can also be made by folding the tissue paper and using small, sharp scissors.

Spiritual BannerPaper cutting has been a common Jewish art form since the Middle Ages. In 1345, Rabbi Shem-Tov ben Yitzhak ben Ardutiel, finding that his ink had frozen, continued to write the manuscript he was working on, by cutting the letters into the paper. By about the 17th century, paper cutting had become a popular form for small religious artifacts such as mizrachs (an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer in Jewish homes) and Shavuot decorations. In the 20th century, the art of Jewish papercutting was revived in Israel. Today it is most commonly used for mizrachs and ketubot.

Fair Trade Judaica worked together with Casa Bonampak to design and produce each of these banners. They can be purchased on-line at the Casa Bonampak web site.

1st Annual FTJ Fair a Great Success!

“Who knew there were so many beautiful Judaica products made by fair trade artisans around the world?” was one of the most overheard comments at Fair Trade Judaica’s First Annual Fair in Berkeley on October 17.

Attendees were excited to find a range of beautiful and interesting Judaica products, influenced by the local cultures in which they were designed, from beaded mezzuzahs made in Guatemala, to over ten different kippot (crocheted, knitted, sewed, collage of recycled soda cans) from Guatemala, South Africa, and Thailand, to embroidered challah and matzah covers made in Guatemala.

The stories behind the fair trade organizations and the products captured peoples’ attention. One organization, Mayan Hands, was started by a Jewish Guatemalan woman. After conducting anthropological work among the Mayan women for 20 years, she decided that it was time to give something back to them, and launched her fair trade business both to help provide them with income, as well as preserve their cultural and craft heritage.

The idea for MayaWorks’ famous kippot, one of the first fair trade Judaica products available, happened when a local (Jewish) tourist was visiting the artisans, and saw the unsewn hackey-sack balls lying on the ground, realizing that they would also make beautiful kippot. And since then, they are one of MayaWorks’ best selling products.

And, Partners for Just Trade’s new line of Judaica pendants was inspired by fair trade supporter Yochi Zakai who visited the artisans at their Peruvian shop. He wanted to buy something for his Jewish mother, but not seeing anything relevant, he worked with the artisans, Partners for Just Trade,and Fair Trade Judaica to launch a new line, including a silver star of David, and two hamsah designs.

FTJ at the Fair Trade Futures Conference!

Fair Trade Futures ConferenceSo exciting to be at the Fair Trade Futures Conference, joining over 780 fair trade artisans, farmers, advocates, retailers, and wholesalers from around the globe. It was inspiring to be among so many people committed to a fair trade world based on transparency, respect, and justice, as well as a willingness to self-critique where the movement may be falling short.

The stars of the conference were the farmers and artisans who came from South America, Africa, and Asia to tell their personal stories. It was the first opportunity for many of us to meet them directly, and there was strong support for their voices to be heard more loudly within the certification process.

Fair Trade Judaica was the only visible Jewish presence at the conference, and we were greeted with much support and enthusiasm, and many opportunities for collaboration. There was a lot of interest in developing the fair trade Judaica niche.

One of the highlights was being able to speak directly with artisans and fair trade organizations about creating new fair trade Judaica products – lots of interest in helping us build the movement. Keep your eyes open over the next year for these new Judaica products:

  • Wire and bead kippahs for women from Guatemala
  • Small wooden dreidels from India
  • Beautiful baskets made from recycled metal
  • Bracelets made from recycled paper in Africa

Fair Trade Judaica Fair

Only a month away from the first ever Fair Trade Judaica Fair, to be held in Berkeley, CA on October 17. This will be the largest gathering of all the fair trade Judaica products currently available in the marketplace, including challah and matzah covers, kippahs, tallitot, home decorations, menorahs, cards, jewelry and kosher chocolate and coffee! The Judaica products embody traditional cultural and artistic designs from countries in Latin and South American, Asia, and Africa.

Imagine praying in a kippah or tallit handmade by an artisan who you know was paid a fair wage for their work? Or knowing that the jewelry you are wearing may have helped a young child go to school?

If you’re not in the San Francisco Bay Area, please let friends and family know about this wonderful opportunity!

Fair Trade Futures Conference

Looking forward to attending the Fair Trade Futures Conference beginning Friday September 10 – a three day opportunity to meet with over 700 people from around the world, committed to the principles and practice of fair trade. Attendees will include producer groups (like Fair Trade Group Nepal), fair trade organizations here in the U.S. who represent some of the artisans making fair trade Judaica products, fair trade umbrella groups like Fair Trade Federation and Transfair USA, student campaigns for fair trade, and advocacy organizations like Fair Trade Judaica.

I’m hoping we will find a few producer groups who will be interested in working with FTJ to design and produce new Judaica products, meet fair trade retailers who are interested in adding Judaica items to their inventory, and talk about expanding the range of Kosher fair trade food products!

Stay tuned for a report back from the Conference!

Fair Trade Rosh Hashanah

Chiapas Collective BeekeepersOne of my favorite Rosh Hashanah traditions is dipping apples into honey (and eating them!) as a symbol of starting the Jewish new year with sweetness. Last year I found out about fair trade kosher honey from Wholesome Sweeteners, and knowing that the farmers were paid fair wages and that they were able to preserve a long community tradition, made the enjoyment of the apples and honey even sweeter. Here’s some info on their story:

High in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico 46 beekeepers have formed a Fair Trade Certified cooperative, and the whole community prospers from the honey harvest. The hives have been tended by Mayan communities for generations, creating meaningful employment. The hives are isolated, deep within organic perimeters, and the bees forage only on native plants—wildflowers and, for one brief week every year, organically cultivated coffee blooms. As the season progresses and the flowers change, the honeys’ character changes too, deepening in color and flavor.

Before they formed a fair trade cooperative, middlemen, or “coyotes,” took a majority of the beekeepers’ income. Now, there are no middlemen involved and the cooperative works autonomously and directly with customers. The beekeepers are able to improve standards for their families (like sending their children to school), their communities and protect precious rainforests and habitat.

It’s a win-win for farmer and consumer alike.