Archive - December 2014
As Chanukah draws near (Tuesday evening, 12/16), we remember and celebrate the ancient victory of the Maccabees, restoring the Temple and our freedom to worship there. It inspires us to think of contemporary issues of freedom and liberation in general. The word “Chanukah” itself means “dedication”, so perhaps this holiday is a time to re-dedicate ourselves to seeking freedom/liberation for those who are unable to do so for themselves.
When I first learned about the issue of trafficked child labor in the cocoa fields, I immediately thought of the gelt that I’ve eaten every Chanukah since I was a young girl. The sweetness of its taste in my mouth while playing dreidel is deeply embedded in my memory. Now I was being introduced to its true bitter-sweet character.
Today, young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, where more than half the world’s cocoa is grown. Many have been kidnapped from surrounding countries and brought to the Ivory Coast against their will. They are forced to work long hours, often without pay; they do not receive any education. Their work involves hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and the dangerous use of machetes.
The gelt we eat on Chanukah is a reminder of the freedom our people won many years ago. There is a choice that leans towards freedom – Fair trade certification prohibits the use of child labor.
The Talmud teaches that we don’t rely on miracles (Kiddushin 39b); we must take action ourselves to bring about redemption. On Chanukah, we celebrate the miracles of ages past, and we strengthen our resolve to make miracles happen today. Choosing Fair Trade Chanukah gelt moves us a step closer towards ending child labor and modern slavery around the world.
Here is a kavannah to enjoy with your fair trade gelt (Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California):
“I hold more than chocolate in my hand. This product I have purchased is a mixture of bitter and sweet flavors, but it contains no taste of slavery. As Chanukah is an eight-day reminder that light can penetrate darkness, may this experience of tasting sweet freedom, the bounty of free people’s work, inspire me to add more light to the world”.
You can find fair trade gelt and free resources for Chanukah on Fair Trade Judaica’s website.
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (keep some handy for your work surface)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or peanut oil
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup Divine 70% Bittersweet or Milk Chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a large metal bowl, stir together warm water and yeast. Let stand until foamy, around 5-7 minutes.
2. Add 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt; mix until well combined. Add egg yolks and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and vanilla extract. Mix until combined, then knead dough in bowl. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead a few minutes until smooth. Knead in butter.
3. Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl; turn dough several times to coat entirely with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
4. About 30 minutes before you’re ready to form doughnuts, remove dough from refrigerator to come to room temperature. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into an 11 inch square about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2 inch cookie cutter (or a glass), cut out about 24 rounds, dipping cutter in flour as needed to prevent sticking. Re-roll scraps and cut out about 16 more rounds.
5. Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg whites. Brush edge of a dough round with egg white, then mount 1/2 teaspoon jam or chocolate bar pieces in center, or both. Top with another round and press edges to seal. Repeat process with remaining rounds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; let doughnuts rise until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.
6. Heat a few inches of oil in a large (4-5 quart) heavy pot until it registers 360 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer or a scrap of dough sizzles upon contact. Working in batches of 4 to 5, carefully slip doughnuts into hot oil. Fry, turning once until golden brown, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain.
7. Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. While doughnuts are still hot, toss them in sugar, turning to coat. Serve immediately.
*** Developed by New York City pastry chef Keyin Fulford, inspired by a recipe from “Peace, Love and Chocolate”. Recipe reprinted from Divine Chocolate website
Guest post by Teri Jedeikin who organized a Fair Trade Shabbaton in Baltimore
Last week we celebrated Shavuot, the festival of harvesting and receiving. Shavuot’s major narrative is the giving and receiving of the Torah which emulates the ultimate act of reciprocity and contractual relationship: a covenant of holiness. The book of Ruth that we also read on this Chag Hakatzir, has been a long time favourite of mine and was the first text that resonated with my understanding of Fair Trade principles. In this story we learn about how to treat the stranger with respect and compassion. We cherish the relationship of Naomi and Ruth; two women seeking a means of empowerment and survival in a patriarchal society, who are loyal to each other despite their cultural differences. Moreover, the megillah also highlights how agricultural/commercial practices are interwoven with social welfare obligations; with justice and integrity as guided by the Torah.
Leading up to this special time, somewhere in the liminal “midbar” between Pesach and Shavuot, I was privileged to enjoy an oasis of Fair Trade Judaica nourishment. May 10th was World Fair Trade Day and Fair Trade Judaica scattered the seeds of Fair Trade Shabbat consciousness throughout the country. In Baltimore, our seeds germinated with the enthusiasm of individuals like Regina Mosenkis, Andrea Grinberg and Laura Menyuk, who in turn engaged many members of their local communities. Participants informally represented a number of Jewish organizations including Moishe House Without Walls, The Pearlstone Center and Repair The World.
I first heard about Fair Trade Shabbat during FTJ’s incredible expedition into the world of Guatemalan Fair Trade Judaica creations. There, Ilana Schatz shared her vision of an annual World Trade Day Jewish involvement that could grow organically with the development of Jewish Fair Trade awareness. For me, a Shabbaton is the ideal showcase for Fair Trade support as it combines opportunities for sensual, experiential and intellectual learning. Our program was rich with topics like Faith and Fair Trade, Our Food Our Right and Fair Trade from the Business/Buyer’s Perspective. The Torah portion, Parashat Behar, also yielded deep insights into the concept of Shmitah (The sabbatical year) a hot topic in light of the upcoming Shmitah year commencing September 2014.
However, Judaism does not stand on intellectual study alone and we were inspired to weave Fair Trade appreciation into a multitude of sensual experiences from singing a Social Justice inspired Kabbalat Shabbat to feasting to beautifying our holy space. Guests were asked to include at least one fair trade ingredient in the food they shared at our potluck Friday night dinner. Regina delighted us the next day with her cooking and a selection of Fair Trade chocolate and ice cream treats generously sponsored by a Moishe House grant. Casey McKeel from Thread Coffee kept us awake and engaged with her artisanal cold brew coffee. I decorated the Shabbat table with a plethora of Judaica and table-ware from South Africa (African Home empowerment project) and Guatemala (MayaWorks and Mayan Hands associated projects). In addition, participants were invited to explore the world of fair trade shopping and appreciate the diversity of certified products in our Fair Trade Gift Exchange experiment.
Weaving Shabbat and Fair Trade consciousness was a powerful experience for me. It highlighted how boundaries between the sacred and secular are fluid when spiritual integrity is imbued into all practices. If a Shabbat gathering could provide the platform for supporting and recognizing work of Fair Trade organizations, then it is easy to recognize the divine threads that were woven into our social fabric at Sinai. For me at least, that is the revelation that I have been fortunate to glean from this special experience.
Guest blog post by Teri Jedeikin, a delightful participant on our 2014 trip to Guatemala. She really captured the lives and personalities of the Mayan fair trade artisans we visited. There was the excitement of designing new Judaica items while visiting the artisans; for example, we saw a beautiful woven scarf and yelled “that could be a tallit”! It is now in production. We heard stories about how having long term relationships with MayaWorks and Mayan Hands had improved their lives, and especially, that all the daughters were now getting an education.
Keep your eyes open for news about our 2015 trip!
With deep appreciation to Teri Jedeikin, for putting together this fun and educational slideshow about her experience, which first appeared on the ROI Community’s Blogpost page!
SHEHECHIYANU! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that’s been certified not to have been made with trafficked child labor!
Chocolate Charoset Recipe (by Philip Gelb, vegan chef and caterer)
Mix all ingredients together. Let chill an hour before serving.
Why is this so important? Every Passover we gather as family and community, to celebrate our people’s freedom. We are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus, our journey from slavery to liberation. As we celebrate this freedom during Passover, we are compelled to reflect on how freedom continues to be elusive for other people. Our history of slavery awakens us to the plight of the stranger, and to the alarming occurrence of modern day trafficking and slavery. For how can we celebrate our freedom, without recognizing that so many individuals still have not obtained theirs?
There is much documented evidence about the role of trafficked child labor in the cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and West Africa, where 40-50% of cocoa is grown and harvested. Hundreds of thousands of children work in the cocoa fields, many of whom are exposed to hazardous conditions where they:
- Spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear
- Use sharp tools, like machetes
- Sustain injuries from transporting heavy loads beyond permissible weight
- Do strenuous work like felling trees, and clearing and burning vegetation
But we don’t have to eat chocolate tainted by child labor, especially as we celebrate our people’s freedom on Pesach. We CAN CHOOSE to purchase chocolate from companies that certify their supply chains through Fair Trade monitoring and certification, committed to eliminating child labor.
And this year, we are able to celebrate with Fair Trade Kosher for Passover chocolate! Equal Exchange produces soy-free (lecithin-free) chocolate. Last year, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, gave a Rabbinic ruling that specific chocolates can be eaten on Passover, and this year, they are also included on the Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Approved for Passover 5774 list.
The gift of freedom our people received generations ago bestows upon us the obligation and responsibility to work for the liberation of all people. How can we fully celebrate our freedom without acknowledging millions of people today who are still forced to work, thousands of them young children who work in cocoa fields to bring us our delicious chocolate? What better way than celebrate with a Chocolate Flavored Charoset?
Here’s a special reading for eating Fair Trade Kosher for Passover chocolate: Using mortar and bricks, the Jewish slaves built the pyramids. The charoset reminds us of the mortar, a symbol of unrewarded toil. We remember how our ancestors’ work enriched the Egyptians’ lives, and challenge ourselves to think about the ways that we currently benefit from exploited labor. Tonight we eat chocolate charoset to remember all the trafficked and enslaved children in the Ivory Coast who toil in the cocoa fields, harvesting the cocoa pods from which our favorite chocolates are made. For Jews, the descendants of slave laborers who build the pyramids, such profit should never be sweet. We eat charoset that is made with Fair Trade chocolate, the only chocolate that is free of child labor. We take the sweetness of this charoset as a symbol of resistance and the possibility of liberation for all.
This post was written for and published in “The Jew and Carrot Blog” in the Jewish Forward
Originally written for and published in The Jew and The Carrot
I’ve started noticing hamentaschen (recipe below!!) showing up in local bakeries, and it made me wonder if one of the reasons we say “Purim Sameach/Happy Purim” is because we know that we’ll be eating lots of hamentaschen, the traditional Eastern-European Purim dessert. This joyous day celebrates the repeal of the death decree against the Jewish inhabitants of ancient Persia (“They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”).
The word “hamantashen” is commonly known as a reference to Haman, the defeated enemy of the holiday. It turns out that there are many different interpretations of the word’s derivation:
- In Hebrew, they are called Oznei Haman, meaning “Haman’s ears”. This name may have come from the Midrash which says that when Haman entered the King’s treasury, he was bent over with shame and humiliation (literally with clipped ears).
- The word tasch means “pouch” or “pocket” in Germanic languages, so the reference may be to “Haman’s pockets”, symbolizing the money which Haman offered to King Ahasuerus in exchange for permission to destroy the Jews
- Another folk story is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, thus its triangular shape.
- The original Yiddish word montashn, or the German word mohntaschen, both mean poppy seed-filled pockets or pouches; the name was then was transformed to Hamantaschen, likely by association with Haman
- Naked Archaeologist documentarian Simcha Jacobovici has shown the resemblance of hamantaschen to dice from the ancient Babylonian Royal Game of Ur, suggesting that the pastries are meant to symbolize the pyramidal shape of the dice cast by Haman in determining the day of destruction for the Jews.
Another big debate about hamentaschen is the type of dough they’re made from; one is thicker and more bread-like, and the other is thinner and more cookie-like.
And then, there’s the question of what to fill them with. The original Hamentaschen filling was made with poppy seeds. Others that I grew up with include prune, or a variety of fruit preserves or marmalade, including apricot and raspberry. In doing some research, I found that chocolate filled hamentaschen are popular in Israel! Seems like a tradition we should include here.
One of the deeper themes of Purim is that we are told to celebrate the holiday, and make it possible for those less fortunate to also join in the festivities. When we feast or send food packages, are the products we use harming or benefiting the workers? In many situations, those “less fortunate” are the people who grow the food we use to celebrate our holidays. They suffer from market-driven forces that pay them less than the food’s real value; they don’t have access to world markets and get taken advantage of by local distributors or large corporations; and prices on the world market fluctuate, so they can never be sure what price they’ll receive when it’s time to sell a crop.
Choosing fair trade chocolate and sugar for our Hamentaschen better assures that the farmer who grew the raw ingredients for those foods, has received a fair price; and therefore is more able to adequately provide for his/her family. Fair trade is based on the following principles:
- Farmers are guaranteed a fixed price that exceeds their production cost, even when the market rate falls below that
- They receive an extra fair trade premium per pound
- Trading relationships are long term and transparent, allowing producers to reduce costs, gain direct access to credit and international markets, and develop the business capacity necessary to successfully compete.
Here’s a link to find Fair Trade Kosher chocolate products.
Below is a recipe for Chocolate-Filled Hamentaschen by Ruth Reingold. Enjoy!
Chocolate Filling (for about 25-30 Hamantaschen)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup brown sugar (look for Fair Trade certified products)
- 1 T. butter or cream cheese
- 1 T. milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla (look for Fair Trade certified products)
- 1 egg
Melt chocolate in microwave. Add sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla. Stir, and return to microwave very briefly, just to melt butter. Gradually, stir beaten egg into chocolate. Use this filling immediately before it hardens.