Archive - February 2015
Coffee is something near and dear to my heart. From that first cup in the morning, to the mug I dawdle over while chatting with a friend, to the shots of espresso that keep me awake during late night study sessions. Coffee is a necessary and beloved part of my life.
Judaism gives me the tools to turn those necessary and beloved parts of my life into holy acts. With kashrut and blessings before and after, I can make sure that I imbue even seemingly secular acts with a holy sanctity. But in the case of coffee, drinking a kosher cup isn’t quite enough. In order to really transform this act into a holy deed, I need to make sure that my indulgence doesn’t harm the wellbeing of others.
I was first introduced to fair trade, fittingly enough, in a Jewish context. As a high school student in a Jewish school, one of my rabbis sent the class a website that could “calculate” how many slaves we had working for us based on our consumer habits. That day spurred a revolution in my own thinking. How could I sit at the Passover seder and ask an empty doorway to send those who were hungry to come and eat while the coffee I had drunk that very morning was facilitating slavery?
Thankfully, I was left with more than just questions, I had answers. By buying fair trade coffee, I could ensure that the coffee that I so cherish actively helps to lift up the men and women who grow and harvest it.
The Jewish community has an amazing opportunity before us. With the amount of coffee that we purchase, we can make a huge and concrete difference in people’s lives. That’s why I want synagogues to sign a pledge committing to only buying fair trade certified coffee. Let’s all work together to elevate this common act into a holy one.
I have been so lucky to find amazing partners in Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah, as well as unbelievable rabbis and teachers at Ziegler who are able to see every daf of Talmud and every halakhah as a means to opening our hearts to the people and the world around us. All of us are united in our belief that Judaism invites us and demands us to connect with God through our ability to see and connect with one another.
How fitting that this week’s parsha is Mishpatim. We have just received the Ten Commandments and what is the very next thing we learn? How to treat the people, the animals, and the land around us. Human rights is not peripheral to Judaism, it is the very essence of who we are as a people.
Together with Jewish communities everywhere, we have the ability to transform our relationship as a Jewish people to the products we purchase and the men and women who produce them. By taking the Fair Trade Coffee Pledge, a synagogue is taking a stand that starting with coffee, the products that we serve to bring us together as a community, will no longer keep people down, but will raise them up in dignity. Join the movement!
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
T’ruah Summer Fellow in Human Rights, ’14