By Ari Hart
I had the great honor of attending and presenting at the Hazon Food Conference in December 2012, thanks to support from Siach. The Hazon Food Conference is a great place to meet young, passionate Jewish leaders interested in changing the world through food. This year’s workshops ran an amazing gamut, from a demonstration of shechita – kosher slaughter – to a food justice track, to learning how to make your own pickles.
In addition to meeting great people and doing my own learning, I had the zechut of presenting a case study of Jewish Food Justice can look like. Together with Daniel Gross, the executive director of Brandworkers’ International, we told the story of the Flaums’ 17. After a 2 year national campaign, Flaum Appetizing, a prominent kosher food producer and distributor, accepted a global settlement which returned over $500,000 to workers for labor violations, including wage theft, overtime violations and more, in their New York factories. The victory comes after a long campaign fought by the workers’ group, Focus on the Food Chain and Uri L’Tzedek. Rabbis and Jewish activists, led by Uri L’Tzedek, working in deep partnership with the workers of Flaums, were able to raise communal consciousness, garner the support of dozens of grocery stores and food companies, direct media attention to the cause of the workers, and ultimately broker a settlement between the owners of Flaums and the workers.
This panel was more than just sharing activist stories with a good friend and partner, it was about sharing this story as a case study of what is possible when Jewish leaders join in true solidarity with allies who have been exploited or oppressed. By coming together around shared values and relationships, and by committing for the long haul, we can make a real difference in this world. The Q&A after the panel was the most rewarding part of the session for me, as people shared their insightful questions and observations around solidarity activism, combating anti-semitism, models for certification systems, ideas for future actions, and more. It was an inspiring group and afterwards many cards were exchanged and plans for coffee dates set. I look forward to seeing what projects these new ideas and relationships foster!