25 mayo 2008


Eco-Kashrut? A New Way of Eating Jewishly

By Melissa Crawley
University of Missouri

Combine this strict monitoring of food with a commitment to food sustainability and you've got eco-kashrut. Eco-kashrut is a new movement in Jewish eating that encourages followers not only to keep kosher, but also to eat organic, buy local produce and meat and lobby for food integrity. It combines strict dietary adherence with a sense of social justice. It is a new way to bridge a connection between adam, the human, and adamah, the earth.

How does eco-kashrut connect to social justice? Consider the path that your food takes. Are you buying fruits and vegetables that are out-of-season? Chances are, they’ve come from someplace warm and foreign, so they’ve been freighted over land, air and sea. What is being used to keep bugs and pests from eating your food? The environmental costs of pesticides range from outright damage to the environment during the manufacturing process, to eliminating pests that are important dietary components for other animals, to potential negative health effects from handling and ingesting the chemicals.


Rabbi Arthur Waskow


According to traditional halakhic categories, it is forbidden to oppress workers, including food workers, but what is "kosher" to eat does not rest on the absence of violation of that mitzvah.

In the 1960s, a cross-denominational Board of Rabbis in Masssachusetts ruled that the oppression of farm workers in California was a violation of Torah, and strongly urged that Jews not purchase grapes that were grown by violating "oshek" -- the name of the don't-oppress category. But they did not rule the grapes un-kosher.

In this case, as in violations of the earth, it is up to our generation to define what a violation is and to enforce it thru consumer boycotts, lender boycotts, appeals to corporate stockholders and pressure on corporate boards, etc etc .

It is this process that "eco-kosher" is about. It might well apply to products or services that are not edible at all -- plastics, paper, energy, garments, etc -- and hence would not come under the traditional halakhic categories of "kosher" at all.

If we were to do our job REALLY well, this would result not in ad-hoc actions here and there but the growth of a coherent body of decisions -- in short, halakha -- which means a walking, a path-of-life -- whether this halakha were adopted by traditional Jews or not.

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director, The Shalom Center.