Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hazon Response to Open Letter to the Jewish Food Movement

December 3, 2008

Dear Ethan,

While we welcome the thoughtfulness of your letter, we would have appreciated if you called us directly prior to publicizing your concerns. With the Food Conference nearing, we are hard at work to ensure its success; however, we felt it was important to briefly respond to the issues you have raised.

You raised the issue of food justice. Here are just some of the food justice speakers scheduled for the conference:

Rabbi Morris Allen will speak about Hekhsher Tzedek which is a new initiative to improve the working conditions, treatment of employees, environmental standards, and business practices in kosher food-producing businesses.

H. Eric Schockman, president of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, will speak of course on hunger issues in America.

Rachel Biale, Bay Area Regional Director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance discussing “The Labor Behind Our Food”

Eli Winkelman, who started Challah for Hunger, a program of Hazon, will be training new CfH leaders, college students who bake challah to sell on campus to raise money for humanitarian relief work, primarily in Darfur. This program current runs on fifteen campuses and is growing.

Shira & Yoav Potash who will screen their film “Food Stamped” about living on a food stamp budget.

Karyn Moskowitz who is an organizer with the Community Farm Alliance in Louisville, KY, working to connect small family farmers with inner city residents living in Louisville's food deserts.

This is, of course, in context of a conference that includes hands-on food preparation and preservation sessions, Jewish text study, a full children’s program, and celebration of Chanukah and Shabbat.

In addition to the Food Conference, Hazon’s year round food work covers many of the issues connected to food justice. I encourage you to look at our website and read more about Challah for Hunger, in particular. Also, visit our blog, The Jew & The Carrot, to read about our coverage of Agriprocessors.

You raised an issue about the condition of workers at Agriprocessors. We put out a statement on this, and we opened a mailbox to enable people to make donations specifically to help the workers there.

You raised the issue of financial accessibility. Hazon runs on a fairly tight budget, and we have limited available funds. Despite this, Food Conference scholarships were available and widely distributed. With over 500 people expected at the Food Conference, approximately 200 people received full and partial scholarships. These scholarships went to farmers, students, young families, and the application was available on our website for anyone to submit for the first four months that registration was open. We are happy that so many people of different financial means are able to join us. If you had reached out to us in prior to the deadline you of course would have been given this same consideration. Registration – and scholarship applications – opened in April, and was widely publicized. You didn’t contact us till November, when our scholarship resources had been used up. Had you applied earlier there’s every likelihood you would have received one. (And even at the late time you applied, we did indeed offer you a discount.)

Given all of the above, we’re a little surprised – to say the least – that you chose to write what you wrote and post it where you did. We wish you all the best in the food justice work that you’re doing.



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