Jews and Food ~ Week of December 24th

Duck and I put our CSA on hold again for a few weeks while we catch up on the backlog, but something even better came in my box this week: a full scholarship to the Hazon Food Conference, home of the New Jewish Food Movement.

I still can barely believe I get to go. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, who sponsored several complete scholarships (conference tuition, room, and board) for young adults “who have not yet been involved in a leadership capacity in the New Jewish Food Movement.” First of all, when do I ever get to be a “young adult” anymore? The cut-off is usually 30, max, and it’s been a couple of years since I qualified for that. Second of all, who has ever heard of a scholarship where they want people who haven’t done a lot of work in the field already, where you don’t have to prove yourself worthy while being totally anxious that you’re underqualified?

This is an amazing gift. The conference sounds incredible, but there’s no way I would have been able to go without subsidization. The goal of the scholarship is to “bring a large contingent of young adults to the Hazon Food Conference and to catalyze the energy and learning from the conference to bring substantive work around food and Judaism, as well as other meaningful points of connection to Jewish life, back to your communities and your everyday lives.” So I’m bringing my sparkle and my listenin’ ears, all ready to learn and catalyze and connect!

What’s in my box this week: (the conference is organized around 8 themes)
Do-it-yourself food
Food justice
Jewish tradition and food: History and culture
Health and nutrition
Food systems and sustainability
Israel: Food and agriculture
Jewish food education

I am most excited about the DIY and Food Justice tracks. It’s entertaining to see how my interests evolve – a few years ago, when I was preparing for Naturopathy school, I would have only had eyes for Health and Nutrition, and at another point in my life Fasting would have been a main attraction. Jewish Tradition and Food is always interesting, of course, but from reading the program descriptions that track seems mostly historical and informational, whereas I am betting DIY and FJ are going to be the most hands-on, action-oriented workshops.

I have a complicated relationship with Israel – so many of the activist communities I am part of are pro-Palestine and anti-Israel, which is overwhelming (particularly the internalized anti-Semitism I see in Jewish activists), and so much of the situation in the Middle East is wrapped up with US policies that make me very uncomfortable, so I tend to kind of hide my head in the sand when it comes to having opinions or feelings about Israel. Consequently the food and agriculture of Israel are about as interesting to me as, say, the food and agriculture of Turkey or Vietnam. It wouldn’t feel particularly like learning about the food systems of my ancient homeland, I don’t think. On the other hand, I identify strongly with the food traditions of Western Russia and Moldavia, where my family was before coming to the US, so I may just have a more recent definition of “home.”

Some of the things I hope to do while I’m at the Hazon Food Conference:

  • Talk to the owner of the Lucky Penny goat dairy farm to get the real skinny on whether humane goat dairy is even a possibility (by my definition of humane, of course)
  • Learn to make pickles and/or mozarella
  • Attend seminars on Food Justice Tools, Keeping the Justice in Charity, Slow Money (investing in the slow food movement), Jewish Female Farmers, Urban Agriculture, and Environmental vs. Animal Rights
  • Meet and mingle with the other young adult participants at a special dinner and meeting set up just for us to network and kibbitz
  • Learn more about the Hazon CSA, which has branches all over the country
  • Talk to the owner of Lotus Foods, which is the company that imports all the special rice we buy (like the black and red rices in the I Am DIY Rice Bowl), and learn more about their sustainable rice practices

There’s also a game night (I’m bringing a mere 5 out of our collection of nearly 50!), a “chai house” (yum!), a “cosmic walk,” that movie about Jewish chicken farmers in Petaluma I’ve been meaning to see for years (according to family lore that’s where one branch ended up), and of course community Shabbat, organic, local, and seasonal vegetarian and vegan food, and lots of lots of people who are as obsessed with food as I am!

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