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Are MLK’s Legacy and Food Justice Related? …One Chicago synagogue says yes!

“Rabbi Shimon said: If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken over it words of Torah, it is as though they had eaten of the sacrifices of the dead, for it is written (Isaiah 28:8) ‘All tables are covered with filthy vomit; no place is clean.’ But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, for it is written (Ezekiel 41:22) ‘He said to me, ‘This is the table that stands before God.’’”– Pirkei Avot 3:4

I saw an interesting question in response to this text: Why is it not sacrilegious to discuss words of Torah at the table? Shouldn’t religion be elevated to a respected venue like a synagogue and only discussed there? But no, it is in fact sacrilegious to not discuss Torah when you eat.

When you say the phrase food justice in a Jewish setting, you probably don’t have to define your terms. You’re likely to get head nods and maybe even a story out of a brave person. We rarely second-guess the idea that, of course, we must think about what we eat. Judaism is full of examples of this, from laws like kashrut to holidays like Tu BiSh’vat to the text above. Religion cannot be compartmentalized into one evening a week or one morning a month. It must be applied to all aspects of our lives, especially one as vital and life-giving as food.

For four years now KAM Isaiah Congregation in Chicago, IL has hosted a Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend program in conjunction with and celebration of MLK weekend. Building on Judaism’s and the congregation’s strong commitment to food justice issues, this year’s theme is “Shmita: Food Security and Sustainable Design in the Sabbatical Year and Beyond.”

The weekend is filled with exciting learning opportunities including workshops on:

  • Urban gardening,
  • Indoor composting,
  • Beekeeping,
  • Artisan cheese-making,
  • and many more.

The events are open to all, so if you’re in the area you should stop by! If you’re not local, but the idea of individual workshops or the weekend in general appeals to you, I encourage you contact Robert Nevel to learn how you can start similar programming at your own congregation.


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Raechel Banks

About Raechel Banks

Raechel Banks is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She grew up in Dallas, TX, as a member of Temple Emanu-El. She recently graduated from Brandeis University.

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