Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.

What a Weekend

Posted: December 27, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

630 people. Four days. One conference. I am here in the rugged beauty of Asilomar State Park, where the Pacific Ocean meets a rocky beach, to attend the fourth annual Hazon Food Conference. Among the many ideas and emotions running through me, more than anything I feel blessed to be here, being able to exchange knowledge with a wide variety of people from across the country and around the world, from as near as Salinas, CA to as far as South Africa. As a Goldman Young Adult Fellow I am deeply grateful for this opportunity that the Fellowship enabled. Almost 50 other Fellows are here and we are discussing our next steps and how to bring what we’ve learned back to our communities, how to create teachable moments, how to build more sustainable communities.

I am here because I am interested in the nexus of Judaism, eating healthily and sustainably and helping those in need. Many others are focused on environmental issues, bringing down “the Man” of giant agribusinesses, or simply because they enjoy food! But what is this Food Conference all about anyway? Hazon states that they exist to create a sustainable world for Jews and for all people. Clearly, with over 600 people here, that chord resonates.

There are several programming tracks to choose from but I have gravitated to the Food Justice and Food Systems and Sustainability sessions. Thursday, December 24th was the first Conference day and I went to a panel on running a sustainable food business. Bottom line: it’s a lot of work and you have to hold on to your vision! In the evening Hazon screened films; I watched The Garden, a documentary about a 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles fighting to keep it out of the hands of a developer, a powerful story of politics, injustice and people’s connections to land.

Friday, the second day of the Conference, I experienced some of my most meaningful moments. In the morning I attended a fantastic panel called Keeping the Tzedek (Justice) and Tzedakah (Charity) and was exposed to amazing Los Angeles-based social justice groups through congregations, like Ikar, a spiritual community in the vein of B’nai Jeshurun in New York, which created meals for homeless shelters as a community, then sitting down and eating with those they cooked for, interacting, discovering what else they can do to help. I heard from Eric Shockman, president of Mazon, a Jewish anti-hunger organization, about food policy and how we have the capacity to eliminate hunger in our lifetime.

I greeted Shabbat on the sands of the Pacific, danced during Havdallah, learned how to make bagels, clapped along to Yiddish songs sung by a Jewish cowboy from Petaluma, CA and so much more.

One great benefit of the Food Conference is connecting to a vast network of activists and people simply concerned with sustainability in their hometowns. I was surprised to see so many families here, some with children as young as 8 weeks! How fantastic! I also met people like Marina, who is starting a CSA in Brooklyn, and Josh, who is heading to Guatemala in a week as part of the American Jewish World Service’s Avodah program.

A great wave seems to be cresting. Many people, Jews and non-Jews, are fed up with eating products created with unpronounceable chemicals or caged, hormone-laced meat; they want to ensure that no one in America goes hungry from lack of means. Among the trees, along the dunes, More than 600 visionaries and leaders are crackling with energy wondering what they can do next, how they can help, or are teaching others their solutions.

I am grateful to be merely one these 630.

One Comment on “What a Weekend”

  1. 1 arnie draiman said at 11:23 am on December 28, 2009:

    sounds wonderful! and for some more good, great, wonderful tzedakah ideas, look at:


    arnie draiman

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Restrictions have nothing on her.