Kosher chocolate goes fair trade in a partnership between T'ruah and Fair Trade Judaica.
On Passover—a holiday that celebrates freedom from suffering—it just doesn’t make sense to partake of foods whose route to our tables is marked by strife. That’s why this year, T’ruah, a rabbinical organization that campaigns for human rights, and Fair Trade Judaica, which promotes fair trade as a Jewish value, have teamed up with the ethically-sourced chocolate brand Equal Exchange to promote kosher for Passover chocolate.
“You have to put your money where your mouth is,” said Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson, director of education at T’ruah. He explained that the use of child labor is rampant in cocoa cultivation and harvesting: it’s been documented in the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast, where 40 percent of the world’s cocoa is produced, as well as other African countries. But as consumers, we have enormous power to use our dollars to back up our demands for ethically sound products.
“This is doubly true around a holiday that celebrates freedom,” the rabbi said. “It would be a sad irony to celebrate with chocolate that’s harvested by child workers.”
Ilana Schatz, the founding director of Fair Trade Judaica, agreed. She explained that the idea of fair trade, kosher for Passover chocolate came to her in 2010, when at a conference she had to opportunity to view a documentary film entitled “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” The film documents the persistence of child labor and slave trading in the cocoa fields, a practice that persists despite a 2008 pledge by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association to end such abuses.
“’This is a contemporary Passover,’” Schatz said she thought to herself after viewing the film. “Within 15 minutes, I had the idea for the fair trade chocolate for Passover campaign.”
Like any kosher certification process, certifying Equal Exchange—a soy- and lecithin-free chocolate, and therefore a good candidate for hechsher—took some time. Last year, just ten days before Passover, word came down from Rabbi Aaron Alexander of the American Jewish University that bars marked pareve, if purchased prior to Passover and eaten during the holiday, were good to go. And this year, that designation has been added to the Rabbinical Assembly’s list of kosher for Passover foods.
Schatz noted that Equal Exchange’s efforts to clean up chocolate production are far from unique: consumer pressure has forced the hand of many large chocolate companies. In England, all of Cadbury’s milk chocolate is now fair trade certified, and Hershey’s has stated its intention to certify by 2020.
“I think we forget that how we spend our money has a huge effect on what happens in the world,” she said.
But what about a matter just as important as ethics: taste?
“Oh, it’s excellent chocolate,” Schatz said. “I’ve tried every single flavor, and there isn’t one that I don’t like.”
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