Is the 'New Jewish Food Movement' still new, and a movement?
Just as hip chefs love to subvert classic dishes, so did the participants at this week's Hazon Food Conference take a careful look at the "New Jewish Food Movement" that the conference helped birth and has supported over the seven years of its existence.
Maybe the movement shouldn't be perpetually new, suggested one speaker at the three-day gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut, adding that maybe it's not really a movement, either.
“The food movement needs to grow up and have its bar mitzvah,” said Rabbi Noah Farkas, congregational rabbi for Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA and founder of Netiya, a large interfaith network working for food justice. Trained as a community organizer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, he is in the trenches building community gardens and feeding the poor and says, “We’re a collection of people who love food, but you can’t call yourself a movement until you act collectively. My challenge for the next seven years is that we do this and that we become involved with other communities too, actually moving the needle and changing the systems instead of creating alternative systems.”
But the three-day event, which started on Dec. 29 and culminated in a New Year's Eve party, allowed for celebration alongside the reflection.
“Seven years ago we said there is something going on here and we have to name it to catalyze it. We typed it in ‘Jewish Food Movement’ and there were zero hits on Google," said Nigel Savage, founder and president of Hazon. Today, the same search generates 110,000 results.
“Obviously, Hazon hasn’t done 110,000 things in the last seven years. Many people have," Savage said. "But there is a movement; and there is a growing interfaith food movement. I honor each one of us. The topic is so huge that the goal of creating sustainable food systems is literally a messianic goal. It’s not that we get somewhere and everything is fine.”
In the coming years, Hazon aims to plant 18,000 fruit trees; make food festivals as common as film festivals; bring Jewish food education to every community; expand kashrut within Jewish institutions to include food policy and help Israeli sustainable food communities share the secrets of their success with Americans, Savage said.
“I don’t come from a place where I’ve thought about food justice and where my food has come from," said Itta Werdiger-Roth, neo-chasidic hipster and co-owner of what the New York Daily News says “may be the world’s coolest kosher restaurant," Mason and Mug. "I wouldn’t have those thoughts now if you guys didn’t have them 20 years ago or seven years ago. In the next seven years it’s important that these issues become more mainstream. My family is constantly making fun of me for what I do and don’t want to eat or why or what I don’t want my kids to have. Maybe in seven years I can make fun of them.”