more from the Hazon Food Conference West

the following is another guest post by Andy Green, a student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. For another of his write-ups click here
And now… the exciting conclusion….:
Friday afternoon, I headed to Ted Merwin’s session on Jewish food in
pop culture. Those present were treated to an old Hebrew National hot
dog radio jingle, the classic yiddish song “Romania”, the deli scene
from “When Harry Met Sally”, and more. I found especially interesting,
the discussion recognizing the routine conflation of gastronomic
pleasure and sexual pleasure in representations of Jewish food
consumption in media. Also, I learned from this session that the terms
delicacy and delicatessen come from the same root suggesting that in
Eastern Europe, deli meats and dishes were consumed as rare
delicacies, far from standard fare.
Next, I hiked with a few other brave souls to the Walter Creek Ranch
Turtle Pond for a mikveh immersion in some exceedingly cold “living
waters.” The hike was about .6 miles each way and much of the trails
were muddy from earlier in the day. Before we stripped and immersed,
we paused as our certified lifeguard and fellow Hazonik Kyle Lebell
offered us some words of intention about mikveh connecting the three
traditional immersions with our experience and prayer for the past
week, present moment, and future week. However, with the exceedingly
cold temperature of the water, I was unsuccessful in retaining full
mindfulness of this intention while immersing.

After mikveh, I felt prepared to enter the sacred space and time of
shabbes. I changed into my suit and tie and headed to the “Soulful
Traditional Minyan.” Jocelyn Berger led Kabbalat Shabbat and Rabbi
Jacob Fine led Maariv. We used a mix of Sim Shalom, Siddur Eit Ratzon,
and whatever siddur individuals brought themselves. The minyan was a
tri-chitza set up with a high quality of davenning, melody, and dance
comparable to the strongest communities of the independent minyanim
movement. I also, took a few moments to visit the “Musical Minyan”
across the way led by Adam Berman, among others. While I was at the
musical minyan, everyone stood or danced in place while singing “Ivdu
et hashem b’simcha” to the music of the guitar. The space was
immensely spirited and engaging, while removed from the traditional
Before Shabbat dinner, we sang Shalom Aleichem, blessed one another in
the absence of our parents/offspring, made Kiddush, washed, and made
Motzie. We ate fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and
outstanding trout. The trout was served with head and tail, boned,
with a slice of lemon inside it. For dessert, we enjoyed the fruits of
our collective hand (specifically of those who participated in the
babka workshops) as we enjoyed the moistest dairy-est tastiest
chocolate babka I’ve ever consumed. We concluded the meal with a full
brikat hamazon (contrasting the short berich rachamana that followed
other meals.)
The program continued with the keynote session of the conference, “The
State of the New Jewish Food Movement: Today and Tomorrow,” consisting
of a panel of Uri L’Tzedek founder and president Rabbi Shmuly
Yanklowitz, Hekhsher Tzedek manager Rabbi Iris Richman, Straus Family
Creamery CEO and organic dairy pioneer Albert Straus, and Urban Adamah
executive director Adam Berman. Rabbi Shmuly discussed his personal
experiences of food injustice: when, as a volunteer in Africa, he
discovered the local community digging up the leftover food scraps
that he and his colleagues had buried as waste the prior evening; when
interviewing a food worker, the worker revealed to him that he was
verbally abused and exploited in unpaid hours by his employer; and,
when interviewing another food worker, the worker explained that his
entire job is the dreary task of painting/frosting black and white
cookies. Rabbi Shmuly also discussed the Uri L’Tzedek work fighting
abuse at Agroprocessors (and the like) and certifying ethical
workplaces with the Tav HaYosher. Rabbi Richman gave an update on the
Hekhsher Tzedek initiative which will begin beta testing in the coming
weeks. Straus shared the work that he and his farm have done to
encourage organic dairy in the country, and Berman discussed his past
experiences with the Isabella Freedman Center and Adamah as well as
his new initiative, Urban Adamah: The Jewish Sustainability Corps,
engaging young adult fellows in Jewish living, sustainable farming,
and social action. This session left the conference inspired by these
exemplars of food justice activism.
I returned to the dining hall for the Shabbat tisch, finding a table
covered in bottles of beer and green passion kombucha. Through the
tisch, conference participants ate, drank, sang, and shared stories,
teachings, and old jokes. At one point, I was singled out on my recent
engagement and the conference sang Od Yishama to me. It was
appreciated and incredibly sweet.

Shabbat morning, I served as gabbai at the Traditional (tri-chitza)
minyan. The davening was top-notch with Rabbi Scott Perlo leading
Shacharit and Rabbinical student Alana Alpert leading Musaf. We
enjoyed a small Kiddush with moist cake before beginning our
community-wide Beit Midrash. For the Beit Midrash, sixteen or so
tables were set up each with a predesignated facilitator, a different
food justice related topic, and an appropriate source sheet. The
conference participants sat at the tables and soon broke up into
chevrutas to learn. After some time, the facilitators led their entire
table in a reflective discussion. Finally, five or so vocal
participants shared with the entire conference something meaningful
from their learning. As it happened, my chevruta was Liz Savage, wife
of Hazon founder Nigel Savage, and our table, facilitated by Rabbi
Shmuly, addressed the topic of Protecting at Risk Workers looking
primarily to Devarim 24:14-15, along with sources from the Gemara,
Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Mapa, and Sefer HaYirah (Rabbenu Yonah
Gerundi) for insight. Our chevruta proved phenomenal as each of us
were able to bring something unique and worthwhile to develop our
greater understanding of a Jewish labor ethic. Looking back on the
conference, this was one of my favorite sessions and its execution was
After learning, we enjoyed a lunch of salad with greens, pomegranate
seeds, and watermelon radish, rice, vegetarian chulent with chulent
eggs, and for dessert, date balls covered with dried coconut or
pistachios. After lunch, Rabbi Jacob Fine led an inspired session on
Jewish Theology of a Sacred and Animate world. Next, I facilitated
shalos shudes not dissimilar to the previous night’s tisch, albeit
mellower and smaller. We ate focaccia, probiotic hummus, kalamata
olives, oatmeal and gingersnap cookies, and organic Straus ice creams
(mint chip and vanilla.) Then we davenned maariv in nusach sefard, and
made our way to Havdalah.
Havdalah proved a highlight of Hazon. The room was filled with
flickering lights from numerous candles/torches, and with aromas from
the sprigs of fresh rosemary and small pouches of fresh lavender. The
guitar, drums, and other music facilitated the moment as we held our
neighbors and swayed. Shabbes left us, and we sang and we danced. The
lights off, the music played, and the motion of the hora continued…
Eventually we made our way to dinner which included brown rice, beans,
salad, date balls, and enchiladas of the vegan and dairy varieties.
Following dinner, were a number of do it yourself trainings. One
friend of mine churned her own butter, another made a sourdough
culture, and I created a personalized reusable medicinal teabag (from
which I am drinking tea as I write these memories.) Finally, there was
an open mic talent show, the highlight of which was the singing
Yiddish cowboy.
Sunday morning, I made my way to the shuk where I picked up
information on numerous programs and opportunities, purchased a HAZON
Food for Thought sourcebook, and purchased a kombucha culture. I also
attended a debrief and reflections session for rabbis and rabbinic
students present at the conference where we discussed our connections,
memorable moments, and takeaways for our home communities. The closing
ceremony led by event co-Chair Rabbi Marc Soloway, empowered
participants to speak about their weekend learning and growth… one
friend of mine shared that she had churned butter for herself for the
first time the prior night and that this was a metaphor for what else
she and all of us could create with our two hands. It was a powerful
albeit fleeting moment.
As we returned to the dinning hall a final time, we found leftovers
from many of the previous meals as waste is discouraged at Hazon. (In
a similar vain, all compost-able refuse was composted.) Additionally,
the kitchen made an eggplant tofu and squash dish for lunch. As lunch
wound down, I found myself receiving and offering many of hugs and
lengthy goodbyes to friends who I didn’t know a few short days before.
After many goodbyes (and a great deal of received wedding advice,) my
carpool was read to go.
The next Hazon conference is at UC Davis in August. Sign ups should be
available within the month…
Also, special thanks to regular Jewschool contributor Justin for letting me
know about this conference opportunity to begin with.
It was a joy, and I owe it to you.

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