When it comes to standing up for animals, especially farmed animals, the Jewish community already has a lot to be proud about. But, we also have a long way to go. Embarrassingly, most religious organizations in America–Jewish institutions included–have lower animal welfare standards for the food they buy than McDonalds because most religious organizations have no ethical food policies at all! We know that this situation doesn’t reflect the deep concern most Jews have for animals. Dozens of cutting edge Jewish institutions have already made great strides toward ethical food policies that highlight animal welfare as a Jewish value. At JIFA, we admire these organizations and want to honor their inspirational achievements. Here are six Jewish organizations that are laying the groundwork for a more humane and sustainable future.
Pound Ridge, NY
Founded by Donna Simons, Pound Ridge Organics is a dynamic food hub in the lower Hudson Valley of New York dedicated to providing the community with the most nourishing, cleanly, and ethically produced meat, vegetables, dairy, and eggs. With support from JIFA, Donna works with Frank Reese, the world-renowned expert on 100% American Poultry Association Heritage birds to breed, raise, and distribute Heritage poultry. Donna also focuses her time on educating others about the value of these majestic breeds. Pound Ridge is the first known CSA in the country to offer American Poultry Association Approved heritage breed chicken and eggs, and Donna is also working introduce Heritage poultry to the local kosher market. She is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, and, as such, has been awarded AWA (Animal Welfare Approval) certification for the her farm. Pound Ridge Organics is the first and only Jewish farm to receive AWA Certification.
Founded only ten years ago, Moishe House is now an international success story. Supporting a network of 85 homes from San Francisco to St. Petersberg that serve as hubs for the young adult Jewish Community, Moishe House programs reach nearly 100,000 people annually. Moishe Kavod House in Boston is paving the way for other Moishe Houses and all kinds of Jewish institutions to create ethical food policies. Their “Community Food Ketubah” came out of a community-led process to incorporate Jewish values and ethical considerations into members’ purchasing and eating habits. While members are both selective omnivores and vegetarians, all communal meals are vegetarian.
“We are informed by the evolving Jewish tradition of Kashrut… In particular, we resonate with the rabbis’ arguments around kashrut as a path to health, kindness to animals, and community strength.”
—Moishe Kavod House, Community Food Ketubah
Falls Village, CT
A program of Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in the country, this Jewish retreat center has energized Jewish communities for more than a century and prides itself on its ethical food sourcing. As a meat-minimalist institution, they are committed to higher welfare kosher meat products, local higher welfare dairy, and cage-free eggs. As a founding member of BuyingPoultry’s Leadership circle, they are also committed to further improve the animal welfare of the poultry products they buy in the coming years. They even have their own organic vegetable farm!
Los Angeles, CA
Fusing piety and hutzpah, tradition and imagination, activism and spiritual practice, IKAR launched in 2004 in an effort to reclaim the vitality and relevance of Jewish religious practice and reimagine the contours of Jewish community. As one of the most innovative models for Jewish living and worship in the world, IKAR’s nearly 600 member househoulds have created a unique community that is also leading the way in Jewish community meat reductionism. IKAR’s Friday night programs always usher in Shabbat with vegetarian meals after services.
Founded in 1914 by Galician immigrants as an Orthodox synagogue, First Narayever has become one of the most dynamic traditional egalitarian synagogues in North America. It is also one of the first synagogues to create a comprehensive ethical food policy that includes animal welfare alongside other Jewish values. To create their policy, First Narayever logged many hours over several years, undergoing a rigorous studying and self-auditing process that culminated in the creation of a Food Committee and a set of principles that guide the food served at their weekly Shabbat lunches and all shul events. They even went through the difficult process of saying goodbye to their longtime caterer to find a new one that could accommodate these values-based changes. As a result, their community is stronger than ever and an inspiration to many!
Putnam Valley, NY
In 2008, Yoni and Vivian, the founders of Eden Village, won a national grant competition for innovative new Jewish camps and, supported with funds from the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jim Joseph Foundation, created a camp that had a commitment to ethical food built into its DNA. Now, Eden Village is transforming Jewish summer camp life by prioritizing high quality, mostly vegetarian food from local, fair trade, and ethically-run businesses. Eating minimal amounts of meat aligns with Eden Village Camp’s core value of sustainability. Campers are involved in everything from harvesting vegetables on the onsite farm to food preparation. Last summer alone the camp grew and ate over 2,000 pounds of their own organic produce! The camp also boasts a robust set of programs around their onsite farm animals, highlighting their commitment to animal welfare and other Jewish values.
This is only a sampling! Check back soon to hear about more trailblazers. We have over 90 partner organizations already committed to establishing ethical food policies in 2016. Would you like to see your organization featured as a JIFA Trailblazer? Write us at JIFA@farmforward.com and sign up for our newsletter below!