Jews, Food, and Sustainability

A Program by SJSU Jewish Studies and Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging

HamentaschenFor the Campus and Community

The “New Jewish Food Movement” (see Hazon, whose principles we learn from and concur with) and SJSU's Sustainability Initiative coincide in mission and practice. Both are committed to educating about our place in an ecosystem, in which we are responsible for—and enriched by—sustainable living, achieved in part by sustainable eating, with the goal of developing healthier individuals, and a more sustainable community and planet. The SJSU Jewish Studies Program, in collaboration with faculty from the Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging Dept. and in consultation with the Silicon Valley JCRC and the Addison Penzak JCC Center for Life and Learning, offered the general community a series of programs focusing on sustenance and sustainability, including seders at Hillel of Silicon Valley and Chai House, as well as two community service days that highlighted key aspects of food and sustainability with particular relevance to the Jewish community.

Sustainability is defined as simultaneously creating the triple bottom line of

  • healthier environments
  • social wellbeing
  • economies

Our zero-waste program followed the Jewish seasonal as well as the secular calendar and enabled participants to examine their own connections to food and the environment, to learn how to teach and participate in sustainability efforts, to engage in meaningful and relevant community service, and to enjoy seasonal, organic, cultural foods as a community.

The program offered these events:

  • Celebration and Preservation: Our Role in Our Planet's Health (September 27, 2011 in observance of Rosh Hashanah) offered an overview of the principles of sustainability and our role in preserving our ecosystem, learning particularly about gray water and about bees. At the MLK Library.
  • Serving our Community (November 20, 2011 in observance of Thanksgiving). We gleaned the last persimmons of the year from an orchard in Gilroy, as part of a Village Harvest program which harvests fruit from backyards and small orchards for local food agencies to feed the hungry.
  • We held a Tu B'Shevat Seder at Chai House for residents and the community featuring fruits and nuts of the four seasons (February 7, 2012). Rabbi James Greene, Director of the Center for Jewish Life and Learning at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center, lead the Seder.
  • We learned about the ways It Takes a Village to Feed a Family (March 20, 2012), hearing stories about food as “community glue.” We learned about the 1930s community of Petaluma Jewish chicken farmers, and the passing down of gefilte fish recipes.
  • Sustainability Seder (April 11, 2012) in observance of Passover). In the new Hillel House, this Seder touched upon the themes of environmental sustainability, social justice and farm workers' rights.