Throughout Chanukah, we’re sharing our “8 sparks of light” providing inspiration and insight into the diversity of people working on a local level for a more transparent and just food system.
Joan Rachlin of Brookline, MA is the founder and Chair of the Temple Israel Green Team. Her personal journey inspired her to take in action in her synagogue.
Do you remember the moment when you started learning about our food system?
I read “The Jungle” in high school and was appalled. I then watched films like “Food, Inc.,” “Supersize Me,” and “The Temple Grandin Story,” all of which had a profound impact on me. Finally, learning about Monsanto’s monopoly, GMOs, organic versus commercial food production, the power and abuses of agribusiness, and about the connection between food production and climate were all factors in my decision to do this work after retiring.
When and why did you first take action?
I have been intermittently involved with environmental issues at different times in my life: I have been a vegetarian and pescatarian for long stretches at different stages, I have gardened and composted for most of my adult life, and I have always supported family farms and other local food producers. I became motivated to do more, though, after reading Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” although I read Adele Davis’ book “Diet for a Small Planet” almost 40 years ago and had an early surge of activism then.
What kind of progress has your Green Team made?
The clergy, staff, and congregants at TI have been supportive and committed partners. Food sourcing, food waste, and food justice are among the items on our agenda. I am happy to share my experience with Temple Israel’s Green Team with anybody interested in a similar group at their own congregation or organization.
We recently enrolled in the GreenFaith/Energy Shield program. It is an intensive program that will involve congregants, clergy, and staff in improving sustainability and in reducing our individual and collective carbon footprints. We also received a small grant from the Religious Action Center last year to buy glass wine and grape juice cups via their “Travel Justly” program.
What Jewish values underlie this work for you?
The biblical obligation to be stewards of the earth and of all the creatures thereon. More generally, we are instructed by the prophets Isaiah and Micah, “To do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” I believe we owe justice, mercy, and humility to the earth, as well as to our fellow humans.
If you find Joan’s story as inspiring as we do, please consider an end of year donation.