8 Sparks of Light: Matt Brookner, Boston Jewish Food Conference Chair

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.


Somerville resident Matt Brookner is chair of our upcoming annual Boston Jewish Food Conference (BJFC). He’s not new to the conference or the movement. Learn more about how Matt got involved and what keeps him going!

How would you describe your involvement in the current “Jewish food movement?” Does this phrase resonate with you? If not, how might you describe what is happening in the current realm of Jewish food in greater Boston?
I don’t find the phrase “Jewish food movement” especially descriptive because it can mean so many things! What we’re seeing on the ground here is a revival of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods (I’m looking at you, Mamaleh’s) to a deepening connection between “secular” food values and historical Jewish values (as we saw during the campaign over Question 3 this past election).

Do you remember the moment when you started learning about our food system?
About seven years ago, I attended an educational shechita (ritual slaughter) and helped pluck the chickens. My great-grandfather had been a shochet, and I felt an unexpected intensity in the connection between what I was doing and my family background.

What Jewish values and traditions speak to you most?
You can’t talk about Judaism and food without kashrut. By this, I mean that embedded in our tradition’s approach to eating is the notion that some foods are kosher, and some are treyf (unfit). It’s important to me, whenever possible, to eat things that reflect my values – sustainability, locality, humane treatment, ethical worker treatment, etc.

It’s important to me, whenever possible, to eat things that reflect my values.

Why are you involved in Ganei Beantown vs. local garden club/Jewish cultural organization? Or if you’re involved in both, why?
Believe me, if the community garden wait list in Somerville wasn’t so long, I’d be doing that too!

What advice do you give to others looking to be involved?
Attend this year’s Boston Jewish Food Conference! It will be on Sunday, March 26 at Gann Academy in Waltham. Learn about the networks of individuals and institutions that comprise our local Jewish Food Movement, get involved with local organizations doing this work, bid on some exciting silent auction items, and eat a tasty dinner with the 200+ other conference attendees!

If you find Matt’s story as inspiring as we do, please consider an end of year donation.

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