8 Sparks of Light: Rabbi Toba Spitzer

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.

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Rabbi Toba Spitzer is the spiritual leader of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton. Learn how she and her congregation have long been involved in the Jewish Food Movement and its deep connection to the work of healing the world.

In 2008, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek embarked on a year-long study and action project that we named “Food Matters.” Children and adults studied Jewish traditions about food, sustainability, and economic justice—all the ways in which our tradition sanctifies the process of eating and of producing the food that we eat. “Food Matters” became an umbrella under which we organized a number of tikkun olam initiatives in the years to come: becoming a partner congregation with Family Table, to provide food for people in need in the greater Boston Jewish community; working with local churches and synagogues to open a Newton drop-off for the Red Fire Farm CSA, and enrolling member families to help support local agriculture; becoming a distribution center for organic, fair trade, kosher olive oil from Sindyanna of Galilee, an amazing Jewish-Arab women’s cooperative in Israel; and working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on their campaigns to bring corporations like Trader Joe’s, Stop & Shop, and Wendy’s into their groundbreaking Fair Food program, to combat slavery in the tomato fields of Florida.

Judaism teaches that eating is a sacred act, and as a congregation we continue to explore what it means to honor both the earth and the human labor that goes into producing our food, and why it is that some of us have so much to eat, and others so little.

Judaism teaches that eating is a sacred act.

One natural outgrowth of our Food Matters initiative was working with Ganei Beantown. CDT was a co-sponsor of the very first Boston Jewish Food Conference in 2012, and I co-led the Beit Midrash at the BJFC in 2013 with Rabbi Natan Margalit. Four years after our congregation had launched Food Matters, it was heartening and exciting to see such a wide variety of people from all sectors of the Jewish community engaging in issues of food justice and sustainability at these conferences.

Ganei Beantown has become an important component of our holiday programming, running workshops on sauerkraut making and local lulavim at Sukkot, making organic applesauce at Chanukah, and inviting us this year to participate in Sukkot on the Farm. Together with Ganei Beantown we can say now more than ever that “Food Matters!”

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

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