8 Sparks of Light: Rabbi Victor Reinstein

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 Victor Reinstein is the spiritual leader of Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue in Jamaica Plain, Boston. His efforts extend from his personal actions and his synagogue’s practices, to his involvement in policy work.

Why do you do the work you do?
Because I can’t live in this world and not help to take care of the world and all people and creatures who call earth home.

What keeps you going? What drives you? Where does your motivation come from?
The urgency of seeking to fulfill creation’s promise, finding meaning and joy working hand in hand with so many others.

How would you describe your involvement in the current “Jewish food movement?” Does this phrase resonate with you?
I prefer to speak of the “Food Justice” or “Fair Food” movement to emphasize the social justice dimension in regard to sustaining the earth and people. Personal choices and social policy are inextricably entwined. I try to heed this call on both the micro and macro levels, eating vegetarian, insuring that almost everything we use in our synagogue is either compostable or recyclable, and by working for labor justice and human rights for all who produce our food.

Personal choices and social policy are inextricably entwined.

What about on a communal level?
In June 2011, the Mass Board of Rabbis’ Public Policy Committee, which I chair, produced a “Public Policy Statement on Food Justice,” in which we wrote:

“Food Justice includes caring for the earth, which is the source of our food, caring for the workers who produce our food, caring for our own health and nutrition, and caring for the equitable sharing of the earth’s resources. Food justice is a cry against poverty, hunger, waste and oppression, and a call to action.”

Do you remember the moment when you started learning about our food system?
Some forty years ago when “Diet for a Small Planet” was published and I realized that it takes five pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Having registered for the draft as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam era, I became a vegetarian then as part of an overall commitment to nonviolence and an expression of relationship with all life.

Why are you involved in Ganei Beantown?
Ganei Beantown fills me with joy for its own “earthy,” joyful approach to serious matters, reminding us to have fun as we recalibrate our lives to live in fuller relationship with earth and people, and to eat in good health, es gezint!

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

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