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This article appeared in the April 8, 2011 Jewish Advocate

 

http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/news/2011-04-08/Top_News/Another_question_for_seder_Who_made_the_chocolate.html

 

Another question for seder: Who made the chocolate?

 

By Susie Davidson

Special to the Advocate

Chocolate in all of its irresistible forms has become an integral part of holidays around the world, and ours are no exception. From the ubiquitous gelt, to chocolate-laced babkes, half-moons and rugelach, from chocolate chip mandel bread to chocolate-covered matzot, we happily ingrain (and ingest) this sweetest and tastiest of pleasures into our simchas and observances. Chocolate adds so much to everything it touches, it’s hard to think there could be any downside.

However, there is, and it has nothing to do with calories. On April 10, Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge hosts “The Bean of Affliction: Chocolate, Child Labor, and Choosing Fair Trade.” The program is produced in conjunction with Fair Trade Judaica, a San-Francisco based organization that assists artisans in promoting fairly created and traded Judaica projects across the globe. It will include a 45-minute film, “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” by journalist Miki Mistrati, followed by a brief discussion. In keeping with the Passover theme, seder resources developed by FTJ will be presented as well. Oh, and no worries, there will also be a chocolate tasting and fair trade hot cocoa available during the screening.

This is the first East Coast “Bean of Affliction Event,” according to FTJ founder and executive director Ilana Schatz. Other events are being planned around May 14, World Fair Trade Day, according to Schatz, who is a lay spiritual leader at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, Calif.

FTJ views fair trade as a reflection of Jewish core values, and aims to educate the Jewish community at large as it expands the availability and distribution of fair trade Judaica items, which include kosher foods, yarmulkes and tallit, jewelry and ritual items.

As for what could possibly be wrong with chocolate, the Eitz Chayim event will inform attendees about the hundreds of thousands of West African children cocoa workers who are deprived of school and normal childhoods. The Ivory Coast generates 40 percent of global production, making it the leading supplier of cocoa. “The US Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under ‘the worst forms of child labor,’ and … some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement,” according to endchildlabor.org.

The Cambridge event is coordinated by FTJ advisory board member Darya Mattes of Jamaica Plain. Mattes is interfaith program representative at Equal Exchange, a fair trade coffee, tea, and cocoa cooperative in West Bridgewater.

“Events such as this provide opportunities for us to act upon Jewish values … and to demonstrate through our actions that because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, we have a responsibility to fight for the rights of over 12 million enslaved individuals in the world today,” said Molly Zeff, also an interfaith program representative at Equal Exchange.

FTJ has teamed up with the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum in a campaign against the Hershey Company. According to the labor rights group, much of Hershey’s cocoa supply comes from West Africa, and the company lacks safeguards against worker abuse. The campaign advocates an unbiased, third-party certification program for Hershey.

OK, so what about the standard Elite and Barton we know and love? The news isn’t good. “There is currently no fair trade, kosher for Passover chocolate,” said Mattes, although much fair trade chocolate is kosher for the rest of the year. Schatz said Fair Trade Judaica hopes within the next year or two to persuade a kosher for Passover manufacturer to comply with fair trade standards as well.

The fair trade movment as “especially resonant with Jewish precepts of tikkun olam,” said Sam Petuchowski, who chairs Eitz Chayim’s Social Action Committee.

“The rabbis teach us to consider where products come from, and it is not for naught that the exodus from slavery is central to our heritage,” added Petuchowski, who is a lawyer and former NASA scientist.

“Food is such a huge part of our Jewish tradition, as is agriculture,” said Becca Weaver, a graduate student at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy and a leader in the Farm to Shul initiative at Moishe Kavod House, which is co-sponsoring the event. “Food and agricultural issues in Jewish programming … can revitalize Jewish custom and ritual, and launch a discussion about feeding ourselves and the world sustainably.”

 

Set ital.:

Bean of Affliction will be held April 10, 6-8 p.m., at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine St., Cambridge. For details, email Mattes at darya.mattes@gmail.com.

 

 

 

ORIGINAL COPY SENT:

 

Uncovering the chocolate matzah

By Susie Davidson

 

Chocolate in all of its irresistible forms has become an integral part of holidays around the world, and ours are no exception. From the ubiquitous gelt, to chocolate-laced babkes, half-moons and rugelach, from chocolate chip mandel bread to chocolate-covered matzot, we happily ingrain (and ingest) this sweetest and tastiest of pleasures into our simchas and observances. In fact, chocolate adds so much to everything it touches, it’s hard to think there could be any downside to nearly everyone’s favorite indulgence.

However, there is, and it has nothing to do with weight gain. On Sunday at Congregation Eitz Chayim, “The Bean of Affliction: Chocolate, Child Labor, and Choosing Fair Trade” will educate attendees about some not-so-sweet practices that occur within the industry. The program, produced in conjunction with Fair Trade Judaica, a San-Francisco based organization that assists artisans in promoting fairly created and traded Judaica projects across the globe, will include a 45-minute film, “The Dark Side of Chocolate” by journalist Miki Mistrati, followed by a brief discussion. In keeping with the Passover theme, Seder resources developed by FTJ will be presented as well, and attendees will learn about local and national groups working toward fair food and just trade. Oh, and no worries, there will also be a chocolate tasting.

According to FTJ Founder and Executive Director Ilana Schatz, this is the first East Coast Bean of Affliction event. The series, largely held in the San Francisco area thus far, is part of FTJ’s Passover campaign to focus on labor issues in the chocolate industry. Other events are being planned around May 14, World Fair Trade Day, according to Schatz, who is a lay Spiritual Leader at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, Calif., and founder and director of the Volunteer Action Center of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay.

FTJ views fair trade as a reflection of Jewish core values, and aims to educate the Jewish community at large as it expands the availability and distribution of fair trade Judaica items, which include Kosher foods, yarmulkes and tallit, jewelry and ritual items. The organization is a project of California-based The Community Partners/Jumpstart Partnership, which provides infrastructure for innovative Jewish projects that benefit society at large.

As stated on its website, FTJ’s work is guided by Jewish values of tzedakah (“supporting artisans, their families and communities to become self-sufficient”), tikkun olam (“Using our power as Jewish consumers to create a more just trade system”), community (“Creating a FTJ movement in the Jewish community, and building connections between consumers and artisans in support of fair trade”), and integrity (“Expressing transparency as an organization and treating producers with respect”). The organization offers strategies and guidelines by which to “Fair Trade” shuls and Jewish organizations.

As for what could possibly be wrong with chocolate, the Eitz Chayim event will inform attendees about the hundreds of thousands of West African children cocoa workers who are deprived of school and normal childhoods in order to work under hazardous conditions that often, tragically, include enslavement and trafficking. The Ivory Coast, which generates 40 percent of global production, is the leading world supplier of cocoa. According to endchildlabor.org, “The US Department of State estimates that more than 109,000 children in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry work under ‘the worst forms of child labor,’ and…some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement.”

The Cambridge event is coordinated by FTJ advisory board member Darya Mattes of Jamaica Plain. Mattes, Interfaith Program Representative at Equal Exchange, a fair trade coffee, tea, and cocoa cooperative located in West Bridgewater, described the program as “a partnership with twelve different religious denominations and thousands of congregations around the country who support fair trade by using fairly traded products.” She previously worked for Jews United for Justice in Washington, where she helped connect the community to local social justice issues. Mattes is currently involved in several independent Jewish communities in Boston, and is also a member of the Fair Trade Boston coalition.

“‘Bean of Affliction,’ which will explore the connections between Pesach and the horrific moral issue of child labor and child slavery in the cocoa industry, can empower our Jewish communities to confront modern-day slavery with a constructive, action-oriented approach,” said Molly Zeff, Interfaith Program Representative at Equal Exchange, who also coordinates its Better Beans Project. “Events such as this provide opportunities for us to act upon Jewish values regarding just treatment of workers, and to demonstrate through our actions that because the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, we have a responsibility to fight for the rights of over 12 million enslaved individuals in the world today,” she said, adding that some estimates place the number of slaves as high as 30 million.

FTJ is partnering with the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum’s Cocoa campaign directed toward The Hershey Company, makers of the trademark silver kiss and other cocoa confections. According to ILRF materials, although Hershey does not identify its cocoa suppliers, much of the company’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, and while the company engages in charitable programs, it lacks a system in place that guards against labor abuses. The campaign seeks the establishment of a reputable, unbiased, third-party certification program for Hershey. These, and other hard-to-swallow facts are detailed in ILRF’s September, 2010 report, “Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for The Hershey Company.”

OK, so what about the standard Elite and Barton we know and love? The news isn’t good. “There is currently no Fair Trade, Kosher for Passover chocolate,” said Mattes. Since many, if not most people would not have chocolate during Passover that isn't certified Kosher for Passover, Mattes will offer suggestions for discussing the issue at a Seder without actually trying Fair Trade chocolate then and there (much Fair Trade chocolate is Kosher, for the rest of the year).

“We are hoping to find a Kosher for Passover manufacturer who will switch to Fair Trade for Passover in the next year or two,” said Schatz. “It’s one of our long term goals from this campaign.”

Fair Trade is the strongest certification system currently available, and while most major, and many smaller chocolate companies offer Fair Trade products or are completely Fair Trade certified, Hershey, aside from its Dagoba line, has not embraced Fair Trade status.

“Passover is a celebration of the Israelites' liberation from slavery, but might we actually be perpetuating forced labor at our holiday tables with seder mints and chocolate-covered matzah?” ask FTJ’s event materials, which will be used at the Eitz event. “But we have a choice. We can choose chocolate that supports farmers, is grown sustainably, and is guaranteed free from child labor,” they explain.

’In every generation, a person is obligated to see him or herself as though he/she had personally been redeemed from Eqypt’, we read in the Haggadah,” said Schatz. “We tell the details of the story, act it out, and eat charoset, symbolizing the mortar with which our ancestors made bricks for the Egyptians – in other words, we attempt to ‘experience’ what slavery felt like,” she said. “Though we may not be actual slaves ourselves today, our history moves us to ask ‘Where does slavery exist today?’, ‘Who is enslaved?’, and, ‘What is that slavery like?’” she said.

 

Mattes said she has received great support from local individuals.

“We were approached by Fair Trade Judaica, and considered the aims of that organization to be especially resonant with Jewish precepts of tikkun olam,” said Sam Petuchowski, an attorney and former NASA scientist who is Chair of Eitz Chayim’s Social Action Committee. “The Rabbis teach us to consider where products come from, and it is not for naught that the exodus from slavery is central to our heritage,” he said.

 
“Food is such a huge part of our Jewish tradition, as is agriculture,” said Becca Weaver, an M.Sc. candidate in Agriculture, Food and Environment at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy and a leader in the Farm to Shul initiative at Moishe Kavod House, which is co-sponsoring the event. “It is my understanding that one-sixth of Halachah, Jewish law, is about agriculture, and lessons can be learned about food justice and taking care of our community based on these laws,” said Weaver, who also helps coordinate a Jewish community food and agricultural initiative in Boston launched this spring that includes a learning series and gardening opportunities. “Food and agricultural issues in Jewish programming, ritual, and experience can revitalize Jewish custom and ritual and launch a discussion about feeding ourselves and the world sustainably,” she said.

Mattes says the tasting will consist of Equal Exchange chocolate bars; tastings elsewhere in the country will offer other brands and types. “We'll also have Fair Trade hot cocoa available during the film screening,” she said. “I'm hoping this is also a catalyst for more conversation within the Boston Jewish community about fair trade and how we, as a community, can support a just food system with our purchases.”


“By engaging in issues such as fair trade as a Jewish community, we can work towards making the world a better place for everyone to live in, and ground it in our tradition that has offered so much wisdom through the ages,” said Weaver.

 


Bean of Affliction: Chocolate, Child Labor, and Choosing Fair Trade will be held on Sunday, April 10 from 6-8 p.m. at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine St., Cambridge (Central Square T; some street parking available). For information, email Mattes at darya.mattes@gmail.com.