On Nov. 15, the third annual Hazon Jewish Food Festival brought together hundreds of Jews and non-Jews from the region for a day of peaceful, educational,
delicious and fun activities.
From a passionate keynote panel calling for much higher ethical standards for the treatment of animals in the realm of kashrut and beyond, to dozens of workshop sessions that ranged from lessons on foraging to sustainable fishing, and a marketplace full of countless relationship-building and shopping opportunities, the festival touched on numerous aspects of the way we live and eat.
The keynote panel consisted of Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States; Nafatli Hanau, CEO and founder of Grow and Behold Pastured kosher meat products; and Sarah Shamirah Chandler, chief compassion officer for the Jewish Initiative for Animals.
Shapiro had several thought-provoking remarks regarding everything from climate change to animal welfare during the panel, but he summarized all of his findings in one powerfully simple anecdote. “The single most important thing that we as individuals can do for our climate, for our health, for animal welfare,” proclaimed Shapiro, “is to eat less meat.” How much meat we consume is something all three panelists warned we must carefully consider as we enter into this next shmita cycle.
Hanau called for the slaughtering and processing of animals to be instilled in middle school curricula so that young people are provided with the capacity to make their own informed decisions about how and what to eat. “Just seeing that experience of turning chickens into meat,” says Hanau, “is going to help us remember that every time we’re eating meat, this is something that was a living creature.”
Hanau also called for a paradigm shift in our consumer culture, suggesting that long before we consider spending on material goods such as cars and clothes, we respect our bodies and the environment first and foremost by purchasing meats raised ethically and on pasture, no matter the cost.
Chandler also closed with similar remarks regarding meat consumption in our community. “In the Jewish community, some people have this new practice where they eat meat only on Shabbat and on Yom Tov,” she said, “and I see that trend going up.” Chandler also called for a special prayer to be said before consuming meat products, in order to acknowledge the fact that we are making a choice to consume meat from an animal, and also to honor the life of that animal.
The breakout sessions were just as focused on the provenance of sustenance. Peter Clark, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was inspired after attending an hour-long workshop with forager David Siller, where he learned about finding wild edible plants like watercress.
Risa Waldoks of the Food Trust, who was on the festival planning committee, thought the festival “was a blast,” adding that she “had so much fun networking and mingling with the people representing their tables — there was just a great energy throughout the day.”
Of course, this was a food festival, and there was no shortage of opportunities to taste the myriad of manifestations of Hazon’s priniciples.
To quote the Haggadah, all in attendance probably would agree that the shuk alone “would have been enough for us.” Smiles and pleasantries — along with local goods and services — were exchanged from around noon until the close of the festival. Aside from the lunch provided by the soon-to-open, fast-casual restaurant Herban Quality Eats, it was no surprise that tahini and its various offspring were arguably the greatest highlight of the shuk.
Sisters Amy Zitleman Hersch and Shelby Zitleman of Soom Foods brought their delectable chocolate tahini, and dished out samples alongside Ari Miller and Gary Burner of the Food Underground, who used Soom products to come up with some of their own creamy concoctions to sample with the community.
(Full disclosure: This reporter also used Soom products in his not-for-profit, seasonally inspired homemade hummus, including a bold autumnal batch using fresh local carrots smoked at Noord Restaurant in South Philly, and sold Mason jars and sandwiches of the stuff, in the process raising just under $300 in profits for Heritage Farm in West Philadelphia.)
Two of the most popular items of the day were popsicles from West Chester’s Mompops and practically every cookie from Philadelphia’s Crust Bakery — all of which were vegan.
Festival veterans Burning Bush Hot Sauce returned to sample their new dry rub alongside their original tangy and smoky sauce, and the father-daughter Goldberg team at Helen’s Pure Foods dished out their chickpea-based prepared foods to happy eaters all afternoon.
The festival proved, yet again, that when compassionate Jewish Philadelphians put their heads together, organizations like Hazon emerge to help create a healthier, happier Delaware Valley.