The third annual Hazon Jewish Food Festival, while being a venue for a delectable bite and a haggle in one exceptional shuk, is much more than simply a palate-pleaser.
There’s a glorious celebration coming up in a couple of days. It’s one of the most positive, forward-thinking, community-driven, important festivals of the year. No matter your age or prior knowledge with respect to the confluence of Jewish food traditions and sustainability, if you’re free on Sunday, November 15th, meet me in Elkins Park.
The third annual Hazon Jewish Food Festival, while being a venue for a delectable bite and a haggle in one exceptional shuk, is much more than simply a palate-pleaser. There is so much to do, to learn and to eat, there are so many interesting people to meet, and there is such a wide variety of thoughtfully and locally made products to buy at the festival that you are guaranteed to leave very well fulfilled – and probably beyond exhausted.
It surely is shaping up to be a tempeh tempest (whitefish whopper?) of a day, starting with bottomless Old City coffee and a panel discussion, followed by what should be a wonderfully inventive and wildly delicious kosher and vegetarian lunch by Herban Quality Eats (a fast-casual concept soon to open at 3601 Market Street in University City), and ending with, perhaps most importantly, three expertly run workshop sessions of your choice. You are sure to leave the festival overwhelmed – but as you begin to process the experiences you shared with other community members in the days that follow, you are sure to realize that your time spent at the festival will have a lasting positive effect on your life in countless ways. And to put it simply, you’re going to have a great time.
I reached out to some festival veterans to learn their thoughts about this year's festival.
Hazon founder and president Nigel Savage writes that the festival is a chance to bring together “2,000 years of Jewish food traditions” with “a slew of contemporary issues," including food justice and the treatment of animals, “with the hope of strengthening Jewish life and creating a more sustainable world for all.” Amen, brother.
Carly Zimmerman, CEO of national nonprofit Challah for Hunger, is looking forward to the festival because she believes it “brings together the people and organizations that care about food justice and those who know how to enjoy making and eating food together.” Especially for kids, CFH will have a workshop on baking challah, and there will alsobe challot for sale at the shuk.
Leah Lazer, program manager of Hazon Philadelphia and the director of this year’s festival, echoes the sentiments from above, offering that a key purpose of the festival is to “leverage the wisdom of Jewish tradition and the resources of the Jewish community to address some of the most critical issues of our time.”
When asked what she’s most looking forward to about the festival, Morgan Berman, CEO of the My Milkcrate app (which is the official app of the festival), writes, "Besides eating all day?! I am looking forward to celebrating my love of food and Jewish culture in my home town while helping everyone learn more about the vendors who will all be listed in the My MilkCrate app for easy access."
The key themes mentioned by Savage, Zimmerman, Lazer, and Berman are Jewish food traditions, food justice, and community. I believe that the Hazon Fest is exactly what we need at this point in the history of our community. Members of our community have contributed in such a wealth of ways over the past year (or, in some cases, much longer) with respect to the themes discussed above, and we should celebrate their hard work and determination. I also think it's important that we, as a Jewish community in a city where people are especially beginning to look to us (well, at least to Chef Solomonov) for food advice, take it upon oursleves to embrace even more of a leadership role within the greater Philadelphia community when it comes to championing a humane, local food system that is easily accessible to all residents of our region.
Through forums like the Hazon Fest, we are able to make connections and to build friendships through which we may discuss our successes and failures, along with new and inventive ways to apply our rich traditions and values, in order to make informed decisions as to how we may come up with the most effective strategies to increase the betterment of our lives and the lives of all of our friends and neighbors in the Delaware Valley.
If you go:
Third Annual Hazon Jewish Food Festival
Sunday, November 15th, 2015
9:15 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Congregation Keneseth Israel
8339 Old York Road, Elkins Park
Below is a list of my top five suggestions for this year’s festival, followed by my top picks for the breakout sessions. For the complete schedule, consult the festival site here.
1) Come Hungry. Last year’s lunch was delicious but, and this is no gut-punch to the good ol’ second annual festival, but this year’s is going to be better. Punny newcomers Herban Quality Eats use local produce (when available) from area growers like West Philly’s Heritage Farm to make brilliantly colorful, inventive, and flavorful – yet simple – vegetarian dishes. To note, Herban is in the process of opening a brick and mortar store at 3601 Market Street in University City, opening slated for December, so be sure to make it to the festival in time for lunch (11:30-12:30) in order to get a preview.
2) Bring an Open Mind. When meat purveyors such as New York’s Grow and Behold inform you of their pricing, don’t go running away down Old York Road. Instead, consider changing the way you eat – maybe spending a little more per pound on ground beef or chicken means eating animal products a little less frequently, and cutting back on serving size. Then who knows, maybe you’ll start to chew a little more slowly, savor every bite more deeply, and get special satisfaction that the animals you’re eating were raised and finished with care, on pasture.
3) Make friends. The Hazon Fest is a celebration more than it is anything else. It’s a place where we’re reminded what a lively, loving community we are. Sometimes, we settle for keeping our contacts and friend groups simple, such as sticking with those on our block or at our own shul. I would encourage those who attend to reach out to those in other quadrants of our regional community, so that we may be able to better share ideas and grow as a greater society everywhere from Bala Cynwyd to Huntington Valley to Bella Vista. After all, being around so many Jews all the time in our region often causes us to forget what a great minority we are on a global scale. Perhaps when you return for the 2016 Hazon Fest, you'll be high-fiving new friends from all around the region upon your arrival!
4) Get an especially good night’s sleep on Saturday/come refreshed and ready to learn. Make it in time for the opening remarks and panel discussion (10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.), as this is where some of the most inspiring moments of the 2014 festival happened for me. The focus of this year’s keynote panel is farm animal awareness, and the panel is composed of Paul Shapiro (vice president, Farm Animal Protection, The Humane Society of the U.S.), Rabbi Mary Zamore (editor, The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic), and Naftali Hanau (CEO and Founder, Grow and Behold). Take full advantage of the breakout sessions; choose diverse, unique workshops and get out of your comfort zone! For ideas, check out my suggestions below. And if for some reason you start the celebration early and don’t have the opportunity to get an especially good night’s sleep, be aware that there will be free Old City Coffee during the registration time from 9:15-10 a.m. (bring your travel mug or thermos!)
5) Have Chanukah shopping in mind. The shuk or marketplace is the epicenter of the festival and is the one space open from the end of the panel discussion at 11:30 a.m. throughout the entire event, which concludes at 4 p.m. Standouts for me are Soom Foods for tahini and Burning Bush for hot sauce. Both products are Kosher and are exceptional in quality, and of course are sold by local small businesses composed of members of our very own community! Also be sure to visit the new-for-2015 Food Underground stand, and learn all about the culinary programs offered by veteran Israel-trained chef and champion of local foods, Ari Miller. I’ll also throw in a plug for my own nonprofit hummus venture, Hot Chicks!, for which I make unique, seasonally inspired hummus using fresh and local produce from area farms (and Soom’s tahini), and donate 100 percent of the profits to one of a few community-centered urban farms in our city. To note, Lancaster Farm Fresh also will have a large farm stand from which you may purchase your produce for the week.
Personal Recommendations for the Breakout Sessions:
Session 1 (12:30-1:20)
–Demystifying Meats: From Farm to Table, with Rebecca Frimmer of Kitchen Table Consultants and Heather Thomason, head butcher of Fishtown’s ultra-progressive farm-to-table restaurant Kensington Quarters.
Session 2 (1:30-2:20)
–Professional Foraging: A How-to Guide, with professional forager David Siller.
Session 3 (2:30-3:20)
–Dining Out-Justice In? Restaurant Workers and Models for Ethical Eating, a panel discussion moderated by Lila Corwin-Berman of the Feinstein Center for American Jewish Life and Temple University.
–Jewish Animal Ethics: Legends, Laws, and Linking Values, with Sarah Chandler of the Humane Society of the U.S.
–Innovative Hunger Solutions in the Jewish Community, a panel discussion moderated by Risa Waldoks of The Food Trust.