Shopping at the Shuk

Shopping at the Shuk

A look from the shuk at the Hazon Food Festival —Liberty, Food and Justice for All.

Over 350 people gathered this past Sunday at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City to celebrate the Hazon Festival— Liberty, Food and Justice for All

The daylong event — the first of its kind to be held in Philadelphia by Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental group in the United States — included sessions like "Curb Your Consumerism," "Small Batch Canning" and "The Spirituality of Food" — a jam-packed schedule of events. 

While not all of the presenters were Jewish, their content was appropriate and relevant to the audience. For example, during his session, Philadelphian Nati Passow, co-founder and executive director of the Jewish Farm School, discussed the school's upcoming Shmita Project, when they will let the land rest. 

After a fresh cup of organic fair-trade coffee from Old City Coffee, I made my way to the event's marketplace, The Shuk, where exhibitors were setting up their booths. 

I met Tenaya Darlington, a.k.a. Madame Fromage, in her stall, where she was selling signed copies of her book, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes and Pairing, and providing samples of the cheesemonger's vegetable-rinded and kosher cheeses. "There are so many people making kosher cheese," she said as she told me about the session she was to lead later in the day "Vegetarian and Kosher Cheese 101." "I spent the last month getting all kinds of cheeses together like this one," she pointed to the table. For example, she says, "Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery offers a line of kosher certified cow’s milk cheeses that are exceptional."

I wondered if she felt like she was outside of her comfort zone at the event. To the contrary, she said. "It feels really warm, fun and creative. I like the variety — vessels to put food in, jams, tehina and bread. It's like a real shuk, where vendors come from all areas who participate somewhere around the table."

Indeed, the shuk showcased a variety of businesses and organizations like Vine Dining, Hazon and Philly Bike Expo. As one of the event chairs, Amanda Ross, put it, "It really felt like an Israeli marketplace, which is the essence of the word 'shuk.' It was crowded from noon until we closed the shop!"

Marty Feingenbaum, the shuk organizer, added, "We also viewed the shuk as not only a marketplace for food, but also for ideas. Hence, the mix of  organizations that were represented — non-food vendors as well."

That explains why attendees could sign up for a share of Center City CSA (community supported agriculture), sample sesame butter from Soom Foods and learn about upcoming What Is Your Food Worth events and programs in one fell swoop. 

The event attracted an organization that is new to Philadelphia, but well-versed in food justice language. Challah for Hunger brings college students together to bake and sell challah, then donate the proceeds to national and local organizations. It has 60 chapters around the world, mainly on college campuses. Carly Zimmerman, director and Challah Experience Officer, said that "Philadelphia is a great city for the organization because of all the thriving Jewish life."    

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