Posts Tagged ‘JewSchool’

As more and more information comes out about the situation at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, it becomes more and more disturbing. To briefly put aside the “sustainable” mask I make sure to wear as a poster here: this situation presents, to me, what most frustrates me about religion. This demonstrates how religion, which can and should be used as an inspiring force for God in the world in order to learn more about ourselves and develop true community in order to make the world a holier and better place, can also be used as a tool to hurt, abuse and destroy. Though I recognize that we are all flawed, the pain inflicted, from drugs to sexual abuse, in this case strikes me as enormous, and I struggle mightily with the fact that I have probably supported these people in the past, simply by being an observant Jew in the US.

Since I know I have enabled this organization, these developments have shaken me deeply. It has been well documented what a high percentage of resources developing cattle for beef can use up, and I was aware of it before. I was willing, however, to turn the other cheek, because, frankly, I love steak, and most Monday nights for the past year I’ve had a Deli Burger at a local restaurant, a 1/3 lb patty topped with grilled pastrami (yes, I know, not only is it not sustainable, it’s not healthy, but damn, that thing is GOOD). Given my affinity for the beefier things in life, it was going to take a remarkable turn of events for me to seriously consider vegetarianism: I think this is it. Even if you aren’t going to go veggie because of one little sexually scandalous, meth dealing “kosher” meat plant, between the issues raised by these development and the issue of resources, I would suggest that it’s something that any thoughtful, committed Jew has to think about in a serious way.

There are many other “sustainability” issues at play here that are connected to Judaism, but I’d like to address a very practical one: cost. I heard from a reliable source (OK, it was my mom, but she did talk about it with her kosher butcher) that not only were kosher chicken breasts a few dollars cheaper per pound than those of other brands, but that they were about half the cost of the organic kosher chicken breasts she buys from a local store. I think this demonstrates an interesting tension between how we want to be able to live our lives (ideally, we’d make the “greenest” possible choices at all times, with all things) with the reality of the situation (buying an electric car isn’t necessarily always the best solution). Furthermore, for me at least, this highlights the tension between traditional Jewish observance (something that I, at least, hold to be important in order to maintain our religious and historical connection to God and the Jewish people) and our own modern values, by, for example, considering it more important to eat organic and/or local foods than placing an emphasis on kashrut, which, given the Postville incident, might seem to make even more sense.

So what do we do? I still feel lost, but kudos to JewSchool for their thoughtful post about the importance of helping the workers affected by all of this, which at least presents something we can do to help.


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Ladies and gentlemen…Rabbi Peter Stein!Not Rabbi Stein

…OK, no, that isn’t Rabbi Stein, but it’s quite a picture. Anyway, a few days ago, a post went up on JewSchool (also cross-posted on Radical Torah) in which Rabbi Stein,¬†ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary two years ago and now living in New Haven, CT,¬†presented his take on Torah and Judaism; he believes that the whole goal of Torah is to create a sustainable society. Not surprisingly, this rings true to all of us here at Pitaron Park.

There are 4 aspects to Stein’s thoughts on sustainability: economics, ecology, society and spirituality. In the post, Rabbi Stein presents many questions (appropriate enough, given that this was a Passover oriented post) for each of these aspects, suggesting potential topics and themes to think about for each separate category.

Despite the inspiring ideas, there are a few things missing from Rabbi Stein’s blogifesto. While he does an excellent job asking questions, he does not suggest any answers. While questions such as “will my decisions support the environment?” and “is this action spiritually meaningful?” are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to answer in blog format, it would be great to see some of Rabbi Stein’s thoughts on how to begin answering the stimulating and provocative questions he asks.

Another downside to Stein’s excellent post is a thorough lack of detail. To be sure, it’s difficult to provide background for such big, exciting ideas fully in a few short words, but it would be nice to see some proof or background information to explain how he has arrived at his current stance. Given that, according to Rabbi Stein, this big idea is the main point that the Bible itself is trying to tell us, where are the quotes from the Bible to prove it?

Perhaps this can serve as a challenge to us all to look to our tradition to find the sources and proof texts that support Rabbi Stein’s position, so that we can fully know with our minds what we also know with our hearts. This seems to be a great discussion starter…any thoughts?

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