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The Next Big Thing in Jewish Food Education

In the past few years, the world of Jewish food education has grown by leaps and bounds. People around the world are thinking about the connections between Jewish tradition and contemporary food issues, and working hard to help their communities see these issues through a Jewish lens. Hazon stands at the forefront of these conversations. Over the past year, we have created a number of new educational materials, program guides, and source books that you can use to help make your community healthier and more sustainable.

Gan Nashim: Growing Strong Jewish Girls, generously supported by the Hadassah Foundation, was piloted in three camps this summer. Gan Nashim is a health and cooking program which draws upon Jewish tradition to address contemporary challenges of having and maintaining a healthy diet in today’s world. The program specifically focuses on teaching conscious and healthy eating with a Jewish spirit and is designed to be used in camps in a variety of different formats. During camp, girls spend more time outdoors and in physical proximity to each other, as they eat, sleep, and play together for weeks and months. Camp can provide an opportunity to create a positive, supportive community instead of an environment where girls compare bodies, wondering how they measure up, or fall short, against their bunkmates, and fostering a breeding ground for disordered eating.

With an overt focus on healthy eating, Gan Nashim includes hands-on activities and exercises which build skills that the girls can bring back home to support healthy eating throughout their lives. Gan Nashim is a camp adaptation of the work done by Catharine Steiner-Adair in Bishvili: For Me and Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program Advancing Girl Power, Health and Leadership. One of the camp staff members who ran Gan Nashim for her campers shared that, “Overall, I believe the program made a positive impact on [my girls] and planted the seeds of more mindful consumption in their consciousness.“

Home for Dinner, funded by the Covenant Foundation, brings families of 5th graders together to think about two of the most important aspects of daily life: family and food. It’s designed to make participants think about how both family and food are woven together as bright thread in the fabric of Jewish life. Home for Dinner is being piloted in six synagogue religious schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. In each school, students learn from Min Ha’Aretz in the classroom, and families come together for a number of interactive “learning labs” designed to give them the tools to have at least one more family meal together each week, or to “upgrade” their dinner experience if they already eat dinner together regularly.

Home for Dinner also serves as an opportunity to bring together community members who may have not had meaningful interactions before. One teacher reported that she personally “greatly enjoyed cooking dinner with the students for their parents; during our prep time students shared with me about their family eating traditions.” As preparing and sharing meals facilitates connection at home, the same is true for the preparing and sharing meals together as a synagogue community.

Ultimately, these two pilot programs represent just a tip of the iceberg as to what is possible in your community. Conversations about food systems and sustainability as they relate to Jewish tradition are blossoming around the country. These kinds of new and innovative tools can serve as the key, to unlock these vibrant discussions in your community.

Daniel Infeld is a Program Associate at Hazon responsible for educational resources and community programming. Daniel is a graduate of Clark University in Worcester, MA and has spent time working at Jewish summer camp and at Walt Disney World.


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