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Resource: A Jewish Perspective on Food & Faith – Adrienne Krone

Dr. Adrienne Krone provides a Jewish perspective on food, and was part of a larger discussion on Food & Faith. Dr. Krone works for Allegheny College. This talk was part of a Food & Faith Convening event held in November 2018 at Duke University. The event was developed through a partnership between Duke Divinity School and the Rural Church Program Area of The Duke Endowment, the Duke World Food Policy Center (WFPC).  Convening discussions identified several themes that drive the work of faith communities: moving from charity to justice, food sovereignty, and equitable food-oriented development; moving from charity to justice for the land & environment; the need for bridging and relationship building between practitioners, funders, and the academy; and the need for bridging between faith communities and policy. Additionally, several academic themes for future research were identified focused on cross-faith comparative analysis and the broad impact of faith community-based food systems work.

About Dr. Adrienne Krone

Adrienne Krone, Director of Jewish Life at Allegheny College, advises Hillel, leads religious services, and provides support for the Jewish community on campus. She is also Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. Her research focuses on communal Jewish farms and the sustainable Jewish farming movement in the United States. Her expertise ranges from the history of religion in the U.S., to modern Judaism, to religion and food. Krone holds a Ph.D. in American Religion from Duke University, and her extensive experience in Jewish communal service includes working with youth and young adult groups, teaching and directing a religious school program for Jewish teens, liturgical leadership, and staffing a Birthright trip.


I’m Adrienne Krone. I teach religious studies at Allegheny and I’m teaching a class right now on Judaism, justice and food, so I think about this a lot. To say that something is kosher is to say that it satisfies the requirements of Jewish law. In other words, kosher means fit to eat. When people think about kosher food, they usually have in mind, a few of the key rules of the Kashrut system, no bacon, no cheeseburgers, no lobster. This is a great start to understanding Kashrut, but if we’re really going to take Kashrut seriously, we have a lot more work to do.

If kosher means that the food satisfies the requirements of Jewish law, then I think we need to consider a broader range of Jewish laws. When we do this, we find that laws require Jews to consider the needs of animals, plants, the land and other humans in their community, as they determine what is fit to eat. So the images that you’ll see as I talk are from Jewish community farms, which is the area that I do research in, so I’m an ethnographer. I go out, I farm alongside people, including some of the folks here. Shamu might recognize his own cabbages and so you’ll see some of what’s happening out there as I describe these things.

So I’ll start with animals. Currently, a kosher meat certification requires that a kosher animal is slaughtered in the kosher way, but Jewish law also includes a prohibition forbidding Jews from causing the suffering of living creatures called tsa’ar ba’alei hayim. This would mean that animal welfare would have to be considered for meat to be kosher and this would call us to reconsider the standards in our current factory farms. It also encourages if we consider this law, it would encourage Jews to rethink their relationships with animals. So what you see here is a morning prayer. Chakri is the morning prayer in Judaism. That’s happening in the chicken yard again at Atama and then in the second image, you see the apiary, the Bee sanctuary at Bayla farm, which in outside of Toronto, Canada and that’s a celebration of the opening of this apiary and of a reforestation center for bees. So that is work that they’re doing specifically to repopulate pollinator populations in Toronto.

There’s also room to improve when it comes to plants. The Jewish law of Orlah forbids Jews from eating fruit from their trees for the first three years after planting and they have to donate the fruit to the temple in the fourth year. So there’s no more temple, what do you do? Now it’s considered that you would donate it to a food pantry or something like that. And in the fifth year, and only in the fifth year, Jews can partake the fruit. Another Jewish law, bal tashchit forbids Jews from needlessly cutting down trees, especially beneficial ones. It describes fruited trees specifically.

So if you take these laws into account, this would require Jews to think seriously about agricultural practices. For example, like clearing bio diverse forests and peat lands to build Palm oil plantations and so you can see here, that’s an orchard at Eden Village Camp, which is in upstate New York. And again, that’s Atana maple syrup, which takes them many, many days to get those tiny bottles of very delicious maple syrup. So relatedly Jewish law calls for a year of rest for agricultural land, just as humans work for six days and rest on the seventh, the laws of Shmita called Jews to work the land for six years and let it rest in the seventh.

The laws of Shmita also require that the land be opened to the needy so that everyone can share perennial fruits that are available in the sabbatical year. In non sabbatical years, there’s a different method for ensuring that people without access to land and food have enough to eat and we’ll talk about that next, but this is at Coastal Roots Farm in San Diego and what they did for the Shmita, it’s a little, maybe a little bit hard to see but they planted in these socks. So these soil socks, so that they’re not actually planting in the ground during the sabbatical year, but on top of it. So it’s kind of a classic rabbidic workaround for dealing with those pesky agricultural laws.

The law of Paia, which means corners, requires that Jewish farmers leave the edges of their fields unharvested. This law ensures that there will be food available for the needy and the stranger. This is a temporary solution that is meant to enable food security as society is moving slowly towards food sovereignty. When the needy themselves would have access to their own land. So that would come through the Yovel year, the Jubilee year which is after seven cycles of seven years. You’ll see, there’s a lot of sevens here.

In the 50th year, the land would then be redistributed. So kind of reclaimed by the community and redistributed so that the needy would then have access to land themselves. It’s important to note that the stranger is also included in this law. So the most repeated law in the Torah is the commandment to care for, love and feed strangers living among the Jewish people and when we consider that most of our food currently comes through the hands of underpaid and ill-treated immigrant laborers, we can see that there’s a lot more work to be done in making our food fit to eat. So this is, on the left that’s Eden Village Camp. Again, that’s their Paia garden. So everything that’s grown in that section of their garden goes straight to the local food bank. And on the right, that’s a farm outside an envelope factory in Geneva, Illinois, called Pushing The envelope Farm and all the food that is, well in that part of the farm all the food that has grown goes to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

So how can we create a food system that considers all of these laws? So I have some suggestions. First we should start with education. Jewish people have been detached from agriculture and food production for centuries, both by force and by choice. So the first step is to remind them and others that Judaism contains within it a blueprint for a model food system. The next step then is to collaborate. Jews make up a tiny minority in this country at slightly less than 2% of the population. So if Jewish people are going to make an impact on the food system, they have to collaborate with others to do so. This means being part of food justice work locally, where they live and working with others to affect change. Jewish tradition provides a legal framework and language for thinking about food. So it’s just taking that next step and thinking a bit more broadly about what Jewish laws we consider when we think about what’s kosher and in time, hopefully we would have food that is truly fit to eat, thank you.