Religious leaders agree: It’s time for Trader Joe’s to join the Fair Food Program… Now.

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Over 100 rabbis sign open letter to Trader Joe’s; Call for food justice rings out across country during High Holiday season!

Rabbis for Human Rights – North America is turning up the heat on Trader Joe’s with a strong new letter signed by over 100 rabbis that will be delivered to Trader Joe’s headquarters, in oversized form, at the culmination of tomorrow’s big march. The letter begins:

“Dear Trader Joe’s,

We, the undersigned rabbis, urge Trader Joe’s to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Florida tomato industry to address the sub-poverty wages and human rights abuses faced by farmworkers who pick tomatoes sold at Trader Joe’s. By working with the CIW to enforce a code of conduct for basic rights for farmworkers, including zero tolerance for slavery, Trader Joe’s can ensure that the tomatoes you sell are not the product of slave labor and exploitative working conditions. Won’t you be a leader in the grocery industry by agreeing to the CIW’s Fair Food Campaign?” …

[In the picture above, Rabbis Lauren Grabelle-Herrmann (r) and Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy stand in front of a sukkah erected during a protest outside a Philadelphia Trader Joe's store this past Sunday as part of the Supermarket Week of Action. Rabbi Anna participated in the delegation to Immokalee that Rabbis for Human Rights organized in September, and she spoke about that experience there during the rally. She is also a signatory of the letter to Trader Joe's. You can see more pictures from the action here, and read coverage of it in the Daily Pennsylvanian here.]

The letter concludes:

“… The Jewish community is grateful to Trader Joe’s for your commitment to carrying kosher food and Israeli products. Many of members of our congregations are your loyal customers, in part because of Trader Joe’s longstanding reputation as an ethical company. We hope that you will now prove that loyalty and reputation are deserved by signing onto the Campaign for Fair Food.” read more

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

The letter echoes the call for Fair Food that has rung out in sermons across the country this High Holiday season. One such sermon, prepared for Rosh Hashanah by Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA, can be found here. Here’s a brief passage from the rabbi’s deeply moving, and very personal, reflection:

“…. I’m reminded of the section of our Talmud where Rabbi Yehudah, enters the shul and sees two young people playing soccer with a loaf of bread. Upon seeing this he becomes angry. Barking out his words, Rabbi Yehudah curses the people for wasting food, causing a plague to fall upon Israel. At that moment, his students beg him to walk to the other end of the market where he sees the poor of the city swarming over a small pile of dried dates, clambering to feed themselves. Rabbi Yehuda’s face draws long and he prays for rain, a symbol in the Talmud for God’s compassion.

Like Rabbi Yehudah, we walk through our community and only see our end of the market. We can’t see the disparity between what we have and those who are hidden from us do not have. But once we take a wider view, once we see our world through God’s eyes, we can see the absurdity of a world that is at the same time overfed and underfed. We have to say, “That’s not kosher.”

Once we walk into our supermarket, we see perfectly aligned fruits and vegetables and beautifully marbled meats arranged in exact rows under plastic. But behind that simple, colorful display is a world of hurt. There is a long distance from the field to the fork, and along that food way many, many hands are involved in food production. Immokalee is the tomato capital of the United States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farm workers. Since 1970, their wages have dropped to almost nothing, and living conditions are something out of a Steinbeck novel with workers living in the backs of trucks or in converted shipping containers without electricity or running water. Who have we become? read more

You can find more great Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot sermons on the subject of food justice and the Campaign for Fair Food posted at the Rabbis for Human Rights — North America website. Rabbi Jill Jacobs ends her sermon with this clear call to conscience:

“This year, I want to finish Sukkot just as I entered it–without a guilty conscience. So during the holiday, I will call my local Trader Joe’s to ask them to sign the Fair Food Pledge. I hope you will join me.” read more sermons here

And we hope you will join us tomorrow, at the march to Trader Joe’s headquarters, as we put faith and consciousness into action and demand Fair Food now from Trader Joe’s! See you in the streets of Monrovia…