Rabbis for Human Rights

North America return to Immokalee, produce aisle at Publix, to lend voices to growing call for Fair Food!

Longtime readers of this site recognize the name Rabbis for Human Rights — North America. In a relatively short time RHR-NA has become one of the most steadfast and active allies in the Campaign for Fair Food. From pray-ins at Publix, to open letters to Trader Joes and protests at Stop & Shop, RHR-NA has been anywhere and everywhere the campaign has gone to demand Fair Food in the past two years.

This deep commitment is founded on a growing connection between the community of Immokalee and the members of RHR-NA, fed by a series of visits to Immokalee by delegations of rabbis from around the country who spend several days in town in dialogue with CIW members and in prayerful study of the forces at play behind farmworker exploitation. This week a new delegation was in town, and we have a report on their visit, including a trip to a local Publix store (pictured above), from the people at Interfaith Action, who help organize the visits:

“This week, the indefatigable Rabbis for Human Rights-North America returned to Immokalee with seven more rabbis from across the country, from neighboring Fort Myers to Philly and NYC, to learn about the dramatic advances in Florida’s fields and to plan efforts to endear Kroger’s, Giant, Stop & Shop and Publix to join the growing partnership. They dug in deep, spending three days learning the extraordinary tale Immokalee has to tell from workers, enthusiastic growers, and the Fair Food Standards Council.

Less than twenty-four hours had passed before the rabbis had determined that they needed to take their voices to Publix. And so they did just that: they walked into a Bonita Springs Publix, surrounded the tomato aisle and joined together in a melodic Niggun (a wordless harmony). While some rabbis spoke to those purchasing tomatoes of Publix’s erosion of the long-awaited Fair Food Program, effectively convincing the shoppers to join them, others offered words and prayers of hope that Florida’s supermarket giant would, someday soon, see the light.

At the visit’s closing, after each rabbi had laid out plans for their congregation’s involvement in the campaign, Rabbi Eric Soloman of Raleigh, NC relayed to the others that he had concluded to explain this week’s Torah portion, the story of Noah and the ark, to his congregation a bit differently this Friday.

As the tale goes, God destroyed a corrupt world in the hopes of building a righteous creation in its place. Rabbi Eric plans to pronounce that there indeed exists a place of such transformation, where an unjust world of human rights abuses in the fields has been washed away, a system of partnership and dignity erected in its place. It’s called Immokalee.

This powerful new alliance for fundamental human rights has already borne fruit in the short time since it began in 2011. We are looking forward to much more success in our work together for food justice in the years ahead!