A heaping — and healthy — plate of “Food for Thought” was served at Congregation B’nai Israel on April 6 when the Rumson synagogue hosted Nigel Savage, an important thinker on Judaism and the environment.
Savage is founder and executive director of Hazon, which, since its founding in 2000, has been working through its multi-generational programs to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and world. Based in New York City and at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, in Falls Village, Conn., Hazon seeks to effect change in “transformative experiences, thought-leadership, and capacity-building.”
At CBI Savage led some 55 people in a discussion about the relationship between Jewish texts and traditions and food. Following the presentation, he facilitated small group discussions on related issues.
Youth director and event chair Susan Alderson said that last year CBI received a mini-grant from Hazon “to support an in-house program called Plant, Learn, Grow, which integrates Hazon education materials into the religious school curriculum.” Savage, she said, enhanced this learning with understanding “about where our food comes from, environmental sustainability, and how this relates to our modern Jewish lives.”
“We were thrilled to welcome Nigel Savage to Monmouth County,” said Rabbi Jeff Sultar. CBI’s adult education classes “have included an exploration of the evolution of biblical teachings about the environment, rabbinic views of environmental concerns, and modern teachings about ethical eating and social responsibility.”
Savage also had a discussion with 40 students in CBI’s religious school. Student Nathan Gagne said, “It was great to hear someone talking about the environment in a way that connects Jewishness with an issue that I am concerned about.” Josh Keller said, “Nigel posed questions that allowed for a real discussion and exchange of ideas. He was very open to what everyone had to say.”
CBI publicity chair Suzanne Guttoso said the speaker “made us realize that Judaism teaches us quite a lot about how we can make better food choices, support local farmers, and improve our health and the health of the environment.”
A brunch with kosher, organic, locally sourced, sustainable food was provided by Moveable Feast by Margo, LLC, the in-house catering service at CBI.
Responding to Savage’s messages, congregant Yona Schulman said, “How wonderful if we could move forward on some of the sensible and sustaining ideas that Nigel articulated. He made us all think seriously about our food consumption.” In fact, she added, she and her husband Herb “have made a commitment to only eat red meat once a week. That’s a start!”
The event was sponsored by an adVenture grant from Jewish Federation of Monmouth County. Executive director Keith Krivitzky, who introduced Savage at the program, said it was “a wonderful way to share some of the richness of our Jewish values, in terms of commitment to the environment and food issues, in a welcoming and engaging way. The federation is proud to support these efforts with our partners and throughout the community.”