If you are looking for an example of Jews pursuing both their self-interest and working toward tikun olam — repairing the wider world — look no further than two actions on food policy taken this month.
Last week the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, representing Jewish community relations councils and other policy groups, endorsed a call by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to add kosher food to emergency food assistance. The amendment to the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983 increases the purchase of kosher and halal food from food manufacturers as long as its cost is equivalent to food that is not kosher or halal.
“The organized Jewish community is committed to ensuring basic human rights for everyone, including the right to eat,” the JCPA wrote in a letter sent June 7 to other U.S. senators. “We must consider the diversity among those seeking nutrition assistance and their varied needs.”
This week, the JCPA repeated its call on Congress to roll back $4.1 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that the Senate approved on Monday as part of the Farm Bill.
“Reducing SNAP does more harm than good,” wrote JCPA chair Larry Gold. “Not only does SNAP ensure American families have the food they need, but it contributes to our economy. This money goes directly to local supermarkets, keeping businesses open and ensuring a market for our crops.”
Year in and year out, the sage Hillel seems to have provided the very road map for the Jewish policy-making community. From international affairs to domestic policy, from crises in Israel to challenges right at home, the Jewish agenda needs to balance the needs of peoplehood and global citizenship. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” said Hillel. “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”