The gift of freedom our people received generations ago bestows upon us the obligation and responsibility to work for the liberation of all people.
SHEHECHIYANU! We can finally eat chocolate on Passover that's been certified not to have been made with trafficked child labor! Why is this so important?
Every Passover we gather as family and community to celebrate our people’s freedom. We are obligated to tell the story of the Exodus, our journey from slavery to liberation. We eat maror to remind us of the bitter taste of that experience. As we celebrate this freedom during Passover, we are compelled to reflect on how freedom continues to be elusive for other people. Our history of slavery awakens us to the plight of the stranger, and to the alarming occurrence of modern-day trafficking and slavery. How can we celebrate our freedom without recognizing that so many individuals still have not obtained theirs?
There is much documented evidence about the role of trafficked child labor in the cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and West Africa, where 40–50% of cocoa is grown and harvested. Hundreds of thousands of children work in the cocoa fields, many of whom are exposed to hazardous conditions where they:
- spray pesticides and apply fertilizers without protective gear
- use sharp tools, like machetes
- sustain injuries from transporting heavy loads beyond permissible weight
- do strenuous work like felling trees, and clearing and burning vegetation
A large number of these children have been trafficked, often taken from their communities without the consent of their families, and most of them do not attend school.
The gift of freedom our people received generations ago bestows upon us the obligation and responsibility to work for the liberation of all people. How can we fully celebrate our freedom without acknowledging the millions of people today who are still forced to work, thousands of whom are young children who work in cocoa fields to bring us our delicious chocolate?
But we don't have to eat chocolate tainted by child labor. We can choose to purchase chocolate from companies that certify their supply chains through Fair Trade monitoring and certification, committed to eliminating child labor.
And this year, we are able to celebrate with Fair Trade and Kosher for Passover chocolate! Equal Exchange produces soy-free (lecithin-free) chocolate. Last year, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Associate Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, gave a Rabbinic ruling that specific chocolates can be eaten on Passover, and this year, they are also included on the Conservative Movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Approved for Passover 5774 list.
Fair Trade Judaica is excited to partner with T'ruah and Equal Exchange to bring this to our community. Chocolate purchased before March 31 will arrive before Passover begins.
We asked Rabbi Menachem Creditor (Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA) to write a special kavannah for this occasion:
Every generation learns that things are more than they seem. This chocolate I hold is more than just chocolate. This is a symbol of potential freedom, a realization that foods that give me delight can be made without child labor. Joy need not be accompanied by pain or oppression. May I experience the sweet flavor of this gift as a hint of the freedom that birthed it. May the world know liberation, one person at a time, mindful act by mindful act, until all people are free.
We each have the power and the obligation to free today’s slaves with a “strong hand and outstretched arm.” What does this mean to us? How can we do this? One powerful way is to choose Fair Trade chocolate, especially on Passover, grown with standards prohibiting child labor.
Ilana Schatz is the Founding Director of Fair Trade Judaica, buildng a fair trade movement in the Jewish community. She’s been involved in Jewish social justice work for over 30 years.
You can find this chocolate in many Whole Foods stores, food coops, and natural food stores, or you can order it directly from Equal Exchange. Although they guarantee that you’ll receive your order within 10 business days, to discuss expedited shipping options, please call Equal Exchange’s customer service dept. before 1 pm EDT, at 774-776-7366.