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Fair Trade Shabbat

What’s special about Shabbat May 9-10, 2014?  It’s designated as Fair Trade Shabbat, an initiative launched by Fair Trade Judaica to educate and engage Jewish communities about the connection between Jewish values and fair trade principles. 

It is designed to coincide with World Fair Trade Day, which is celebrated by tens of thousands of people around the world on the second Saturday in May.  It is a worldwide festival of events celebrating Fair Trade, a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing rights for disadvantaged producers and workers—especially in the South. 

As such it is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and the economic crisis that has the greatest impact on the world’s most vulnerable populations. A third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. The global crisis confirms the need for a fair and sustainable economy—both locally and globally. Trade must benefit the most vulnerable and deliver sustainable livelihoods by developing opportunities for small and disadvantaged producers.

Fair Trade differs from “Free Trade” in several ways:

•     The goal of Fair Trade is to empower marginalized people and improve the quality of their lives while Free Trade increases nations’ economic growth
     The focus of Fair Trade is on commerce among individuals and businesses while Free Trade focuses on trade policies between countries
     The strategies of Fair Trade include offering producers favorable financing, long-term relationships, fair prices and higher labor and environmental standards while Free Trade offers lower country tariffs, quotas, labor and environmental standards

So, how can we celebrate and observe this day as Jews?

     Focus a d’var Torah on connections in Parshat Behar to fair trade, and connections between fair trade and shmita
     Add special prayers focusing on bringing more justice into the world
     Study Jewish texts that link fair trade principles with Jewish values
     Invite a local fair trade expert to speak at services, focusing on the positive impact of fair trade on artisans and farmers
     Serve Kosher fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate at Oneg and Kiddush
     Make desserts using fair trade ingredients
     Say a kavannah for eating foods that are produced by ethical means
     After Havdalah, gather as a community to watch a documentary on child labor in the cocoa fields, then have a fair trade chocolate tasting and take some action to do something about it!
     Organize a “fair trade gift exchange” where everyone brings a fair trade product and takes something different to bring home

Resources for all these activities can be found on Fair Trade Judaica’s website.  

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.

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