TORONTO (JTA) — Reform Jews should eat less red meat and consider more carefully what food they serve in their synagogues, the movement’s leader said.
"We need to think about how the food we eat advances the values we hold as Reform Jews," Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Saturday in Toronto at the biennial conference of the movement’s synagogue arm.
During his presidential sermon, Yoffie outlined the URJ’s Green Table/Just Table Initiative.
Noting that Americans are increasingly concerned about food issues, he urged Reform Jews to consider the ethical, environmental and health aspects of what they eat, and come up with food policies for their synagogues.
Yoffie steered clear of promoting kashrut, saying "ours is an ethically based tradition." But rather than ignore dietary practice, as he said Reform leaders did a century ago, he noted that food choices are intimately connected to issues, such as environmentalism and social justice, that Reform Jews care about.
Saying that he was not promoting vegetarianism, Yoffie said that cutting down on red meat "is an area where we can make a difference" in offsetting our carbon footprint.
"Reducing our collective meat consumption by 20 percent would be comparable to every American driving a Prius," he said.
Synagogues might also consider serving more communal meals, Yoffie suggested, as a way of building spiritual community. He also encouraged the planting of synagogue gardens.
To help Reform Jews take these practical steps, the union has posted a food policy guide, sample curriculum for youth groups, gardening tips and information on how synagogues can set up Community Supported Agriculture programs.
In his sermon, Yoffie also urged Reform congregations to harness the community-building power of the Internet and set up their own blogs.
Calling such congregational blogs an "online Oral Torah," he said congregations need to think more creatively about social media. To help them do so, the union is offering a blogging platform, substantive and strategic support, and other resources.