Bob Goldman, Food Conference alum, recently coordinated a day of hands-on chicken schechting for a group of folks in Denver. It was an amazingly profound experience for the participants and an event a year in the making; they spent a lot of time finding a source for chickens that met their standards for an ethical upbringing.
Rabbi Bruce Dollin of Hebrew Educational Alliance, their rabbi, gave his sermon on it last week.
I bring up the following topic because it is Rivka Cohen’s Bat Mitzvah and Rivka comes from a famous family who feeds us just about every week.
Rikva is the daughter of Cohen’s Cuisine, that is, Albert and Marla Cohen who are superb members of our Shabbat community. I have known them from my first days at HEA: they had just gotten married and were looking for their place in the Jewish community and they found us and we have been the beneficiaries. We love the Cohens and celebrate with them and Rivka today.
So I feel it appropriate today to talk about food. In particular, I want to speak about chickens. I have been dreaming about chickens, lately. Let me tell you why.
Many of us in the last year began thinking about our food and where it comes from. There is a growing and active Jewish Food movement in our country today. Young people are becoming more focused on the food they eat and where it comes from. They are, in fact, demanding that we look at the food industry to see what it says about us, about our connection to the environment and our connections, most importantly, to animals.
I gave a book review some months ago. The book I reviewed is entitled Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. He’s a Jewish author, an excellent writer and now, a vegetarian. He tries to tell us why. Most books written about food today are responses to Michael Pollan’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. I read both books and they changed me. Our natural food chain is broken. Farmers used to grow crops and raise animals, harvest them and eat them and there was certain equilibrium in the environment and in the world. The laws of kashrut were created in and for such a world. My assistant Joyce Perlmutter remembers as a girl her mother purchasing a chicken from a local farmer, giving it to her to walk over to the “schochet” and then bringing the carcass back home for her mother to pluck, soak, salt, cook and serve on the Shabbes dinner table.