FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 14, 2012

CONTACT:
Michelle Blundell 202-478-6176, mblundell@mrss.com

Jewish Groups Deliver Nearly 18,000 Signatures to House Leadership, Administration Calling for a “Just Farm Bill”
Coalition pushes for anti-hunger and sustainable agricultural policies in the United States and abroad

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, seven national Jewish groups delivered a petition with nearly 18,000 signatures to House Leadership and the Obama Administration demanding a focus on food justice in the next Farm Bill. The signatures represent a Jewish communal voice advocating for a better food system and have been collected since October by the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group, which consists of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), Hazon, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (MAZON), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). The delivery of this petition is targeted to anticipate mark-up of the bill by the House Agriculture Committee in the next few weeks.

“We  have seen a tremendous outpouring of support for our efforts to advance a values- inspired vision of food justice,” said Ruth W. Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.    “It has been evident through the petition that our constituents understand how critical it is that the United States work to enact policies that pursue long-term approaches to  eradicating  hunger.  We  cannot  wait  any  longer.”

The working group itself represents a diverse cross section of Jewish advocacy, denominational and educational organizations coming together to call for anti-hunger and sustainable agriculture policies both in the U.S. and abroad. The  group’s  work  is  based  on   its Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill, a statement of principles endorsed by twenty Jewish organizations including representation from the four largest denominations (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist). These principles include reform of international food aid policies, protection of funding for domestic food programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and sustainable land and energy use.

“We  are  taught  in  Leviticus  to  leave  the  gleanings  of  our  field  for  the  poor  and  the  stranger   when  harvesting  our  crops,”  said  JCPA  President  Rabbi  Steve  Gutow.  “Well  the  Farm Bill is a way to do exactly this with our national harvest; it is our legislative opportunity to make certain that the bounty of America is brought to the tables of all Americans, rich or poor. Through programs like SNAP, we can ensure that our hungry are fed and that no child is left to wonder when their next meal will be. Any Farm Bill that does not take care of our poor is not  reflective  of  who  we  are  as  Americans.”

While the farm bill may seem an unlikely target for a surge of Jewish activism, this omnibus legislation, which dictates U.S. law on everything from crop insurance to food assistance to biofuels, is packed with policies that have deep connections to Jewish ethics.

“As a Jewish people, we have been thinking about what is kosher—literally,  ‘fit’  —for us to eat for 3,000 years, said Cheryl  Cook,  chief  operating  officer  at  Hazon.  “It makes sense that there is an outpouring of support in the Jewish community to create a just and sustainable food system in this country.”

Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger added, “Every  five  years,  the  Farm  Bill  reauthorization  process  gives  us  a  chance  to  reexamine  our   national priorities with regard to food. The Farm Bill governs the kinds and levels of assistance we provide to hungry people, helps regulate what crops are planted, establishes whether sustainable farming and conservation practices will be implemented, and influences whether our food is healthy and affordable. Each and every one of us has a stake in the Farm  Bill.”

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American Jewish World Service
Inspired  by  Judaism’s  commitment  to  justice,  American  Jewish  World  Service  (AJWS)  works  to  realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. www.ajws.org

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)
The  Coalition  on  the  Environment  and  Jewish  Life  (COEJL)  deepens  and  broadens  the  Jewish  community’s   commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism and Jewish learning. Through a network of Jewish leaders, institutions and individuals, COEJL is mobilizing the Jewish community to conserve energy, increase sustainability, and advocate for policies that increase energy efficiency and security while building core Jewish environmental knowledge and serving as a Jewish voice in the broader interfaith community.

Hazon
Hazon seeks to create healthier, more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.
www.hazon.org

Jewish Council for Public Affairs
JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations. www.jewishpublicaffairs.org

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. www.mazon.org

National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)
National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. www.ncjw.org

Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) connects Reform Jewish communities in North America to create a dynamic network of congregants, lay leaders, clergy and professionals. The URJ includes more than 900 congregations encompassing 1.5 million Reform Jews. www.urj.org