Timed for the Jewish New Year, a coalition of a secular social action organization and two Jewish organizations has begun a project that will encourage the Jewish community to buy some kosher food items that were produced under “fair trade” conditions.

The Jewish Fair Trade Partnership, under the auspices of Equal Exchange (equalexchange.coop), Fair Trade Judaica (fairtradejudaica.org) and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (truah.org), will offer fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate.

Fair trade is a social movement that works for improved working conditions, which includes higher wages and the absence of slave labor, in developing countries. Fair trade certification on a product is the human rights equivalent of a hechsher, a mark of kashrut certification on a food item.

The Partnership (equalexchange.coop/our-partners/interfaith-partners/jewish-fair-trade-project) will feature educational materials produced on fair trade principles, and part of the proceeds of items sold as part of the initiative will support T’ruah and Fair Trade Judaica’s “work engaging the Jewish community in ending modern-day slavery and protecting workers’ rights,” according to a Partnership press release.

“We are empowering our communities to make ethically based consumer choices,” said Ilana Schatz, director of Fair Trade Judaica, a California-based educational-advocacy group. “At the same time, we are educating Jewish communities about human rights in the supply chain.”

“We want to make the point that Jewish observance is not just about checking [that a food’s ingredients] were checked in accordance with kashrut,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah executive director. Concern about the conditions under which food was made is also “part of being a Jew,” she said, calling the items offered by the Partnership “kosher in every possible way.”

Items offered by the Partnership include coffee certified by the Orthodox Union (OU); Organic hot cocoa mix, baking cocoa, and spicy hot cocoa certified by the Kashruth Council of Canada; and chocolate bars certified by Rabbi Abraham Hochwald, chief rabbi of Northern Rhine-Germany.

steve@jewishweek.org