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Newest Brew Offers Ethical Buzz

Newest Brew Offers Ethical Buzz

Saving the world is something people usually leave for after the day’s first, if not second, cup of coffee.

Nonetheless, the American Jewish World Service is urging the Jewish community to start focusing on social justice even before the caffeine buzz takes hold.

In a program called Better Beans, the nonprofit, which supports grassroots anti-poverty programs in the developing world, is partnering with the San Francisco-based Equal Exchange to distribute coffee that is kosher, benefits hunger relief efforts and is also “fair trade.”

The partnership comes as socially conscious Jews face ever-increasing options for ethical eating and drinking. The Conservative movement is at work on Magen Tzedek, a program to supplement kosher products with a seal guaranteeing that workers and the environment were fairly treated. Tav Ha Yosher, a program by the Orthodox group Uri l’Tzedek, certifies 39 kosher restaurants and markets throughout the country that comply with minimum wage requirements for employees. The environmental group Hazon has helped establish 41 Jewish community-supported agriculture programs in the past six years, enabling participants to support local farmers.

Fair trade programs provide a market for small-scale coffee and chocolate growers, helping them more easily compete with larger growers and multinational corporations and enabling them to receive fair prices, according to the AJWS and Equal Exchange.

Through the Better Beans program, synagogues, Jewish institutions and individuals can purchase coffee, chocolate and cocoa in bulk online at For every pound of coffee or chocolate sold, 15 cents will go to the AJWS’s “Fighting Hunger from the Ground Up” campaign.

“The Jewish tradition teaches us that when we buy and sell goods, we must treat our partners fairly and honestly,” said AJWS President Ruth Messinger in a press release touting the new venture. “One product at a time, choosing Fair Trade is a step toward building a global system that treats all producers equitably and embodies the Torah’s vision of a just society.”

Better Beans is Equal Exchange’s first partnership with a Jewish organization; its “interfaith store” also partners with the American Friends Service Committee, Islamic Relief USA and various Christian organizations.

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