Fair Trade: Jewish Values and the Position of the Reform Movement

Jewish Values and Fair Trade

Jewish teaching emphasizes that all human beings are made in the image of God and that we have an obligation to protect our earth Jewish teaching emphasizes that all human beings are made in the image of God and that we have an obligation to protect our earth. As Jews we learn that the highest level of tzedakah is for a person to assist those in need to become self-sufficient (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah 10:7-14). A commitment by our community to ensure that our consumer habits do not hinder economic advancement for others around the globe is one aspect of what this means.

Judaism places strong emphasis on the rights of workers. “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and sets his life on it; else he will cry to God against you and you will incur guilt” (Deuteronomy 21:12-15). “In disputes between employees and workers, the rights of the worker were given preference over those of the employer” (Baba Metzia 77a). In purchasing and drinking coffee and other foods, we should keep in mind the others who have labored in the production of these goods.

"Do not let him slip down until he falls completely, for then it will be difficult to raise him; rather strengthen him as he begins to fall. To what is this comparable? To a burden upon a donkey: while it is still on the donkey, one person can hold it and set it in place; if it falls to the earth, even five people cannot set it back" (Rashi). 

Position of the Reform Jewish Movement 

The Reform Movement has a history of standing up for social justice around the world, fighting to end global poverty, human rights abuses, and environmental destruction. The Union for Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action passed a resolution to promote the consumption of fair trade coffee in 2002and the Union has passed multiple resolutions to curb environmental destruction, and to tackle global poverty. We ask that all congregations, Union offices, and individuals strive to purchase and serve fair trade coffee and provide educational materials on the benefits of this practice. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has committed to purchasing Fair Trade Coffee for office use, and is currently working to offer Fair Trade Coffee exclusively at our future events.