Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wendy’s – Say “YES – Me Too” to Just Treatment of Tomato Workers

By Cantor Jack Chomsky

Chanukah has come and gone on our Jewish calendar, but our sense of trying to bring the light of freedom in a world with too much darkness continues.  Human Rights Shabbat is being observed in many congregations the Shabbat of December 6-7 or December 13-14 -- and International Human Rights Day is observed on December 10.

There are so many issues for us to consider.  As Co-President of Columbus' BREAD Organization, I am conscious of the new problem we at BREAD have selected -- mental health, as well as some of the problems BREAD has developed into solutions in recent years -- school truancy, restorative justice, discrimination against immigrants in our community.  And my synagogue's observance of Human Rights Shabbat focused in part on the terrible problems attributable to gun violence as we mark one year since the tragic events of Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

I'd like to turn our attention for a moment -- or at least a week or two -- to another justice issue in our community which has national implications.  This has to do with Wendy's treatment of tomato growers.  Here in Columbus, Wendy's has a stellar reputation as a community leader and loveable Columbus symbol.  The late Dave Thomas was, on-screen and off, a symbol of decency and civic virtue.  How sad I was to learn that Wendy's does not have a reputation of fairness or decency in its treatment of agricultural workers in Florida. 

The good news is that a historic partnership among farmworkers, the vast majority of Florida tomato growers, and eleven leading corporations is rooting out forced labor and other human rights abuses from the fields. The Fair Food Program combines a strict code of conduct, worker-to-worker education, a complaint resolution process and market consequences for non-compliance, constituting the most advanced human rights program in the domestic produce industry today. Now, farmworkers are reporting a historic shift in the fields: access to shade and water, an effective form of recourse for abuse, and the first wage increase in over 30 years.

Here in Ohio, however, more and more attention has been focused in recent months on Wendy's unwillingness to join all of the other largest fast food businesses -- McDonald's, Subway, Burger King and Taco Bell -- in agreeing to join the program and ensure human rights for the farmworkers in their supply chain. 

While each of those other corporations has signed on to support the fair treatment of tomato workers, Wendy's has refused repeatedly, even engaging in a misleading advertising campaign to combat allegations about the issue. Wendy’s claims, for instance, to already be paying a premium for its Florida tomatoes, but whatever premium they are paying most certainly is not being monitored by the auditing systems of the Fair Food Program and is not going to alleviate the abject poverty suffered by the workers who have picked Wendy’s tomatoes for decades.

This week, as Wendy’s opens its “flagship store,” celebrating the history of Wendy’s and the values of founder Dave Thomas, I encourage people to join with representatives of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) at the new Wendy’s location (complete with beautiful Wendy’s “historical artifacts”) at 6480 Riverside Drive in Dublin, OH at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, December 16.    We want to encourage them to live up the values that Dave Thomas espoused -- to step out in front, to be a responsible corporation alongside its peer corporations. 
Jews are commanded, according to our tradition, to take care about what we eat.  It’s not realistic to expect Wendy’s to follow Jewish law and make their establishments kosher (although a choice Wendy’s in a choice location could follow that route!) but it IS realistic to expect them to follow decent employment practices—and to refrain from eating in them if they don’t.

This issue has been a nationwide focus for T’ruah—The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, an organization of over 1800 rabbis and cantors.  It is consistent with their ongoing efforts to combat slavery and human trafficking in today’s world.

Many readers will remember Wendy's very funny and very successful "Where's the Beef?" ad campaign of almost 30 years ago.  Lately, they have chosen a "Wendy" character whose smart-alecky approach to her friends shows that Wendy's is the smart place to go.  With just a little effort, Wendy's can do the smart thing and be more worth your fast-food dollar.

Here's to working together to make sure that comes to pass. 
Cantor Jack Chomsky serves Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio. Co-President of the BREAD Organization, he is also Immediate Past President of the Cantors Assembly.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Interfaith Encounter Association in Israel

A Guest Post -- from Yehudah Stolov, founder of the Interfaith Encounter Association.

I have made Yehudah, and follow and support his amazing work in the Land of Israel.  I encourage you to read/be inspired and support this great work -- and maybe look to connect with them when you visit Israel!

I hope you had a great Chanukah.  Stay safe. . . Jack Chomsky

Now,  heeeeere's Yehudah. . . . . . .

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”  - John Lennon

Inspiring words, aren’t they? Yet we all know that despite the best of intentions, building caring relationships - even with friends, co-workers, family members, or others of our own faith - can be fraught with difficulties. So often we end up talking past each other, or don’t allow ourselves to let down our guard and see things from others’ points of view. And it’s natural to think that if we can’t always speak even to those closest to us, surely a bitter conflict such as the one in the Holy Land must be intractable. I often hear from people that relations within their own faith are so complex and challenging that they simply can’t imagine how people can come to love and respect those who they see as being on “the other side”.

But I am writing today to tell you about how the IEA is making exactly that happen, by cultivating an approach which is truly different, which utilizes the power of religion as a force for peace and compassion instead of conflict. And I’d like to ask you to partner with us by making a helpful financial commitment to our work. Because the dreams we dream together truly are becoming reality.

Many people see religion solely as a source of conflict in the Holy Land, and thus think of it mainly as an obstacle to be gotten around if peace is to someday flourish.  But we believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed we believe that if religion is part of the problem it must - and can - be part of the solution as well. For some 12 years, we have brought together people from all faiths and cultures - over 8000 so far in 58 ongoing encounter groups - to build lifetime bonds through sharing their cultures, beliefs, and traditions, and by creating a “safe space” for friendly disagreement. This way, any potentially divisive issues are discussed between friends, and that makes all the difference.  As one of our members recently wrote,
“I was overjoyed to see that in spite of the differences and varying viewpoints among the girls, and their diverse customs and communities, there was something truly deep that connects us all to each other. We truly felt like one big family. Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity to get to know them!”

Our groups coalesce into passionate, cohesive communities which cherish the unique identity of each individual, empowering members to make a real difference in their broader social circles. Because we successfully reach out to a very wide spectrum of each population, we are building a true broad-based, popular movement for peace. We believe that without this grassroots component, political efforts cannot succeed. Our growth is proof that religion, which so often is misused to divide and inflame, can also serve as a potent unifying force that helps us to tear down walls of ignorance and fear. 

In 2013 we expanded our activity into several new arenas, such as:

·         Groups for Yeshiva students and Palestinians from areas East of Jerusalem
·         Ultra-orthodox Jews and religious Muslims from Jerusalem
·         Joining of the “Visit Palestine” initiative for joint Israeli-Palestinian mutual visits, as part of IEA
·         Joining the EU’s Tempus project which has already led to the founding of 6 new on-going groups of interfaith encounter so far, one in Sakhnin College and five in Gordon College in Haifa. Two more are expected to begin shortly, one in Sakhnin and one at the Interdisciplinary Center in Hertzlia.

      We are  beginning a new project called “Meeting on the Pitch” which will target at-risk children of all three Abrahamic faiths and bring them together to play soccer in mixed teams with children from other faith communities and  dialogue with them
      Lastly, we have begun an ongoing partnership with the prestigious Fetzer Institute of Michigan to support building inter-communal relations by young adults in the Holy Land.

There’s so much more I’d like to tell you about. If you haven’t seen our 2012 Annual Report which details all of our activities, it can be found at

Only through meeting the Other face-to-face will the conflict finally end. Your kind support for our work will make it possible for us to continue to bring hope to the peoples of the Holy Land.

Your donation of:

$30 – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session
$60 – buys food for one encounter session
$100 – pays for transportation for Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session
$250 – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session
$500 – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Youth Encounter
$1,000 – pays for one conference
$5,000 – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.

You can now easily contribute online at

All contributions are extremely helpful and fully tax-deductible in the US (501(c)3). See for how to make tax-deductible contributions if you are a UK or Swiss citizen. 

In the US, contributions by check may be mailed directly to: Friends of IEA, 832 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park, IL, 60130-2039

As always, all contributions of any size are very warmly appreciated!


Dr. Yehuda Stolov, Executive Director