Two years ago major Jewish communal organisations vowed to do more for fairtrade. The result was a book, The Jewish Guide to Fairtrade, published by the Board of Deputies, along with other Jewish charities. But is fairtrade still on the community agenda as we enter Fairtrade Fortnight 2011?
The JCC is one of the few major organisations staging an event this year, a coffee tasting. Social action and campaigns co-ordinator Solomon Slade is trying to put the cause back in people's minds: "I do think these issues come and go with what's in fashion. Because of the financial situation people are concentrating on just surviving."
David Brown, Jewish Social Action Forum co-ordinator understood some of the concerns about Fairtrade, but felt they could be addressed. "There's a perception that it's more expensive. But Sainsbury's Basics tea is fairtrade. And Jewish organisations wouldn't dream of using non-kosher meat even though it's more expensive. Obviously Fairtrade isn't halachah, but it's in keeping with Jewish values."
Others are concerned Fairtrade masks real problems that policies like farming subsidies cause for farmers in the developing world. "Yes, it can feel like tinkering with a flawed system," Mr Brown conceded. "I would get rid of the Common Agricultural Policy tomorrow if free trade could give farmers a better deal. But Fairtrade is the best of a bad situation."
Around 10 per cent of the UK's synagogues are certified by the Fairtrade Foundation. Just three are Orthodox but the United Synagogue's Chesed department is Fairtrade certified. The Board last week unanimously voted to become a Fairtrade organisation.
Nine other Jewish organisations, among themTzedek, Liberal Judaism and UJIA, are currently certified as Fairtrade. "There are 2,500 Jewish charities, so clearly more work needs to be done," Mr Brown said. "And synagogues may be using Fairtrade products, but they just haven't been accredited."
It's not just food that Jewish organisations need to consider, as there are Fairtrade flowers and clothing. JSAF has been promoting crocheted Fairtrade kippot, made by a co-operative of women lace artisans in Narsapur, India. Clore Shalom school and JCoSS already have them as part of their uniform. Mr Brown said: "It's good to know they aren't suede from Taiwan factories. But some people say they like to buy kippot from Israel."
Mr Brown understands worries about buying Fairtrade items over Israeli products, or supporting countries run by Israel's enemies. However, "it is easy to do both. And ultimately you're supporting people, not governments. But many of the fairtrade products come from places which have good relationships with Israel, like chocolate from Ghana."