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November 25, 2015 by

The Ethics of Hanukkah Gelt

geltThe complex flavor profile of sumptuous chocolate has finally made it to Hanukkah gelt. Cookbook author and Jewish food expert, Leah Koenig, hunts out only “top notch chocolate, products that put the chocolate first.” Koenig, who has savored several gelt tastings, looks for a high ratio of cocoa solids to the other products. For Koenig that means, “more flavor than sweet.”

Additional palatable chocolate gelt choices include ethical ingredients that are certified Fair Trade. Fair Trade standards prohibit the use of child and slave labor, a problem particularly in cocoa sourced from West Africa. Ashira Abramowitz’s project for her Bat Mitzvah at Kol Haneshama synagogue in Jerusalem seeks to insure that Strauss, the biggest chocolate company in Israel, sells only Fair Trade chocolate. To support Ashira’s campaign to bring Fair Trade chocolate to Israel, sign her petition. Ashira learned about Fair Trade from her older sister, Hallel, who traveled with American Jewish World Services to Ghana. There Hallel learned about child slavery on cocoa farms. Hallel returned to Jerusalem a committed Fair Trade consumer.

Ashira reported the following to me in an email on November 24, 2015, just moments after her first formal conversation with the Strauss company about the issues:

I spoke with Daniela Prusky-Sion who is the International Corporate Responsibility Manager at Strauss Group. She was very friendly and assured me that they are using ethical chocolate but that their corporate social responsibility essentially ends at the suppliers of the cocoa … I spoke about the importance of not supporting child slavery, especially for Passover chocolates. She thanked me for wanting to help and wished me Mazal Tov on my Bat Mitzvah. Ashira invited Strauss Company chairwoman, Ofra Strauss, to her Bat Mitzvah where challot with Fair Trade chocolate caramel bars mixed in will be served in tribute to Ashira’s childhood favorite. Fair Trade Chanukah gelt will also be distributed.                       

When it comes to Hanukkah gelt, Ilana Schatz, founder of Fair Trade Judaica, teaches, “The gelt we eat on Hanukkah is a reminder of the freedom our people won many years ago.” Young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms with no pay and in unsafe conditions in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Selecting Fair Trade chocolate mixes well with Hanukkah’s messages about freedom from oppression. You may purchase Fair Trade certified Hanukkah gelt from at least two sources:

1. Divine Chocolate offers a Fair Trade, organic, kosher dark chocolate coin as well as a milk chocolate option, both are produced through a women’s cooperative, Kuapa Kokoo, in Ghana. The phrase “Freedom and Justice” encircles the foil-embossed cocoa tree wrapper, perfect for Hanukkah. A collaboration among Fair Trade Judaica, T’ruah and Divine offers easy ordering and supports these two non-profits.                 

2. Lake Champlain Chocolates packages its milk chocolate coins in festive Hanukkah boxes. They are Fair Trade and kosher.

The brief learning materials developed by Hazon and several partners titled Spinning the Dreidel for Chocolate Gelt highlight guilt free gelt. A Kavanah prayer, “Eating [Fair Trade] Chanukah Gelt,” by Rabbi Menachem Creditor recognizes the potency of blending chocolate with Hanukkah’s theme of enlightening the world’s dark places.

Show good taste by bringing justice to Hanukkah chocolate this year. 

 Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (Jewish Lights), is in its third printing. Prinz also writes for The Huffington Post and The Forward. The book includes discussions about ethical chocolate choices, the development of Hanukkah gelt into chocolate, the idea that Jews brought chocolate making to France, Israeli love of chocolate, how chocolate outed Jews during the Inquisition and more.