Looking back, March was a significant month in the history of Fairtrade in the UK for many reasons. But there is one reason that stands out for me personally: the way the Jewish community has taken on the Fairtrade campaign and made it mainstream. This was the month that all the myriad individual actions and Synagogue initiatives were properly recognised and brought together into a more co-ordinated programme.
The first Jewish Guide to Fairtrade was published – a fantastic resource and joint collaboration between the Fairtrade Foundation and different Jewish organisations; backed importantly by all the main sections of British Jewry. And during Fairtrade Fortnight this year there were many more events, film showings and tastings in Jewish cultural venues, including a number run by the vibrant Jewish Community Centre for London.
It makes me proud that Divine has been at the forefront of this upswing in activity. Divine and Kuapa Kokoo are featured prominently in the Jewish Guide to Fairtrade. All Divine chocolate is now officially checked and suitable for sale and consumption within the Jewish community. March was the first month when we could publicly announce this, with all the packaging in line to get the mark on over the coming months.
Way back in May 2005, Divine publicly committed itself to the process of makings its chocolate certified as being kosher – meeting the religion’s dietary rules. I still have the Jewish Chronicle article from the time covering the announcement! For observant Jews, all food products need to be certified as kosher. The certification process involves a Rabbi inspecting the factory and also checking that the ingredients that go into the product are all permitted. If everything meets the standards, the product is awarded a hescher – a mark by the certification board that is put on the packaging to show that it is kosher, and also which signifies whether the product has any dairy or (approved) meat ingredients in it. So that is the process which Divine – and the factory in Germany – has been going through and which it has now successfully completed. All Divine chocolate bars now have a hescher, as do the coins, mini-eggs and chocolate covered fruit. If you look carefully on the wrapper, you will see it: a small triangle with a ‘K’ in the middle. The United Synagogue Kashrut Division of the London Beth Din has also approved the chocolate. For the first time the Divine range is listed in The Really Jewish Food Guide (2009)
Two days after the launch of the Jewish Guide to Fairtrade, Divine was involved in its first public event specifically within the Jewish community. The JCC and Tzedek (a Jewish overseas development and educational charity) organised a ‘Chocoholics’ evening – sampling and participatory cookery demonstration with a chocolatey theme. And because it was Fairtrade Fortnight, Divine was invited to kick proceedings off with a short talk.
So in I came to Adafina – a fabulous gourmet kosher deli and cafe in St John’s Wood – ready to do my usual interactive spiel on cocoa growing and Fairtrade. The talk itself went well – most people are fascinated by the story behind the chocolate, from bean to bar. But the sampling of Divine was the challenge. Normally I just break up bars of chocolate onto plates, making attractive patterns of white, milk and dark chunks. But a man came over and explained to me that the venue we were in was ‘parev’ – non dairy (dietary rules forbid the mixing of meat and milk, and thus there is a whole category of foods that are dairy free [think vegan alternatives] so can be eaten with a meaty meal). So that meant the milk chocolate was not allowed to be opened and sampled. Divine dark chocolate was fine though, as it doesn’t contain any dairy products.
The staff at Adafina were very supportive, especially the owner Natalie, who coincidentally used to work as a chocolate importer. And it was great to meet Dan Berelowitz of Tzedek and Hannah Wiesfield of JCC – two passionate and energetic champions of Fairtrade who are really driving forward the Jewish community’s engagement with the issue.
The chocoholics event wasn’t the first time Divine has worked with Tzedek. Over the past five years we have collaborated over Tzedek’s volunteer programme in Ghana. I remember having many wonderful conversations with Ester Gluck as she prepared to go over to Ghana and set up the programme. Subsequently Divine has helped brief several cohorts of volunteers before their departure. Tzedek has always been supportive of Fairtrade. And they stepped up their commitment last December, promoting Divine chocolate coins in the run-up to Hanukkah: a Jewish festival where one of the traditions is to play a game using ‘gelt’ – chocolate money – as counters.
The more synagogues pushing to be Fairtrade Synagogues; youth movements and Jewish schools and Sunday classes increasingly teaching about Fairtrade; an ever-expanding list of Fairtrade products – including the Divine range – certified as kosher and able to be stocked in Jewish shops; and a broader range of organisations now involved, this is an exciting time. And I am proud that Divine is part of these efforts.
Malcolm Clark is a former colleague and long time supporter of Divine Chocolate. He now runs www.makevotescount.org.uk