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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

November 7, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

St. Pete rabbi goes to SW Florida to support tomato farmworkers

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of programs for T’ruah, participates in a protest at a Wendy’s in Naples during the latest rabbinic mission to Immokalee. Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, director of programs for T’ruah, participates in a protest at a Wendy’s in Naples during the latest rabbinic mission to Immokalee. Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg became the Bay area’s first “tomato rabbi” last week, traveling to Immokalee to help shine a light on farmworker conditions.

The organization, T’ruah: The rabbinic call for human rights, sent Rabbi Torop as part of a delegation of eight rabbis from throughout the nation to southwest Florida, the heart of Florida’s tomato growing region.

This was the seventh delegation sent by T’ruah to visit tomato farms, see working conditions first hand, and meet with members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). T’ruah has partnered with CIW to eradicate conditions likened to modern-day slavery and other labor abuses in Florida’s tomato fields and to push for corporations to participate in a Fair Food Program that would increase the pay by a penny a pound for the farmworkers who pick tomatoes.


Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth- El, foreground, views exhibits in the Florida Modern Slavery Museum. The exhibits document abuses against Florida farmworkers over the years. Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth- El, foreground, views exhibits in the Florida Modern Slavery Museum. The exhibits document abuses against Florida farmworkers over the years. Rabbi Torop toured the Florida Modern Slavery Museum and said he was impressed by the work of CIW to improve conditions for the farmworkers.

He also met Jon Esformes, a principal owner of Pacific Tomato Growers, a fourth-generation family owned company that is one of the five largest tomato producers in the country. In 2010, Esformes was the first grower to sign on to the Fair Food Program.

“This is a Sephardic Jewish family,” he said, pointing out that the agreement with Pacific was a catalyst to get other growers to join the program.

Following his return, Rabbi Torop wrote a Rabbinically Speaking column in the current issue of the Jewish Press of Pinellas County, calling for greater Jewish support of the farmworkers and for more corporations to agree to extra pay for them.

Rabbi Rachel Kahn- Troster, director of programs for T’ruah, said the point of sending delegations of rabbis to Immokalee is to do what Rabbi Torop did – to broaden the call throughout the nation for support of the farmworkers and the Fair Food Program.

Rabbis Kahn-Troster and Torop both noted that a new documentary on the subject, Food Chains, will be shown Nov. 21-28 at 3 and 8 p.m. at AMC Veterans theaters, 9302 Anderson Road in Tampa. The film focuses on the strides and struggles of the workers’ group in Immokalee and exposes the abuses of farmworkers and the complicity of some corporations,

For more information, go to www.truah.org or ciw-online.org.


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