5 Ideas for a More Sustainable Shabbat Dinner

Written by: Rabbi Jessica Minnen
April 2022

5 Ideas for a More Sustainable Shabbat Dinner

I’ll admit it. If someone stopped me in the street and said Quick! Name a Jewish value! sustainability would not be the first to come to mind. After all, sustainability is a universal idea, not one rooted in the particulars of Judaism. You won’t find the sages of the Talmud discussing how to build more sustainable communities.

Or will you?

Not in so many words. But what you will find in Judaism are texts and traditions deeply concerned with agriculture, earth, and environment, centuries of literature and laws designed to better connect us to our world. For the rabbis, sustainability is a Jewish value not because of what it is but because of what it does: it makes life possible.

Here at OneTable, we revel in that possibility through the weekly celebration of Shabbat. We elevate the Friday night dinner table because good food, good wine, and good people — well, these things are just good for you. And it is here, at the Shabbat dinner table, where sustainability can begin, not with lectures or textbooks or articles, but with food.

Mindful eating is one of the most important steps towards building more sustainable communities. It is an invitation to think critically and carefully about your food and where it comes from, to welcome more plant-based dishes at your dinner table, and to choose sustainable options when you consume animal products. As Jonathan Safran Foer shares in his new book We Are the Weather, shifting meals to two-thirds plant-based dishes isn’t only healthy; it will also significantly reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a delicious win-win.

Yes, the Friday night dinner table is a place to share your latest recipe. But it is also a place to share your values. To help make that possible, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA) to share five ideas you can use to make your next Shabbat dinner a sustainable one.

1. Check out Better Food Foundation as a one-stop shop for recipes and conversation starters. The concept is simple: when serving food, offer plant-based meals by default and give your diners the choice to add animal products to their meals optionally. That’s it! Going “default veg” for any event you host helps you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while serving delicious meals and preserving your guests’ freedom of choice.

2. Source higher-welfare animal products. Keep kosher? We’ve got you. Consider KOL Foods’ 100% pastured beef and heritage chicken.

3. Jump in and serve an entirely plant-based meal.

4. Serve your meal buffet-style or plated style instead of family style. (These options use less food overall and reduce food waste.)

5. Tackle an egg-less challah or dessert.

Still hungry? Check out the range of resources offered by JIFA to help align your food choices with your Jewish values and leverage your buying power with support from their community resources. And the next time someone stops you in the street and asks you to name a Jewish value — well, def let me know because that would be wild — consider alongside chesed (radical kindness), tikkun olam (repairing the world), and hachnasat orchim (hospitality) the value that leads to them all: sustainability.