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Community Blog Guided By Jewish Values: Hebrew College Shul Lunch Coop

By Hebrew College
lunch coop students eating outside

“We’re building a model for sustainable, equitable, and delicious Jewish food practice and community engagement. It’s a new kind of congregation — one centered around mutual support, connection to earth, and celebration of food and pleasure as devotional practice.” — Shul Lunch Coop Founders Becca Heisler and David Mahfouda

Finding both a need and an opportunity, Rabbinical School students Becca Heisler and David Mahfouda organized a food co-op for the Hebrew College community, providing healthy and fulfilling lunches for the entire campus, as a means of enriching our community, and strengthening our networks for mutual care. The co-op’s work is guided by Jewish values: right relationship with earth, equity and mutual aid, avodah (service) as both labor and prayer, and simcha (joy). Members work together to grocery shop, cook, bake, set up, and clean up. Spending all day filling up your brain, teaching, or working for a campus partner organization can only sustain you for so long, and the Shul Lunch Co-op nourishes the heart as well as the body.

Throughout this inaugural year, the Coop has grown to a group of about 50 students, faculty, and community members, serving thousands of delicious vegan and vegetarian meals — all on a sliding scale. Though it has been a hard year, it has been a huge comfort to our community to know that there would always be food (and flowers) on the table.

Thanks to a recent $3,000 matching donation, the co-op is running a matching campaign through Monday June 17th. Please consider making a donation here today!


Now, the co-op is raising funds so they can open their doors to the greater Boston community. Additional resources will support administrative staff, help purchase a new set of knives and an industrial stand mixer (for weekly fresh bread), create more sustainable food-sourcing pipelines, and allow the co-op to refine and record what they’ve learned so that they can share their model and operational resources with other communities. Funding will also enable the co-op to continue to serve the Hebrew College Community without raising prices for students who are already financially vulnerable.

To learn more about the Coop, listen to the “Founding a Food Coop” podcast episode of Speaking Torah.

Hear it from happy diners!

For more flavor on how the co-op has influenced our community, check out these co-op member testimonials:

“The Shul Lunch Coop is a community that has brought forth the best in me and allows me to see the best in others; it nourishes us with good food, company, and spirit, and empowers us with work and service to be there for others. As a newcomer to the Boston area, it has given me a home base and network of people with whom I can not only feel less alone, but also do good in the world: the best kind of community. I cannot wait to see what the coop will create next year and beyond, and I am elated to be part of it.” — Rabbi Ben Chaidell, Rabbi, Temple Beth Israel, Waltham

“I’m amazed by the way the co-op brings people together. It’s creating and deepening connections between Hebrew College students, faculty and staff and the staff at organizations that work in the building. Even local community members are coming to the building to participate. It’s really inspiring how we all collectively take part in making affordable, healthy food to nourish our community. It’s so good to share food with others. The pandemic, I think, taught us how deep a need that is. The co-op is nourishing our community, physically and spiritually. Co-op meals are a highlight of my day. I’m so grateful David and Becca had the vision to create the structure that makes this possible—I think it’s something people have been craving for a long time, and it’s meeting a deep need. The Hebrew College lunch co-op is one of the most exciting ways I see the school growing.” — Talia Young, Hebrew College Student, Shanah Dalet

“Everyone who knows me, knows I hate lunch. I hate the way it interrupts my day, and I hate the way so many lunch foods are cold and dry by the time I get around to eating them. I’m not a fan of sandwiches and live with a teenager so leftovers from dinner are hard to come by. I don’t like planning and cooking ahead. Honestly, I just don’t like cooking. So the Shul Lunch Coop has been revolutionary for my life! No longer a lunch-hater, I can now count on sitting down at midday with friends several days a week and enjoying delicious, wholesome, warm food that was prepared with love and intention.” — Naomi Gurt Lind, Hebrew College Student, Shanah Dalet

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