Web site directs users to the best in fair trade Judaica

Discovering where socially conscious Judaica items are hiding is getting easier thanks to an El Cerrito couple’s online resource for all things fair trade and Jewish.

Ilana Schatz and David Lingren operate Fair Trade Judaica, a Web site providing links to companies that offer everything from unique menorahs and kosher gelt, to hand-carved dreidels and woven kippahs. When online shoppers find products they like, with one click, they are taken directly to the seller.

Schatz also takes samples of fair trade Judaica to local JCC gifts shops and Judaica stores in hopes the owners will place the items on their shelves.

“It’s definitely a labor of love,” said Schatz, who spends up to 20 hours a week hunting for new items to link to, while Lingren maintains the site’s functionality.

“People are very excited that there are products being made according to their values. For those who decided to stop buying products made in China, fair trade items are filling that void.”

A fair trade product is the result of an equitable trade relationship, meaning both the producers and the marketers of an item benefit from its sale. A fair trade partnership works to provide low-income artisans and farmers with a living wage for their work, according to the Fair Trade Federation.

The makers of fair trade products engage in environmentally sound practices, ensure that there are no labor abuses and provide healthy and safe working conditions.

Schatz and Lingren launched Fair Trade Judaica nearly two years ago following a vacation they took in Nepal. It was there that the couple was introduced to fair trade products and the thriving environment in which they were produced.

“We saw the positive impact when people made livable wages and worked in safe conditions,” Schatz recalled. “The money they earned allowed them to improve their living conditions and help their children get health care.”

Last month, www.fair-tradejudaica.org received more than 7,000 hits, representing roughly 1,100 separate visits from 27 different countries, including Israel and Mexico, Schatz said. She noted the numbers have been steadily increasing by approximately 1,000 hits per month since September.

Schatz, who was the founding director of the Volunteer Action Center with the East Bay Federation and is now one of several spiritual leaders at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Pied-mont, said her efforts to raise aware- ness about the fair trade movement are ongoing, especially since new products are always cropping up.

“The slogan I have is ‘Judaica items made with Jewish values,’ ” Schatz said. “It’s important that objects we’re using for rituals be made according to Jewish values. And if you buy based on those values, you’ll create a livelihood for others.”

Amanda Pazornik