Opening Our Hands to the Needy: Accessibility & Safety Policies

As a Reconstructionist congregation, T’chiyah strives to meet the spiritual needs of all of our community members by practicing a democratic, malleable Judaism that evolves and adapts as our community changes. It is impossible, however, to meet the spiritual needs of congregants without ensuring that our physical spaces are as accessible and safe as can be for those who seek them. 

In line with the principles of Reconstructionism, our work to create a kehillah kedosha (a sacred community) should be carried out with guidance from “above” -- the Torah of Jewish tradition, as well as the Torah of best practices of accessibility and diversity, equity and inclusion -- and from “below” -- the particular needs expressed and sought by congregants. 

Continually adjusting our modes of practice to increase accessibility isn’t just a kind thing to do: it’s a mitzvah (sacred obligation) commanded by Torah: “If there be among you a person with needs, you shall not harden your heart, but you shall surely open your hand." (Deuteronomy 15:7)

The policies below reflect our congregation’s evolving attempts to best meet the spiritual and physical access needs of our congregants. Through continued learning, working to follow the lead of the most impacted among us, and remaining open to experimentation, we can do our best to practice the value of v’ahavta l’reyekha kamocha - love your neighbor as yourself - and keep T’chiyah open to all who seek belonging in community with us.  

Peanut, Tree Nut & Sesame-Free Shul Policy 

January 2020

***Please review the following non-exhaustive list to ensure that your potluck dish does not use these ingredients.***

In light of T’chiyah’s rapid growth, the desire to incorporate more families with young children into our membership, and the already present issue of food safety for people with allergies at T’chiyah events, the T’chiyah Families affinity group seeks to improve T’chiyah’s accessibility for people with allergies. 

According to Food Allergy Research & Education, one in thirteen children in the United States experiences food allergies. The most common allergens for children include peanut, milk, shellfish & tree-nuts, with an increasing amount of sesame allergies. As our Jewish dietary practice of kashrut already prohibits consumption of shellfish, T’chiyah Families suggests that a swift and actionable path towards allergen safety for incoming children would involve going nut- and sesame-free as a shul.   

In December 2019, T’chiyah’s Board voted to adopt the following measures to increase T’chiyah’s food safety and allergen sensitivity:

  1. Food served at T’chiyah services and events should be TREE NUT-, SESAME-, & PEANUT-FREE. This applies to all public-facing events and all events held at the Mondry Building. (Private meetings of congregational work groups at other locations are also encouraged to abide by this policy, and to respect the additional dietary needs of their participants.)

  2. Packaged food must be presented with an ingredient label. Homemade food brought to potlucks must be labeled with the name of dish, a complete list of its ingredients, and the name of the food preparer. Please be especially careful when using vegan ingredients, meat and dairy substitutes, etc. as these often contain nuts.

    ***Please review the following non-exhaustive list to ensure that your potluck dish does not use these ingredients.***

  3. BBB Shabbat & family events operate at a higher standard of allergen-sensitivity. Snack provided will consist of packaged foods and fresh fruit and vegetables. Packaged food must be nut, peanut and sesame free and also must be made in a facility free of nuts, peanuts and sesame. Sesame-free challah from a nut/sesame-free kitchen can be purchased from The Bake Station in Southfield, MI.

  4. Each service should have designated person on duty who will seek to ensure that all food is properly labeled (indicating “unknown” when food contains ingredients whose components aren’t specifically known - i.e. sauces) and that no foods containing nuts, peanuts and/or sesame are served.

We are striving to make T’chiyah an accessible and safe space for our congregants (especially children) but we encourage everyone with allergies and food sensitivities to use discretion, as most congregants do not have allergen-free kitchens. 

We recognize that, for those individuals without these dietary needs, such practices may at times feel like a challenging chumra -- an extra stricture. We hope, however, that our community members recognize that communal safety depends on all of us working together to meet each other’s needs; as the saying goes, kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh, “all of the Jewish people are responsible for one another.” 

As with all disciplines mandated by tradition or community, we hope that this practice of intentional food preparation and labeling can be an avenue for mindfulness, spiritual practice, and compassion for your fellow community members.  

If you have any questions or further needs regarding food/allergen safety practices, please contact our Community Engagement Associate, Jake Ehrlich. 


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  • Jake Ehrlich
    published this page 2020-01-07 13:45:31 -0500