Confronting Challenges with Mind and Heart

Hunger: What Can We Do?

This program is part of Drisha’s initiative,
Dirshu: Confronting Challenges with Mind and Heart

Past Dirshu Series:
Confronting Mental Illness
 – April/May 2014

Holiness – October/November 2015
Prayer: What Are We Doing? – March/April 2014
Why Learn Talmud? – October/November 2014


Program dates have passed. If you would like to hear about similar programs in the future, please email us at [email protected] to be added to our mailing list.

Wednesday evenings February 11, 18, and 25, 2015. 

An invitation to members of the community to learn more about hunger and food insecurity in the United States, to consider our responsibilities toward those in need, and to find out what we can do to help.


“You Shall Leave It”: Agriculture and the Rights of the Poor – David Silber
We will study biblical and rabbinic texts about agricultural grants to the poor and about shemita (the sabbatical year). We will discuss the principles and values that emerge from these laws, and we will think about how these paradigms might shape our understanding of our relationship to our resources and our  obligation to share them.

Promises and Policies: What’s the Government Doing About Hunger in America? – Karin Fleisch
About 1 in 4 Americans participates in a federal food and nutrition assistance program.  Some of these programs – such as food stamps (now called SNAP) – may be familiar to you. Others, such as EFAP, are virtually unknown to the average American. In this session, Karin Fleisch will paint a picture of domestic hunger, outline our government’s response, and analyze the effectiveness of these policies and programs. We’ll also examine the controversial Farm Bill, a key piece of anti-hunger legislation hampered by competing interests, political favors, and heavy lobbying.

A Place at the Table
This 2012 documentary film examines the issue of hunger and food insecurity through the stories of three people: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two children; Rosie, a Colorado second-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford. Their stories are interwoven with insights from experts, activists, and concerned citizens.

Why Rain Comes from Above: Biblical and Rabbinic Reflections on Sharing Our Blessings – Devora Steinmetz
Biblical and rabbinic texts about rain invite us to join in an exercise of religious imagination and to consider how this mundane—yet critically life-giving—event offers a model for reflecting on our responsibilities toward those who have less that we do. We will study several of these texts as a foundation for the work of learning about hunger and considering how we might respond.
Click here for the source sheet.

Good Food for All: A Dream Deferred – Mark Winne
Since the discovery of domestic hunger in the 1960s, the Unites States has spent trillions of dollars in an attempt to end it. However, with 15 percent of the population food insecure, 47 million people receiving SNAP benefits, and demand at food banks growing steadily, the results are not encouraging. Mark Winne will review the history, programs, policies, and assumptions behind the long battle to end hunger, and explore why that war has reached a stalemate.
Click here for the source sheet.

Re-Imagining the Work of Ending Hunger – Lisanne Finston and Pamela Johnson
If we are to engage effectively in the work of ending hunger in our communities, then we must do more than collect cans for our local emergency food center. There are many organizations and programs that are paving the way with a new vision for how to end hunger in the United States.  Lisanne and Pam will share the story of what one organization, Elijah’s Promise, is doing in central New Jersey, and offer suggestions for ways to become engaged in the work of building a healthy, just, sustainable food system, where all have access to good food.
Click here for the source sheet.



Lisanne Finston first encountered the growing population of people who were hungry and homeless when she was a college student in the early 1980s living in Washington DC.  A volunteer trip to a soup kitchen and homeless shelter set the course for her life’s work: using food as a tool for change.  Currently, as director of Gould Farm in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, Lisanne is part of a caring community that promotes recovery for people managing mental illness and addictions through meaningful work, community living, and clinical care.   Previously, Lisanne served as Executive Director of Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, New Jersey for twenty years.  Through her work there, she turned a local soup kitchen into a culinary center that feeds hundreds of individuals and families with nourishing, locally grown food and provides job training and employment opportunities for people who are food insecure, homeless and unemployed—moving people from the streets to success. Lisanne has a BA from American University, an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and an MSW from Rutgers University.  She is ordained in the United Methodist Church.

Karin Fleisch is an independent nonprofit consultant specializing in sustainable food systems. For the past ten years, she has worked in the nonprofit sector, including five years at the Food Bank For New York City, where she managed the team that monitors New York City’s network of 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries. Prior to her work at the Food Bank, Karin farmed at Eco-Israel, edited at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and somewhat inadvertently founded an English-language teaching program in the cloud forest of Mindo, Ecuador. More recently, Karin served as a Kol Tzedek Fellow with American Jewish World Service while earning a Masters in Public Administration from NYU Wagner, which she attended as a Dean’s Scholar. She now consults for clients in New York and Israel in the areas of marketing, program design and evaluation, grant writing, board and team facilitation, and transition and crisis management.

Pam Johnson was a teenage mom with a dangerous addition to crack cocaine and heroin. She was on and off the streets and ate at Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick, New Jersey for years before she took the rocky route to recovery. Pam enrolled in the Promise Culinary School, Elijah’s Promise job training program, to pursue her love of cooking and start a new life. She’s been clean and sober and working as a chef for many years. Most recently, Pam became Head Chef at Elijah’s Promise’s soup kitchen. Pam feels blessed to be able to give back, and she strives always to go the extra mile for others. As she likes to say, “Hope lives in my kitchen.”

David Silber is Founder and Dean of Drisha. He received ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Rabbi Silber received the Covenant Award in 2000. He is the author of A Passover Haggadah: Go Forth and Learn (JPS, 2011) and is currently working on a book about Megillat Esther.    

Devora Steinmetz serves on the leadership team for special programs at Drisha in the United States and Israel. She has taught Talmud and Rabbinics at Drisha, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshivat Hadar, and Havruta: a Beit Midrash at Hebrew University. Dr. Steinmetz is the founder of Beit Rabban, a day school profiled in Daniel Pekarsky’s Vision at Work: The Theory and Practice of Beit Rabban. She is the author of From Father to Son: Kinship, Conflict, and Continuity in Genesis and Punishment and Freedom: The Rabbinic Construction of Criminal Law. Dr. Steinmetz consults for the Mandel Foundation and works at Gould Farm, a therapeutic community for individuals struggling with mental illness.

Mark Winne was the Executive Director from 1979-2003 of the Hartford Food System, a Connecticut non-profit food organization dedicated to finding solutions to the food insecurity problems of the greater Hartford area. He is the co-founder of the Community Food Security Coalition, a former Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Fellow, and is currently a Senior Advisor at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future. Through his own firm, Mark Winne Associates, Mark speaks, trains, and writes on topics related to community food systems, food policy, and food security. He is the author of two books, Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty and Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas. Both books are published by Beacon Press.


There is no fee for this program. We welcome contributions to support our work.