Temple Emanu-El visiting scholar will tackle topics of money, food

Rabbi Mary Zamore

After finishing her acclaimed first anthology, “The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic” (CCAR Press, 2011), Rabbi Mary Zamore realized that over time, in much of her teaching about food, “I was speaking more about the intersection of food and money.”

“I was talking about SNAP — food stamps. I was talking about the cost, both internalized and externalized, of the food choices we make — the impact on workers. Topics like that. It struck me that my interest had been expanding and my expertise had been expanding, and that I was ready to do a deep dive into Judaism and money,” she told the AJP.

Zamore followed up “The Sacred Table,” which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, with “The Sacred Exchange: Creating a Jewish Money Ethic” (CCAR Press, 2019). As the Albert T. Bilgray Scholar at Temple Emanu-El from Jan. 16-19, she will give three talks on money, and one on food.

“While many people would dismiss an exploration of a Jewish
approach to money as playing into stereotypes or futile because there is no way for money to be part of how we are Jewish other than philanthropy or synagogue membership, I am eager to see how this Bilgray lectureship will dispel these myths,” says Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Batsheva Appel. “How we handle our money and our monetary obligations is part of how we do Jewish in the world.”

In the Jewish community, there is much not being discussed on the topic of money, Zamore says.

“We mostly absorb what our greater, secular, Christian-oriented culture has to say,” which is that it is unseemly to discuss money, yet our Jewish texts have much to teach on the subject, Zamore says, emphasizing that Judaism presents money as a neutral topic. “We see that throughout our tradition, and that there is a benefit to speaking about it in an open and honest way.”

Monetary interactions fill our lives and shape our relationships with one another, she says, and when people are given the opportunity to learn, think, and talk about money, “they find it a refreshing relief.”

“There’s something very powerful about seeing the texts of our ancient ancestors basically talking about the same things with which we deal today,” she says. These include a society where families have different amounts of money (which can feel uncomfortable whether one has more than another, or less), struggles with longing for money, and the challenges of what we actually do with the money we have — how to make decisions about sharing our money, whether through inheritance or charity.

Both of her topics, money and food, “are really about what it means to create a life of meaning,” says Zamore.

In addition to writing and lecturing, Zamore serves as the executive director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and as co-leader of the Reform Pay Equity Initiative. Ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1997, she graduated from Columbia College. She served congregations in central New Jersey for 18 years.

Zamore’s first Tucson talk, “Judaism’s View of Wealth: Good or Bad?” on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m., will be held at the Jewish History Museum, 564 S. Stone Ave. The remaining talks, all at Temple Emanu-El, are “We Should and Can Talk About Money,” on Friday, Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m. as part of Shabbat services; “Coveting vs Contenment,” on Saturday, Jan. 18 at noon at the Rabbi’s Tish (bring a dairy/vegetarian dish for the potluck lunch); and “The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic” on Sunday, Jan. 19, 9:45-11:15 a.m. A $5 donation is requested for the final presentation, which is sponsored by Temple  Emanu-El’s Women of Reform Judaism.

The Bilgray Lectureship is a collaboration between Temple Emanu-El and the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies. Created in 1985, it honors the late Albert T. Bilgray, senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El from 1947-1972, and the guiding force behind the formation of the Judaic studies program at the University of Arizona. Cosponsors for this year’s lectureship include the UArizona Hillel Foundation and the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture.

For more information visit www.tetucson.org or call 327-4501.