MARBLEHEAD – Temple Sinai in Marblehead is providing sweet benefits from a Rosh Hashanah mainstay through a unique program: Honey From The Heart.
Based in Atlanta, Honey From The Heart partners with 200-plus Jewish nonprofits across the country to help people send the sweet stuff to loved ones for the Jewish New Year, with proceeds benefiting educational endeavors. Each 8-ounce jar of clover honey sent through the program is True Source Certified, which “[ensures] that the sourcing practices are in full compliance with U.S. and international trade laws,” according to the Honey From The Heart website, orthoney.com. “This system permits honey to be tracked from the consumer back through the supply chain to the country of origin and the beekeeper that harvested the honey from the beehive.”
Temple Sinai lets people register for Honey From The Heart through the temple’s online storefront. The deadline for orders has passed, but around 150 jars were sent this year, according to Evelyn Rothbard, a volunteer who coordinates the temple’s participation.
“It’s important to know [that for the honey] you’re sending to loved ones, you know where it is [from], it’s followed the guidelines for beehives and [for] how it’s actually processed and sent to stores,” Rothbard said. “There have been cases where honey has maybe been imported from somewhere else and might be tainted with a substance that is not natural to honey.”
Terry Schwartz, the Honey From The Heart marketing chair in Atlanta, wrote in an email that, “Not all honey on the market is pure honey. Honey is often adulterated with anything from sugar or corn syrup to synthetics. We want to be sure we’re only selling 100 percent honey that is ethically sourced.”
Schwartz added that “[our] honey is also certified kosher by [the] Orthodox Union. Some people have told us that our honey is the best they’ve ever tasted and they stock up on it so they’ll have enough for the whole year.”
The program expects to ship 35,000 jars of honey this year, Schwartz wrote, noting, “Participation and volume has increased nearly every year since we began.”
Honey From The Heart is part of ORT America, which raises funds for World ORT, “the world’s largest Jewish educational and vocational training non-governmental organization,” according to its website.
Through sales, Honey From The Heart distributors such as Temple Sinai raise funds for both ORT America and their own charitable causes. Last year, distributors nationwide raised $125,000.
Proceeds also benefit the temple’s own educational programming. Rothbard said that through sales, Temple Sinai “can make activities open to the general Jewish community. [ORT] America also benefits … There’s the importance of world educational programming for children who maybe for economic reasons do not get a great education.”
There are currently five participating synagogues or sisterhoods in Massachusetts; two are local: Temple Sinai, and Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill.
These days, the public is showing an interest in the source of its honey, according to William Hamilton, a 50-year beekeeping veteran who runs Black Birch Farm Apiaries in West Newbury and a beekeeping class at Salem State University.
“You go buy honey at a supermarket; where the heck did it come from?” Hamilton said. “If it says USDA clover or wildflower, it could be from Oregon, Kansas, Illinois, Georgia. As soon as we stopped keeping local hives, we lost control over where honey comes from.”
At Temple Sinai, Honey From The Heart participants appreciate being able to be upfront about the source of the honey they send for Rosh Hashanah.
“It’s a program that supports good practices, and will hopefully support growing [bee] colonies,” Rothbard said.