March 28, 2005

3/28/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Earth Day (April 22, 2005) Approaching

2. Material From the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) Community E-bulletin

3. Startling Facts About Agricultural Water Consumption

4. Passover and Vegetarianism/Suggestions Welcome

5. Creating Jewish Vegetarian/Vegan Groups

6. Action Alert: Help Stop Massive Chicken Factory Farm

7. Early Registration Discount Available For Animal Rights Conference

8. Purim Spoof/ Is Truth About Meat Revealed?

9. Jewish Week Purim Spoof: “PETA vs. Pita”

10. A Jewish View on Wearing Leather/Followed by My Letter/Please Write

11. Responding to the Terry Schiavo Tragedy

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, information re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsements by JVNA, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Earth Day (April 22, 2005) Approaching

Forwarded message from the Earth Day Network (EDN)

Spring is here
Earth Day is near!
Post your event soon
While everything’s in bloom
It’s not too late
To mark the date
April 22, the 35th Anniversary of Earth Day
Don’t let your chance to make a difference slip away!

To find out what other groups are doing throughout the U.S. and internationally, check out our network of Earth Day events at: Be sure to add your event for others to learn about, possibly participate and get ideas!

This year we are celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, with the theme, ‘Protect Our Children and Our Future’. Earth Day is celebrated by more than half a billion people each year making it the largest secular holiday in the world. Come celebrate with us and help make a difference!

We encourage you take full advantage of our various Web site features, from the What’s in Your Water guide to our event data base where you can register your Earth Day events for the entire network of over 12,000 organizations to see. Please feel free to email us at if you have questions, comments or suggestions.

[I hope that many Earth Day events will have vegetarian connections.]

Return to Top

2. Material From the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) Community E-bulletin

COEJL Community E-bulletin #23
March 23, 2005

IN THIS [COEJL] ISSUE: [Not all items are included in this newsletter]

TAKE ACTION: Duties of the Heart
CELEBRATE: Deliver Us from Destruction
GO GREEN: Healthy Hamentashen
LEARN: Interpreting Jewish Environmental Texts
ISRAEL'S ENVIRONMENT: Israel Internship Opportunities


Duties of the Heart

In his classic text, "Duties of the Heart," the 11th century Jewish philosopher, Bakhya ibn Pekuda, wrote that Jews should engage in "meditation upon creation in order to sense God's majesty." In the wake of last week's disappointing U.S. Senate vote on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, how do we take that sense of majesty, that wonder which the natural world inspires, and use it to motivate ourselves and our Jewish community toward renewed action?

COEJL strives to help Jews see that being good stewards of the earth, that working to protect God's creation, and that passing on the gifts of nature to future generations, is a part of being Jewish. In our current political climate, it is not enough to meditate upon creation; we must act to protect it.

Our Jewish environmental message resonates with clarity and passion. There are thousands of committed COEJL activists around the country, and together these voices do make a difference. But we need more activists, and we need them in more places.

Please forward this email to your friends and family ask them to join the COEJL community to receive our e-Bulletin and Action Alerts ( Try to reach as many states as you can. The more people, the more power. By forwarding this email and enlarging our base of support, you will help keep our air clean, our water pure and our planet healthy. Thank you.
Internship Opportunities with Israel's Leading Environmental Organizations

Interested in working to protect Israel's environment? The Jewish Global Environmental Network (JGEN), of which COEJL is a founding partner, can match college students, recent graduates, and young professionals (ages 18-35) with professional internship positions in many of Israel's environmental organizations. The internship program runs throughout the year and placements can be made at any time that is mutually convenient for the intern and the employer. In the past, interns have worked with Friends of the Earth Middle East, Green Course, the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

To learn more, go to: or contact Danielle Luttenberg, COEJL's JGEN-Israel coordinator, at

An Early Bloome in D.C.
[Another report on the COEJL conference that I attended]

COEJL's Mark & Sharon Bloome Jewish Environmental Leadership Institute (Feb. 27-March 1) opened with an impassioned speech by Rabbi Michael Feshbach of Temple Sinai, Chevy Chase, MD, on the moral obligation to be stewards of the planet. Rabbi Feshbach said God's presence could be felt in the massive relief efforts that followed the recent tsunamis in South Asia. Later, Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain spoke to joint sessions of COEJL, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Hillel. We presented Congressman Henry Waxman with COEJL's first Steward of the Earth award. Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, also inspired our audience. These national leaders, Jewish scholars, and environmental professionals motivated Institute participants to continue our work to protect creation. Another highlight of the three-day conference was our visit to two "green" synagogues: Temple Emanuel in Kensington, MD and Adat Shalom in Bethesda, MD. A snowstorm -- a reminder of the beauty and wonder of nature -- enhanced our experience. Together we sang, learned about green building materials, efficient lighting and energy options, and how to create a solar ner tamid. The rabbis and lay leaders encouraged us to think about ways to integrate greening ideas into our synagogues and communities.

For more on the Bloome Institute 2005, go to:


*Boston, MA, March 31, Clean Water Action office Greater Boston COEJL is hosting a planning meeting to recruit volunteers and steering committee members and help grow the organization in 2005. For more information contact Isaac Elnecave and Rachel Lessem at

*New York, NY, April 14, New York Open CenterThe Natural Step Framework for Sustainable Business and Communities: Creating a Win-Win for People, Planet, and ProfitsCOEJL Board member, ecologist, economist, and author, Terry Gips, will present this creative new approach to becoming environmentally and socially responsible. To register or for more information, contact the New York Open Center at (212) 219-2527 x2 or go to:

*Philadelphia, PA, April 17, Wissahickon Charter SchoolPhilly COEJL is co-sponsoring an Interfaith Earth Day Celebration combined with a "freecycle." Participants can bring what they want to pass along and take what is available (more info on the concept at Betsy Teutsch of Philly COEJL suggests that the close dates of Passover and Earth Day this year, the freecycle could include cleaning out your chametz and dropping it off at a local food bank.

*Cold Spring, NY, June 6-9, Surprise Lake Camp: Jewish Environmental Education SeminarJoin the Teva Center and nationally renowned experts for a 4-day program to help participants create exciting Jewish nature programs at their camps, synagogues, and institutions. To register or for more information, contact Moshe Kornfeld at (212) 807-6376 or or visit:

*Needmore, PA, August 15-21, Licking Creek Bend Farm: Am Kolel's Martin Buber Summer Youth Institute for Teens (ages 13-17)Enjoy kibbutz-style cooperative living. Work on an organic farm, hike, make music, learn about Jewish social philosophy and environmental ethics, bicycle maintenance, nature crafts and more. The Buber Institute offers a unique way for youth to deepen their Jewish identity, understanding of Jewish teachings on community and ecology, as well as their practice of and commitment to tikkun olam. For more information, contact Netsitsah Greenfield at (240) 997-5319 or

Return to Top

3. Startling Facts About Agricultural Water Consumption

Forwarded message from the European Vegetarian Union

Dear Dr. Diouf, [He is a key person at he UN’s Food and agriculture Organization (FAO)

In a press release dated 21 March 2005 and titled 'Water for Life', the FAO referred to 'appropriate policies needed to make better use of water' because it 'takes one tonne of water to produce one kilogram of wheat'.

The European Vegetarian Union wants to point out that the water requirement for the production of meat is even very much higher and therefore well worth mentioning.

Already last April, the Stockholm International Water Institute declared "that agriculture will need huge amounts of additional water. Water for agriculture is therefore going to be a BIG issue in the next few decades." 1)

In their 2004-report "The global benefits of eating less meat" 2), the Compassion in World Farming Trust explains: "In his book, Cadillac Desert: the American West and its disappearing water, Marc Reisner argues that a pound of beef requires 20 to 80 times more water than the 100 to 250 gallons needed to produce 1 lb of corn. New Scientist (18 May 2002) quotes a 1998 study in Forbes magazine stating that it takes 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beefsteak. David Pimentel, a water resource specialist at Cornell University, believes this to be a considerable underestimate and puts the figure at 100,000 litres of water per kilo of beef (compared to 500 l for 1 kilo of potatoes, 900 l for wheat and alfalfa, 1100 l for sorghum, 1400 l for maize, 1910 l for rice, and 2000 l for soya beans).

In this context it is worth mentioning that a large percentage of the global grain harvest is not destined for hungry people but is fed to animals. The same is true for 90 percent of Brazil's soya beans which are grown by destroying large parts of rain forests.

FAO declared that the "agriculture sector faces a complex challenge" and listed a series of feasible improvements. Unfortunately neither a reduction in meat consumption nor vegetarianism is under scrutiny or even discussed. This omission is very regrettable since, in the quest for a more sustainable and humane diet, "one person's 100 per cent reduction can help to `subsidise' 6 people who haven't yet reduced their meat consumption at all." 2)

The European Vegetarian Union appeals to you personally to consider new promising alternatives and have vegetarianism, a compassionate and beneficial way of life, now seriously investigated.

Thank you very much.

Renato Pichler
Acting President
European Vegetarian Union

Sent by: European Vegetarian Union x Secretariat

1) 2004 Stockholm Water Symposium

2) Compassion in World Farming Trust: The global benefits of eating less meat (2004)

Return to Top

4. Passover and Vegetarianism/Suggestions Welcome

With Passover about a month away, I am planning to send the article below to the Jewish media and my list of rabbis. Comments and suggestions are most welcome. Also, please consider sending a letter to the editor of your local publication based on my article. A sample letter follows the article below.

Passover and Vegetarianism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Passover and vegetarianism? Can the two be related? After all, what is a seder without gefilte fish, chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken, and other meats? And what about the shankbone to commemorate the paschal sacrifice. And doesn't Jewish law mandate that Jews eat meat to rejoice on Passover and other Jewish festivals?

An increasing number of Jews are turning to vegetarianism and they are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers while being consistent with Jewish teachings. For many years, Jonathan Wolf, a Jewish vegetarian activist, hosted up to 50 people for completely vegetarian seders.

Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Passover seder or any other time. Scholarly articles by Rabbi Albert Cohen in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and Rabbi J. David Bleich in Tradition magazine provide many sources to support this. For example, according to the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem Jews need not eat meat to celebrate Jewish festivals. Also, Israeli chief rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Goren, late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rabbi Sha'ar- Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, were or are strict vegetarians

The use of the shankbone originated in the time of the Talmud as a means of commemorating the paschal lamb. However, since the Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Huna, states that a beet can be used for this purpose, many Jewish vegetarians substitute a beet for the shankbone (Pesachim 114b). The important point is that the shankbone is a symbol and no meat need be eaten at the seder.

Jewish vegetarians see vegetarian values reinforced by several Passover themes:

1. At the seder, Jews say, "Let all who are hungry come and eat". As on other occasions, at the conclusion of the meal, birkat hamazon is recited to thank God for providing food for the world's people. This seems inconsistent with the consumption of animal-centered diets which involves the feeding of 70% of the grain grown in the United States, and two-thirds of the grain that we export, to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million of the world's people die of hunger and its effects annually.

Although he is not a vegetarian, Rabbi Jay Marcus, former Spiritual Leader of the Young Israel of Staten Island, saw a connection between simpler diets and helping hungry people. He commented on the fact that "karpas" (eating of greens) comes immediately before "yahatz" (the breaking of the middle matzah) for later use as the "afikomen" (dessert) in the seder service. He concluded that those who live on simpler foods (greens, for example) will more readily divide their possessions and share with others.

2. Many Jewish vegetarians see connections between the oppression that their ancestors suffered and the current plight of the billions of people who presently lack sufficient food and other essential resources. Vegetarian diets require far less land, water, gasoline, pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources, and thus enable the better sharing of God's abundant resources, which can help reduce global hunger and poverty.

3. The main Passover theme is freedom. While relating the story of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt and their redemption through God's power and beneficence, many Jewish vegetarians also consider the "slavery" of animals on modern "factory farms". Contrary to Jewish teachings of "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" (the Torah mandate not to cause unnecessary "pain to a living creature"), animals are raised for food today under cruel conditions in crowded confined spaces, where they are denied fresh air, sunlight, a chance to exercise, and the fulfillment of their natural instincts. It is significant to consider during Passover that according to the Jewish tradition, Moses, Judaism's greatest leader, teacher, and prophet, was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because as a shepherd he showed great compassion to a lamb (Exodus Rabbah 2:2).

4. Many Jewish vegetarians advocate that we commemorate the redemption of our ancestors from slavery by ending the current slavery to harmful eating habits through the adoption of vegetarian diets.

5. Passover is the holiday of springtime, a time of nature's renewal. It also commemorates God's supremacy over the forces of nature. In contrast, modern intensive livestock agriculture and animal-centered diets have many negative effects on the environment, including air and water pollution, soil erosion and depletion, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, and contributions to global warming.

Jewish vegetarians view their diet as a practical way to put Jewish values into practice. They believe that Jewish mandates to show compassion to animals, take care of our health, protect the environment, conserve resources, and share with hungry people, and the negative effects that animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews (and others) today.

Sources for further information on connections between Judaism and vegetarianism include:

1. The International Jewish Vegetarian Society; 855 Finchley Road, London NW 11, England (

2. Judaism and Vegetarianism by Richard Schwartz, new, revised edition (New York: Lantern, 2001)

3. The web site of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA):, including over 100 articles at by Richard H. Schwartz.

4. Micah Publications; the source for books on Judaism and vegetarianism and related issues; 255 Humphrey Street, Marblehead, Massachusetts 01945;
or (
They have published vegetarian-friendly haggadahs, "Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb" and "Haggadah for the Vegetarian Family", both by Roberta Kalechofsky, founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications, which contains traditional and new material for a vegetarian seder, including recipes, songs, notes, readings, and a bibliography, and "The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook" by Roberta Kalechofsky and Rosa Rasiel, which includes many recipes suitable for Passover. They also have a vegetarian Passover cookbook and a video casette that describes a vegetarian seder.

Other books that have vegetarian recipes appropriate for Passover include "No Cholesterol Passover Recipes" by Debra Wasserman and Charles Stahler and "Vegan Passover Recipes" by Nancy Berkoff, both published by the Vegetarian Resource Group (P. O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203;, and "Jewish Vegetarian Cooking" (the official cookbook of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society) by Rose Friedman (Thorsons Publishers).

Here is a sample letter related to Passover:

Dear editor,

As President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America and author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” I suggest that we commemorate the redemption of our ancestors from slavery this Passover by ending the current slavery to harmful eating habits.

An increasing number of Jews are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers consistent with Jewish teachings. Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Passover seder or any other time.

Several Passover themes have vegetarian connections:

* At the seder, Jews say, "Let all who are hungry come and eat." Vegetarian diets require far less land, water, fuel, pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources, and thus enable the better sharing of God's abundant resources, which can help reduce global hunger and poverty.

* Passover is the holiday of springtime, a time of nature's renewal. It also commemorates God's supremacy over the forces of nature. In contrast, the production of meat has many negative environmental effects.

* The main Passover theme is freedom. While relating the story of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt and their redemption, many Jewish vegetarians also consider the "slavery" of animals on modern “factory farms".

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Return to Top

5. Creating Jewish Vegetarian/Vegan Groups

JVNA would like to facilitate the formation of Jewish vegetarian/vegan groups in various areas.

If you would like to get together with others in your area, please let us know and we will try to help you make contacts with others in your region.

Evan grand is interested in meeting other vegetarians and vegans in the San Francisco area. He may be contacted at He states: “I question the integrity of the OU (especially after the PETA debacle) and how a Jew can call himself a Jew, yet be unconscious when it comes to the environment, another creature's life, and one's own health. It's easily one of the more crafty "Satans" of our time. Hence my interest in meeting brothers/sisters who have not gone off the moral path.

Return to Top

6. Action Alert: Help Stop Massive Chicken Factory Farm

Thanks to JVNA advisor John Diamond for forwarding the following item from the PETA web site:

Help Stop Massive Chicken Factory Farm

Last November, a PETA undercover investigation revealed horrific cruelty to animals at AgriProcessors, a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. Our investigator caught footage of cows whose tracheas were ripped out of their throats while they were still fully conscious. Some were still struggling to stand long after their throats had been slit. Former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kosher-slaughter inspector Dr. Lester Friedlander echoed the views of every other expert who commented on our investigation, stating that "the footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed."

Now, the operator of AgriProcessors, Sholom Rubashkin, wants to establish four massive chicken sheds in Frankville, in Winneshiek County, Iowa.

AgriProcessors is also being sued by the Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Clean Water Act. Amazingly, the proposed chicken farm in Winneshiek County would be placed in the Yellow River watershed, which has been declared "impaired" by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Please immediately call or write to the members of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors and urge them to stop Rubashkin's plans to build a chicken farm in Frankville:

Dean Darling, Chair (563-735-5768)
Les Askelson, Vice Chair (563-382-3138)
John Logsdon (563-532-9547)
Steve Bouska (563-737-2723)
Gordon Hunter (563-382-4071)

County Courthouse
201 W. Main Street
Decorah, IA 52101-1713

Also, if you live near Decorah, in Winneshiek County, please attend the
public hearing before the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors on this issue, which will be held this coming Monday [March 28?] at 1:30 p.m. at the County Courthouse at 201 W. Main St. in Decorah.

Return to Top

7. Early Registration Discount Available For Animal Rights Conference

Forwarded message from FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement)

AR2005 Registration Discount Ends on March 31

The early registration discount for the Animal Rights 2005 National Conference ends this Thursday, March 31.

Please visit and take advantage of the current deeply discounted rate, even if you're not sure that you can come!
It's actually cheaper to register now and get a refund, if need be, than to wait till the last minute.

The conference will be held on July 7-11 at the superb Westin LAX Hotel in Los Angeles. Special features include fabulous accommodation rates with free dog beds, cruelty-free personal care products, discounted vegan meals, discounted parking, free airport shuttle, and use of the hotel's magnificent Grand Ballroom and Video Theater, with exhibits in one hall. More than a thousand people representing 80 groups are expected.

The schedule will begin with the Welcome Reception and Opening Plenary on Thursday evening and close with the Sunday evening Awards Banquet and Farewell Reception. Other features will include plenaries, workshops, rap sessions, campaign reports, videos, exhibits, Newcomer Orientation, Employment Clearinghouse, Networking Receptions, and musical interludes. There will be ample time for socializing, networking, and scheduling special meetings. A number of post-conference activities including seminars, special interest meetings, and demos, are planned for Monday, July 11.

Key speakers signed up thus far include Lorri Bauston, Michael Budkie, Theo Capaldo, Lawrence Carter-Long, Karen Davis, Karen Dawn, Michael Greger, Tippi Hedren, Alex Hershaft, Steve Hindi, Kevin Jonas, Pattrice Jones, Elliot Katz, Greg Lawson, Howard Lyman, Michael Mountain, Lauren Ornelas, Ava Park, Martin Rowe, Jerry Vlasak, Paul Watson, Persia White.

In this critical time for our movement, we expect a superb conference, with ample time for learning, networking, strategizing, and "recharging batteries". This year, your presence is more important than ever. Be there for the animals and bring a friend!

We look forward to seeing you all in LA, Alex Hershaft - for AR2005 Management Team

Return to Top

8. Purim Spoof/ Is Truth About Meat Revealed?

Forwarded message:

Surgeon General to Require Warning Labels on Cholent

WASHINGTON, D.C. - [] The Surgeon General announcedtoday that beginning next month, cholent will be required to carry labels warning of the long term health hazards of consumption. This announcement follows years of research on the dangers of cholent.

Cholent, the traditional Jewish Sabbath feast, contains meat and high-carbohydrate products that simmer in bubbling animal fat for a period of around twenty-hours. According to the Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Dr. Richard H. Carmona, Data has conclusively shown that cholent contributes to heart disease, arterial sclerosis, obesity, erectile dysfunction and depression, and is the fourth most dangerous food in the world, after spiny blowfish, wild mushrooms, and bacon.

Kishka is one of the cholent-related foods requiring new warning labels Kishka is one of the cholent-related foods requiring new warning labels

The new warning labels will be affixed to cholent mix and packages of prepared cholent. In addition, all kishka packaging will carry a prominently displayed skull and crossbones, the international poison symbol. Warning signage will also be required in both English and Spanish at kiddushes throughout the country.

The Jewish community has been divided in its response to the news.

Zalman Proscutto, the Chairman of the Jewish Catering Association (JCA), declared at a press release that, "This ruling is a mistake. This has been our way of life for generations and we believe it to be safe. Our industry has conducted extensive research on this topic and our findings have never demonstrated a linkage between cholent and health problems."

Commenting on the Association's research methodology, Mr. Proscutto added, "Our lead scientist, Mordechai Wolhgebruchser, must have gone to over a thousand kiddushes in developing his comprehensive study. and we stand by his hard work, may he rest in peace."

But the decision was welcomed by the Healthly Organic Torah Foundation for the Unity of Jews. Rabbi Psachyah Vildechayawitz noted, "This is a long time in coming. Cholent is a long term hazard. After all, over the years, cholent has probably killed more Jews than anti-semitism. "

The Surgeon General is threatening additional measures against the cholent industry. In an exclusive interview with, Dr. James Canterbury, the Undersecretary of Health, outlined potential future targets. We are very interested in forcing cholent producers to reveal their secret additives. Chemicals research has suggested that Ketchup, wine, honey vanilla, and tobacco are among the substances being added surreptitiously to enhance flavor and increase dependency. "No wonder people cannot get enough of it! "

Additionally, the Surgeon General's office is concerned that the cholent industry has been intentionally targeting children. "Why do you think -- that at kiddushes cholent is positioned right next to the baby hot dogs and across the aisle from the cookies?"

Another controversial target is second hand cholent. It has been known for years that bystanders recoil at the effects of second hand cholent. People shouldn't be subjected to this exposure against their will", Dr. Canterbury added.

Legislation was introduced in New Hampshire and Maine last month to ban the consuming of cholent in all public areas. Similar legislation is currently being developed in Mississippi and Louisiana. However, cholent lobbyists have thus far prevented any debate on the topic in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, the so-called "Cholent-belt" states. (Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein)

[Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is a part time free-lance journalist and the full time Rosheshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Chipass Emmess. He is reknowned for his scholarship, including his oft cited commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi, and his three volume official biography of Jenna Jameson. He may be reached through his Yeshiva's website at:]

Return to Top

9. Jewish Week Purim Spoof: “PETA vs. Pita”

PETA Vs. Pita (03/23/2005)

After waging a recent war on kosher slaughterhouses, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, has taken on a new target: manufacturers of pita bread.

According to PETA spokesperson Ima Morron, the organization is outraged by the way that pita bread is made.

"We visited a pita factory in upstate New York and found many unacceptable practices," said Morron. "The pita bread is callously flattened and then shoved into an oven so hot, the outside of the bread turns brown.

"That's not even the worst part," Morron continued. "Once the pita is baked, a machine with a razor-sharp blade slices off a sliver of the bread at the top in order to create an opening for the pita pocket."

PETA intends to lobby in Washington, D.C., to reform the way that pita bread is manufactured.

"We'd like to see the knife procedure abolished," said Morron. "It's cruel and unusual treatment of bread."

Return to Top

10. A Jewish View on Wearing Leather/Followed by My Letter/Please Write

My ‘kosher’ shoes
March 24, 2005
13 Adar II, 5765 []

I have been shopping for a pair of cute black running shoes in a size eight for weeks! You know, the ones with mesh and Velcro that everyone is wearing but me?

I eagerly held a dozen pair in my hands. My favourites showed off a hot pink stripe down the side and were adorable. But before I tried them on, I lifted the tongue to read what material they were made of. Every pair was the same – genuine leather – and I sadly put them back on the shelf. It may as well have been written that the shoelaces were made of baby kitten tails and the soles of puppy ears.

An animal is an animal and to me there is no difference. I would not carry a purse made from cats or wear a belt from the skin of a dog. I would not wear a lambskin coat or walk in leather shoes from a cow. I believe animal rights are more important than fashion.

At the age of 13, I stopped wearing leather. I gave away my Roots black leather vest and green suede purse and never looked back. Despite the frustration I sometimes feel when shopping, I never consider the alternative. I am confident I will soon find shoes that are cruelty free and fashionable. There are hundreds of styles of non-leather shoes, clothing, belts, bags and wallets, and it’s worth the extra effort.

An animal is sentenced to a lifetime of suffering with every pair of leather shoes purchased. “Most of the millions of animals slaughtered for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming before being shipped to slaughter,” states, a website operated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and slaughterhouses since skin is the most economically important byproduct of the meat-packing industry. Leather is also no friend of the environment since it shares all the environmental destruction of the meat industry, in addition to toxins used in tanning.

“Animals are kept in overcrowded conditions on feedlots and factory farms, often unable to take a single step or turn around and deprived of all that is natural to them, including exercise, sunlight – and even the feel of grass beneath their feet.

“At the slaughterhouse, animals are routinely skinned and dismembered while they are still alive. Federal inspectors found live cattle dangling from an overhead chain at a plant in Texas. Videotape from another plant shows hogs kicking and squealing as they are lowered into a tank of scalding water, which is used to soften their skin.

“Kid goats may be boiled alive to make gloves, and the skins of unborn calves and lambs are sometimes purposely aborted or slaughtered from pregnant cows and ewes.”

This is the harsh reality of where leather comes from. Don’t deceive yourself that the animals surrender politely and feel no pain. Their hurting and suffering is very real. You have a choice to make every time you go shopping for clothing – make sure you have all the facts before making a decision.

In Judaism, there are laws regarding kosher meat and rabbinical supervision to ensure humane slaughter. Tza’ar baalei chayim (kindness to animals) is the prohibition against causing pain to any living animal. It is a basic principle of compassion. But the manufacturing of leather shoes, jackets and handbags do not require rabbinical regulation. Perhaps it should, since Judaism recognizes animals feel physical pain and we are forbidden to inflict it.

Furthermore, says that “leather may be made from cows, pigs, goats and sheep; exotic animals like alligators, ostriches, kangaroos; and even dogs and cats, who are slaughtered for their meat and skins in China, which exports their skins around the world. Since leather is normally not labelled, you never really know where (or whom) it came from.”

I take the extra time to find non-leather options like cotton, linen, rubber, ramie, canvas and synthetics. And if I still can’t find what I am looking for, I would rather go barefoot. I am lucky to have the option of feeling the grass beneath my feet.

Miriam can be reached at

My letter in response to the article:

March 27, 2005

Editor, Canadian Jewish News

Dear Editor:

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I commend Miraiam Porter for her very thoughtful article in the March 25 issue, “My ‘Kosher’ Shoes.” Jews are to be “rachmanim b’nei rachmanim” (compassionate children of compassionate ancestors), and I hope that Ms. Porter’s article will serve as a valuable reminder of Judaism’s strong teachings on compassionate treatment to animals. While Jews are only a tiny fraction of the world’s people, it is essential that we fulfil our historic mandate to be a “light unto the nations,” by helping to end the many examples of cruel treatment in the world today. For further examples of Jewish teachings on the proper treatment of animals and on related issues, please see the JVNA website:

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

Return to Top

11. Responding to the Terry Schiavo Tragedy

I have long believed that there are vegetarian connections to many news events and situations, and that in many cases it is important to try to make these connections, In doing so, we have to, of course, try to be respectful and sensitive. This is especially true with regard to tragic and emotional situations like the current controversy over what should be done re Terry Schiavo. Your suggestions re this are very welcome.

Below is a letter that I sent to the Jewish week re the case. I am sure that there are better approaches, and I welcome your suggestions. Thanks.

Perhaps the greatest tribute that could be paid to Terry Schiavo is to use her very tragic situation as a wake up call to the need to make changes to reduce the chances of such difficult situations having to be made in the future, by educating people about diets that will reduce risk factors for heart disease, cancer, strokes, and other degenerative diseases. Of course, we will probably not be able to completely eliminate such tragic situations, and we should epond with great empathy when they occur.

March 25, 2005

Editor, the Jewish Week

Dear Editor:

Stewart Ain's March 25 cover story "Schiavo Case Creates Ethical Debate" considers Judaism's strong teachings on the sanctity of every life and the importance of efforts to preserve human lives. As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I respectfully believe that we are not adequately considering these teachings with regard to our diets. Every year, about 1.5 million people die from heart disease, various forms of cancer, and other diseases that have been conclusively linked to animal-based diets. An estimated 20 millon people die from hunger and its effects worldwide annually while 70% of the grain produced in the United States and almost 40% worldwide is fed to animals destined for slaughter. Modern intensive animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to many threats to humanity, including global warming, widening water shortages, erosion and depletion of soil, and destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs, and other valuable habitats.

So, to best fulfill Jewish teachings on the sanctity of life, and for our health and that of our imperiled planet, it is important that a switch toward plant-based diets be considered.

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz

Return to Top


You must be the change you want to see in the world – Gandhi

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future---deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.”
Editors, World Watch, July/August 2004

Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Thanks for the information, we will add this story to our blog, as we have an audience that loves reading like this.

discount kosher vitamins