May 8, 2005

5/7/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Promoting Vegetarianism in the Post PETA-apology World

2. Some Jewish Teachings on Health From Aish Hatorah Yeshiva

3. Pope Benedict XVI on Factory Farming

4. Forming a Multireligious Campaign to Create a Sustainable Energy Policy

5. Emulating God’s Positive Attributes in our Food Choices and Preparation

6. Vegetarian Book to be Discussed

7. Article Relating Earth Day to Vegetarian Diets

9. Jewish Vegetarian Single Event in New Jersey

10. JVNA Action Alerts
ACTION ALERT: Save Horses from Slaughter
ACTION ALERT: Boycott Canadian Seafood to Stop Clubbing Seals

11. My Article in Quaker Vegetarian Publication on How I Became a Vegetarian

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. Promoting Vegetarianism in the Post PETA-apology World

I hope to consider this in detail in the next JVNA newsletter. So, please send me any suggestions that you may have. Thanks.

Because there are some serious disagreements re how we should respond in a press release to the PETA apology, I have decided, for the sake of organizational harmony, not to issue a JVNA press release. Instead, I plan to respond as an individual in letters, and possibly an article. Please consider doing the same. Thanks. I plan to stress that this is a time to seek common ground and solutions and to urge the Jewish community (and others) to address the many ways that animal-based diets and agriculture threaten human health and environmental sustainability and contradict at least six basic Jewish mandates.
Below is a response from the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith to PETA’s apology:

Update: On May 5, 2005, PETA issued an apology for its "Holocaust on Your Plate" campaign. In a letter to the Jewish community, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said she realized that the campaign had caused pain: "This was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry." While ADL would have preferred that the apology had come earlier, it welcomed the letter and expressed hope that PETA would no longer engage in efforts to compare the slaughter of animals to human suffering in the Holocaust. (

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2. Some Jewish Teachings on Health From Aish Hatorah Yeshiva

Jewish Spirituality - Growing Each DayFrom:

"Growing Each Day" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, 9 Nisan 5765 / 18 April 2005

One who creates a small defect in the body creates a great defect in the soul (Maggid of Mezritch).

A student spied the great Hillel leaving his academy. He approached the Sage and asked him where he was going. "I am going to do a mitzvah for someone poor and forsaken," Hillel answered. Noting his student's bewilderment, he then explained: "I am going to feed my body. It is totally dependent upon me to look after it."

If someone gives us an object for safekeeping, we have a responsibility to look after it and cannot be derelict in its care. Likewise, our bodies have been entrusted to us, and we have a full obligation to care properly for them.

Too many of us violate our trust by taking unnecessary risks or doing things which are detrimental to our bodies, such as smoking, overeating, or abusing alcohol and drugs. Is it not strange that one who would never think of drinking a non-diet soft drink might not have the least hesitance in smoking a cigarette, even though the harmful effects of smoking are now established beyond a shadow of a doubt?

[Rabbi Twerski wrote a wonderful article, “Thou Shalt Not Smoke,” which presented powerful Jewish health arguments for not smoking. When I wrote him and pointed out that his health arguments could also be used with regard to the consumption of meat, he politely responded, indicated that he was familiar with the vegetarian writings of Rav Kook, but that he (Rabbi Twerski) did not know enough re meat to make a statement about it.]

A Chassidic master observed one of his followers who looked lean and weak. On inquiring, he learned that this man was fasting frequently to atone for his sins. He then told him: "First you set out to ruin your soul, and having achieved this, you are now out to ruin your body as well."

Today I shall ... remember that I am fully responsible for the well-being of my body, and I shall take every means to protect it from harm.
Books by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski can be acquired at: . To subscribe to his column, "Growing Each Day," visit:

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3. Pope Benedict XVI on Factory Farming

Forwarded message from Humane Society of the US (HSUS') Humanelines-

The world's biggest news this week is that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been elected Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Ratzinger has called for animals to be treated humanely and to be respected as our "companions in creation." Pope Benedict has said that "industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

[Some people have advocated asking the new pope to take a stand today re factory farming, or at least to have the issue considered. If you have suggestions re this, please let me know, and I would pass them to others.]

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4. Forming a Multireligious Campaign to Create a Sustainable Energy Policy

Forwarded message from the Shalom Center:

[As in so many cases involving current issues, there is a vegetarian connection here, as vegetarian diets require far less energy than animal-based diets. Please point this out in discussions and letters to editors. Thanks.]

Dear Friends,

The Shalom Center intends to organize a multireligious campaign to go "Beyond Oil" as the dominant energy source for American society.

The Beyond Oil campaign will operate at three levels:

* Engaging religious celebration and practice in ending the oiloholic addiction that now undercuts change in this area;

* Involving congregations and denominations in efforts to change the values and actions of households and communities toward using sustainable energy sources;

* Pursuing changes in the public and corporate policies that now undergird the oil addiction.

For full details on why and how we intend to organize this effort, please
click to our Home Page, where it is the lead story:

or directly to

If you would like to take part in this effort, please write Charles Lenchner, our National Organizer, at



Rabbi Arthur Waskow directs The Shalom Center, voicing a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To subscribe to The Shalom Report (weekly on-line newsletter) and for a wealth of information on social action and its spiritual roots, click to --

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5. Emulating God’s positive Attributes in our Food Choices and Preparation

Forwarded message from author, scholar and JVNA advisor Yosef Hakohen

The Journey to Unity - 107
Emulating the Divine Ways:

"Hashem is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works" (Psalm 145:9)

Dear Friends,

The above verse describes the universal benevolence and compassion of Hashem – the Compassionate One. In fact, the Torah states that Hashem is the, "Compassionate and Gracious God" ((Exodus 34:6); moreover, it is written, "Hashem is Just" (Psalm 145:17) and "Hashem is Loving" (Ibid). Is there is a mitzvah – Divine mandate – which calls upon us to emulate these Divine ways? Yes, there is such a mitzvah, and it is found in the following verse:

"Hashem will confirm you for Himself as a holy people, as He swore to you - if you observe the mitzvos of Hashem, your God, and you go in His ways." (Deuteronomy 28:9)

"Go in His Ways" – Maimonides, in his "Book of Mitzvos" (#8), cites the following teachings of our sages: Just as the Holy One is called Compassionate, so should you be compassionate; just as the Holy One is called Gracious, so should you be gracious; just as the Holy One is called "Just," so should you be just; just as the Holy One is called "Loving," so should you be loving (Sifri on Deut. 11:22).

How is it possible for finite human beings to emulate the ways of the Infinite One? The answer is that we were created in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27); thus, we have the spiritual potential to emulate the attributes of Hashem within our own human existence. The Torah therefore calls upon us to "go in His ways" - to emulate the Divine compassion, justice, and love.

We have many opportunities in life to fulfill the mitzvah to emulate the Divine ways, and we should therefore do these sacred deeds with a spiritual consciousness. For example, when we give food to any human being or any creature, we should have in mind that we are fulfilling this mitzvah, as it is written, "He gives food to all flesh, for His lovingkindness endures forever" (Psalm 136:25). In fact, when we prepare food for others in a way that is both pleasing to the sight and good to eat, we are also fulfilling the mitzvah to emulate the Divine ways, as it is written, "And the Compassionate and Just One caused to sprout from the ground every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food" (Genesis 2:9). A good cook should therefore have in mind that he or she is fulfilling this sacred mitzvah.

The ways of Hashem are also described in the following verses:

"He does justice for the exploited; He gives bread to the hungry; Hashem releases the bound; Hashem gives sight to the blind; Hashem straightens the bent; Hashem loves the righteous. Hashem protects strangers; He encourages the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked He thwarts." (Psalm 146:7-9)

The above passage reminds us that our compassion should lead us to help and protect those who are weak and exploited. For example, just as the Compassionate One "thwarts the ways of the wicked," so too, we are to do whatever we can to prevent the wicked from exploiting, persecuting, or killing others. We are not to have compassion on the wicked when through our compassion they will gain strength to harm others. In this spirit, our sages say that "whoever is compassionate on the cruel will ultimately be cruel to the compassionate." (See Midrash Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 7:16)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch has an insight concerning the Hebrew word for "compassion" which can deepen our understanding of the above teaching. Rabbi Hirsch states that the Hebrew word for compassion – "rachamim" - comes from the word "rechem" - womb (Commentary to Genesis 43:14). Just as the womb was created to nurture life, so too the purpose of compassion is to nurture life. But when an act motivated by compassion leads to destruction or death, then it is not true compassion; it does not serve the life-affirming purpose of the Compassionate One.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

There is a passage in the Talmud (Sotah 14a) which mentions the following acts of Divine lovingkindness within the Torah: Hashem made garments for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21); Hashem visited Abraham when he was recuperating from his circumcision (Genesis 18:1-3, see Rashi); Hashem comforted Isaac after the death of Abraham (Genesis 25:11, see Rashi); and Hashem buried Moshe (Deuteronomy 32:6).

The Talmud therefore adds: Just as Hashem clothes the naked, so should we clothe the naked; just as Hashem visits the sick, so should we visit the sick; just as Hashem comforts the mourners, so should we comfort mourners; just as Hashem buries the dead, so should we bury the dead.

For further study on how all human beings can emulate the Divine attributes and thereby develop a caring and just society, see the Hazon article, "The Mitzvah to be Human," which appears in the archive section of "Hazon – Our Universal Vision":

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6. Vegetarian Book to be Discussed

Forwarded message from Lantern Books:

Join the Lantern Books Reading Club to meet new friends and discuss issues of animal rights, vegetarianism, and social justice.

When: Monday, June 27, 6:30 - 8 p.m.

Where: Lantern Books, One Union Square West, Suite 201, New York City (at 14th St., above the clothing store Diesel, 2nd floor)

Cost: Free. Delicious munchies will be provided. RSVP not required.

This Season's Book Selection:

The Scary Truth About America's Low-Carb Craze
by Michael Greger, M.D.

In this provocative book, Dr. Greger gathers decades of research to expose the dangers behind the low-carb lies and "Carbophobia," debunking the purported science behind low-carb diet claims.

176 pages paperback $12

We look forward to active participation from our readers. Group facilitators will include moderator Jean Thaler, our readers, and Lantern staff. Jean Thaler formerly ran Big Apple Vegetarians and the Makor Book Club. Her goal is to have a fun and interesting discussion. She is pleased to support this unique publisher and its authors. June will be our second, quarterly session.

Please direct any questions to, or Lantern Books, or 212-414-2275 x17.

If you wish to be on the Lantern Books "New York City Events" list in the future, please sign up on their homepage:

"Lantern Books publishes books for all wanting to live with greater spiritual depth and commitment to the preservation of the natural world."

[I have heard Dr. Michael Gregor speak many times and I have found him to be a very knowledgable and dedicated individual.]

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7. Article Relating Earth Day to Vegetarian Diets

[Earth Day has already passed this year, but I think this article is still of value.]

Forwarded message from Animalconcerns Community

For Earth Day, stop eating animal products

[opinion from Patriot Ledger]

By LORRAINE NICOTERA, East Weymouth, Vice President, South Shore Humane Society

One of the greatest ways we can acknowledge Earth Day on April 27 and protect the environment is to shift toward a plant-based diet centered on fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, while eliminating meat and other animal products from our diets.

Raising animals for food is a leading cause of resource depletion and environmental degradation. Meat production is inefficient and results in the needless waste of precious environmental resources.
If we truly care about the planet and its inhabitants, becoming vegan is crucial for putting our principles into practice. For more information, see
full story:

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9. Jewish Vegetarian Single Event in New Jersey

Message forwarded by

Please join us for lunch at 1 p.m. on Sunday May 22nd, 2005 c.e. at Veggie Heaven, a Kosher Chinese totally vegetarian restaurant, in Parsippany, New Jersey for our JEWISH SINGLES OUT OF THIS WORLD PARTY. You do not have to be a member of any or all of our groups to attend. Please,however, be both Jewish, and Single.

If you do decide to join any or all of our groups there is no charge to join or to belong to any or all of our groups.

There is no charge for this or any of our other events. When we go to a restaurant you pay only for what you order plus tax and tip. Reservations are NOT required for this event.

After our lunch party we will go on to see the new Star Wars movie at a local movie theater.

For more information about the movie click on

For directions to the movie theater click on

The telephone numbers of the restaurant are 973 335-9876 and 973 263-8331 the zip code, if you are using Mapquest, is 07054.

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10. JVNA Action Alerts

ACTION ALERT: Save Horses from Slaughter

In the past few days, the government has sent 41 wild horses to slaughterhouses to be sold for human consumption abroad. This is the result of an amendment to last year's federal budget that gutted more than three decades of protections for America's wild horses and burros. Please contact your two Senators and one Representative and ask them to "Please cosponsor the Wild Horse Act", which would restore these protections. Ask your Representative to "Please also cosponsor the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 503."

For more information, to check if your legislators are already cosponsors, or to find how to contact them, visit

ACTION ALERT: Boycott Canadian Seafood to Stop Clubbing Seals

Canada's ice floes have been red with the blood of hundreds of thousands of baby seals clubbed to death. Please join the Humane Society of the U.S. and others in their boycott of Canadian seafood, especially snow crabs (which are not kosher), which come from communities that club the seals. The boycott is already joined by Legal Sea Foods, Down East Seafoods, Whole Foods, and others. However, most Canadian crab imported by the U.S. is purchased by Red Lobster, so it is key to get the Darden Group onboard, which owns Red Lobster and the Olive Garden.

Please talk to the managers at Red Lobster or Olive Garden restaurants in your community, and ask them not to stock seafood from Canada, specifically snow crabs. You can also contact Joe E. Lee, Chairman, and Clarence Otis, Jr., CEO, of the Darden Group and ask them to stop selling Canadian seafood, particularly snow crabs, until the seal hunt is ended, both at:

The Darden Group
5900 Lake Ellenor Drive
Orlando, FL 32809

For more info, visit

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11. My Article in Quaker Vegetarian Publication on How I Became a Vegetarian

My Pilgrimage: Why I am a Vegetarian

Until 1978, I was a "meat and potatoes" person. My mother would be sure to prepare my favorite dish, pot roast, whenever I came to visit with my wife and children. It was a family tradition that I would be served a turkey "drumstick" every Thanksgiving. Yet, I not only became a vegetarian, but I now devote a major part of my time to writing, speaking, and teaching about the benefits of vegetarianism. What caused this major change?

In 1973 I began teaching a course, "Mathematics and the Environment" at the College of Staten Island. The course uses basic mathematical concepts and problems to explore current critical issues, such as pollution, resource scarcities, hunger, energy, population growth, nutrition, and health. While reviewing material related to world hunger, I became aware of the tremendous waste of grain associated with the production of beef at a time when millions of the world's people were malnourished. In spite of my own eating habits, I often led class discussions on the possibility of reducing meat consumption as a way of helping hungry people. After several semesters of this, I took my own advice and gave up eating red meat, while continuing to eat chicken and fish.

I then began to read about the many health benefits of vegetarianism and about the horrible conditions for animals raised on factory farms. I was increasingly attracted to vegetarianism, and on January 1, 1978, I decided to join the International Jewish Vegetarian Society. I had two choices for membership: (1) practicing vegetarian (one who refrains from eating any flesh); (2) non-vegetarian (one who is in sympathy with the movement, while not yet a vegetarian). I decided to become a full practicing vegetarian, and since then have avoided eating any meat, fowl, or fish.

Since that decision, besides learning much about vegetarianism's connections to health, ecology, resource usage, hunger, and the treatment of animals, I also started investigating connections between vegetarianism and Judaism. I learned that the first biblical dietary law (Genesis 1:29) is strictly vegetarian, and I became convinced that important Jewish mandates to preserve our health, be kind to animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, share with hungry people, and seek and pursue peace all point to vegetarianism as the best diet for Jews (and everyone else). To get this message to a wider audience I wrote a book, Judaism and Vegetarianism, which was first published in 1982, and later expanded.

Increasingly, as I learned about the realities discussed in this book and their inconsistency with Jewish values, I have come to see a switch toward vegetarianism as not only a personal choice, but a societal imperative, an essential component in the solution of many national and global problems, as well as a religious imperative.

I have recently been spending much time trying to make others aware of the importance of switching toward vegetarian diets, both for them and for the world. I have appeared on radio and television programs; had many letters and several op-ed articles in a variety of publications; spoken frequently at conferences and meetings; given talks and met with three chief rabbis and other leaders in Israel, while visiting my two daughters and their families. As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I send out a weekly e-mail newsletter, and I have over 100 articles at

I have always felt good about my decision to become a vegetarian. Putting principles and values into practice is far more valuable and rewarding than hours of preaching. When people ask me why I gave up meat, I welcome the opportunity to explain the many benefits of vegetarianism.

While my family was initially skeptical about my change of diet, they have become increasingly understanding and supportive. In 1993 my younger daughter was married at a completely vegetarian wedding. My wife has also become a vegetarian, and recently we have moved toward veganism, by giving up dairy products and eggs in almost all cases.

Recently, I have noted signs of increased interest in vegetarianism; a growing number of people are concerned about dietary connections to health, nutrition, animal rights, and environmental threats. However, there is much that still needs to be done. My hope is to be able to keep learning, writing, and speaking about vegetarianism, to help bring closer that day when, in the words of the motto of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, "no one shall hurt nor destroy in all of God's holy mountain." (Isaiah 11.9)

—Richard Schwartz
From VegNews, March 2005. Used with permission.

Septuagenarian Richard Schwartz attributes his relatively youthful appearance to a healthy diet, favorable genes, and the fact that he was very young when he was born.

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