March 27, 2006

3/27/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

[Note: For vegetarian Passover recipes, please visit:]

1. Progress on Campaign to Celebrate Earth Day 2006 as an “Environmental Shabbat”/Please Help

2. Science Fiction: Will Global Warming Wipe Out Humanity?

3. New “Kosher and Humane” Web Site Blasts Factory Farming Practices as Contrary to Jewish Teachings

4. Article on Factory Farming Abuses/My Letter and a Response to it

5. Israeli Haredim (Fervently Orthodox Jews) Working Toward a Cleaner Environment

7. Animal Rights Activist/JVNA Advisor Interviewed

9. Bird Flu Update

10. Meatout 2006 Observance Breaks US and World Records

Some material has been deferred to a later 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, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, 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. Progress on Campaign to Celebrate Earth Day 2006 as an “Environmental Shabbat”/Please Help

As indicated below, we are making great progress in our “Environmental Shabbat” campaign. But much more needs to be done to make this a truly groundbreaking initiative. Please help spread the word to as many groups and individuals as you can. Please ask local rabbis to observe Earth Day 2006 as an “Environmental Shabbat.” Ask your friends to also contact local rabbis and ask them to have an “Environmental Shabbat” on April 22. Volunteer to help organize such events. Inform rabbis and other Jewish leaders that valuable information can be found on COEJL’s web site ( and the Earth Day Network’s web site (

Here are the positives so far re the campaign to celebrate Earth Day 2006 as an Environmental Shabbat”:

* The campaign has been endorsed by the following groups:
COEJL (The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life);
The TEVA (Environmental) Learning Center;
The Shalom Center;
The Heschel Environmental Center (Israel);

* COEJL is going to have a special section at its web site ( devoted to the “Environmental Shabbat.”

* Earth Day Network is going to have a special section at its web site ( devoted to the “Environmental Shabbat.”

* The Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center is working with COEJL to submit “Environmental Shabbat” – related material to over 900 reform Temples.

* My article below is going to be sent out by the Jewish telegraphic Agency (JTA) to its many Jewish weekly subscribers. Please look for this and other articles related to Earth Day 2006 and/or an “Environmental Shabbat” and please consider sending letters to the editor. If you see such articles in your local papers, please let us know s that we can respond and try to get others to respond.

Turning Earth Day 2006 Into an Environmental Shabbat
Richard H. Schwartz

This year, Earth Day (April 22, 2006) falls on a Saturday, providing a perfect opportunity to turn the day into an “Environmental Shabbat.”

Shabbat is a reminder of creation, as it is said, "For in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, God rested." (Genesis 2:1.2) When God created the world, he was able to say, "It is very good." (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as God had planned; the waters were clean, the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today? What must God think when the rain he sends to nourish our crops is often acid rain due to the many chemicals poured into the air by our industries? When the abundance of species of plants and animals that God created are becoming extinct in tropical rain forests and other threatened habitats? When the fertile soil that God provided is rapidly being depleted and eroded? When the climatic conditions that God designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming?

Earth Day also falls almost immediately after Passover this year, and today's environmental threats can be compared in many ways to the Biblical ten plagues, which are considered at the Passover seder:

* When we consider the threats to our land, waters, and air, pesticides and other chemical pollutants, resource scarcities, threats
to our climate, etc., we can easily enumerate ten modern "plagues".

*The Egyptians were subjected to one plague at a time, while the modern plagues are threatening us all at once.

* The Israelites in Goshen were spared most of the Biblical plagues, while every person on earth is imperiled by the modern plagues.

* Instead of an ancient Pharaoh's heart being hardened, our hearts today have been hardened by the greed, materialism, and waste that are at the root of current environmental threats.

*God provided the Biblical plagues to free the Israelites, while today we must apply God's teachings in order to save ourselves and our precious but imperiled planet.

The first Earth Day was in 1970, so this year’s event will be the 36th anniversary of Earth Day. The number 36 has special significance in Judaism, as it represents the number of tzaddikim, the lamed-vavniks who uphold the world. It also represents twice CHAI. CHAI (life) is composed of the Hebrew letters chet and yud, whose numerical values are 8 and 10, thus adding up to 18. Hence, we can relate Earth Day this year to improving two lives, that of our endangered planet and that of Judaism.

Our planet is arguably threatened as never before. Just to take one problem, global warming, we have recently experienced record heat waves, increasing numbers and severity of hurricanes and other storms, rapid melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, major floods, and severe droughts. This has all occurred due to a one degree Fahrenheit average increase in the global temperature. This is very frightening since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group composed of the world’s leading climate scientists has projected an average global temperature increase of 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, and that would have catastrophic effects in many areas worldwide.

An ancient midrash (rabbinic teaching) has become all too relevant today:
“In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, God showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him:
‘See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.’ "
(Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)

Environmental problems today are due to the fact that the ways of the world are completely contrary to Jewish values:

*Judaism teaches that the earth is the Lord's and that we are to be partners and co-workers with God in protecting the environment. But today's philosophy is that the earth is to be exploited for maximum profit, regardless of the long-range ecological consequences.

*Judaism stresses bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value. By contrast, wastefulness in the United States is so great that, with about 4% of the world's people we use about a third of the world's resources, and this has a major impact on pollution and resource scarcities.

* Judaism asserts that a wise person considers the long-range consequences of his/her actions and that we must plan for future generations; but the way of the world today is often to consider only immediate gains.

It is urgent that Torah values be applied toward the solution of current environmental problems. This means, for example: an energy policy based not on dangerous energy sources, but on CARE (conservation and renewable energy), consistent with Jewish teachings on preserving the environment, conserving resources, creating jobs, protecting human lives, and considering future generations.

The book of Jonah, which is read as the prophetic portion during the afternoon service of Yom Kippur, has a powerful lesson with regard to current ecothreats. Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh to urge the people to repent and change their unjust ways in order to avoid destruction. Today, in a sense, the whole world is Nineveh, in danger of annihilation and in need of repentance and redemption, and each one of us must be a Jonah, with a mission to warn the world that it must turn from waste, materialism, greed, and injustice, in order to shift the world from its present perilous path.

Hence, making Earth Day 2006 an Environmental Shabbat, with sermons, classes, environmentally-conscious meals and other environmentally-related activities can be an important step toward moving our imperiled planet to a sustainable path and revitalizing Judaism.

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2. Science Fiction: Will Global Warming Wipe Out Humanity?

[JVNA does not generally have science fiction articles, but the one below by JVNA advisor John Diamond reflects many previous items in JVNA newsletters. It can be a valuable wake-up call. Responses welcome, as always. Thanks. And thanks to John for his valuable work on this.]

Global Warming Induced Human Extinction, An Avoidable Catastrophe
by John K. Diamond

Rosh Hashanah, 5850 (2090): The last human being alive on earth starves to death.

During the first decade of this century, conclusive scientific data from NASA Atmospheric Research proved that global warming is primarily caused by greenhouse gases (primarily methane) being emitted directly and indirectly by the over 50 billion animals raised annually worldwide for human consumption of beef, poultry, dairy and eggs.

The Summer 2005 Issue of “Earth Save Magazine” had a report by Noam Mohr, coordinator for the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), entitled "A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in our Lifetimes."

Based on the NASA Atmospheric data, other reputable sources and Noam Mohr’s report, some of the world’s leading climate scientists and vegetarian/environmental organizations combined to issue a warning to humanity that unless consumption of animal based foods is severely reduced or eliminated in the current generation, the human species would be threatened by extinction by the end of the century or sooner.

In 2006, Dr. Richard Schwartz, President of the JVNA, with the cooperation of several environmental groups and the leaders of the annual "Earth Day," held on Saturday, April 22nd, actively promoted the idea of religious communities celebrating that “Earth Day” weekend as an "Environmental Sabbath." Many copies of Noam Mohr’s report were distributed during that weekend, which also marked the beginning of a concentrated campaign to make people aware of the importance of eliminating animal foods for human consumption within the current generation in order to prevent the predicted impending catastrophe.

From that time, the group urged Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other religious groups to strongly recommend that their members eliminate animal products from their diets and take additional steps to respond to global warming and other environmental threats. This met with great success in many cases, as people became increasingly aware of the severe threats that humanity was facing. However, the momentum of population growth, the continued demand for more and more consumer goods in the United States and newly developing countries, and the increasing demand for animal products in China, Japan, and other countries where affluence was increasing proved too great to overcome.

By 2030, the global warming "tipping point" had been reached. Global temperatures began increasing at an accelerating and uncontrollable rate, although at that point, much of the world’s energy was coming from renewable non-polluting sources and hydrogen-fueled transportation had been almost universally adopted.

By 2050, half of the ice at both of the Earth’s poles had melted, raising sea levels 10 feet, and caused some coastal cities to become uninhabitable. Many of the world’s primary aquifers became dry after many decades of being overused to grow crops for farmed animal consumption. Severe fresh water shortages became worse as the rising seawater ruined water supplies in coastal areas. Mini-wars began to break out in many parts of the world over fresh water supplies.

By 2075, almost all of the ice at both of the Earth’s poles had melted, and sea levels had risen an additional 13 feet. All of the coastal cities became uninhabitable, and severe food shortages were occurring worldwide due to lack of clean water and the desertification of almost all of the world’s previous agriculturally productive land. One billion people each year around the world were starving to death with little hope in sight. To avoid starvation and flooding, people began a mass migration toward the Earth’s Polar Regions, where there was still some fresh water and agriculturally productive land.

By 2080, all of the remaining human population was concentrated in both polar areas and for the next five years, they were able to exist on a vegan diet that their ancestors in the first decades of the century rejected. Many still died from starvation, as the limited area they were living on could not sustain everyone.

But the uncontrolled global warming started to take its final toll. Rising temperatures over the next five years made the Polar Regions too hot to raise any food.

On Rosh Hashanah, 5850 (2090) the last human being alive on earth starves to death.

Simultaneously, on a planet in a distant galaxy, a newly-created Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden are commanded by Hashem:

"Behold, I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree, that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be yours for food."

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3. New “Kosher and Humane” Web Site Blasts Factory Farming Practices as Contrary to Jewish Teachings

JVNA is thinking of exchanging links with the new blog. Please take a look at it and let us know what you think. Thanks.

Forwarded message from

Hi. We've launched a new website/blog,, to discuss issues of tzaar baalei hayyim and our kosher food chain:

We very much want your input, and would also appreciate a link to our site and any shout outs you can give us. We'll be glad to link to your site as well.

Thank you for your help.

Kol Tuv,
The Team at

Below is some background material from the new website/blog:
New JBlog: Kosher And Humane is a new website/blog exploring the issues of "tzaar baalei hayyim and our kosher food chain." Here's a sample of the writing:

Does Jewish law – which commands owners to feed their animals before eating, and mandates humane treatment of animals – support what appears to be barbaric cruelty? If it does not, why are we eating these products, and why are rabbis endorsing them? … Does human desire (note: I wrote "desire," not "need") automatically trump tzaar baalei hayyim law? …

Should we care about animal welfare? Or is the comfort of our stomachs more important than the laws of our Torah?

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4. Article on Factory Farming Abuses/My Letter and a Response to it

American consumers abuse animals
By Matthew Brophy
March 22, 2006
Minnesota Daily

One day animal cruelty shall be held in the same regard as slavery in our nation's past.

John Doe, a local Minnesotan homeowner, was arrested Friday for the torture of animals. Inside his home, investigators found cats dangling upside down, some of them dead, some still painfully writhing with life. Dogs were jammed inside cages so tight that turning around or even lying down was impossible.

Interrogators learned that Doe conducted inhumane practices: castrating cats without anesthesia, searing the beaks off of canaries before locking them in overcrowded cages and imprisoning dogs in dark, crowded pens.

Psychologists would characterize Doe as a sociopath, capable of extreme cruelty and callous to animal suffering.

Truth be told, there is no actual one John Doe; there are many. The above abusive practices are commonplace in factory farms, which slaughter animals for meat on a massive scale. Instead of cats, dogs and canaries, the practice involves cows, pigs and chickens: animals of equal if not superior intellect and sentience.

We are supporting these legal yet unethical practices. If you go to McDonald's, Burger King, KFC or any other fast-food restaurant, you are eating meat that comes from factory farms. The vast majority of our meat comes from these industrial factories.

If you eat meat, you're asking meat suppliers to torture animals on your behalf. They're not torturing animals just for fun - they're doing it for the dollar in your outstretched hand. Who's more at fault, those who torture animals to make a buck or those who torture animals to save a buck?

As consumers, it's easy to deny moral responsibility. We feel we can spend our money however we choose. We can buy a burger with moral impunity; after all, we're not the ones torturing animals. We can buy cheap clothing from Wal-Mart; after all, we're not the ones enslaving children in sweatshops. We are innocent consumers; we are not the torturers, and we are not the slave masters.

We can rationalize all we want. In fact, human beings are ingenious when it comes to deflecting blame. In a famous psychology experiment, Stanley Milgram revealed that a significant majority of human beings will torture other human beings if an authority figure is present applying verbal pressure and assuming moral responsibility.

Consumer society is the authority that absolves us of all moral responsibility: Meat-eating is the norm. In fact, if you don't eat meat, you're un-American, a sissy, a hippie, a commie.

The societal pressure to eat meat overwhelms us. How easy it is to forget about the animals in industrial factories enduring torture in order to feed our hungry mouths. Our trivial lust for meat does not justify our inflicting severe suffering of animals. At the very least, we are complicit; it is for us [that] meat suppliers torture animals.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the animal cruelty of the meat industry shall be held in the same regard as slavery in our American past. Future generations will look back upon our present society's endorsement of animal torture as dark times of mass immorality. Perhaps it will be our great-grandchildren who will look at us with shocked expressions, wondering how we could have been a part of the widespread torture of animals.

The animal liberation movement is not extreme, just as the anti-slavery movement was not extreme. It is part of our moral ascension as beings with an ethical conscience. Ignorance toward animal cruelty is not an excuse. And callousness is not a justification.

The founder of the modern-day animal liberation movement, Peter Singer, will be speaking on our campus about our ethical responsibility toward animals. Singer is widely heralded as a philosopher, writer and activist. Time Magazine deemed him one of the top 100 most influential people on the planet.

Matthew Brophy is a University student. Please send comments to
My letter:

March 22, 2006

Editor, Minnesota Daily

Dear Editor,

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I want to strongly commend Matthew Brophy for his excellent article, "American consumers abuse animals," in which he discussed the many abuses of billions of animals on "factory farms." What makes the situation even more scandalous is that these animals are mistreated to produce foods that are causing an epidemic of heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases, and whose production significantly contributes to global warming, rapid loss of biological diversity, widening water shortages, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other important ecosystems, and other environmental threats. In addition, seventy percent of the grain produced in the United States and over a third of the grain produced worldwide is fed to animals destined for slaughter while an estimated 20 million people die annually worldwide due to hunger and its effects.

So, for a more humane, healthy, just, non-violent, and environmentally sustainable world, it is essential that there be a major shift towards plant-based diets.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Hey Richard,
Thanks so much for writing in to the MN Daily promoting plant-based
diets! As you may already know, the letter got published and will
hopefully raise awareness among the thousands of young readers of the
paper. You can view it at Thanks and stay in touch!

-Gil Schwartz

Gilbert Schwartz
Campaign Coordinator, Compassionate Action for Animals
300 Washington Ave SE, Rm. 126
Minneapolis, MN 55455

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5. Israeli Haredim (Fervently Orthodox Jews) Working Toward a Cleaner Environment

Forwarded article by Yosef Hakohen, preceded by his introductory comments:

Introduction: The following is an article from the Jerusalem Post about the Haredi (fervently Orthodox) community in Israel and the environment. The Haredi community includes Chassidim, members of the Lithuanian yeshiva world, Sephardim and Yemenite Jews. Some of the Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem which are mentioned in the article are actually very old neighborhoods which were built by Haredi Jews before the rise of the modern Zionist movement.

The attached article attempts to present a fair and balanced perspective on the relationship of the Haredi community to the environment, and for the most part, it succeeds in this attempt; however, it failed to mention Haredi Torah scholars - such as Rabbi Aryeh Carmell and Rabbi Yehudah Levi - who have written extensively on Torah and environmental issues. It also failed to mention that "Betar" - a Haredi city south of Jerusalem - has won awards from the Israeli government for urban planning which is sensitive to the environment. In addition, the article contains a couple of comments which are not entirely accurate, and the corrections or clarifications are to be found in brackets:

Sanctifying the environment
gail lichtman, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 16, 2006

If you think that the crowding, lack of greenery and garbage problems in Mea She'arim and the older haredi neighborhoods prove that haredim don't care about the environment, think again.

Shomera, an environmental group founded in Jerusalem's predominantly haredi neighborhood of Har Nof, is now one of the leaders in the fight to preserve the Jerusalem Forest and in promoting other environmental issues in the city. Ma'ayan Hahinuch, the Shas [Sephardi Haredi] school system, is developing an innovative school curriculum to teach environmental awareness in haredi schools. Beit Ya'acov, the Agudat Israel educational system for girls and women, has introduced continuing education courses on the environment for its teachers. And both Shomera and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) have responded to a growing interest in community gardens and clean-up campaigns in haredi neighborhoods around the city.

In part, this growing environmental awareness can be attributed to a trickle-down effect caused by the general increase in environmental awareness on the part of the overall Israeli public over the last 20 years It can also be attributed to the growing influence of Western haredim, mainly from English-speaking countries, who have brought higher levels of awareness and expectations of environmental cleanliness and aesthetics to Israel with them.

And the third factor is an emphasis on environmental issues spearheaded by Mayor Uri Lupolianski, the city's first haredi mayor and his haredi-led administration - an emphasis that has led to the availability of city funding for environmental projects in the haredi community.

Even though the haredi population in 2005 constituted only 11.7 percent of the overall population of Israel, the community comprises some 30% of Jerusalem's 700,000 residents.

In a groundbreaking study, "Haredi Community and Environmental Quality," published in 2003 by The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, authors Prof. Yosseph Shilhav of Bar-Ilan University's Geography Department, and environmental planner Moti Kaplan examined the haredi communities' attitudes towards the environment.

The study dispelled the stereotypical premise that there is a correlation between the religious character of certain Jerusalem neighborhoods and their levels of greenery, amount of open space and/or cleanliness. The only correlation, the authors found, is the socioeconomic one. "If we look at neighborhoods on the same socioeconomic level, we will see similar levels of greenery, open spaces and cleanliness," states Shilhav.

Those haredi neighborhoods whose population is of a low socioeconomic status have correspondingly low levels of greenery, lack of open spaces and problems of cleanliness corresponding to other low socioeconomic neighborhoods in the city.

Newer haredi neighborhoods, with higher socioeconomic populations, correspond to similar more upscale "secular" neighborhoods.

As for the less-than-clean appearance of city streets in some haredi neighborhoods, the report states that, "Experience shows that if the municipality cleans and renovates the streets… the residents continue to maintain cleanliness… The high population density and demographic structure of the haredi population generate large amounts of refuse, which must be removed frequently. If the municipality invests in cleaning and garbage disposal, the residents show their appreciation by assisting the effort."

"There is nothing particular about the haredi population that leads to neighborhood neglect," states Akiva Wolff, head of the Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility's Environmental Response Unit at the Jerusalem College of Technology - Machon Lev, and one of the researchers for the Jerusalem Institute study.

"It is mostly a factor of poverty and densely populated neighborhoods with lots of kids."

That said; the study also found that there are certain features that distinguish the haredi attitude to the environment from that of the general public and these have contributed to a slower awakening to the issue.

Despite numerous Jewish sources relating to humans' relationship to the environment, Diaspora Jewish life showed a certain disregard towards the environment.

The fact that, in exile, the Jewish people lacked a territory was one reason for this disregard. The other was that after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish people turned inward to Torah study, which elevates the spiritual over the material. [Torah study was also emphasized before the destruction of the Second Temple.] In addition, the haredi community, which has its roots in a densely populated, Eastern European, urban environment, devoid of greenery, simply followed the same pattern of living in Israel. [There were some haredim, however, who came from villages in rural areas.]

As the environmental movement in Israel developed, the haredi community came to see it as liberal and left wing. Many environmental events take place on Shabbat, when haredim cannot participate. Secular environmentalists also tend to have what the report terms a naturocentric conception in which nature is viewed as an entity in its own right, with a dimension equal to that of mankind. The traditional Jewish approach, the report argues, is an anthropocentric approach, in which mankind is the be-all and end-all. Therefore, some religious Jews view the secular approach as a form of paganism, a kind of "worship of the land."

"Haredim do not treat the environment as a value per se or in a quasi-religious manner as environmentalists do," the report notes. "Their attitude is strictly instrumental." [The practical approach of Haredi environmental activists is influenced by Torah teachings and mitzvos regarding the environment. For example, the Torah teaches that the earth and its resources belong to the Creator, and that human beings are only the custodians. In this spirit, Haredi farmers do not work the land on the Sabbath and during the Sabbatical year.]

And it is exactly this practical attitude that speaks to the community.

Eight years ago, Tamar Gindis, an American immigrant living in Har Nof, co-founded the non-profit organization Shomera Lesviva Tova (Guardians for a Good Environment), in response to a specific threat to the neighborhood - the planned Route 16 road that would run through the Jerusalem Forest.

"I put an ad in the neighborhood newspaper asking for those concerned to contact me," she recalls. "That's how it all started."

She was joined by her neighbor, Moshe Kempinski, another English speaker, who was concerned about the building of an old-age home on the edge of the Jerusalem Forest that would destroy the local view and intrude on the forest.

They started to work on these two issues, which were later joined by others. "The fact that our quality of life was threatened allowed us to bridge unbridgeable gaps," Kempinski explains. "Suddenly, the environment came into the community's awareness. And this awareness gave birth to all kinds of projects."

"When I first started, I was made to feel that what I was doing was nice but not essential," Gindis says. "People would tell me that it was hitzoni [external] and not ruhani [spiritual], not the focus of their lives.

Slowly but surely the community began to wake up to environmental issues. Now, our community administration [minhal kehilati] even has a special position to deal with the environment."

Shomera also sponsors tours conducted by haredi tour leaders.

"I got interested in the environment because of the filth," explains Tehilla Cohen, a former student at the Beit Ya'acov Institute for Teachers and a tour guide. "This is our country and if we don't want to live in a jungle, we have to act. The environment is a one-way ticket. If we ruin it, there is no way back."

Four years ago, Cohen decided to direct her energies and teaching skills to conducting tours, mainly for families and school groups.

"When I give my tours, I include environmental issues such as ecological balance and keeping the environment clean. Sometimes I feel no one is listening. But more and more, there is awareness. I feel the seeds are being planted and something will come out of this in the future."

Shlomo Buskilha, a former teacher, has been conducting haredi tours for the past five years, many for Shomera. "Awareness of preserving the environment is very low in the haredi community. I have to explain even the simplest concepts. I am even asked why it is important that the forest not be paved over… This is really a shame. The haredi community could make the environment its flagship issue. This is a universal issue that would be good for us to promote, especially since we are often perceived as only being concerned with issues particular to our community."

Yael, a mother from Har Nof, regularly takes part in Shomera tours, often bringing seven of her children with her. "It is important to connect the children to Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and [these tours] do it in a way they really enjoy."

Today, Shomera is a leading player, along with the municipality, in environmental programs for the haredi community. These efforts include development and preservation of the Jerusalem Forest, nature tours, educational programs for schoolchildren, teacher training, adult gardening courses, community gardens, horticulture therapy, community clean-ups, workshops, lectures, support for publication of books and articles on Judaism and the environment and information campaigns on environmental issues such as water conservation, recycling, etc.

Shomera has even a proposed project for recycling mikve (ritual bath) waters to be used for watering the forest and public parks.

The organization has also moved beyond the haredi community into the general public and has a mixed staff ranging from haredim to secular, "so we can be more responsive to different communities," Gindis says.

In 2004, working with the municipality's haredi education department, Shomera helped implement an environmental gardening and beautification pilot project in 10 haredi schools, involving some 8,000 students.

"We worked on developing a curriculum accompanied by a practical project that would have ramifications not just on the school but also on the surrounding neighborhood and connect the school with the community and the local community administration," says Gershon Binet, acting director of the haredi education department.

Lekach - The Haredi Learning Center in Jerusalem, the haredi branch of the Jerusalem Association of Community Councils and Centers Ltd., designed a curriculum that draws on the Jewish sources and can be used in both boys' and girls' schools.

Binet also takes a practical approach, seeing environmental studies as a tool towards furthering studies. He uses the words cleanliness, aesthetics and beautification far more often than environment.

"We see aesthetics and cleanliness as religious mitzvot," Binet continues. "The talmid hacham [scholar] has to look neat and clean. More aesthetic surroundings contribute to better learning. So this is not just education for cleanliness but also for a better learning atmosphere."

Binet chose large schools in different socioeconomic neighborhoods. The program includes preparation of a booklet with the Jewish sources because "this is what speaks to our population," plus lesson plans for the teachers.

On the practical side, there are clean-ups, improving the appearance of school buildings, gardening and composting.

This year, the project was expanded to 35 haredi schools, with some 15,000 students.

In another project with the Beit Ya'acov Institute for Teachers, Shomera helped put together a program for teachers in Beit Ya'acov schools.

"Shomera came to us and suggested a program," says Chaya Kiel, director of continuing education at the Beit Ya'acov Institute. "We started last year with some 40 teachers and this year we anticipate 80 general teachers, and 15 students in our institute."

The program provides courses for teachers designed to strengthen their awareness of the environment and give them the tools to teach this subject in their schools. The individual schools decide whether to teach environmental studies as a stand-alone subject or integrated into another subject.

"There is no doubt that the program is having an impact," Kiel continues. "It is still too early to see the full effect but we are hearing from our teachers how they are introducing it into their schools and have already had clean-ups."

Last year, S., a high-school teacher in the Beit Ya'acov network, finished the course, which involved classes twice a week over a period of three months.

"The course taught me awareness of the environment," she says. "The material was presented in concentrated form, including facts and figures. Even though I had read about the issues before, I did not have the kind of knowledge I now have. This enabled me to introduce the subject into my lessons. I connect the material to the Jewish sources."

S. continues, "I also gained a greater awareness of the environment on a personal level, especially with respect to my use of disposable products. I would like to see greater awareness of green issues in my neighborhood. We need to keep the neighborhood cleaner - although I also think the city has to do more."

Two years ago, the Romema local community administration approached the SPNI to help establish a community garden. At first, the program was developed as a community activity for teenage girls. SPNI taught the girls how to plant and tend an ecological garden, growing herbs, vegetables and flowers.

Today, the project has been taken over by children and pensioners.

"The community is continuing with this project on its own," says Amanda Lind, SPNI Jerusalem branch project coordinator. "We see ourselves as catalysts - we teach, guide, lead and then turn over to the community to run on its own."

By far the most ambitious project, and one spurred by an NIS 100,000 grant from the municipality, is the development of a haredi curriculum on the environment by Ma'ayan Hahinuch's Pedagogic Center, which was implemented this year as a pilot project in 10 Jerusalem schools.

"There are two aspects to this curriculum," explains Gabriel Cohen, director of the Pedagogic Center. "One is the emphasis on practical aesthetics - personal neatness, clean schools and clean communities. And the other is environmental education in the broad sense of the word - ecology, recycling, air and water quality, noise, etc. - concepts that the haredi world doesn't really have.

"There was a definite need to develop a curriculum for the haredi schools," Cohen continues. "We see this curriculum not just for our schools in Jerusalem but for haredi schools throughout the country. Next year, we are looking to go national with the program."

The curriculum is instructional and interactive, integrating practical activities such a recycling, planting gardens and clean-ups with theoretical and Jewish source material.

The center also has developed special workbooks for both teachers and pupils.

Because of the different nature of studies for boys and girls in haredi schools, two different approaches were developed.

"We tie the environment in with Halacha [Torah law]," Cohen explains. "And because we are looking at the environment from a Jewish point of view, was have called our program Derech Ben Melech [the King's Highway]. Our symbol is a crown with the slogan - I cleaned, I made order, I sanctified Hashem [God]." Each pilot school has an ecological corner decorated with attractive placards, noting the various aspects of the program. Different classes are given responsibility for garbage collection, composting, gardening, etc. The center is also working on developing a slide program.

"I was surprised at how well our schools have received this curriculum," Cohen notes. "This is a completely new area for us. All that goes on in the larger secular society concerning the environment filters down to us. So this concept is falling upon fertile ground. And the fact that we link it to the Jewish sources enables our schools to connect to the topic."

"There is an awakening in the haredi community to this issue that started a number of years ago," explains Shilhav. "We could see this already in our 2003 study. The more haredim go out of their ghettos into new communities, the more interest there is in the environment. As the haredi community becomes more involved in politics and administration, it is exposed more to environmental issues."

"There has been a revolution in the community compared to only a few years ago. I am sure that the haredim will be occupying more space on the environmental hard drive in the future," concludes Wolff.

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7. Animal Rights Activist/JVNA Advisor Interviewed

Forwarded message from David Cantor, Director of Responsible Policies for Animals /Please cross-post freely.

Dear Responsible Policies for Animals Members & Friends,

An extensive animal rights interview has just been posted online that I hope will interest you: “The David Cantor and Responsible Policies for Animals Inc. Interview.”

You can access it by going to and scrolling down the home page a little ways or by going directly to the interview here.

The Abolitionist Online, a much-needed new publication, shares Responsible Policies for Animals’ (RPA’s) objective of seeing animal activists rededicate themselves to the struggle to establish legal rights for all sentient beings – the goal of the animal rights movement.

Like RPA, The Abolitionist Online helps explain why no amount of activity that merely seeks to improve the animal welfare status quo can ever lead to animal rights and why saving more animals than are doomed under the human boot is only possible when the animals get their legal rights and are no longer property of humans.

The interview describes the RPA dream in more detail than anywhere else to date. Crucial is the mix needed in animal rights education: The basic un-refuted argument suffices ethically – nonhuman animals have moral rights that humans should respect because they are sentient (they experience their lives and can suffer), but their legal rights require fundamental change that will only occur when human beings realize how beneficial the results will be for humanity. People will live much better lives when animal exploitation and abuse end and our species adopts humane ways of life.

You might wish to glance at the interview to see if you’ll want to read it in its entirety. It is extensive! It took months to complete. I hope you will find it unique and original and will wish to share it with others. If you would like RPA to mail you a hard copy, just let me know. Of course, let’s discuss any aspect of the interview that might interest, intrigue, puzzle, or concern you.

And please explore the rest of The Abolitionist Online and tell friends about the zine. It provides important articles and interviews you won’t find anywhere else.

Thank you for considering reading the Abolitionist Online interview, for your efforts for the animals and their ecosystems, and for supporting Responsible Policies for Animals. Don’t hesitate to do the impossible: It’s been done before, and it will be done again – if we do it together.

Best wishes,
David Cantor

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9. Bird Flu Update

Bird flu likely in US this year
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER - Tuesday, March 21, 2006
More testing as bird flu expected this year in U.S.

WASHINGTON -- Bird flu is likely to arrive this year in the United States, with the increased testing of tens of thousands of wild birds expected to reveal dozens of suspected cases, the Bush administration said Monday.

Officials will test 75,000 to 100,000 wild birds this year, or nearly six times the number screened since 1998, according to a government plan finalized Monday. The government also plans to quarantine and destroy any poultry flocks where the virus appears.

The wild bird testing could reveal 20 to 100 suspected cases of bird flu, although follow-up testing is likely to reveal "dozens" are false alarms, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said. The emphasis will be on Alaska and other spots along the Pacific flyway, a common route that migratory birds follow into the United States, possibly carrying the virus as they do. Tests will also be run on 50,000 water and bird-dropping samples from waterfowl habitats, the government said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt stressed that people are not yet at risk from the virus, which has ravaged wild and domestic birds alike in Asia, Africa and Europe.

"At this point, if you're a bird, it's a pandemic. If you're a human, it's not a pandemic," Leavitt said.

Norton said that while officials plan to announce any positive tests for bird flu, it will take another five to 10 days for the Agriculture Department's laboratory to confirm the results.

"This is a disease of birds and not humans, at this point. Finding a bird with the disease does not signal a pandemic," Norton said.
Human cases of bird flu have been rare, but scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form easily spread among people, sparking a worldwide epidemic.

Officials also worry the virus might spread from wild birds to the nearly 10 billion chickens raised each year in the United States. Authorities say cooking kills the virus and it is safe to eat properly handled and cooked poultry.

Commercial poultry companies already test every flock for bird flu. If the deadly virus shows up in a commercial bird, the entire flock would be quarantined and killed, and the area would be disinfected. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said the government would compensate farmers for their destroyed flocks.

Unlike in many of the countries affected by bird flu, the United States has a highly consolidated, $29 billion poultry industry that raises the majority of its birds in controlled, indoor facilities. That minimizes contact between wild and domestic birds.

While the deadly strain of the virus has not yet been found in the United States, other strains have. Birds, like humans, have a flu season. Less virulent "low-pathogenic" flu viruses are common. But three times -- in 1924, 1983 and 2004 -- a lethal, "highly pathogenic" strain has emerged in the United States.

In a related development, a federal study says the bird flu virus is mutating into more variations with genetic characteristics that increase the risk of infection in humans.

Researchers are finding more human cases of the disease caused by a variant that had only been seen in birds before 2005, said Rebecca Garten, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist who led the study. The research was presented Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.

"As the virus continues its geographic expansion, it is also undergoing genetic diversity expansion," Garten said in an e-mailed statement before the conference. "Change is the only constant."

The virus, called H5N1, has spread from Asia to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. At least 177 people have caught the flu, and 98 of them have died.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and Bloomberg.
© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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10. Meatout 2006 Observance Breaks US and World Records

Forwarded message from FARM (Farm Animal reform Movement):


A thousand communities in all 50 states and 28 other countries welcomed spring this week, with colorful educational events ranging from information tables, exhibits, and lectures to cooking demonstrations, receptions, and elaborate “lifestivals.” Visitors were asked to “kick the meat habit on March 20 (first day of spring) and to explore a nonviolent, wholesome diet of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.” The observance had widespread support from celebrity entertainers, health authorities, public officials, and the media.

International Meatout observances have been coordinated since 1985 by FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement), a nonprofit educational organization in the nation’s capital. This year’s observance was co-sponsored by In Defense of Animals and Vegetarian Times, with support from PETA. Community events are arranged by local consumer and animal protection groups.

Lifestivals, featuring live bands, speakers, food samples, exhibits, and literature, were held in San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Boston, Knoxville, Atlanta, and San Juan. More than 10,000 were expected at the Seattle event. Nearly 300 staffers were treated to a vegan lunch and literature at the annual Congressional Meatout Reception in the nation’s capital.

Activists distributed samples of wholesome, nonviolent veggie burgers, soy dogs, and “chicken” nuggets in front of scores of KFC and other fast food outlets. At a Michigan KFC outlet, a “policeman” arrested a knife-wielding "Col. Sanders" for his role in crippling and torturing millions of chickens. Several Meatout walks called public attention to the Meatout message.

Forty U.S. universities arranged information tables, exhibits, lectures, and meat-free dining halls. These included Alabama, American, Arizona, Brigham Young, Colorado, Florida, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia, Harvard, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northwestern, Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, Stanford, Syracuse, Utah, Utah State, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Elementary and high school teachers held special classes on the benefits of plant-based eating. Humane societies and animal sanctuaries throughout the U.S. offered Veg Starter Kits to visitors.

Hundreds of giant billboards and bus cards in ten major metropolitan areas, along with scores of letters to editor and media interviews, carried the Meatout message to millions.

Seventeen governors and mayors issued Meatout proclamations promoting consumption of vegetables, fruits, and grains. The All-Yours greeting card company designed a set of special Meatout greeting cards. Celebrity headliners included Casey Kasem, Joaquin Phoenix, James Cromwell, Mary Tyler-Moore, Ed Asner, Jennie Garth, and Bill Maher.

A record 28 other countries took part in this year’s Meatout observance. Canada, Croatia, England, Germany, and India held multiple events. Irish activists simulated a bird flu die-in. Spanish activists were displayed in a public square inside meat-like plastic trays. France and Germany built their own Meatout web sites. Other participating countries were Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Tanzania, Thailand, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.

FARM -10101 Ashburton Lane, Bethesda, MD 20817

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