May 13, 2006

5/14/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Are Jews Obligated To Be Environmental Activists?

2. Material sought for a Special Book Review Issue of the JVNA Newsletter

3. A Major Jewish Outlet For Our Messages

4. Another Review of the Global Warming Movie "An Inconvenient Truth"

5. "Sacred Foods Conference" Scheduled

6. Is the Future of the World "In Our Hands"?

9. Muslims Protest Mistreatment of Animals

10. Challenging Letter on Vegetarianism by Roberta Kalechofsky

14. Lewis Regenstein Article on Jewish Teachings on Animals Published in Atlanta Jewish Weekly

15. Suing Schools for Mis-educating Students About Meat Consumption

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, 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. Are Jews Obligated To Be Environmental Activists?

The following dvar Torah was in the latest Canfei Nesharim newsletter. I think it deserves widespread consideration as it eloquently explains why Jews should be actively involved in trying to reduce environmental threats. More material from the Canfei Nesharim newsletter is below. I have edited the dvar Torah very slightly.

Earth Day and the Ethical Obligation to Protect the Earth
By: Candace Nachman

Candace Nachman has a MA in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She currently works on the Maritime Boundary Project at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Coast Survey. She is also very active with the "Green Group" at Kesher Israel Congregation in Georgetown, Washington, DC.

Thirty-six years ago, the first Earth Day was observed in the United States. Twenty million people, 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 grammar and high schools and 1,000 communities mobilized for the first nationwide demonstrations on environmental problems. The response was nothing short of remarkable, and the modern American environmental movement took off. What does this have to do with the Torah? As Orthodox Jews, do we have a moral and ethical obligation to protect the Earth?

The shortest answer I can give is this: G-d created the universe. Hashem is the one who created all the flora and fauna that we use for our existence. In Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 2 verse 15, it states, "G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and watch it." This should be our first clue that the land is not ours. The Torah uses the word shamra from the root of shomer to watch or to guard. We are merely leasing this land from G-d. The specific type of lease we have on the Earth is that of a sho'el, a borrower.

According to the Shulkhan Aruch, borrowers may use any part of what they borrow -- but they must ensure that, at the end of the term of the lease, and at any given moment during the lease, the property is at least as valuable as it was at the beginning (See, e.g. Shulkhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 291, 292). The modern day sustainability criterion that has been articulated follows very closely with the idea first put forth by the Rabbis. The modern criterion requires that resource use by any generation should not exceed a level that would prevent future generations from achieving a level of well-being at least as great. Environmental protection is required so as not to destroy G-d's Earth.

The rabbis of the mishnaic and Talmudic era understood Hashem's role in providing us with nature's wonders. They developed blessings for seeing a rainbow, upon experiencing a natural disaster, at the sight of a mountain, or hearing a clash of thunder. The Talmudic sages are the ones who first added the ritual of Kiddush Levanah, a blessing for the renewal of the moon. All this once again reaffirms the notation that Judaism's worldview is theocentric and not anthropocentric.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, three things are of equal importance: earth, humans, and rain. Rabbi Levi ben Hiyyata said:…to teach that without earth, there is no rain, and without rain, the earth cannot endure, and without either, humans cannot exist (Genesis Rabbah, 13:3). We exist in a very intricate balance with the Earth. Any disturbances cause major upsets as can be seen in today's world. Category 4 and 5 storms have doubled in the last 30 years, and according to the NOAA Weather Service, this cycle of severe storms will continue for many years to come.

A healthy environment in turn allows for healthy humans. The great sage Maimonides, who was also a physician, saw the ill effects environmental degradation could have on human health, and he proposed regulations to counter them in his Treatise on Asthma. Rabbi Yitzhak ben Sheshet of the early fourteenth century wrote responsa on the topic of noise pollution and its effects on urban dwellers. These are all topics which can be seen in environmental court cases in this country over the last century.

We are losing Earth's greatest biological treasures just as we are beginning to appreciate their true value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years. Experts estimate that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists (

We cannot allow this destruction to continue. And, more importantly, we cannot sit back and do nothing to change our current path. I would like to share a midrash from Parashat Noach with you. "When Noah came out of the ark, he opened his eyes and saw the whole world completely destroyed. He began crying for the world and said, God, how could you have done this? ... God replied, Oh Noah, how different you are from the way Abraham ... will be. He will argue with me on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah when I tell him that I plan their destruction... But you, Noah, when I told you I would destroy the entire world, I lingered and delayed, so that you would speak on behalf of the world. But when you knew you would be safe in the ark, the evil of the world did not touch you. You thought of no one but your family. And now you complain? Then Noah knew that he had sinned" (Midrash Tankhuma, Parashat Noach). We hear and see the warnings of destruction today-global warming, overfishing, drought and famine-yet we do not fight for change. We ensure that we are alright, that we have enough to eat and that our homes are safe from the storm, and then call it a day. In this way we are no different from Noach.

The task of repairing the environment and returning it to a completely healthy state certainly cannot be achieved overnight. However, this should not be a free pass to do nothing. As Rabbi Tarfon says, "We are not obligated to complete the task; neither are we free to abstain from it" (Pirke Avot, 2:21). But this is not an easy task ahead of us. So where do we begin? In Hilchot Teshuva, Maimonides states the following regarding preparing for the High Holidays: "As one approaches the Days of Awe, one should consider the entire world as if it were exactly balanced between acts of righteousness and evil. The very next action you take, therefore, can save or condemn the world."

Only buy [more than] you need. Don't waste. Reuse and recycle the products you do buy. Turn off lights and appliances when you are not using them. Educate yourself on the issues by reading books and articles and watching documentaries. Then, take what you learn and tell it to others. On a bigger scale, you can commit to supporting a project that is working to improve life in a place suffering from poverty and environmental degradation. Another option is to become an environmental vegetarian or environmentally-conscious consumer. More than 70% of the grain grown in the US goes to feed livestock. The livestock flesh, in turn, will feed far fewer people than the feed that went into it. If all the grain grown for livestock were consumed directly by people, it would feed five times as many people as it does when fed to animals (S.V. Tahl). Only buy sustainable seafood. Do not consume species of fish that are overexploited. [If anyone would like me to send them a copy of my cover article on why people should not eat fish, please let me know.] Support organic farms. Their crop production is far less harmful to the environment.

I am not asking you to change the world tomorrow, and I certainly do not want you to believe that you must go the road alone. Judaism is a religion based on community. We come together for a bris when a boy is born. We need a minyan to pray. Even in death we come together as a community to console the mourners. Why then can we not make protecting the environment a communal Jewish effort as well?

As it says in Midrash Kohelet Rabbah: "When G-d created the first human beings, G-d led them around the Garden of Eden and said: 'Look at my works! See how beautiful they are-how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.'"

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2. Material sought for a Special Book Review Issue of the JVNA Newsletter

I have received some very interesting books in the last six months or so, but I have not had a chance to review them. I would like to produce a special JVNA newsletter in the next month or two that will consider many recent books that consider vegetarianism, animal rights, health, environmental problems, and related issues. I plan to write some book reviews and will also consider material that you send me. I hope that readers will use the book reviews and other material to choose books to read that will help them better understand the issues and become more effective activists.

So, please send me material that you think should be included or considered in this special JVNA newsletter. Thanks.

And I apologize to those whose books I have received but have not had a chance yet to review,

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3. A Major Jewish Outlet For Our Messages

The message below is from Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious action Center (RAC), the social action unit of the Union of Reformed Jews (URJ). Since there are many Reform Jews who are very concerned about environmental, animal rights, health and other current issues, I believe strongly that we should actively participate at their web site and to their blogs as the message below invites us to do. I have already posted a response to the article on Al Gore’s new film "An Inconvenient Truth" (see the next item), which is at their web site. Please join in the discussion. And let us please seek ways of doing similar things at Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other Jewish web sites and blog sites.
Dear Friends,

After months of conversations and consultations - and lots of terrific
work by Sean Thibault, our web manager, and Alexis Rice, our former
director of communications - I am pleased to let you know that the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has launched a new
design for our home page and blog.

The RAC Blog, quickly emerging as one of the most popular features on our site, sports a new look, including bios of our contributors, as well as new capability that enables us to use many features that have become standard on blogs: comments, so-called "permalinks," and RSS feeds. We're taking this opportunity to invite you to submit blog postings to us that we can share with our readers.

Our website,, long has been the hub of Jewish social justice online. Strengthening our efforts in advocacy, awareness, and activism, our new design will encourage users to access those elements and features that can be of most use to them, while continuing to support Reform Jewish values and perspectives on pressing issues. Further, we can more appropriately highlight features and new resources on our site that help build the crucial relationships that have made our social justice work so valuable.

We hope that you can take a moment to visit and explore our page, including the blog. We would love to hear your feedback, and there is even a handy form on the website for that very purpose! Please enjoy, and we hope that by improving our presence on the web, we can make it easier for your voice to be amplified.

We are very grateful for your support of the RAC, which enables us to continue to improve our communications.

If you have any technical or other questions about the site, please feel free to Contact Us.

Rabbi David Saperstein

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4. Another Review of the Global Warming Movie "An Inconvenient Truth"

As indicated in the previous item, the following review is from the Religious action Center (RAC) web site. Please go to that site and post a comment. Thanks. Also, once again, please attend this movie shortly after it opens and please encourage many others to see it.

*** If you have suggestions re material for a flyer to be handed out at showings of the movie, please let me know. Thanks. ***

Al Gore: Matinee Idol

David Morrill Schlitt is a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City.

If an episode of Family Feud were to feature the category "Boring Things to Feature in a Wide-Release Film," one could imagine a high-ranking response being something like "Industrial-Grade Adhesives" or "A Slideshow." But the top-ranked answer, naturally, would be "Al Gore." As it happens, a movie starring both Al Gore and a slideshow will be coming to a theater near you in just a few months (Industrial-grade adhesives were conspicuously absent from the production). And amazingly, this film, An Inconvenient Truth, may be one of the most engaging movies to come out of Hollywood this year. (reviewer’s emphasis)

On Wednesday, April 26th, I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of An Inconvenient Truth ,arranged for environmental policy wonks, followed by a question-and-answer period with Vice President Gore and Davis Guggenheim, the director. The former-Veep was witty and engaging during the Q&A as he had the demeanor of a man grateful to be freed from the neutered vocabulary of the campaigning politician. And the movie’s tone exhibited a similar sort of passion.

An Inconvenient Truth chronicles the former Vice President’s efforts to raise awareness about climate change by barnstorming the globe and delivering a presentation he modestly refers to as his slideshow. In reality, Gore’s "slideshow" is a sophisticated production (complete with an original Futurama short) that lays out the science behind climate change and makes the case for an urgent and dramatic response. In An Inconvenient Truth, we see a side of Al Gore that many of us may not be used to: He’s both inspiring and inspired, and even funny and cool (albeit in the same way that your father the podiatrist is funny and cool).
Oh, and also: An Inconvenient Truth is scare-off-your-pants-terrifying. [reviewer’s emphaisis] I work on environmental issues at the RAC, I spend a lot of my time working on climate change, I figured I had this stuff pretty much down, but An Inconvenient Truth changed the way I looked at the problem. Thanks to the film’s power and clarity, I left the theater with a renewed sense of urgency regarding climate change. The film’s website is helpful enough to offer some very useful ways to act on that sense of mission. The site also has links to the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth, for those of you that like your movies two minutes long and tiny.

"Climate change," said Gore in the Q&A, "is not a partisan issue: it’s a moral issue -- the defining moral issue of our time." And the Veep, now done with politics, now a full-time advocate, calls on us to meet this challenge as a whole new Greatest Generation. That’s an epic mission he is charging us with. Except, instead of fighting in deadly hand-to-hand combat on the beaches of the Marianas Islands, we get to start out by watching a really neat movie. An Inconvenient Truth will be coming to theaters on June 2nd. {Actually on May 24]

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5. "Sacred Foods Conference" Scheduled

Forwarded message from JVNA advisor and agricultural expert Professor Joe Regenstein:

[It would be great if one or more people on this list attended and sought to have vegetarianism considered in discussion of "sacred food."]

Please join us at the Sacred Foods Conference. We hope you will join other leaders involved working on issues of food, faith and sustainability for this unique event.

The program (see below) will look at how the Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions address issues of food, health and agriculture. We’ll also explore how religion is become an increasingly important force in the marketplace. Conference workshops will focus on the relationship between religion and contemporary issues such as business ethics, social justice, animal welfare, and sustainability. The Sacred Foods Conference also provides those working at faith-based institutions such as schools, hospitals and universities with an opportunity to learn about how to link business practices together and religious teachings.

This years Sacred Foods conference will be held at the Garrison Institute in New York on Wednesday June 7 and Thursday June 8.

Registration materials and other information are available at

The Sacred Foods Project is an interfaith effort of religious institutions, civic organizations and members of the food industry to define and promote sustainable and healthy food and improve the quality of our land, air, water and the treatment of agricultural workers. Project partners include ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Faith in Place, the Food Alliance, the Islamic Society of North America, the National Council of Churches, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, and the Shalom Center. Inquiries about sponsoring or exhibiting at the conference should be directed to Arlin Wasserman

Sacred Foods Conference [Excerpts]
Keynote and Plenary Programming
Wednesday, June 7

9:00 Opening Prayer (Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin) (Garrison Hall)
Welcome, Introduction and the 8 Dimensions (D. Kolodny and MC for conference)

Perspectives on Faith, Food and Justice (Garrison Hall)
Bernie Evans (St. Johns Univeristy), Lucas Benitez (Imoklee Workers), Kirk Mustain (University of Portland), A. Wasserman, moderator
Religious perspectives and advice in support of ethics, public health, social benefits, animal welfare, and agriculture and the environment
11 am – 11:45 (Garrison Hall)
Faith, Food and the Consumer Marketplace
Jenny Zenner (Hartman Group), with intro by Arlin Wasserman
Consumer and social trends regarding religion in the marketplace including consumer insights and forecasts about the market for religious certified foods and the market for foods aimed at religious individuals.

12:00-1:15 LUNCH/ Prayer (Dhuhr Salat) (Dining Hall)

1:15 to 2:30
Panel: Religious and Secular Certification Standards
Scott Exo (presenter/moderator), Mazhar Hussaini, Joe Regenstein
What are the current standards for kosher and halal certifications? How do they relate to organic, Food Alliance, Fair Trade and other secular stands standards? How does the certification and inspection process work and what innovations are underway?

2:15-3:45 Discussion Groups: What is Sacred Food?

4:15-5:45 (Garrison Hall)
Defining Sacred Food: Report on Small Group Discussion

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6. Is the Future of the World "In Our Hands"?

In Our Hands
By Tali Lavie

Planet earth is warming up and becoming polluted, and the lives of animals, human and non-human, are in danger of extinction. How can each one of us make a personal contribution to save the earth?

A few days ago, my aunt announced that she must go shopping, and asked for my help, so we went to the "civilization of consumers" sanctuary, the mall. We drove there - a ten minute walk from her house - in her impressive car, which is really economical, she said, because "the gas is free, it's acompany car".

In the supermarket, she packed the groceries she purchased in plastic bags, and took a few extra, since "it's good to have some at home". We sat in the fast food area, where she ate a greasy hamburger and threw away the glass bottle she drank from, while asserting that the environment is the most important topic of our time, because it concerns our future, the health of our children, the fate of animals, and so on.

When I asked her if she does anything about the subject, she answered with surprise: "of course, I voted for the Green Party".

The facts of global warming and pollution are well-known and undisputed. Every day, more regions experience starvation and drought. Numerous species of animals are in danger of extinction, the result of pollution. One third of the amphibian population (frogs, toads, salamanders, triturus – aquatic salamanders) that existed before dinosaurs, and that survived a variety of challenges to their existence over time are suddenly endangered, primarily due to pollution. Many speak of the severe consequences of the green house effect, which apply to human as well as non-human animals. Melting icebergs are drastically reducing polar bears' habitat, for example.

The causes of environmental destruction are varied and complex, but it is obvious that the choices we each make play an important role. For some reason, it seems that the choices most of us make are unconnected with our supposed green awareness, which seems to remain mostly theoretical. At the same time as my aunt was telling me about the importance of preserving the environment, she was choosing to use plastic bags, rather than bring easy-to-obtain, multi-purpose cloth bags along on the planned shopping trip.

This "revolutionary" idea hit me when, without thinking, I found myself looking for plastic bags at the end of a shopping trip to one of the big grocery store chains in New-Zealand, and realized, with surprise, that they are not offered free to the public. Instead, multi-purpose cardboard boxes are provided, and plastic bags must be purchased. The cost of the bags is symbolic, but it helps remind people of the environmental damage caused by this waste. So simple.

Children are the hope

My aunt's choice of lunch completely disregarded the damage caused to the environment by the meat production industry. This industry contributes significantly to global warming through harmful green house gases emissions. Cows emit methane gas. Actually, thirty per cent of methane gas emissions come from cows, goats and sheep.

Another green house gas, carbon dioxide, is released into the atmosphere when forests are burned. Vast tracts of forest are being burned to make grazing land for cattle, and to grow crops to feed animals destined for slaughter. In Latin America, over 50 million acres of tropical rain forest have already been "converted" to grazing land for cows. Since 1960, more than one third of Central American forests have been eliminated, replaced by cow pastures.

Damage to the environment is also caused by fertilizers used in the meat
production industry, which produce a tremendous amount of nitrogenous oxide. Our water reservoirs are damaged by our reliance on meat, as well. A meat-based diet consumes a much larger amount of water than a vegetarian or vegan diet.

While it takes only 90 liters of water to produce half a kilogram of
potatoes, over 7,500 liters of water are required to produce the same amount of beef, if the amount of water used throughout the process is considered. Scientists say that a meat-based diet requires 14 times more water than a vegan diet. Reducing meat production is only one example of a choice we can make that will affect the entire ecological system.

My personal hope is that the spirit of change will come from today's youth. In my cousin's kindergarten, this year was declared the Year of Recycling. He is three and a half years old, but separates trash more than most adults around him. This definitely leaves room for optimism. Let us hope that by the time the children grow up to lead a real environmental revolution, there will be something left to save.

The author, Tali Lavie is the spokesperson of Hakol Chai, the Israeli sister charity of the U.S.-based Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI).

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9. Muslims Protest Mistreatment of Animals

Muslims Urge Stop to Inhumane Animal Slaughter
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

WASHINGTON, 3 May 2006 - A group of Muslim women demonstrated outside the Australian Embassy in Washington recently to protest the mistreatment of animals exported from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa for slaughter.

The protesters said that the horrific abuse of these sheep and cattle is in direct violation of halal slaughter laws as well as against the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who taught that one must minimize the suffering of animals being prepared for slaughter.

Bina Ahmed, a Muslim American and an attorney for PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said she became involved in animal rights "because of lessons we are taught in Islam about kindness to people and animals and all living things."

"I've lived and worked in the Middle East, and I have seen firsthand the abuse of animals for food there. As a Muslim, a woman, and a human being, I am very disheartened that we allow such abuses to take place," Ahmed told Arab News.

"What horrified me both as a person and a Muslim, was not only the awful way animals for slaughter are shipped and treated - which is against the humane slaughter laws of Australia. It is also a violation of halal slaughter rules, which are universal for all Muslims."

"One of the basic principles that Muslims are taught to be kind to all living things," said Ahmed.

"It is un-Islamic to drag these animals off the transport ships by their ears, kick them in the face, and stab them in the eyes, and then slit their throats several times and let them slowly bleed to death in front of other sheep, which is also against halal rules."

"Halal slaughter is based on trying to make it as painless as possible, so that includes not only feeding and watering the animal properly, but also not killing them in front of other animals, because it terrifies them," she said.

The Council of American Islamic Relations agrees. "I think that Muslims have to support all efforts to ensure humane and proper treatment of animals before their slaughter, and they should care about the well-being of the animals in the same way they should pay attention and care of the well being of human beings. This is the basic principle of necessary respect to everything living around us," said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR.

"Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, taught us that everything possible must be done to minimize the suffering of an animal that is about to be slaughtered," he said.

Ahmed said the protest outside the Australian Embassy was successful on two levels. "As people passed by us, they stopped and watched the undercover investigation footage, which we played on the spot (the video is available at: We were able to give them information about the live export abuse. No one likes to see animals suffer, and many people were horrified."

The second, and most significant, is that the Australian government has taken action. "After viewing footage of the investigation, the Australian government has temporarily suspended the live animal export trade to Egypt.

But the same type of slaughter abuses in Egypt are also going on throughout the Middle East, including Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia," said Maya Linden, the Australian campaign coordinator for PETA.

Why then, focus on Australia? "Because Australia is the main exporter of sheep and cattle to the Middle East, which it is the largest market for Australia's meat market," said Linden, a native Australian.

In Australia, she said there are certified halal slaughterhouses, where slaughter regulations are met. "We're urging the Australian government to enforce these humane slaughter laws, rather than allow the animals to be shipped thousands of miles packed and cramped together while standing mired in their own waste, only to be killed in the worst possible ways."

As a Muslim, Ahmed agrees. Said she has begun receiving phone calls from Muslim men and women "who are introspective and looking at their place in the world."

"Muslims are advocating for their own rights, and so that calls into question Muslims being compassionate toward other living things as well, advocating for others as well as self," she said.

But vegetarian Muslim men? Ahmed insists it is more and more common. "I know Muslim men who are vegetarian and even vegan. Men are looking at how they treat animals in both a religious and humane issue. Islam also talks about taking care of your body and the environment, and as you know, many health problems are related to eating meat - including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer."

As for the environment, Ahmed said: "Factory farms are the largest polluter and consumer of natural resources.

"Most people don't realize that it takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, but only 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain. In the Middle East, farmable land and water is scarce, so it's absurd that we're wasting these resources raising animals for slaughter rather than growing food directly to feed people."

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10. Challenging Letter on Vegetarianism by Roberta Kalechofsky

Preliminary comments from Roberta:
The article was in The World Jewish Digest, vol 3, # 9, May, 2006.

It describes itself as "The largest circulation mothly Jewish digest in America. The address is World Jewish Digest, LIC, PO Box 1307, Skokie, IL 60076. To send letters by email, address

The article I responded to was entitled "Kosher Food Revolution," by Marisa S. Katz, "a freelance writer based in Israel." The article is the main feature and headline article of the digest, it goes on for three pages, deals with mainly kosher wine, kosher cheese, and meat.

I believe they will send free copies for the asking, and there is morte to respond to on the meat issue than I wrote. Since iknow that letters to publications may not be too long or they will either not published them or edit them for space, I could not say everything I wished to say. For example, I did not mention the Iowa slaughterhouse scandal, which I felt needed a letter by itself. or that they say that in order to be certified as kosher a cow may not be older than two and a half years -- since most cows are brought to the slaughterhouse by 18 months, this doesn't seem like an important point.

Letters: To the World Jewish Digest

As president of Jews for Animal Rights and the author of several books on the relationship of Judaism and vegetarianism, I can testify to the interest of both Jewish and Christian vegetarians concerning the value of kosher food for the vegetarian and animal rights movements. I am frequently asked questions about this subject. While kosher food has little to offer vegans, who would not eat dairy or animal products of any kind (but who nevertheless might want to be assured of the "purity" of the foods they do eat) the appearance of kosher cheese--that is cheese without rennet--is of great benefit to vegetarians. The kosher label is one which both Christian and Jewish vegetarians (and vegans in some cases) are prepared to take advantage of.

However, the situation is very different when it comes to meat. Since all meat for the commercial market, whether kosher or not, comes through the factory farming system, the kosher label on meat is useless. Rabbi David Rosen has called this meat "b'averot,--i.e. rendered illegitimate by illegitimate means" and has questioned whether meat raised in this manner can ever be compatible with kashrut. (Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition, Micah Publications, p.58) As he further points out, "Most people...are simply ignorant or intentionally ignorant of the manifold transgressions involved in meat eating." But the rabbbis and shochets cannot be ignorant of these transgressions, or certainly ought not to be after all that has been written about factory farming.

Finally, to offer pate de fois gras--the product of tremendous cruetly--as an example of a kosher meat suggests a moral failure which is out of step with Israel and several states in this country. As awareness of the cruelty of pate de fois gras has grown, the Knesset has passed laws to phase out its production in Israel, and several states in this country are doing likewise. Should not kashrut, which prides itself as embodying concern for animal life, not do likewise and label this product "non-kosher" for all Jews.


Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D.

(co-author of The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook and author of Vegetarian Judaism: A Guide for Everyone)
255 Humphrey St.
Marblehead, MA 01945

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14. Lewis Regenstein Article on Jewish Teachings on Animals Published in Atlanta Jewish Weekly

Be Kind to Animals
The Atlanta Jewish Times' Chai Inside magazine (May 5-11 issue)
By Lewis Regenstein

The beginning of the spring season, with its renewal of life, is a good time to be reminded of a little-known fact: The Bible and Jewish law are full of admonitions and commandments to protect animals, nature and the environment. Indeed, such teachings are fundamental to Judaism and its traditions.

For example, God's first commandment (Genesis 1:22) was to the birds, whales, fish and other creatures to "be fruitful and multiply" and fill the seas and the skies. His first commandment to humans (genesis 1:28) was to "replenish the earth ... and have dominion" over other creatures.

Both commandments concern the welfare and survival of animals and human-stewardship responsibilities toward them. So the Almighty must consider the care of animals an important thing.

Clearly, God was well pleased with the works of His creation. After He made each of the creatures, He blessed them, "saw" that each "was good," and commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply." And He pronounced the entire creation, when it was completed, "very good."

Later, when God made his promise to Noah and generations to come never again to destroy the earth with a flood, He included in the covenant "every living creature ... the fowl, the cattle and every beast of the earth" (genesis 9:12-17).

Psalm 104 extols the creatures of "this great and wide sea": "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all: The earth is full of thy riches. ... The glory of the Lord shall endure forever." And a well-known Jewish blessing states, "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, king of the universe, who created everything for His glory."

Kindness to animals is stressed throughout the Bible and is even required in the Ten Commandments, wherein God forbids us to make our farm animals work on the Sabbath; we must give them a day of rest (exodus 20:10, 23:12).

Psalm 36 states, "Man and beast thou savest, O Lord. How precious is thy steadfast love." And Proverbs 12:10 suggests there are two types of people: "A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel."

Indeed, the Jews invented the concept of kindness to animals some 4,000 years ago. Judaism has strict laws and teachings forbidding cruelty to animals. There is an entire code of laws (tsa'ar ba'alei hayim, the requirement "to prevent the suffering of living creatures") mandating that animals be treated with compassion. Jews are not allowed to "pass by" an animal in distress or animals being mistreated, even on the Sabbath.

As the Jewish Encyclopedia observes, "In rabbinic literature ... great prominence is given to demonstrating God's mercy to animals and to the importance of not causing them pain":

"Moral and legal rules concerning the treatment of animals are based on the principle that animals are part of God's creation toward which man bears responsibility. ... The Bible ... makes it clear not only that cruelty to animals is forbidden but also that compassion and mercy to them are demanded of man by God."

The obligation of humans to respect and protect the natural environment is another theme that appears throughout the Bible, often referring to just the kinds of problems we face today: destruction of wildlife and habitat and pollution of our food, air and water .

In the books of Jeremiah (9:9-11) and Habakkuk (2:17), the Lord warns against destroying nature and wildlife. Habakkuk specifically condemns "the destruction of the beasts." In both cases, the punishment is that the land is "laid waste," just what we are doing today to much of our farmland, wilderness and oceans.

Trees and forests are accorded a special reverence in the Bible, and one of the first things the Israelites were commanded to do when they entered the Promised Land was to plant trees and allow them to mature before eating the fruits thereof (leviticus 19:23).

One of the world's first and strongest nature-protection regulations is found in the Mosaic law (deuteronomy 20:19), which forbids the destruction of fruit-bearing trees even when waging war against a city.

Throughout the Bible, in stressing the reverence humans should have toward the land, the Scriptures impart a strong conservation message, warning against overusing and wearing out natural resources. In Leviticus (25:2-7), the Lord commands that every seventh year "the land shall keep a sabbath unto the Lord." The fields and vineyards shall be allowed to rest, and what grows naturally will be shared with the wildlife, "the beasts that are in thy land."

Also in Leviticus (26:3-6), the Lord's appreciation for the land is made clear when He promises that, if humans obey His commandments, the land will reward them: "If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them, then I will give you rains in their season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. ... And I will give peace in the land."

Yet every year we subject billions of farm and other animals to enormous abuse and suffering, and our activities threaten the existence of entire species of wildlife and of the earth's critical biological and life support systems, essential to our own survival.

This spring we should consider if this is how God intended for us to treat His creation, which he declared "very good" and over which he gave us dominion and stewardship responsibilities. As the Lord said, "Every beast of the earth, and ... every fowl of the air ... all that moveth upon the earth, and all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered" (genesis 9:2).

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15. Suing Schools for Mis-educating Students About Meat Consumption

Forwarded message:

There is a certain well-known vegetarian who is initiating a lawsuit on behalf of one child, or perhaps all vegetarian school children, who are deceived about eating meat and/or animal products by malfeasant school employees.

This is in California. Whoever has expertise and would like to advise or watch this case, please contact me ASAP by e-mail at BOTH these addresses:

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