May 28, 2006

5/28/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Happy Shavuot/Shavuot and Vegetarianism/Shavuot Environmental Program Scheduled

2. Open Letter From the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Re Vegetarianism, With List of Supporters

4. What Would a Vegan World Be Like?

5. Vegan Diet Reduces Probability of Having Twins

6. Opportunity to Express Your Opinion Re Fur

7. Project to Collect Vegetarian- Related Prayers

9. Global Warming Even Worse Than Predictions

10. Jewish Teachings on the Importance of Wilderness (from yesterday’s Torah Portion)

11. Some Powerful Vegetarian-Related Quotations

12. Message From FARM on Global Warming and Their Postcards For Distribution to People Exiting the Al Gore Movie
[I received their postcards yesterday and they are very well done.]

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. Happy Shavuot/Shavuot and Vegetarianism/Shavuot Environmental Program Scheduled

Shavuot begins this year on the evening of Thursday, June 1. Please see my article “Shavuot and Vegetarianism” at the holiday section of my articles at or at the “cover” page of the JVNA web site (, and please share the article with others who might be interested, and please use it as the basis of letters and talking points for discussions with rabbis and others. Since Shavuot commemorates the Jewish people receiving the Torah, we should stress that vegetarianism (and even more, veganism) is the diet most consistent with Torah teachings about treating animals with compassion, preserving our health, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people.
Forwarded message from the modern Orthodox group EDAH:

For those in Manhattan for Shavuot, please join us at the JCC in Manhattan’s Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, where we will be sponsoring several learning sessions as part of the kickoff of a new Edah initiative, “Moses and Hummers”, which is designed to assist synagogues all over the country to engage their members in social action and serious study of Jewish texts while connecting their congregations to those of other denominations. Edah has created educational materials related to energy conservation and a range of environmental issues. In the coming months, several Upper West Side Manhattan synagogues will be participating in the project in conjunction with the JCC. In NY, the JCC in Manhattan is co-sponsoring several sessions at their Tikkun Leyl Shavuot as part of this initiative:

10:00 PM Congressman Jerrold Nadler: 'The American and Jewish Political interest in Energy Conservation'

11:30 PM Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Felix: 'Environmentalism in the Bible and in Modern Israel' (In Hebrew)

1:00 AM Rabbi Saul Berman, Director, Edah: 'Does Being an Ethical person Require Energy Conservation?'

The Tikkun will take place at the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave.

between 75th and 76th Streets [on Thursday night, June 1] and is free of charge.

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2. Open Letter From the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Re Vegetarianism, With List of Supporters

Below is the open letter sent out by the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) to Kofi Annan and the list of supporters. The letter focuses on health-related issues as the EVU felt it best to stick to one topic.

I think that this is an example of what can be accomplished when groups work together. If you have any suggestions re any aspect of the letter, including using it to promote vegetarianism, and/or about other open letters that we should be considering, please let me know. Thanks.

It occurs to me that an open letter or press release related to the hurricane predictions announced a few days ago and how a shift toward vegetarian diets would reduce global warming and hence the severity of hurricanes would be valuable. After Katrina and the many other severe hurricanes last summer, I think this issue is getting much attention. Any suggestions re this? anyone willing to write a draft?
Open Letter From the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan Re Vegetarianism

22 May 2006


Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General United Nations
United Nations Plaza
New York
NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

On the occasion of a WHO/FAO meeting in Rome, the FAO distributed a press release, dated 18 May 2006, stating that "the EU diet has gradually deteriorated and has become too rich in fats, particularly saturated fats, sugar and cholesterol," thus contributing to the dramatic situation that 400,000 more children become overweight every year.

Rampant obesity threatens Europeans with heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

Also in the USA, public health is dangerously undermined by the continuing increase in the number of overweight people in the last decade. During a conference in Brussels on 11-12 May 2006, EU and US have joined forces and developed a common strategy against obesity, which is described by Markos Kyprianou, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, as the "biggest health threat of the twenty first century". (1)

Sedentary lifestyles certainly play a role in this dramatic situation but, also according the FAO's explanations, diet is a main culprit.

If they are so dangerous, why do people buy an excessive amount of fatty animal products?

The EU-agriculture policy which heavily subsidizes all but vegetable
products may be one of the reasons why consumers prefer cholesterol-laden food stuffs over healthier but more expensive fruit and vegetables.

The situation in the US is similar. Mark Muller, Director of Institute for
Agriculture and Trade Policy's Environment and Agriculture program (2),
comments: "If we want to seriously deal with obesity, let's create markets that promote healthy food production and consumption. Right now, farm policy is doing just the opposite."

It is becoming clearer by the day that the research and promotion of
alternatives to the traditional meat-based nutrition is long overdue and
therefore the undersigned vegetarian organizations appreciate UN's fight
against weight. However, we would like to invite FAO/WHO experts to take also the next step, namely examining the benefits of a healthy vegetarian diet (3) which, among many other advantages,

- removes saturated fats and replaces them with antioxidants and fiber
- reduces cholesterol which is only found in animal products
- considerably reduces or even eliminates a great variety of health threats
- may result in weight loss (vegetarians have been shown to be leaner on
average than the general population).

Mr. Secretary General, we stand ready to support any of the United Nation initiatives leading to a promotion of the beneficial and compassionate vegetarian lifestyle which will bring better health to humans and play a crucial part in building a more wholesome world for all.

Yours sincerely

Renato Pichler
European Vegetarian Union

This Open Letter is endorsed by:
Luka Oman, President
> Animal Friends Croatia

> Catholic Concern for Animals-USA
Wayne, NJ, USA

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D., Chair
> Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)
[headquarters] Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Sune Borkfelt, Vice-President
> Dansk Vegetarforening (Danish Vegetarian Society)
Aarhus, Denmark

Dan Brook, Ph.D.
> Eco-Eating
San Francisco, USA

Jan Fredericks, MA, LPC, Licensed Counselor, President
> God's Creatures Ministry
Wayne, NJ, USA

Ruth E. Heidrich, Ph.D.
Author of "Senior Fitness"
Vegan Ironman Triathlete and Marathoner

Lewis Regenstein, President
> The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature (ICPAN)
Atlanta, GA, USA

Tina Fox, Chair
> International Vegetarian Union

Marcel Hebbelinck
Prof.em., PhD, Dr.h.c., FACSM
Fac LK/ BIOM (Laboratory of Biometry and Biomechanics)
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

> Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
HQ: Staten island, NY, USA

Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D, President
> Jews for Animal Rights
Marblehead, MA 01945

Patricia Tricker MCIL Cert Ed (FE),
Founder and President
> North Riding Vegetarians & Vegans
Bedale, UK

Norm Phelps
Author of "The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights"
Funkstown, Maryland, USA,

Marius-Cristian Vasilescu
> Romanian Vegetarian Society
Bucharest - Romania

Jill Fritz, President
> San Diego Animal Advocates
San Diego, CA 92116-3207, USA

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
> Author of ‘Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival’

> Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
HQ: Staten Island, NY, USA

> Swiss Union for Vegetarianism
Neukirch-Egnach, Switzerland

George Rodger (Chair)
> The Vegan Society (UK)
St Leonards-on-Sea

Sheila Schwartz, Ed.D., Chairperson
> United Federation of Teachers
Humane Education Committee
New York, NY 10004, USA

Sauraub Dalal, President
> The Vegetarian Union of North America (VUNA)
HQ: Washington, D.C., USA

Ziva Eliezer, Chairperson
> SPCA Hasharon
Raanana, Israel

Thomas Schoenberger, President
> Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands e.V.
30159 Hannover, Germany

Felix Hnat, President
> Vegane Gesellschaft Österreich
Vienna, Austria

Herma Caelen
> Vegi Info Belgium
Mons, Belgium

There are additional supporters that came in after the deadline here.

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4. What Would a Vegan World Be Like?

Thanks to author and vegetarian activist Vasu Marti for sending the following message:

Joanna Macy, author of "Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age", depicts the advantages of America moving towards a vegan diet in her foreword to John Robbins' "Diet for a New America":

"The effects on our physical health are immediate. The incidence of cancer and heart attack, the nation's biggest killers, drops precipitously. So do many other diseases now demonstrably and causally linked to consumption of animal proteins and fats, such as osteoporosis...

"The social, ecological, and economic consequences, as we Americans turn away from animal food products, are equally remarkable. We find that the grain we previously fed to fatten livestock can now feed five times the U.S. population; so we have become able to alleviate malnutrition and hunger on a worldwide scale...

"The great forests of the world, that we had been decimating for grazing purposes, begin to grow again. Oxygen-producing trees are no longer sacrificed for cholesterol-producing steaks.

"The water crisis eases. As we stop raising and grinding up cattle for hamburgers, we discover that ranching and farm factories had been the major drain on our water resources. The amount of now available for irrigation and hydroelectric power doubles. Meanwhile, the change in diet frees over 90% of the fossil fuel energy previously used to produce food. With this liberation of water, energy and fossil fuel energy, our reliance on oil imports declines, as does the rationale for building nuclear power plants..."

Joanna Macy goes on to admit, "This scenario is wildly, absurdly utopian. It is also clearly the way we are meant to live, built to live. What could possibly make it a reality? "It is this very book!" Paul McCartney also says, "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes car of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let's do it!"


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5. Vegan Diet Reduces Probability of Having Twins

Vegan diet lowers odds of having twins
May 20, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Women who eat a vegan diet -- a strict vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products including milk -- are one-fifth as likely as other women to have twins, a U.S. researcher reported on Saturday.

The reason may be hormones given to cattle to boost their milk and meat production, said Dr. Gary Steinman, an obstetrician specializing in multiple-birth pregnancies at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.

Writing in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, Steinman said he compared twin births rates among women who ate a regular diet, vegetarians who included dairy products, and vegan women.

The vegans had twins at one-fifth the rate of the milk-drinking women. Insulin-like growth factor may be responsible, Steinman said.

All animals, including people, produce a compound called insulin-like growth factor or IGF in response to growth hormone. It is found in milk and it increases the sensitivity of the ovaries to follicle stimulating hormone, thus increasing ovulation.

Some studies also suggest that IGF may help embryos survive in the early stages of development.

Vegan women have about a 13 percent lower level of IGF in the blood than women who consume dairy.

The number of multiple births, including twins, has increased significantly in the United States since 1975, about the time assisted reproductive technologies were introduced.

And women are waiting until they are older to have children, which can increase the rate of twin boths.


© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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6. Opportunity to Express Your Opinion Re Fur

Forwarded message from vegetarian/AR activist Rina Deych

ELLE magazine is conducting a brief survey on fur. Please take one minute to participate so we can show this iconic fashion magazine that there are a lot more people who think wearing fur is morally wrong than those who think it is a-okay (ugh!).

Note: it doesn't matter whether or not you read ELLE. All people, including MEN, are welcome and encouraged to participant. And, as an added incentive, you can register to win a $500 gift certificate for your participation.

To access survey, click here.

All the best,
Mary Max

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7. Project to Collect Vegetarian- Related Prayers

Message from Herma of the European Vegetarian Union (EVU):
October 2 is World Day of Prayer for Animals. We can't really celebrate that because of the World Vegetarian Day on 1 October when we always organize something - a clash.

However, that gave me an idea: why don't we collect prayers for animals or statements from religious leaders, speakers, scientists, priests, monks, nuns - everyone following a certain religion/sect/philosophy and having interest in and compassion for animals?

As I said, 2 October is not a good day [for us] in any year but I am sure we find other dates when such a compilation could be distributed.

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9. Global Warming Even Worse Than Predictions

Global Warming Predictions Are Underestimated Say Scientists

Climate change models have dramatically underestimated the extent to which global warming will raise temperatures, scientists warn. The flaw means existing predictions for temperature rises will have to be revised upwards by as much as 2 degrees Celsius, suggesting the world could experience a hike of up to 7.7 degrees Celsius by the year 3000.

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10. Jewish Teachings on the Importance of Wilderness (from Yesterday’s Torah Portion)

Forwarded message:

Today's Torah
By: Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson
from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

Jews have always been a community drawn together by virtue of Torah. No matter where you may be, we welcome you to the Ziegler community through Today's Torah email.

Shabbat Parashat Be’Midbar (Torah reading for this past Shabbat]
May 27, 2006 – 27 Iyar 5766

Torah Gone Wild
Torah Reading: Numbers 1:1 – 4:20

Judaism in antiquity was a rugged, grounded faith. Poised between wandering in the wilderness and entering a promised land, the spirituality of biblical Judaism was one of creation as a sign of God’s greatness and munificence, of learning to love a particular land as our inheritance and as God’s gift. Biblical festivals and holy days pulsated to the cycles of agriculture and of weather, recalling not only the great events of Israel’s past, but also the way the earth could adorn itself and provide for its denizens throughout the year. Small wonder, then, that the exultant voice of the book of Psalms, arguably the world’s greatest collection of poems, is one that sees God in the rising of the sun, the way the birds get their food, the way the sea and its breakers roar.

Something happened along the way. Perhaps it was our recurrent conquest at the hands of foreign powers, perhaps it was the trauma of being ripped from our land and denied permanent status in any other place, perhaps it was the natural response to being denied a place among the peoples of the world. But for whatever reason, Jewish spirit turned inward, away from mountains and field, into the more portable and modest realm of the study hall and the sanctuary. The model Jew was now one who sat inside a dimly lit room, eyes focused on the folio of a book. In a world of violent desire, Judaism heard the voice of God in restraint and sublimation. In a world of might and suffering, Judaism heard God’s will to mandate compassion and discussion. In a culture which denigrated intellect and celebrated athletics, Judaism elevated the Sage as the highest possible form of spiritual life.

That shift served us well, preserving the Jewish people in a difficult era and retaining our focus on acting as God’s witnesses in a brutal world. But something was also lost when we went inside, when we took our faith and shut the windows and closed the doors. When the Torah became domesticated, something of its burning brilliance was reduced.

In our own age, what we need is a Torah not only of books and restraint, but also of sun and field and sea. At a time when Jews live in democracies as equals, or have returned to our own land, it is time to summon the resources of that grounded Torah of land and life and seasons.

Today’s Torah portion is one such resource. The Book of Numbers, Ba-Midbar, begins by recording that “God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, from the Ohel Mo’ed, the Tent of Meeting.” Why does the Torah, so cautious in using extra words, bother to tell us that God spoke to Moses in the wilderness? What is it about wilderness that can serve as an irreplaceable medium for conveying God’s true voice?

Moses Maimonides, the Rambam, understood the connection an antidote to moral depravity: “If all countries you know or hear of follow evil ways, as is the case in our time, then one must go out to the caves, the clefts of mountains, and the wilderness.” When the values around us have gone haywire, when the distance between what people profess and how they behave is insurmountable, then the way to restore spiritual balance and sanity is to escape the confines of civilization and head to the wilderness.

You see, society has a way of accepting its own particular assumptions as self-evidently true. Each culture just assumes that the way it sets priorities, and the choices it presents are the way the world ought to be.

To question those priorities, to even be able to think outside of the constraints of popular assumptions can be quite difficult when in the thick of it all.

One of the great blessings that wilderness provides is precisely that it is not tailored to human standards, does not contour its shape to fit human foibles. Returning to real wilderness means returning to a place in which people are, at best, visitors and guests, where our standards are not the basis for how things operate, where our will and our arrogance doesn’t parade as the measure of all things.

In the wilderness, the world reflects the grandeur of the God who made it. The wilds still pulsate with the novelty of creation, with the unbounded energy of life and of living things. There, the richness of life is sufficient purpose for the myriad creatures and the indifferent majesty of forest, desert, and swamp. They neither need nor seek a human purpose or benefit to justify their existence.

Returning to the wilderness then, reminds us to consider value not simply in terms of our own gratification, but by the standards of how well creation continues to demonstrate the power, wisdom, and goodness of God.

The wilderness reminds us of the true source of all values, our own included.

That may be why God’s voice is heard in the wilderness. That may be why Torah was given on a stormy mountain top, and why we need to look beyond the tops of our books more than occasionally.

The Torah, you see, is wild.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson ( is the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where he is Vice President. A Doctoral Candidate in Contemporary Theology at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he is the author of The Bedside Torah: Wisdom, Dreams, & Visions (McGraw Hill) and The Gift of Soul: Spiritual Resources for Leadership & Mentoring, scheduled for publication this spring.

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who you think might enjoy joining our Torah community.

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11. Some Powerful Vegetarian-Related Quotations

The quotations below are from the signature section at the end of messages from award-winning filmmaker Lionel Friedberg:

Apathetic indifference to the suffering of all sentient creatures has no
place in the 21st century.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"Nothing will benefit human health or increase the chances of survival on
earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -- Albert Einstein

"Compassion can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all
living creatures and does not limit itself to humankind." -- Albert

"The time will come when people will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men and women" -- Leonardo da Vinci

"As long as people shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no
peace, no liberty, no harmony between people." -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and create a trail." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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12. Message From FARM on Global Warming and Their Postcards For Distribution to People Exiting the Al Gore Movie

Forwarded message from FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement).
[I received their postcards yesterday, and they are extremely well done. Please order some, using the contact information below. Thanks.]

New Study Connects Meat Eating to Global Warming
Order Free Global Warming Cards from FARM for Outreach

A new study published in the science journal Earth Interactions unites veganism and environmentalism by clearly documenting a direct link between intensive animal agriculture and global warming. As part of their research, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin compiled a wide range of data on the amount of petroleum needed to produce five different kinds of diets (from an omnivorous diet with a high percentage of animal products to pure veganism). The researchers concluded that the average American's omnivorous diet (which draws about one-third of total calories from meat, dairy and/or eggs) produces 1485 kilograms more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions (the major gasses responsible for global warming) than a vegan diet does. Read Eshel and Martin's paper, Diet, Energy, and Global Warming.

The debate over global warming is about to heat up even more with the forthcoming release of An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about former Vice President Al Gore's battle to sound the alarm about the imminent global warming crisis. Since 2001, Gore has traveled the planet and presented a global warming slide show he's designed himself to over 1,000 audiences. For Gore and many other environmentalists,
global warming is of the gravest importance. The former presidential candidate believes that humanity may have only about a decade to slow or reverse the effects of rising temperatures due to accumulation of toxic gasses in our atmosphere before the effects become irreversible. The projected effects on the planet's ecosystem read like an apocalyptic passage out of the Old Testament: coastal cities completely submerged under swelling oceans, whole regions choked by unrelenting drought, cataclysmic hurricanes even more devastating than Katrina, and deadly pandemics that could claim hundreds of millions of lives. The most frightening aspect of these catastrophic predictions is the vast amount of hard scientific evidence that has been documented to support them.

As part of his slide show, Gore presents a plethora of facts, figures, statistics and patterns in a visually engaging manner that is designed to motivate people to action. As such, the film offers environmental and animal activists a golden opportunity to educate the movie-going public about industrial animal agriculture's destructive impact on our planet.

What You Can Do:

Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) ( has prepared a special color postcard entitled "Stop global bite at a time!" for distribution at theaters showing An Inconvenient Truth. The cards explain the connection between global warming and animal agriculture and offer people the chance to order a free Veg Starter Guide. You can order the cards free of charge by visiting or by calling William at 1-800-MEATOUT.

An Inconvenient Truth is opening on a graduated schedule in nearly a hundred theaters in selected cities starting this weekend on May 24th in New York and Los Angeles. We have opening dates and theaters right here. IDA and FARM are co-sponsoring related ads in environmental publications to coincide with the film's release. Please help the animals and the environment by participating with your friends in this simple and fun form of outreach.

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