June 18, 2006

6/18/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Two Articles: “Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism” and “Relating Tisha B'Av to Today’s Environmental Crises”/Suggestions Welcome

2. Major “Beyond Oil” Campaign Begun by Shalom Center

3. Ten Valuable Reasons To be a Vegetarian

4. More positive Reviews and Messages re the Al Gore Global Warming Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”

5. New Forward Editorial re the Working Conditions at The Postville, Iowa Kosher Slaughterhouse

6. NY Times Op-d Article Re Working Conditions for Workers at Slaughterhouses

7. Do We Need a Modern Day Biblical Joseph to Warn About Future Famines?

8. Program on Torah and the Environment Held

10. Chicago Tribune Picks VegNEws Magazine as 18th Best Magazine

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. Two Articles: “Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism” and “Relating Tisha b’Av to Today’s Environmental Crises”/Suggestions Welcome

Since Tisha B’Av is about 6 weeks away, I am planning to soon send the articles below to the Jewish media. If you have any suggestions for improving the articles, please let me know. I think that it is important that we connect the destruction that Tisha B’av commemorates to the potential destruction involved in today’s environmental crises. In both cases, important warnings failed to produce results. Thanks.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av:

1. Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Today the entire world is threatened by destruction by a variety of environmental threats, and modern intensive livestock agriculture is a major factor behind most of these environmental threats.

2. In Megilat Eichah (lamentations), which is read on Tisha B'Av, the prophet Jeremiah warned the Jewish people of the need to change their unjust ways in order to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. In 1992, over 1,700 of the world's most outstanding scientists signed a "World Scientists Warning to Humanity", stating that 'human beings and the natural world are on a collision course", and that "a great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." Vegetarians join in this warning, and add that a switch toward vegetarianism is an essential part of the "great change" that is required.

3. On Tisha B'Av, Jews fast to express their sadness over the destruction of the two Temples and to awaken us to how hungry people feel. So severe are the effects of starvation that the Book of Lamentations (4:10) states that "More fortunate were the victims of the sword than the victims of famine, for they pine away stricken, lacking the fruits of the field.". Yet, today over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as 15 to 20 million people worldwide die annually because of hunger and its effects.
4. During the period from Rosh Chodesh Av to Tisha B'Av known as the "nine days", Jews do not eat meat or fowl, except on the Sabbath day. After the destruction of the second Temple, some sages argued that Jews should no longer eat meat, as a sign of sorrow. However, it was felt that the Jewish people would not be able to obey such a decree. It was also believed then that meat was necessary for proper nutrition. Hence, a compromise was reached in terms of Jews not eating meat in the period immediately before Tisha B'Av.

5. The word "eichah" (alas! what has befallen us?) that begins Lamentations comes from the same root as the word "ayekah" ("Where art thou"), the question addressed to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Vegetarians are also asking "where art thou". What are we doing re widespread world hunger, the destruction of the environment, the brutal treatment of farm animals, etc.? Perhaps failure to properly hear and respond to "ayekah" in terms of stating "hineni" - here I am, ready to carry out God's commandments so that the world will be better - causes us to eventually have to say and hear "eichah".

6. The book of Lamentations was meant to wake up the Jewish people to the need to return to God's ways. Since vegetarianism is God's initial diet (Genesis 1:2(), vegetarians are also hoping to respectfully alert Jews to the need to return to God's preferences with regard to diet.

7. Rabbi Yochanan stated "Jerusalem was destroyed because the residents limited their decisions to the letter of the law of the Torah, and did not perform actions that would have gone beyond the letter of the law" ('lifnim meshurat hadin') (Baba Metzia 30b). In the same way, perhaps, many people state that they eat meat because Jewish law does not forbid it. Vegetarians believe that in this time of factory farming, environmental threats, widespread hunger, and epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases, Jews should go beyond the strict letter of the law and move toward vegetarianism.

8. Tisha B'Av has been a time of tears and tragedy throughout Jewish history. Animal-based diets are also related to much sorrow today due to its links to hunger and environmental destruction.

9. Tisha B'Av is not only a day commemorating destruction. It is also the day when, according to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will be born, and the days of mourning will be turned into joyous festivals. According to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, the Messianic period will be vegetarian. He based this view on the prophecy of Isaiah, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb . . .the lion will eat straw like the ox . . . and no one shall hurt nor destroy in all of God's holy mountain" (Isaiah 11: 6-9).

10. The readings on Tisha B'Av help to sensitize us so that we will hear the cries of lament and change our ways. Vegetarians are also urging people to change their diets, to reduce the cries of lament of hungry people and animals.

11. The first Temple was destroyed because the people committed three cardinal sins: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed (Yoma 9b). Animal-based diets today have links to these sins; (1) we have made our stomachs an idol and will do almost anything to appease it; (2) a diet that wastes so much grain and other agricultural resources while millions of people lack adequate food can be considered immoral; (3) there is much bloodshed from the 9 billion farm animals that are slaughtered annually in the United States alone to satisfy people's appetites for meat.

12. After the destruction of the second Temple, the Talmudic sages indicated that Jews need not eat meat in order to rejoice during festivals. They stated that the drinking of wine would suffice, (Pesachim 109a)

13. More than a day of lamentation, Tisha B'Av is also a day of learning - learning essential lessons about our terrible past errors so that they will not be repeated. Vegetarians believe that if people learned the incredible realities related to the production and consumption of meat, many would change their diets so as to avoid continuing current errors.

14. After the destruction of Jerusalem, while sighing and searching frantically for food, the people proclaimed, "Look God and behold what happened to me because I used to be gluttonous!" (Lamentations 1:11). Today too, gluttony (excessive consumption of animal and other products) is leading to widespread hunger and destruction.

15. The Book of Lamentations ends with "Chadesh yamenu k'kedem - make new our days as of old." We can help this personal renewal occur by returning to the original human diet, the vegetarian diet of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), a diet that can help us feel renewed because of the many health benefits of plant-based diets.

16. On Tisha B'Av, Jews do not wear leather shoes; one reason is that while commemorating events that involved so much death, we do not want to wear something manufactured from animal skin, a product derived from the deaths of another.

17. The Book of Lamentations has many very graphic descriptions of hunger. One is: "The tongue of the suckling child cleaves to its palate for thirst. Young children beg for bread, but no one extends it to them." Today, major shortages of food in the near future are being predicted by the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington DC think tank, and others, and one major reason is that people in China, Japan, India, and other countries where affluence has been increasing are moving to animal-centered diets that require vast amounts of grain.

In view of these and other connections, I hope that Jews will enhance their commemoration of the solemn but spiritually meaningful holiday of Tisha B'Av by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings, and one important way to do this is by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Richard H. Schwartz

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year (2006) on August 3, reminds us that over 2,000 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, with the result that the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

Today there are many “Jeremiahs” warning us that now it is the entire world that faces destruction from global warming and its effects, species extinction, droughts, destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, and many other environmental threats. For example, in 1992, over 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including 104 Nobel Laureates, signed a "World Scientists Warning to Humanity," stating that 'human beings and the natural world are on a collision course", and that "a great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." This year, Academies of Science in the United States and other industrialized countries warned of severe consequences if immediate steps are not taken to reduce the threats of global warming.

On Tisha B'Av, Jews fast to express their sadness over the destruction of the two Temples and to awaken us to how hungry people feel. So severe are the effects of starvation that the Book of Lamentations (4:10) states that "More fortunate were the victims of the sword than the victims of famine, for they pine away stricken, lacking the fruits of the field." Yet, today over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as an estimated 20 million people worldwide die annually because of hunger and its effects.

Jewish sages connected the word "eichah" (alas! what has befallen us?) that begins Lamentations and a word that has the same root "ayekah" ("Where art thou?"), the question addressed to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. Perhaps failure to properly hear and respond to "ayekah" in terms of stating "Hineni" - here I am, ready to carry out God's commandments so that the world will be better - causes us to eventually have to say and hear "eichah".

The reading of the book of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av is meant to wake up the Jewish people to the need to return to God's ways, by showing the horrors that resulted when God’s teachings were ignored. The readings on Tisha B'Av help to sensitize us so that we will hear the cries of lament and change our ways. Rabbi Yochanan stated "Jerusalem was destroyed because the residents limited their decisions to the letter of the law of the Torah, and did not perform actions that would have gone beyond the letter of the law" ('lifnim meshurat hadin') (Baba Metzia 30b. in this time of factory farming, environmental threats, widespread hunger, and epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases, perhaps it is necessary that Jews go beyond the strict letter of the law.

This Tisha B’Av, I hope that we will begin to heed its basic lesson that failure to respond to proper admonitions can lead to catastrophe. The Jewish people must make tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the planet) a major focus in Jewish life today, and consider personal and societal changes that will start to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a more sustainable path. By doing this, we would be performing a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name) by working to meet our mandate to be a light unto the nations.

All of us can and must contribute to this new stewardship, even with modest changes to our lifestyle. In 1999, the UCS wrote: "Just as we don't claim that people need to stop driving their cars completely, we don't argue that they need to stop eating meat entirely. But reductions in both areas - driving and meat consumption - will certainly benefit the environment.”

In view of the many threats to humanity today, I hope that Jews will enhance their commemoration of the solemn but spiritually meaningful holiday of Tisha B'Av by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings. One important way to do this is by working to shift our precious, but imperiled, planet to a more sustainable path.

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2. Major “Beyond Oil” Campaign Begun by Shalom Center

The following message was forwarded from the Shalom Center. I believe that this is a very important campaign, one that we should get behind. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any recognition that a shift toward vegetarianism could reduce oil consumption. I have volunteered to be involved and to present material on potential reductions in oil consumption due to shifts to vegetarian diets, but so far no response. So, please contact the Shalom Center using the contact information below and urge that a shift toward vegetarianism be put on their agenda.

Dear Friends and Co-workers,

The Shalom Center held a successful kick-off strategy meeting on May 25 to begin the Beyond Oil grass-roots organizing campaign. You wrote us that although you couldn’t come, you want to be involved. So --

Russ Agdern's report on the meeting is below. Out of that meeting, The
Shalom Center is exploring going forward with a campaign in the following
basic framework.


1) The Goal: By 2020, cut US oil consumption by seven-eighths and replace oil as an energy source by conservation and by use of non-fossil, non-CO2-producing, non- nuclear sources of renewable, sustainable energy.

Why specifically 7/8? Because it would make an enormous difference, because it is do-able by taking steps sketched below, and because it fits the symbolism of Hanukkah.

The action focus for Beyond Oil's work in the Jewish community: Hanukkah:
One Day's Oil for Eight Days Work. This draws on the traditional explanation of why we light eight candles: One day’s consecrated oil lasted eight days for rededication of the Temple. Make Hanukkah the festival of energy conservation and shift to renewable energy sources.

(Experts we have consulted say that the seven-eighths reduction by 2020 is possible, though not easy to achieve. It requires major but quite possible changes in the US transportation system: use of cellulosic ethanol, plug-in hybrids, public transit, use of wind power and other renewable, non-nuclear, non-CO2-producing sources of electricity).

Use Hanukkah both for public-policy and lifestyle action: Visits to city, state, and Federal legislators, public candle-lighting vigils and demonstrations at key Big Oil corporate HQ and key congressional offices, and completing or announcing steps forward in greening synagogues, retirement homes, schools, similar institutional buildings and auto fleets (new furnaces, hybrid cars, etc.).

2) Special lifestyle focal points for the Beyond Oil campaign: Organizing
"Oiloholics Anonymous" groups in synagogues and other congregations for people to help each other "kick the Oil habit" in their household and congregational lives; rabbis and other communal leaders urge all congregants to make their NEXT car purchase a hybrid or other high-mileage car (Kosher Kars).

3) Public and corporate policy focus: Carbon Tax on various energy sources according to their effective production of CO2, high enough to push users to seek other energy sources, with proceeds of the tax to be channeled to lower-income and middle-income people through any of various ways. (For example, possibly direct tax rebates, or drastic reduction in Social Security taxes on workers, or payment of costs of universal health insurance.) The Shalom Center works with energy and tax experts to craft a bill that embodies Jewish values in this direction, and builds support for that bill.

4) Though Hanukkah becomes the yearly focal point, other festivals and
life-cycle ceremonies also become times for moving Beyond Oil (and other
CO2-producing fuels). Possible examples: Sh'mini Atzeret, playing on the pun between "shemen" ("oil") and "shmini ("eighth'); Bar/ Bat Mitzvah and confirmation / affirmation ceremonies pick up on the Prophetic passage: "I will send you Elijah the prophet to turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed." Make this a time for intergenerational covenant to heal the earth.

Please note that we have focused on areas where we would be bringing our unique outlook and approaches. We would of course, where our concerns dovetail, work with other organizations - especially with Jewish environmental ones like Teva, Hazon, COEJL, etc., and with Jewish groups concerned by US attachments to oil-rich governments in the Middle East;
with interfaith and secular renewable-energy and environmental groups like Interfaith Power & Light, Climate Crisis Coalition, Price of Oil, Global
Exchange, Campus Climate Challenge, etc; and with other groups like religiously rooted opponents of the Iraq war that see it as in part caused by desire to control oil resources; groups focused on ashthma and other diseases connected with oil pollution; etc. All the groups named above had reps at the May 25 meeting; we value their input then and will continue to.

Arthur Waskow at Awaskow@aol.com
Russ Agdern at Ragdern@gmail.com
Russ Agdern, Project Organizer

We had 30 participants with a great diversity of talents, approaches, and backgrounds in the room: representatives from leadership on social action in the Jewish community, Jewish educators, synagogue leadership, environmental organizers, community activists, economists, people with legal and finance backgrounds.

Everyone brought a unique voice to the discussion. The goal was to begin building a seamless set of strategies to engage the American Jewish community on Oil consumption and move the American Jewish community to action on this critical issue.

We also received an ironic reminder of the importance of organizing for
Beyond Oil, particularly around building support for public transit, as
Rabbi Waskow was delayed in arriving by the power outage on the New York bound Amtrak trains.

The first portion of the day focused on Jewish communal centers and practices. How can we work within local Jewish and interfaith communities to move people's own life-styles and life-paths beyond the addiction to oil that afflicts us all - beyond our own current energy practices?

Liz Galst spoke about the Green Team at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, how it began as an idea to plant trees to offset carbon and grew to a whole campaign which has the shul and more than 10 percent of its membership switched to green energy for the electricity for their homes.

Cantor Eric Schulmiller spoke about the greening process at the
Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore -- how the impetus for the campaign started with his own personal greening, switching to a hybrid car and putting solar panels on his home. He then was able to take this issue, which he believed in personally, and get the community interested and involved. RSRN has not only greened their building, but have also started convincing their membership to switch to green power as well.

Both Liz and Eric spoke of the importance of getting key members of the community involved in the project. They reported that because of that key involvement and the progressive nature of their communities, it was fairly easy to move the greening project forward.

Kevin Kleinman, a rabinnical student at Hebrew Union College and former educator with Teva, presented ideas about building a multifaceted curriculum that could be adapted to day schools, Sunday schools and other programs. He spoke some about how the Teva model uses retreats to bring the importance of nature home to kids and uses pledges for classes and individual students to get them invested in the programming.

Rabbi Waskow spoke about incorporating commitment to protect the earth into religious and life cycle practice. He brought forward two examples: Focusing Hanukkah on Sacred Oil and the conservation of energy (One day's oil for eight days' energy), and focusing Bar / Bat Mitzvah services around the text of the return of Elijah the prophet Elijah: "Turning the hearts of parents and children to each other lest the earth be utterly destroyed."

Barbara Lerman-Golomb from COEJL spoke about COEJL's involvement in greening four synagogues in New Jersey, and about some of the programs and ideas that COEJL has put together using the holidays as organizing tools to move forward environmental concerns.

From there, we broke into small working groups to discuss how we can move this project forward:

Our education group began brainstorming ways to move education forward, and how we can do this in communities that are not as progressive as CBST and RSNS. They noted that suburbia has their own set of issues, and felt that the congregation needed to be behind the educational process. There are some programs already out there, but began to think about how something could go deeper and focus more specifically on energy consumption.

Our religious/life cycle group talked about different particular ideas to
craft energy messages around the holidays, including building on an idea to make Shmini Atzeret (punning on "shmini = eighth and shemen=oil) a wind-power themed holiday.

Our greening congregations and interfaith working group talked about how important local policy is to this work and making sure we address environmental justice in addressing this issue, particularly when building coalitions in local communities that if possible should include communities of poverty and color.

After lunch, our discussion shifted towards the importance of public policy at local, state, corporate and federal levels, and different ways that religious communities and congregations can get involved in this struggle.

First, Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener spoke about Connecticut Interfaith Power and Light, and how their programs were building a statewide consciousness in houses of worship around this issue, including setting up trainings for members of congregations to do their own energy audits. Rabbi Cohen-Kiener also spoke about the rule of five, the importance of really bringing together several people to make the campaign strong, and how this rule was being used to start building local CT coalitions to go after local energy consumption.

Mike Hudena from Global Exchange spoke about the history of their corporate campaigns, how they target the worst company on a specific issue and are able to bring them down. He then went into specifics on the Jumpstart Ford campaign, as well as some of the details on how greening has been moving forward at college campuses.


All told, people feel excited about this project and ready to start moving it forward. We want to continue the working group discussions from the meeting, including the voices of whoever wants to help build in the areas below: Write Russ at Ragdern@gmail.com letting him know which groups you would like to work with.

Congregation Greening

Jewish Education
Jewish Festival & Life-Cycle events
Interfaith Green work
Local and Statewide initiatives
Federal Initiatives
Corporate Policy.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. And thanks to all who couldn't make it but want to be a part of this conversation. Look out for email discussions, conference calls, events in DC and more events in New York in the not too distant future.

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3. Ten Valuable Reasons To be a Vegetarian

Forwarded message from Nutrition Action Healthletter, a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Ten Reasons To Eat More Like A Vegetarian
Author: Bonnie Liebman

Evidence is mounting that the healthiest diets are loaded with plant foods (vegetables, fruits and beans) and short on animal foods (meat, fish, poultry and dairy products), especially those with a high fat content.
"A diet rich in fruits and vegetables plays a role in reducing the risk of all the major causes of illness and death," says Walter Willet, Head of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health.
To many people, vegetarian is a loaded word. It typically refers to people who never eat meat, fish or poultry for ethical, religious or health reasons. Vegans also avoid all dairy products and eggs. But scientists are more interested in how often - not whether - people eat animal foods. And much of their research points to the same conclusion: people should eat fewer animal foods and more plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Why? Here are 10 reasons - some related to health, some not.

1) Cancer
"The scientific base is very strong suggesting that fruits and vegetables are protective elements for all gastrointestinal cancers and all smoking-related cancers," says Tim Byers, professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. That includes cancers of the lung, colon, stomach, mouth, larynx, esophagus and bladder. And a recent study found that lycopene - a carotenoid in tomatoes and tomato sauce - may protect against prostate cancer.

It's not clear how fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. It could be their phytochemicals - things like carotenoids, vitamins C and E, selenium, indoles, flavonoids, phenols and limonene.

There is also evidence that high-fibre grains like wheat bran can reduce cancer risk. "Fibre has a beneficial effect in preventing colon cancer," says David Jenkins, a fibre expert at the University of Toronto. And pasta, rice and other grains can replace the animal foods - red meat, in particular - that may increase the risks of some cancers.

"Men who eat red meat as a main dish five or more times a week have four times the risk of colon cancer of men who eat red meats less than once a month," says Edward Giovannucci of Harvard Medical School. Heavy red-meat eaters were also twice as likely to get prostate cancer in his study of 50,000 male health professionals.

That's just one study. Looking at others, says Lawrence Kushi of the University of Minnesota, "the evidence is quite consistent that red meat is associated with a higher risk of colon - possibly prostate - cancer".

But even lean red meat seems to increase the risk of colon cancer. "It could be the carcinogens created when meat is cooked or meat's highly available iron, or something else in meat," speculates Willett.

2) Heart disease

A plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of heart disease. For the last 20 years, heart experts have emphasized cutting saturated fat and cholesterol intake, but plants may protect the heart in other ways. Among them:

* Soluble Fibre: "To reduce your risk of heart disease, you may want to eat more beans, peas, oats, and barley," says Jenkins, because their "sticky" soluble fibre seems to help lower blood cholesterol.

* Folic Acid: "The evidence that folic acid reduces the risk of heart disease is pretty strong," says Willet. Folic acid, a B-vitamin, lowers blood levels of a harmful amino acid called homocysteine. "And fruits and vegetables are a major source of folic acid," he adds.

* Antioxidants: a growing body of evidence suggests that LDL ("bad") cholesterol damages arteries only when it has been oxidised (combined with oxygen). That's why researchers believe that antioxidants like vitamin E may protect the heart. And many of the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are antioxidants.

* Squeezing Out Saturates: if you eat lots of plant foods, there's simply less room for the saturated animal fats that clog arteries.

3) Stroke

There's a lot of evidence showing that fruits and vegetables are beneficial for reducing the risk of stroke," says Willet. For example, in a 20-year study of 832 middle-aged men, the risk of stroke was 22 per cent lower for every three servings of fruits and vegetables the men ate each day. Again, no one's sure if it's the potassium, magnesium, fibre or other components of fruits and vegetables that prevent arteries from clogging in the brain.

4) Diverticulosis & Constipation

High-fibre grains - especially wheat bran - can help prevent constipation. That's not trivial in a country like the US that spends millions a year on laxatives.

Diverticulosis is also common. About 30 to 40 per cent of people over 50 have it, though most have no symptoms. Others experience bleeding, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, pain, or diverticulitis (that's when the pouches - or diverticula - that form in the walls of the colon get inflamed).

"In our studies, it's clear that fibre both from bran and from fruits and vegetables is protective," says Willet. Men who ate the least fibre (13 grams or less a day) were almost twice as likely to get diverticulosis as men who ate the most fibre (at least 32 grams of fibre a day).

5) Other diseases

Plant-rich diets may prevent other illnesses:

* Macular Degeneration: a carotenoid called lutein - which is found mostly in leafy greens - may help prevent the deterioration of the retina that causes blindness in older people. "In our study, people who ate spinach or collard greens two to four times a week had half the estimated risk of macular degeneration compared with those who ate them less than once a month," says Johanna Seddon of Harvard Medical School.

* Neural Tube Defects: folic acid supplements can reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube birth defects. Folic acid from foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) may also cut the risk.

* Diabetes: "We found a lower risk of adult-onset diabetes in people who ate more whole grains," says Willet.

6) Safer food

Some of the deadliest food-borne illnesses enter the body via animal foods. "Ground beef is the most likely source of E. Coli 0157:H7. Poultry carry Salmonella and Campylobacter, and the consumption of raw shellfish has caused infection with Vibrio vulnificus," says David Swerdlow of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Any raw food - including fruits or vegetables - can carry harmful bacteria. "For example, recent outbreaks of Salmonella have been associated with cantaloupe, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts," says Swerdlow. But meat, seafood and poultry are the most likely culprits in food-borne illness.

7) The environment

"Our eating habits have a tremendous effect on the planet," says Jenkins. "Eating animals wouldn't harm the environment if it were done on a much smaller scale," explains Alan Durning, Director of North-west Environment Watch in Seattle.

"Modern meat production involves intensive use - and often misuse - of grain, water, energy and grazing areas," says Durning. He cites the following examples:

* Water pollution: the manure and sewage from stockyards, chicken factories, and other feeding facilities can pollute water supplies.

* Air pollution: thirty million tons of methane - a gas that contributes to global warning - comes from manure in sewage ponds or heaps.

* Soil erosion: nearly 40 per cent of the world's - and more than 70 per cent of US - grain production is fed to livestock. For each pound of meat, poultry, eggs and milk we produce, farm fields lose about five pounds of topsoil.

* Water depletion: an estimated half of the grain and hay that's fed to beef cattle is grown on irrigated land. It takes about 390 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.

* Energy Use: it takes almost ten times more energy to produce and transport livestock than vegetables.

* Overgrazing: about 10 per cent of the arid West of the US has been turned into a desert by livestock. But some of that land couldn't be used for much else. "That's why my argument isn't for vegetarianism, but for people to reduce the consumption of animal products," maintains Durning.

8) Cost

Sure, you can spend $7.99 a pound on mesclun or other gourmet foods. But from squash to sweet potatoes, most plants are a downright bargain. And the lower price of plants shows up when you eat out. On Chinese, Indian, and most other restaurant menus, the vegetarian selections are usually cheaper than the meat, seafood and poultry.

9) Animal welfare

It's unpleasant to think about, but before we slaughter them, the animals we eat are often raised and transported under inhumane conditions.

10) Taste
The number-one reason for eating a plant-rich diet is that it tastes good. The five vegetables that Americans eat most are French fries, tomatoes (mostly as sauce or ketchup), onions, iceberg lettuce, and other potatoes.

But if most Americans shrink the meat, seafood and poultry on their dinner plates, they - or many of their favourite restaurants - wouldn't know what to replace them with. You have to go to ethnic restaurants to get interesting plant-based dishes. It's no coincidence that ethnic restaurants know how to make vegetable dishes taste good. "Fortunately, there's a wealth of experience around the world because almost all traditional diets are plant-based," says Willet.

Yet many Italian, Mexican and other ethnic restaurants have become so Americanised that their vegetables have been largely replaced by meat and cheese. And that's a shame. In Asian and Mediterranean cuisines, cooking fruits and vegetables is an art form. The Italians don't put tremendous amounts of meat and cheese on pizza, for example. I had a thin-crust pizza at a traditional restaurant recently with no cheese - just fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic. It was totally wonderful.

Copyright 1996 CSPI.
Reprinted/Adapted from
Nutrition Action Healthletter
(This is a non-profit effort to promote a more healthy and loving lifestyle through vegetarian diet.)

4. More positive Reviews and Messages re the Al Gore Global Warming Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”

a. Message re Roger Ebert Review of the movie:

Forwarded message:

Never in 39 years of reviewing films has Roger Ebert grabbed America by the collar and said: See this film now! Your life depends on it

Visit www.earthbeatradio.org for an amazing 14-minute interview with Roger Ebert in which he says Gore's film changed his life and the way he views the world. He says he had no idea global warming was already so severe and getting worse by the minute. He says he can accept his own inevitable death as a mortal on this planet, but the possible death of human civilization -- of art and great cities and organized culture -- is just too much to bear. We must act now, he says. We have perhaps ten years before it could be too late.

Listen to the full interview, conducted by Mike Tidwell of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and recorded June 13th at the studio of WPFW in Washington, D.C. Forward this link to family and friends. Go see "An Inconvenient Truth" today! Learn more at www.climatecrisis.net

"In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here
they are: 'You owe it to yourself to see "An Inconvenient Truth".

If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.' "

-- Roger Ebert

Mike Tidwell
Director, U.S. Climate Emergency Council
Takoma Park, MD
b. Message from Al Gore:

If you are concerned about global warming and want to help solve it, I would like to personally invite you to see the new Paramount Classics movie -- “An Inconvenient Truth” -- now playing at a theater near you.

The film lays out the latest, up-to-date, most compelling facts about this unprecedented climate crisis in a forecful presentation. It is filled with startling images and dramatic pictures showing clearly what is happening to our Earth and why global warming is now being called a “Planetary Emergency.”

I have tried to tell this story for 30 years. I’m sending you this email now because I feel so passionately that we simply do not have any more time to waste. This crisis is unlike anything we have ever faced. The debate among scientists is over!

According to the experts, the climate crisis could – if unchecked – literally destroy the habitability of the Earth and bring civilization to a halt.

This really is not a political issue. It is a moral issue! Here’s what the Fox News reviewer wrote about the movie: “Not to be missed. It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative....your mind will be changed in a nanosecond.”

Learning about this crisis is the first step toward solving it. Then, we all have to turn knowledge into action and concern into commitment.

My wife Tipper and I feel so strongly about the need for action, we are giving 100% of whatever profits we receive from the movie and the accompanying book by the same name, to a bipartisan educational effort.

Last weekend, the movie broke the all-time per screen record for any documentary movie in history – and, incredibly, according to Variety, broke the all-time per-screen record for any movie opening on Memorial Day weekend. (Incidentally, that record was set by The Shining, back in 1980.)

To learn more, find showtimes at theaters near you and buy tickets to the movie online, go to www.StopGlobalWarming.org.

I sincerely hope you will take the time to see this movie. Thank you.

Al Gore
StopGlobalWarming.org Virtual Marcher
/*Your email ID. --*/
c. Forwarded message from the U.S. Climate Emergency Council

Dear Friends,

Around the country various groups have been doing outreach at the showing of "An Inconvenient Truth," passing out literature and signing up people onto petitions or organizational sign-up lists. It's been great to see this happening over the past week and a half.

We in the U.S. Climate Emergency Council feel that this movie is giving all of us a wonderful opportunity to reach lots of new people and to connect them with our organizing efforts. Toward that end, and due to some recent fund-raising success, we are prepared to pay money to people who gather names and contact information at local showings in their area and send them to us to help us build our list of supporters.

We'll pay $10 for every 30 people signed up on our sign-in sheets, a copy of which we'll send you. You can and should keep copies of filled-in sheets yourself to use for local organizing as well as sending us a copy. We'll send you a check for the appropriate amount based upon the number of
signatures you collect.

This could be a great way to do the right thing and raise some money for yourself or your group. On the first weekend of the film being shown, a person in Maryland, using techniques that we will share with anyone who is interested, was able to collect 400 names, or over $130 worth.

This coming weekend, An Inconvenient Truth opens at over 150 theatres around the country, and it's continuing to be shown in many score more where it's already been showing. It opens at over 150 more the last two weekends in June. You can find out if a theatre is showing it in your area and when it opens by going to www.movietickets.com or www.moviefone.com.
It is possible that you can find information on the "Find a Theatre" tab at www.climatecrisis.net.

We hope to hear from you soon about this win-win proposal.

For the earth,

Mike Tidwell

Ted Glick

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5. New Forward Editorial re the Working Conditions at The Postville, Iowa Kosher Slaughterhouse

A Kosher Storm

[There were also 5 letters re the issue, with several calling for further investigations.]

It seems the Forward has kicked up quite a storm with our May 26 report from Postville, Iowa, describing working conditions at AgriProcessors, the world's largest kosher meatpacking plant. Our Letters page this week and last carries a sampling of the response we've gotten from readers across the country, most of them wondering how a religious inspection system that they thought guaranteed a standard of ethical excellence could sanction what appears to be rank exploitation.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. We've heard by phone, fax and e-mail from consumers, rabbis and ordinary folks from coast to coast, in tones ranging from shock and sadness to anger over Nathaniel Popper's account of low pay, questionable safety measures and abusive supervisors. Local community newspapers around the country have reported on our investigation and gotten their own readers riled up. The blogosphere, the town square of the wired generation, is alight with furious debate, dissecting the rights and wrongs of AgriProcessors' behavior, our reporting and the proper role of kashrut inspection.

We've heard from groups of families in several states who have discussed our report and met with their own rabbis to explore ways that they can act to ensure the ethical integrity of their kosher food supply. We've heard from people who want to express their indignation but live in small communities where AgriProcessors' products are the only kosher food around. We've also heard of discussions going on in communities of Jews who aren't traditionally observant but are now taking a fresh look at kashrut, seeing its potential as a vehicle for living out moral values in daily life. That's what happens when people and communities step back and take stock of their behavior. It's not a bad thing.

Perhaps most significant, we've learned of earnest discussions now under way within major institutions of Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, looking for ways to address the concerns of their members about ethical treatment of workers.

Their task isn't a simple one. Rabbinic laws of kosher slaughter have evolved over centuries into a highly specific set of rules and standards, administered by a crazy-quilt network of competing and overlapping authorities. Supervising rabbis gain their authority by virtue of their reputation for adhering to tradition. The system doesn't lend itself to sudden changes.

The first thing we've been asked by officials at agencies charged with supervising kashrut is whether we have any evidence of illegal activity. That's the easiest question to ask, but it's the wrong one. AgriProcessors is an efficient, modern company, run by individuals who think of themselves as upstanding citizens. Their labor practices are under the scrutiny of state and federal regulators, and our report does not claim that they are out of compliance with the law.

The trouble is that the law doesn't work. American labor law has been gutted over the past quarter-century, turning what was supposed to be a safety net for workers into a flimsy shred. Government agencies that were created in the middle of the last century to protect the powerless from exploitation have come to be seen at best as referees in a fair fight between the powerless and the powerful. The current administration has gone a step further, taking supposedly impartial regulatory agencies and packing them, one after another, with representatives of industry.

The question hanging over AgriProcessors' behavior is not whether it's legal. The question is whether that's enough to receive a certificate of moral fitness. If a company operates just inside the limits of the acceptable, under a legal system that has defined acceptability steadily downward for a generation, should that satisfy a standard that is manifestly religious? What does that say about religion and its relevance to the burning questions adherents expect it to answer?

In the swirl of debate, a few respondents have questioned our facts or attacked us for publishing them. That's to be expected. Some rely on a self-described eyewitness account from the plant that's been circulating on the Internet, written by a rabbi who happens to perform kosher inspections for AgriProcessors. Others have been impressed by an attack on the Forward's integrity, written by a distinguished constitutional lawyer who has represented the company in the past. In fairness, both of the individuals in question are respected figures in their communities, and regardless of their financial relationships to AgriProcessors, their words deserve a hearing.

For the record, we have not received evidence that causes us to doubt our previous reporting. Much of the so-called rebuttal we've seen in various media consists of disproving charges that we never made, or claiming we overlooked facts that actually appear in black and white in our story. For the most part, our facts speak for themselves. As we noted, AgriProcessors accounted for more than half of all slaughterhouse complaints submitted to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration so far this year in Iowa, a state with scores of meatpacking plants.

But a newspaper article isn't an indictment. If community institutions are going to take action — and we believe they should — they need more information. Many of our readers feel the same way; they want to know more before they judge. We'll be following up, and we expect others to do so as well.

The Forward
Published Weekly in New York Since 1897

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6. NY Times Op-d Article Re Working Conditions for Workers at Slaughterhouses

Where the Hogs Come First
Published: June 15, 2006

Think pork. Sizzling bacon and breakfast sausage. Juicy chops and ribs and robust holiday hams.

The pork capital of the planet is this tiny town in the Cape Fear River basin, not far from the South Carolina border. Spending a few days in Tar Heel and the surrounding area — dotted with hog farms, cornfields and the occasional Confederate flag — is like stepping back in time. This is a place where progress has slowed to a crawl.

Tar Heel's raison d'être (and the employment anchor for much of the region) is the mammoth plant of the Smithfield Packing Company, a million-square-foot colossus that is the largest pork processing facility in the world.

You can learn a lot at Smithfield. It's a case study in both the butchering of hogs (some 32,000 are slaughtered there each day) and the systematic exploitation of vulnerable workers. More than 5,500 men and women work at Smithfield, most of them Latino or black, and nearly all of them undereducated and poor.

The big issue at Smithfield is not necessarily money. Workers are drawn there from all over the region, sometimes traveling in crowded vans for two hours or more each day, because the starting pay — until recently, $8 and change an hour — is higher than the pay at most other jobs available to them.

But the work is often brutal beyond imagining. Company officials will tell you everything is fine, but serious injuries abound, and the company has used illegal and, at times, violent tactics over the course of a dozen years to keep the workers from joining a union that would give them a modicum of protection and dignity.

"It was depressing inside there," said Edward Morrison, who spent hour after hour flipping bloody hog carcasses on the kill floor, until he was injured last fall after just a few months on the job. "You have to work fast because that machine is shooting those hogs out at you constantly. You can end up with all this blood dripping down on you, all these feces and stuff just hanging off of you. It's a terrible environment.

"We've had guys walk off after the first break and never return."
Mr. Morrison's comments were echoed by a young man who was with a group of Smithfield workers waiting for a van to pick them up at a gas station in Dillon, S.C., nearly 50 miles from Tar Heel. "The line do move fast," the young man said, "and people do get hurt. You can hear 'em hollering when they're on their way to the clinic."

Workers are cut by the flashing, slashing knives that slice the meat from the bones. They are hurt sliding and falling on floors and stairs that are slick with blood, guts and a variety of fluids. They suffer repetitive motion injuries.

The processing line on the kill floor moves hogs past the workers at the dizzying rate of one every three or four seconds.

Union representation would make a big difference for Smithfield workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been trying to organize the plant since the mid-1990's. Smithfield has responded with tactics that have ranged from the sleazy to the reprehensible.

After an exhaustive investigation, a judge found that the company had threatened to shut down the entire plant if the workers dared to organize, and had warned Latino workers that immigration authorities would be alerted if they voted for a union.

The union lost votes to organize the plant in 1994 and 1997, but the results of those elections were thrown out by the National Labor Relations Board after the judge found that Smithfield had prevented the union from holding fair elections. The judge said the company had engaged in myriad "egregious" violations of federal labor law, including threatening, intimidating and firing workers involved in the organizing effort, and beating up a worker "for engaging in union activities."
Rather than obey the directives of the board and subsequent court decisions, the company has tied the matter up on appeals that have lasted for years. A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling just last month referred to "the intense and widespread coercion prevalent at the Tar Heel facility."

Workers at Smithfield and their families are suffering while the government dithers, refusing to require a mighty corporation like Smithfield to obey the nation's labor laws in a timely manner.

The defiance, greed and misplaced humanity of the merchants of misery at the apex of the Smithfield power structure are matters consumers might keep in mind as they bite into that next sizzling, succulent morsel of Smithfield pork.

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7. Do We Need a Modern Day Biblical Joseph to Warn About Future Famines?

Forwarded message:

Earth Policy News – World Grain Stocks Fall to 57 Days of Consumption: Grain Prices Starting to Rise

Eco-Economy Indicator – GRAIN HARVEST
June 15, 2006

Eco-Economy Indicators are the twelve trends the Earth Policy Institute tracks to measure progress in building an eco-economy.

Grain production is the best indicator of the adequacy of the food supply. On average, half the calories we consume come directly from grain and a large part of the remainder come from the indirect consumption of grain in the form of meat, milk, eggs, and farmed fish.

Grain Prices Starting to Rise

Lester R. Brown

This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices.

World carryover stocks of grain, the amount in the bin when the next harvest begins, are the most basic measure of food security. Whenever stocks drop below 60 days of consumption, prices begin to rise. It thus came as no surprise when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projected in its June 9 world crop report that this year’s wheat prices will be up by 14 percent and corn prices up by 22 percent over last year’s.

With carryover stocks of grain at the lowest level in 34 years, the world may soon be facing high grain and oil prices at the same time…

For entire text see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006.htm
For data see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006_data.htm

For an index of Earth Policy Institute resources related to Food and Agriculture see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Grain/index.htm

And for further reading on food security, see Outgrowing the Earth: The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures by Lester R. Brown (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), posted on-line for free downloading or for purchase at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Books/Out/index.htm

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8. Program on Torah and the Environment Held

CONTACT: Evonne Marzouk [Director, Canfei Nesharim]

June 16, 2006

"We are the Stewards of Our Environment"

Striar Hebrew Academy of Sharon Hosts Evening Program on Torah and Environment

Sharon, MA- Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, MA, hosted a "Yom Orchim" (visitors' day) on Torah and the environment on May 25. Canfei Nesharim ("The Wings of Eagles"), an organization dedicated to educating the Orthodox Jewish community about protecting the environment from the perspective of Torah and Jewish law, assisted with the program and participated in the evening.

Entitled, "We are the Stewards of Our Environment," the program included interactive activities organized by each of the school grades. The classes developed activities about recycling; "Shmirat Hasviva" (guarding nature and preventing pollution); "tzar ba'alei chaim" (humane treatment of animals); the value of trees; and connecting the Ten Plagues to natural and man-made disasters. The sixth graders also made a scale representation of the Tabernacle which they identified as a "spiritual biosphere."

The event included complimentary gift bags (made of cloth instead of paper). Three hundred Sharon community members attended the event. Canfei Nesharim Executive Director Evonne Marzouk, and local steering committee member Marty Bauman, also participated in the event.

"Canfei Nesharim was so pleased to help develop this event with Striar Hebrew Academy," said Marzouk. "The children's programs represented the critical environmental challenges facing us today, and demonstrated the importance of educating youth about this important issue."

Canfei Nesharim develops programs for Orthodox schools and synagogues to help Orthodox Jews understand the Jewish laws that are relevant to environmental protection and the significant environmental challenges being faced in the world, and to empower them to take actions which will make a difference in addressing those challenges. The Striar materials will be made available to other schools, and additional curriculum modules are forthcoming.

"Striar was proud to develop programs on the importance of protecting the environment. It is an important issue with Torah implications, and we want our students to understand their responsibility," said Eliot Strickon, a teacher at the school who helped organize the program.

Canfei Nesharim looks forward to developing additional community activities with the Sharon community, to be coordinated by Bauman, president of a local public relations, marketing and event management firm.

"Sharon and all communities can benefit greatly from the programs developed by Canfei Nesharim. We look forward to working together to engage the Sharon community on this important Torah issue," said Bauman.

For more information about Striar Hebrew Academy, visit http://www.striarhebrew.org. For more information about Canfei Nesharim, please go to www.canfeinesharim.org.

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10. Chicago Tribune Picks VegNews Magazine as 18th Best Magazine

June 15, 2006

[I subscribe and I agree that it an excellent magazine, probably the best vegetarian magazine.]

#18. VegNews. This hard-hitting, political and entertaining vegetarian staple should be on every magazine fan's plate. We love the fantastic roundup of stories that informs readers of everything from which ballparks serve veggie dogs and burgers to a forthcoming KFC in India with vegetarian dishes.

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

June 12, 2006

6/12/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. The Potential of the Al Gore Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”/My Thoughts After Seeing the Movie

2. "Veganism – It’s Pro-Life"/Suggestions on My Article Very Welcome

3. Update on Campaign to Prod the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) To Continue and Expand on Its Environmental Initiatives

4. Update on Rabbi David Sears’ Book, “The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism.”

5. A Message Global Warming Sermon based on Last Week’s Torah Reading

6. Another Impact of Global Warming: Expanding Deserts

7. Response From AgriProcessors (Postville Iowa Slaughterhouse) Supporter Re Working Conditions at the Slaughterhouse Slaughterhouse/Comments From “Failed Messiah” Blog

8. Reducing Global Warming by Replacing Light Bulbs

9. Earthsave NY Schedules Vegetarian Event

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. The Potential of the Al Gore Movie "An Inconvenient Truth"/My Thoughts After Seeing the Movie

I took the advice that I have been giving in previous JVNA newsletters: I saw the Al Gore global warming movie “An Inconvenient Truth” the first chance that I had. I was very impressed by the movie. It presented the very frightening facts in a very dramatic, graphic and interesting way. While it is a documentary and mainly a lecture, the many visual aids including many graphs and animation help keep your interest throughout. Please get to see the movie as soon as you can and please encourage others to see it. Also, please consider handing out vegetarian literature to people attending the movie. I handed out special, informative postcards from FARM and got a favorable response. We do not often have such opportunities to get the public’s attention on such a critical issue as global warming, so please do as much as possible to take advantage of it.

I was disappointed that the audience was relatively small – less than 20 people. Another reason that we have to try to increase awareness of the movie and why it is important that people see it. Also, the movie does not discuss the ways that animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to global warming, so we have to also increase awareness of that.

Below is information about how you can get the FARM postcards. Very good material can also be obtained from PETA. There is no charge for the material from either FARM or PETA but contributions, of course, would be welcome.

Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) (www.farmusa.org) has prepared a special color postcard entitled "Stop global warming...one 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 www.farmusa.org or by calling William at 1-800-MEATOUT.

Below is another analysis of the great potential that the Al Gore movie represents.
Forwarded message from the U.S. Climate Emergency Council:

**The Al Gore movie could change this country, but only if people like us utilize it now to build the movement to stop global warming.**

Dear Friends,

Last weekend an important new movie about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," began playing in a limited number of movie theatres. This weekend and in coming weeks it will be shown in many more, at least 400 according to the movie's website, www.climatecrisis.net.

We urge you to go see it and encourage others to do the same. It's educational, inspiring and very timely.

We are also urging activists around the country to download the attached leaflet and sign-on sheet and use them inside the theatre, if possible, or outside it to help us build a stronger and broader movement on this issue.

The U.S. Climate Emergency Council, which is initiating this campaign, grows out of the work of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). Over the last four years CCAN has grown from a small handful of people in Takoma Park, Maryland to, now, a region-wide organization working in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. CCAN played a key role in recently passing state legislation in Maryland which reduces nitrogen, sulfur and mercury pollution and requires that the state join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a consortium of eastern states committed to mandatory CO2 reductions from power plants. CCAN worked actively with the Climate Crisis Coalition last fall in the organizing that went on around the Montreal U.N. Climate Change conference. The two groups collaborated again this spring organizing a successful national strategy meeting in New York City on April 30th, the day after the huge March for Peace, Justice and Democracy which called for action on the climate crisis.

Just last week the Climate Emergency Council organized a successful, 36-hour continuous vigil outside the headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in D.C. protesting its suppression of the growing number of scientific reports linking more frequent Category 4 and 5 hurricanes to global warming. There was national press coverage of this action.

**Let's Take Action Now**

The nationwide airing of An Inconvenient Truth offers us a major opportunity to reach out and dramatically increase the number of people who become active on this issue. We have put together the attached leaflet and sign-on sheet as resources toward that end.

Last weekend CCAN activists had success doing this in the D.C. area. At one theatre, thanks to advance outreach to the manager, a CCAN member was able to make a brief announcement inside the theatre before the movie began and then, afterwards, to distribute a clipboard with sign-on sheets. Over the course of the evening 400 people were signed up. Si, se puede!

The U.S. Climate Emergency Council is so committed to this effort that we are willing to pay $1.00 for every three names and emails signed up and sent to us. Those who have just seen An Inconvenient Truth are prime candidates for getting immediately and actively involved, and we need thousands of such people and new and stronger climate action groups all over the country.

Help us build the urgently-needed movement to slow, stop and reverse global warming!

For U.S. CEC,

Mike Tidwell

Ted Glick
usajointheworld@igc.org 973-338-5398

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2. Veganism – Its Pro-Life/Suggestions on My Article Very Welcome

This article is a work in progress, so suggestions are very welcome. Thanks.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Contrary to a popular belief, the word vegetarian was not chosen because vegetarians eat primarily vegetables and other plant foods. Coined by the founders of the British Vegetarian Society in 1842, it comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning "whole, sound, fresh, or lively." This is very appropriate because vegetarianism, and even more so veganism (excluding not only meat, but also dairy, eggs and other animal products), is pro-life in all of its aspects.

Veganism is pro-life for people because it can prevent and in some cases reverse heart disease, many forms of cancer, strokes and other chronic degenerative diseases which kill 1.3 million Americans annually and cripple many more people. Plant foods provide the essential nutrients without the high cholesterol, animal protein and hormones and other additives in animal products.

Veganism is pro-life for the world’s hungry people, because it frees up land, grain, water, fuel, fertilizer and other agricultural resources that, if properly distributed and used, could eliminate world hunger, even if the world’s population grows beyond 10 billion people. It is outrageous that over seventy percent of the grain produced in the United States and almost forty percent of the grain produced worldwide is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million of the world’s people die from malnutrition and its effects annually and over 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

Veganism is clearly pro-life for animals. Over 50 billion farmed animals are raised annually mostly under very cruel conditions on factory farms before they are slaughtered to meet the demands of the world’s people for flesh. Just to give a few examples of current animal abuses: over 250 million male chicks at egg laying hatcheries in the U.S. alone are killed almost immediately after birth, because they can’t lay eggs and they are not of the breed programmed to produce much meat; egg laying hens are kept in spaces so small that they can’t raise even one wing; calves are taken away from their mothers very soon after birth so that the milk meant for them can be processed and sold; ducks and geese have huge amounts of grain forced down their throats to greatly fatten their livers to produce pate de foie gras. Since veganism argues that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment, a shift to veganism would have many additional benefits for animals.

Contrary to a common view, veganism is also pro-life for plants. Meat-eaters often try to justify the cruelty involved in producing the animal products that they eat by pointing out that vegetarian diets involve the killing of plants. What they fail to realize is that far more plants are destroyed by the raising of farmed animals, since the animals themselves are raised on plant foods, than if we ate the plants directly. Also, many acres of trees are destroyed to create grazing land and land to grow feed crops for animals. Thus, a vegan diet results in far less killing of plants and animals.

Veganism is pro-life for our imperiled planet. Animal-based agriculture contributes significantly to global warming, rapid species extinction, deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, and many additional environmental threats. Animal-based diets result in major emissions of the two primary greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, through the burning of tropical forests to create land for grazing and for producing feed crops, and methane, through the digestive processes of cattle. Veganism is also far less wasteful of natural resources. It takes up to 14 times the water, ten times the energy (mostly from fossil fuels), and 21 times the land to produce an animal-centered diet compared to a diet composed solely of plant foods. At a time when it is projected that over half of the world’s people will live in areas chronically short of water and current and projected shortages of oil threaten to cause major conflicts, the wastefulness of animal-based diets is a major factor threatening the world.

Veganism is also pro-life for humanity because it reduces the threat of war. Jewish sages, noting that the Hebrew words for bread (lechem) and war (milchamah) come from the same root, deduced that when there is a shortage of grain or natural resources, people are more likely to go to war. Plato and other ancient and modern thinkers have come to similar conclusions. This valuable insight has been borne out throughout history, from battles over water in the days of the biblical patriarchs to battles over oil and other scarce resources today. So, the significant environmental wastefulness of animal-based diets makes war more likely.

Veganism is also pro- life in the modern sense of the expression in its potential to sharply reduce the number of abortions. In 1840, girls in wealthy countries reached menarche (first menstruation) at an average age of 17 years. With the steady increase of consumption of animal products, with their increasing amounts of hormones and other additives, this age has steadily decreased until it is an average of about 12 years today. The hypothesis that this major shift in the age of puberty is related to meat/dairy-centered diets is supported by the fact that in areas of China where people live on plant-centered diets, the age of puberty is still between 15 and 19 years; in contrast, the daughters and grand-daughters of Chinese women raised in the United States have the same early onset of menarche as other American girls, so genetics is not a determining factor.

Because of the major decrease in the age of puberty, many girls have sexual feelings at a very young age when they are very ill-prepared to deal with these feelings in a responsible manner, and this has led to a large number of illegitimate births. Each year in the United States, 800,000 to 900,000 adolescents 19 years of age or younger become pregnant. If a modern girl menstruating at twelve becomes pregnant and an unmarried mother during her early teen years, there will be two children in a great deal of trouble, and there will generally be a great cost to society. Hence, many of these illegitimate pregnancies result in abortions. Even if abortions were illegal, there would likely be a very high rate of dangerous, illegal abortions among such young pregnant girls who might think that their futures would be very negatively affected by having a child. Neither is it pro-life when teenagers have their babies but are unable to be good parents, leading to a cascade of suffering for mothers, children and society alike. Of course, other steps should be taken to avoid abortions, including educating about ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Early puberty is also a significant risk factor for breast cancer, as is induced abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

There are two other connections to veganism that have the potential to reduce abortions somewhat. By reducing disease and hunger, a shift to veganism (or at least vegetarianism) could lead to healthier, more stable families, and this could also be a factor in reducing abortions, because families would be more likely to feel that they are capable of raising an additional child. Also, the pressure some environmentally-concerned people may feel to consider abortions as a way to reduce population growth would be reduced since, as indicated before, vegan diets require far less resources and have a far more benign effect on the environment than animal-based diets.

So, for the sake of human life, from before birth to death, and for plants, animals, and our imperiled planet, there should be a shift to veganism – the lifestyle that is pro-life.

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3. Update on Campaign to Prod the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) To Continue and Expand on Its Environmental Initiatives

The following letter was sent to the RCA by author and JVNA advisor Dan Brooks:
[Please consider sending your own letter to the RCA to commend them for their groundbreaking environmental resolutions and encourage them to continue and expand their efforts, including making people aware of connections between animal-based diets and global warming and other environmental threats.]

Yasher Ko'ach! [Congratulations!]

I truly appreciate RCA's resolutions on the "importance of preserving the environment". It's wonderful to see RCA taking a stand on this vital issue.

With global warming, deforestation, over-consumption, over-reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, resource depletion, tremendous waste, and other serious eco-issues, these resolutions are more needed now than ever.

There are many things we can do to help preserve the environment, though one of the most important things we can personally do on a daily basis, performing a kiddush HaShem with each bite, is to eat vegetarian.

Vegetarianism, our original and future diet, supported by many rabbis and others for our contemporary diet, is the diet that best meshes with Judaism's teachings, especially those to promote our health and safety (pekuach nefesh), our compassion for animals and others (tsa'ar ba'alei chayim), our being partners in creating (shomrei adamah) and in healing the world (tikkun ha-olam), conservation (bal tashchit), holy intention (kavanah), charity (tzedakah), and peace and justice (shalom v'tzedek). While we clearly can choose to eat meat or not, eating vegetarian is clearly best for our environment and most closely aligned with Judaism.

Please see my Vegetarian Mitzvah web site below for more information. I would also appreciate any comments you may have on it.

The Vegetarian Mitzvah

Daniel (Dov) Brook, Ph.D.

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4. Update on Rabbi David Sears’ Book, "The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism."

Recently some people have had trouble obtaining copies of "The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism" (Orot 2003) by JVNA member/advisor Rabbi David Sears. The good news is that this landmark work, which collects and translates hundreds of sources from the entire spectrum of rabbinic literature on these issues, is now available here on Amazon.com.

Special thanks to Alan Kesler for making this major contribution to the literature on these subjects available on Amazon. We hope that "The Vision of Eden" will now reach a wider audience, and bring the world another step closer to what the Creator originally intended it to be.

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5. A Message Global Warming Sermon based on Last Week’s Torah Reading

I found the following sample sermon while surfing the net looking for something else. I think that this is an excellent example of applying Torah teachings to a current critical issue.

Sample Sermon - Parshat Naso and Climate Change

During this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we hear the first utterance of a beautiful and important blessing:
“May God bless you and keep you!
“May God deal kindly and graciously with you!
“May God bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!”

Known as “Birkat kohanim,” “The Priestly Blessing,” it was taught to Aaron and the priests so that they could bless the people of Israel. Birkat kohanim is one of the oldest blessings still in use today. In the ancient land of Israel, it was used by the High Priest to bless the people on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And today, in some congregations, congregants descended from the priestly class—the Cohens, Kahns and Katzes among us—still say the Priestly Blessing on Yom Kippur.

For many contemporary Jews, the Priestly Blessing finds its greatest resonance outside the temple, at home on Friday nights. Each Shabbat, many families bless their children using the exact same language that Moses taught Aaron. Before Shabbat dinner, parents ask God to bless and keep their children; they ask God to deal with their children kindly and graciously; and they ask God to look upon their children and grant them peace. It’s a wonderful wish to bestow upon future generations: to enjoy a world of fairness, prosperity, and peace.

As Reform Jews, we realize that implicit in our children’s blessing is the understanding that we have to be partners with God in making their world a healthier and more just place. These things will not happen by themselves. The Priestly Blessing is a blessing of hope, but it is also a call to action.

So we must ask ourselves: Are we blessing our children through our actions as well as by our words? Are we leaving future generations a better world than the one we inherited? In many ways, of course, we are: In this country we enjoy standards of living and technologies unimaginable to our forbearers and to people in most other parts of the world.

But in spite of all of our technological achievements, in spite of—or in part because of—the mastery our species has demonstrated over our surroundings, we may be bestowing an unconscionable burden upon our children. I am referring to the burden of climate change.

We are already beginning to see climate change’s effects unfolding before us. Storms are appearing with greater frequency and intensity than ever before, droughts are worsening in sub-Saharan Africa, and flooding is beginning to threaten coastal cities and island nations. If we intend for our children to be blessed, we must change course—we must leave for them a world that is inhabitable.

Human activities are causing an enormous, dangerous experiment to be conducted around the globe—in fact, to the globe. In the atmosphere, various gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide and other trace chemicals, act like the glass of a greenhouse and trap heat near the earth’s surface. This natural “greenhouse effect” is essential for life on the planet, keeping global average surface temperatures warmer than they otherwise would be. But human activities are changing and enhancing this natural effect – thickening the walls of the “greenhouse” – with significant consequences for the global climate. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and certain agricultural activities and industrial practices unleash billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. Since the industrial revolution, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased by more than 30 percent to levels unsurpassed in the past 160,000 years, and these levels are expected to double by the year 2050.

The increase in the earth’s average temperature is often referred to as “global warming.” But since higher temperatures may not be the only effect of increased pollutants in the atmosphere, many scientists now prefer to use the broader term “climate change.” Scientists have discovered that in some places, climate change may cause temperatures to decrease, even if the earth’s average temperature rises, and the term global warming does not imply the other atmospheric changes, such as severe weather patterns, that are predicted to occur.

The consensus in the scientific community is that climate change is real and accelerating rapidly. It is no coincidence that the five warmest years on record have all occurred over the past decade. Scientists believe that temperatures will rise between 2 and 10 degrees in the next hundred years, resulting in continued rising of the oceans (up to two feet), expansion of arid territories, more severe weather events and changed weather patterns as more humidity and heat interact. Glaciers will continue to melt, forests and agriculture will be seriously impacted and the delicate coral reefs will continue to die. The greatest harm is expected to fall on the poorest people living in the equatorial regions and islands.

It is not just our own children that need our blessing—the health of future generations in Africa and coastal China, Europe, Bangladesh and the Americas all depend on our efforts. But we have the opportunity to take action on three important levels: as an individual, as a community, and as a nation.

First, as individuals, we need to open our minds and hearts to caring more deeply for creation. Let’s learn more about the problem of global warming. Consider taking your family to An Inconvenient Truth, the new film about climate change, and use the film as an opportunity for further discussion and action. The Religious Action Center website, www.rac.org, has text studies and discussion questions about An Inconvenient Truth that you can use.

We need to model practical efforts to reduce our consumption of energy—especially fossil fuel burning energy—by turning off lights, installing energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, using more efficient appliances and furnaces, choosing smaller homes, turning down thermostats in the winter and lowering air-conditioning during the summer. Our automobiles are leading emitters of CO2. Every gallon of gas we burn produces some 20 pounds of CO2. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average minivan emits 16,500 pounds of CO2 into our air each year. We need to start using more fuel efficient cars and driving less.

Second, as a community—as a congregation—we should speak up about the importance of climate change as a matter of our caring for God's creation and caring for our neighbors. We need to encourage each other to study the contributors to, and solutions for, global warming. We need to perform energy audits, choose energy efficient options, and push for public policy to decrease CO2 emissions (such as the credits for more efficient appliances and furnaces).

Third, as a nation, we need to join the rest of the world in agreeing to reduce CO2 as a matter of national policy and international diplomacy. As the world's largest economic and military power, we should be leading the world in reducing our CO2 emissions. If fuel economy standards were raised by just three miles per gallon, consumers would save up to $25 billion a year in fuel costs, reduce 140 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, and reduce America's reliance on foreign oil by as much as a million barrels a day. We need to demand that our representatives put global warming solutions on their action agenda. As people of faith, we can help our leaders understand that fighting climate change is a moral and religious imperative, not a partisan issue.

In Genesis 2:15, it is written that Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden “L’Ovdah u’l’Shomrah, “to till it and to tend it.” We learn from this verse that we are commanded both to benefit from the Earth’s bounty and to protect it. Our ancestors understood instinctively the link between tending and tilling: one makes the other possible—but it’s taking us a little bit longer to get it. Let’s take the Priestly Blessing to heart and commit to tending to our planet, so that our children may enjoy its gifts as much as we can today. Shabbat Shalom.

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6. Another Impact of Global Warming: Expanding Deserts

Forwarded article from Grist magazine:

World's deserts will become more desert-y, says U.N.

Happy World Environment Day -- we got you some bad news! As climate change progresses, desert temperatures will rise up to 12.6 degrees F by the end of the century; rainfall in most deserts will decline by up to 20 percent; water will become scant, or too salty to drink or use for crops. So warns a chipper new United Nations report, anyway. These changes could endanger the globe's 500 million desert-dwellers and a variety of rare animals, including our new favorite, the Asian houbara bustard. Desert regions account for nearly a quarter of the globe's total land surface and house cities like Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Phoenix, Ariz. The U.N. warns of conflict over increasingly scarce resources in desert areas. One bright side (ha ha): deserts could boom in solar power. With today's technology, a 310-square-mile area of the Sahara could generate enough solar energy to power the entire world.

straight to the source: The Guardian, John Vidal, 05 Jun 2006

straight to the source: The Independent, Steve Connor, 05 Jun 2006

straight to the source: Reuters, Hamid Ould Ahmed, 05 Jun 2006

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7. Response From AgriProcessors (Postville Iowa Slaughterhouse) Supporter Re Working Conditions at the Slaughterhouse/Comments From “Failed Messiah” Blog

In past JVNA newsletters we have presented an article and an editorial from the Jewish weekly “Forward” re alleged very negative working conditions at the Postville slaughterhouse, the largest glatt kosher facility in the US. The article critical of the Forward’s article and editorial below appeared in the last issue of the Jewish Press. It is followed by comments from the “Failed Messiah” blog and a letter to the editor from Lewis Regenstein. I have forwarded material from the Jewish Press on this issue to the Forward, in the thought that they might want to respond. Suggestions re getting the truth about the conditions at the slaughterhouse are welcome. Thanks. Perhaps an independent respected group should investigate. I believe that the bottom line re this is that since animal-based diets and agriculture threaten human health and the entire planet and seriously violate at least six basic Jewish mandates, it is essential that Jews play our mandated role to be a light unto the nations and play a leading role in educating people to the need to shift toward plant based diets. We want to always be respectful and fair, of course, but we should consider how the current controversy at the Postville, Iowa slaughterhouse can be properly used to increase awareness and obtain positive changes.

Hatchet Job On Kosher Meat Company
By: Nathan Lewin
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

I was in New York on Thursday, May 25, when a banner front-page headline in that week's Forward caught my eye from the newspaper box on the Manhattan street-corner. It shrieked: "IN IOWA MEAT PLANT, KOSHER 'JUNGLE' BREEDS FEAR, INJURY, SHORT PAY."

(I have represented AgriProcessors, the kosher meat company owned by the Rubashkin family, in its battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA surreptitiously took videos of shechita at the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and posted them on its website in a campaign to discredit AgriProcessors and, in my opinion, to rouse public sentiment against kosher slaughter.)

I injected four quarters into the vending machine. The article was written by Nathaniel Popper, a Forward reporter who had no trouble finding me by telephone on March 13, when he was writing a piece headlined "USDA Slaps Kosher Slaughterhouse" that appeared in the March 17 issue of the Forward. A year-old Department of Agriculture report that largely exonerated AgriProcessors and recounted that the AgriProcessors shechita procedure was fully known to, and approved by, the Agriculture Department inspectors had recently been made public because PETA had made a legal demand for its publication.

I had told Popper in March that notwithstanding the "spin" that PETA was putting on the few negative aspects of the report, the Agriculture Department report was overwhelmingly exculpatory. Popper did not like my response. He gave me two sentences in his story. He took advantage of the opportunity to give much larger play to his assertion that the Orthodox Union "has questions about the rotating pen used at the [AgriProcessors] plant," although shechita munachat is the only shechita that the Israeli rabbinate accepts and allows for kosher meat imported into Israel.

The Orthodox Union's supervising rabbi was invoked, as was the president of the Rabbinical Assembly – the Conservative national rabbinical organization – who, according to Popper, maintained that the rotating pen "violates the prohibition against tza'ar ba'alei hayyim."

A colleague of Popper's was also able to find me easily when the Forward decided in early April that it was newsworthy to write a story about PETA's release of a video that again attacked shechita generally and AgriProcessors in particular. The film was narrated by novelist Jonathan Foer and featured a Conservative rabbi and Rabbi Irving Greenberg of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation.

The Forward reporter spent at least ten minutes on the phone trying to get me to agree that if modern science discovered a more humane method of dispatching animals than kosher slaughter, the Orthodox rabbinate would have to reexamine shechita. I didn't give him even the inch for which he cajoled and pleaded. My reward was that our interview was not mentioned in his story. The interviewees he quoted were only those who fit his agenda.

So I probably should not have been as shocked as I was to read the Forward's front-page attack and to note that its allegations had never been presented to me or, to my knowledge, to any AgriProcessors representative for response. But the claims made by Popper's article – both explicitly and by implication – were extraordinarily serious.

Popper claimed that the approximately 800 employees of AgriProcessors in Postville – mainly Hispanic immigrants – were being exploited by being forced into sub-human living quarters, cheated in their paychecks, subjected to corrupt supervisors, denied medical care and safety training, and essentially imprisoned in Postville with no chance to leave or to seek better employment. No decent person – much less a Jew concerned about allegations of unethical behavior by religious Jews that might give rise to a chilul Hashem – could fail to be troubled by what Popper was reporting.

I contacted Sholom Rubashkin, manager of the Postville plant, who was quoted in the article. He insisted that the story was fundamentally false. I wondered whether we could verify AgriProcessors' denial of the story's allegations, thinking to myself that the story could only be effectively refuted by the employees themselves.

On Monday (which was the Memorial Day holiday), Rubashkin told me that he had received siyata di'shmaya. Acting entirely on his own, Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, a rav hamachshir in St. Paul, Minnesota, who gives hashgachas to AgriProcessor products as well as to others, had decided independently on Sunday to travel to Postville to see with his own eyes and hear with his own ears whether the condition of AgriProcessors employees in Postville was accurately described in Popper's article.

Rabbi Zeilingold took with him Dr. Carlos Carbonera, a distinguished member of his congregation who is fluent in Spanish. Dr. Carbonera's field is mathematics, in which he was awarded a Ph.D. by Berkeley. He went along to be able to communicate easily with Hispanic employees, but Rabbi Zeilingold asked him to be an independent investigator and not simply to serve as the rabbi's assistant.

I spoke on Memorial Day with Rabbi Zeilingold. He told me that he was in the process of writing a detailed report of his visit to Postville, as was Dr. Carbonera. In the most vehement terms, he described the Popper article as "koolo sheker ve-chazav" – a total lie. His full report, which he sent to me by e-mail late on Monday night along with Dr. Carbonera's, eviscerated the Forwardaccount. Rabbi Zeilingold's report has been posted on various websites and Dr. Carbonera's account appears on page 6 of this issue of The Jewish Press.

The principal questions Popper raised and Rabbi Zeilingold and Dr. Carbonera discussed are the following:

Do the employees live in dingy overcrowded quarters? Popper began his article by referring to the "mobile homes and cramped apartments" in which AgriProcessors' Hispanic employees allegedly live. Later in his piece Popper described a "bare apartment" which five single Guatemalans call home. It has only "two beat-up couches with cushions that sink to the floor," stained carpets, and a television "that sits on the box in which it came."

Is Popper's description accurate? If so, it is surely not typical – although that is plainly his implication. Rabbi Zeilingold saw very attractive separate homes that Hispanic workers had purchased, as well as spacious modern apartments in which many lived. The implication that AgriProcessors owns a trailer park where it deposits its Hispanic workers is demonstrably false. Rabbi Zeilingold heard from the employees he interviewed that some employees choose to live in a trailer park owned by a Postville councilman who has no association with AgriProcessors or the Rubashkin family. Some choose on their own to save money on rent to be able to send funds to Guatemala or Mexico or to build up a nest egg to buy or build their own homes.

Are the employees locked into Postville? Popper identifies one miserably unhappy woman who came to Iowa "a year ago from Guatemala." She has stayed in Postville, says Popper, only because "It's the only factory here. We have no choice." No one can leave, Popper says, because there is "no publc transportation into or out of town, and few immigrant workers can secure driver's licenses to escape the isolated community." (Note the calculated choice of the word "escape," designed to portray Postville as a prison.)

Rabbi Zeilingold spoke with 20 AgriProcessors employees, married and single men, wed and single mothers. All said that they were satisfied with their working conditions, that they could leave for other jobs, and that they chose not to do so. In fact, workers had come to Postville from other states, many on the recommendation of family members or friends who were AgriProcessors employees. Hispanic employees told Dr. Carbonera that they are staying at AgriProcessors because they are paid pay better at AgriProcessors and have better working arrangements than they would anywhere else in the country. And employees who wanted to leave Postville for other jobs had freely done so.

Do the employees get medical care and safety training? Popper's Forward article implies that AgriProcessors' workforce has absolutely no medical care. The woman who is his principal source of information has a cutting hand that is "swollen and deformed" and no doctor to treat it.

Rabbi Zeilingold heard otherwise from employees who told him that Postville has a "free clinic where they are treated well." Had Popper asked Sholom Rubashkin, he would have learned that, as part of its benefits package, AgriProcessors pays at least 70 percent of the cost of medical insurance of those employees who choose to be insured. The rabbi interviewed one Hispanic employee who had been injured in a plant accident "and was taken to a Spanish-speaking doctor."

That employee also told the rabbi that he had received safety training (which Popper reports as inadequate or nonexistent).
Other employees told Dr. Carbonera that, contrary to the Forward's allegations, "the company trains them regularly and has established procedures for the safety of employees."

Are the employees' families happy? Rabbi Zeilingold sought out unbiased witnesses and deliberately did not rely on AgriProcessors officials. He spoke with Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor and teacher at the local elementary school. Wahls described the "care and consideration that the school has for . . . newly arrived immigrant children," and the rabbi heard from the Hispanic employees themselves how happy their wives and children were in Postville.

One Guatemalan employee who has been living in Postville for one year with his wife and three sons (and rents the lower level of a two-family house) spoke glowingly of AgriProcessors and the Rubashkins. He came to Postville from Texas, where he had worked for a plumber. He told Rabbi Zeilingold in broken English, "This is the best place."

Do the employees get fair wages and are they "shortchanged?" The Hispanic employees to whom Rabbi Zeilingold spoke felt that the AgriProcessors pay scale is fair and in line with the pay at other slaughterhouses. One employee had worked at a California slaughterhouse for five years and then in an Iowa slaughterhouse. He felt that AgriProcessors "has been very fair to him." He purchased his own home and brought his family from Mexico to Postville. Rabbi Zeilingold and Dr. Carbanero asked explicitly whether any of the employees had been "shortchanged" on their paychecks, as the Forwardhad alleged. The employees responded that they always received the correct amount and were unaware that anyone had ever been "shortchanged."

Was the union unfairly excluded? The Forward quotes an unsuccessful union organizer twice in the Popper article – once to describe AgriProcessors as "the worst" slaughterhouse and then to give his opinion that the workers "were so scared and beat down by the company" that they rejected the union. Popper does not bother to provide details. Notwithstanding a four-month union organizing effort, too few workers were interested in a union to meet the minimum required for an election. This is as resounding a loss of the popular vote as one can imagine. The candidate who didn't even get enough signatures on a nominating petition is attacking the fairness of the election for which he failed to qualify.
Federal law gives AgriProcessors' employees a free choice as to whether they want a union. These employees decided overwhelmingly that they wanted none.

Does management hire corrupt supervisors? None of the employees Rabbi Zeilingold interviewed had heard or even conceived of the payment of "bribes" to supervisors. The rabbi was told that two supervisors at the plant had been too dictatorial and abusive. Management fired them after hearing the workers' complaints. The employees told Rabbi Zeilingold that "there has not been a problem" since the discharged supervisors left.

Why is it, one wonders, that the Forward reporter was unable to find anyone who would say anything more favorable about the Postville plant than the "handful of employees" who, according to Popper, made the seemingly grudging acknowledgment that "with a good supervisor, work at the plant was tolerable?"

(Did Popper really hear the word "tolerable" or was it his personal substitution for "good" or "satisfactory"? Are the content employees truly only a "handful" while the critics' numbers are so large that they are generically described throughout his article as "the workers"?)
Could it possibly be that Popper pre-selected his interviewees to fit the thesis that he was intent on proving and that he edited their comments? Or is his defense that the Hispanic employees who live in private homes and modern apartments, who have been deservedly promoted to better paying jobs at AgriProcessors, who are healthy and satisfied with the medical care they receive, and who have encouraged relatives and friends to come join the AgriProcessors work-force went into hiding when Popper came to Postville?

If conditions are as terrible as Popper describes, how could Rabbi Zeilingold have found, in his words, "that here was a food plant in small-town America that had workers who were satisfied and felt their lives had meaning and fulfillment?"

If Popper's account had any validity, how could the rabbi have met Hispanic workers who "recognized the Rubashkin family and the AgriProcessors establishment as their benefactors?" And how could a self-respecting rabbi have said of Popper's Postville that it "is a good place to work in a beautiful little town, one offering opportunity, happiness, and fulfillment?"

And how could Dr. Carbonera, in his report of his visit, have said of the same plant that Popper describes as a "Kosher 'Jungle": "That little Iowa town of Postville is providing a haven to immigrants from Latin America and Hispanics in general"?

Indeed, Dr. Carbonera lauded "The work opportunities, the health care and educational systems, the living conditions in Postville," which he called "magnets for immigrants."

His conclusion was that "AgriProcessors, faithful to Torah ethics, provides an environment where its employees are treated with justice."

Because of Popper's article, the Forward's editorial writers dedicated their full editorial column in the same issue to challenging AgriProcessors' ethics and questioning the kashrut of its meat. An editorial on journalistic ethics would have been more appropriate.

Nathan Lewin is a prominent Washington attorney who has appeared before the Supreme Court in many Orthodox causes.
Comments from “Failed Messiah” to the controversy re working conditions at AgriProcessors:


Has The OU "Cleared" Rubashkin?

June 12, 2006

Carlos Carbonera, the Spanish-speaking friend of Rabbi Asher Zeilingold who served as Rabbi Zeilingold's interpreter on his recent "investigative trip" to Postville, attended the Minneapolis Community Kollel dinner tonight and spent a considerable amount of time telling people that Rubashkin was innocent of the charges reported in the Forward's recent exposé. Carbonera also was heard telling people that the OU has "investigated" and "cleared" Rubashkin, as has a Conservative rabbis group.

I can only say that all of these people stand to lose much if Rubashkin is found to have committed the worker abuse reported in the Forward. In particular, the OU – which certainly knew of the abuse as it was happening – will be forced to explain their silence on this issue, a silence matched by the OU's pre-PETA exposé silence about Rubashkin's throat-ripping and animal abuse, it's post-PETA denials, and its continued silence about the many violations of tzaar baalei hayyim (animal cruelty) law inherent in many of the food productions they certify.

For the OU, this is Baruch Lanner all over again, except worse. This scandal threatens to bring down their cash cow – the hundreds of millions of dollars in kosher supervision money sheltered by their tax exempt church/synangogue status.

If the OU has followed Rabbi Zeilingold's lead (and Rabbi Z has exactly the same loss potential here, just in smaller amounts) and whitewashed Rubashkin abuses, and if this can be reasonably proven, the only answer is to clean up the OU itself. The OU's complete books must be made public, a forensic audit must be done and made public, and all senior staff must be removed if found tainted, either by those audits or by the Rubashkin coverups.

I suspect the "Conservative rabbis" Carbonera spoke about will turn out to be a handful of Conservative rabbis concerned that the repeated scandals with Rubashkin will cause people to stop keeping kosher, and who therefore have latched on to Rabbi Zeilingold's "findings." If so, a firm public statement from those rabbis distancing themselves from Carbonera's remarks is enough. If it is more than that, and if Rubashkin is reasonably proved guilty, more drastic steps will need to be taken.
Letter to the Jewish Press editor from author and JVNA advisor Lewis Regenstein:

To the Editor:

Concerning Nathan Lewin's article, "Hatchet Job on Kosher Meat Company," the most important point to be considered here is how
shameful it is that cruel animal slaughter methods are clearly being
undertaken, ironically, in the name of Jewish law, when in fact such actions violate Jewish teachings.

The revelations of shocking and illegal abuse of animals at this kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa have overlooked a fundamental fact: the Jewish religion has strict laws and teachings forbidding cruelty to animals. In fact, there is an entire code of laws (the requirement "to prevent the suffering of living creatures") mandating that other creatures be treated with compassion.

Indeed, the Jews invented the concept of kindness to animals some 4,000 years ago, and it is mandated throughout the Bible and Jewish law. Even the holiest of our laws, The Ten Commandments, requires that farm animals be allowed to enjoy a day of rest on the Sabbath. So the Almighty must have felt that kindness to animals was not a trivial matter.

Jews are not allowed to pass by an animal in distress or to ignore animals being mistreated, even on the Sabbath. Yet this is exactly what we do when we certify as kosher products from animals that are treated cruelly.

It is truly a shanda, a shameful thing, that many of us continue to endorse the massive abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear, and anguish, in addition to the cruel way they are killed.

Sincerely yours,
Lewis Regenstein

The writer is the author of "Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World's Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature", and president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature.

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8. Reducing Global Warming by Replacing Light Bulbs

Forwarded message from author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook:

Check this out - I just pledged to "Make the Switch" - by changing 2 normal light bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescent lights. Thousands of people are pledging, too.

The next generation of bulbs are better than the old ones and last up to 15 times longer. That saves money and global warming pollution.

In fact, if every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, we would reduce as much pollution as if we took 3.5 million cars off the roads!

Make your own pledge and help out in the fight to stop global warming

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9. Earthsave NY Schedules Vegetarian Event

Forwarded message from Earthsave NY:

[This event is on next Shabbat, but is included here for informational purposes and so that you can inform others who might be able to attend.]

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Noon - 7pm
Lincoln Center, North Plaza

Can you help spread the word about next week's Taste of Health, the healthy food festival?; We have beautiful color flyers that can be posted in Health Food Stores, Restaurants, Gyms, Clinics or wherever you can find a spot!

If you want to post flyers but can't print them out, please contact us and we'll get the flyers to you.

Thanks for your help!

Yours for the Earth,
Caryn Hartglass

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