August 22, 2007

8/22/07 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Latest re Our Movie “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World”

2. Letters in L.A. Times re the OU's “Halachic Adventure”

3. Are We Approaching Global Warming Tipping Points

4. New Documentary Considers Global Warming Threats and Possible Responses

5. Getting Cruelty-Free Tefillin

6. Israeli City Starts Grassroots Environmental Project

7. Dead Sea is Dying/Are There Solutions?

8. Several Items Re Kapparot (Kapporos)

9. Vegetarian Rabbi (JVNA Advisor) Blends Faith and Agriculture in Community Program

10. A Challenging NY Times Op-Ed Column on Global Warming

11. Correction

12. Looking for Someone to Translate a Short Article from Yiddish to English

13. Hebrew Month of Cheshvan Declared Social Justice Month

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 the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, 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. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.



1. Latest re Our Movie “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World”

As indicated in a previous message, our producer Lionel Friedberg is starting the final stages of production of our movie and we expect it to be ready for showings this Fall. We hope to have premieres in Jerusalem on November 12, in Los Angeles the following week and in Staten Island on November 20. After that we hope that you will help in having the movie shown in as many places as possible. We already have volunteers who will help arrange for showings in several cities. But many more are needed.

Please let me know if you can help schedule a showing at a local synagogue, JCC, school or other venue. We will provide you with a fee DVD and background material and we will help publicize your event and get media coverage and a good attendance, and provide you with background material on the issues.

We aim to change the consciousness of Jews and others re vegetarianism, the need to respond to current environmental threats and much more, at a time when our world is speeding toward an unprecedented catastrophe. We have great potential and your help in promoting the movie and our messages will be extremely important.

I am considering hiring media promotion specialist Ben Frank to get me, producer Lionel Friedberg and possibly others interviewed on radio and TV programs in the print media starting possibly on November 1. I engaged him in 2002 after my 2 Judaica books new editions were published and he got me on about 35 radio and TV shows in 3 months. His fee is $1,500 a month fir a minimum of three months. I plan to be very aggressive and controversial in interviews making a strong case for the necessity of far greater involvement in responding to global warming and other environmental threats and the necessity of a major shift toward plant-based diets. Suggestions re this very welcome. Thanks.

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to JVNA, as we will be able to do so much more to have a very successful campaign with greater financial resources. We need money to produce 10,000 DVDs, promote the movie through ads and in other ways, book some venues to show the movie and, in general, to run a campaign unlike any previously seen in the vegetarian world to effectively get our message out to as many people as possible and to help produce the changes necessary to shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Reminder: The greatest inheritance that you can leave your children and grandchildren is a healthier, more just, compassionate, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world. If current trends continue, the prospects for future generations is very bleak. A tax-deductible contribution to the completion and effective distribution of “A Sacred Duty” and our related activities is an investment in our children's and grandchildren's future, perhaps the most important contribution that you can make to that future.

Since JVNA is a non-profit, tax-deductible registered charity group, any contribution you make is fully tax deductible.

While every contribution is welcome and much appreciated, contributors of $1,000 or more will be acknowledged in the credits at the end of the movie, if received early enough.

If you wish, you may make a gift to JVNA in honor or in memory of someone. We will gladly send an acknowledgement letter.

Please send a check made out to Jewish Vegetarians of North America or JVNA to our very capable secretary/treasurer:

John Diamond
49 Patton Drive
Newport News, Virginia 23606-1744

If you prefer, you can donate online via PayPal by clicking the "Make a Donation" button at the bottom of the page at

If you have suggestions re possible grants or other fundraising ideas, please let me know.

Many thanks for your continued cooperation and support,


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2. Letters in L.A. Times re the OU's “Halachic Adventure”

The following two letters appeared in last Saturday's Los Angeles Times:,0,6200896.story?coll=la-news-comment-letters

That's not kosher
August 18, 2007

Re "A chance to sample kosher's diversity," Aug. 11

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and an organizer of a protest against the Orthodox Union's event, I was disappointed in this article's failure to consider our protest or some of the broader issues involved. At a time when livestock agriculture is a major factor behind the world rapidly heading to an unprecedented catastrophe, when the Jewish community and others are being afflicted by an epidemic of diseases that have been linked to animal-based diets and when billions of animals are being severely mistreated on factory farms, holding a feast that celebrates and encourages meat-eating is sheer insanity.

Rather than hold such an event, the Jewish community should seriously consider the many moral issues related to our diets and do more to apply Jewish values in responding to current threats.

Richard H. Schwartz
My original, unedited letter:

Re "A chance to sample the diversity of kosher foods."

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and an organizer of a protest against the Orthodox Union's “halachic Adventure,” I was very disappointed in this article for its failure to consider our protest or some of the broader issues involved in a 15-course dinner celebrating and encouraging the eating of many rare and exotic animals. At a time when 'livestock' agriculture is a major factor behind the world rapidly heading to an unprecedented catastrophe, when the Jewish community and others are being afflicted by an epidemic of diseases that have been linked to animal-based diets, and when billions of animals are being severely mistreated on factory farms, holding such a feast that celebrates and encourages meat-eating is sheer insanity. In this perilous time for all of humanity and God's Creation, major changes are required, including a widespread shift toward plant-based diets. Rather than holding such an event, the Jewish community should seriously consider the many moral issues related to our diets and do more to apply Jewish values in responding to current threats, so that tikkun olam, the repair and healing of our precious, but imperiled, world, becomes a central focus in Jewish life today.
Second letter:
The Orthodox Union's Beverly Hills feast spat in the face of Jewish respect for animals. The Bible espouses a vision of respect for God's creatures. Dominion is a responsibility for compassionate stewardship, not a mandate to seek out and kill partridges, yaks and as many exotic creatures as can be deemed fit. We're better off leaving meat off our plates -- whether it's the flesh of animals abused in factory farms or exotic animals that seem out of place at kosher meals.

Michael Croland

Norfolk, Va.

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3. Are We Approaching Global Warming Tipping Points

Scientists Warn on Climate Tipping Points

By Alok Jha
The Guardian UK

Thursday 16 August 2007

Some tipping points for climate change could be closer than previously thought. Scientists are predicting that the loss of the massive Greenland ice sheet may now be unstoppable and lead to catastrophic sea-level rises around the world.

In drawing together research on tipping points, where damage due to climate change occurs irreversibly and at an increasing rate, the researchers concluded that the risks were much greater than those predicted by the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

If the Greenland ice sheet melted completely, for example, it would raise global sea levels by seven metres. According to the IPCC report, the melting should take about 1,000 years. But the study, by Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia, showed the break-up could happen more quickly, in 300 years. Professor Lenton said: "We know that ice sheets in the last ice age collapsed faster than any current models can capture, so our models are known to be too sluggish."

His study identified eight tipping points that could be passed by the end of this century. They include the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the melting of the west Antarctic ice sheet, and a collapse of the global ocean current known as the thermohaline circulation. If that circulation stopped, the Indian monsoons and the gulf stream could be shut down.

Prof Lenton said the IPCC way of working, including multiple reviews, caused it to issue more conservative reports than his team's studies. He added that the inevitable collapse of the Greenland ice sheet was closer than thought because of the latency in the Earth's climate system. "If you could stabilise the greenhouse gas levels to today's level, you'll still get some further warming [by 2100]."

A global average temperature rise of just 1C would be enough to slip the Greenland ice over the edge. The IPCC's prediction for 2100 is a rise of 1.1C-6.4C.

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4. New Documentary Considers Global Warming Threats and Possible Responses


Helpful Hints for Saving the Planet

Published: August 17, 2007 New York Times

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the environment, blah, blah, blah, melting ice caps. To judge from all the gas-guzzlers still fouling the air and the plastic bottles clogging the dumps, it appears that the news that we are killing ourselves and the world with our greed and garbage hasn't sunk in. That's one reason “The 11th Hour,” an unnerving, surprisingly affecting documentary about our environmental calamity, is such essential viewing. It may not change your life, but it may inspire you to recycle that old slogan-button your folks pinned on their dashikis back in the day: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

The problem looks overwhelming, literally, as demonstrated by the images of overflowing landfills and sickeningly polluted bodies of water that flicker through the movie like damning evidence. Structured in mainstream fiction-film fashion (in other words, like a term paper), it opens with an introduction that presents the case, builds momentum with an absorbing analytical middle section and wraps up with just enough optimism that I didn't want to run home and stick my head in an energy-efficient oven. No matter how well intentioned, political documentaries that present problems without real-life, real-time, real-people solutions - an 800 number, an address, something - just add to the noise (pollution), becoming another title on some filmmaker's résumé as well as a temporary salve for the audience's guilt.

Written and directed by the sisters Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, and narrated on- and off-camera by Leonardo DiCaprio, who served as one of the producers, “The 11th Hour” attempts to stave off helplessness, and the nihilism that often follows it, mostly by appealing to our reason.

In one interview snippet after another, dozens of scientists, activists, gurus, policy types and even a magical-mushroom guy go through the arguments, present the data and criticize the anti-green faction, putting words to the images that are liberally interspersed between these talking heads like mortar. Every so often, Mr. DiCaprio pops up on screen to interrupt this show and tell, squinting into the camera and pushing the narrative to the next topic.

If your head isn't lodged in the sand, much of what's said in the movie will be agonizing and familiar. Gasping children, disappearing animals, gushing oil, billowing smoke, dying lakes, emptying forests, warming weather - the list of ills is numbingly familiar. In the movie's eye-catching opener, the directors riffle through a veritable catalog of timely snapshots, some obvious (a smoggy skyline), others less so (a human fetus).

Effectively blunt, this sequence provoked a colleague to invoke the name of the avant-garde giant Stan Brakhage, but the truer visual and structural model here is a film like “Koyaanisqatsi,” with its streaming global landscapes. The difference is that the images in “The 11th Hour” are pointedly horrifying, not reassuring, pacific or aestheticized.

That can make it tough to watch, which the directors clearly know. They whip through the pictures and the interviews fast - at times a little too fast - and keep the information flowing as quickly as the visuals. This swift, steady pace means that you receive a lot of bad news from a lot of different sources. The ecologist Brock Dolman explains, “When we started feeding off the fossil fuel cycle, we began living with a death-based cycle.” From there the topic nimbly jumps to climate change, national security (courtesy the former director of the C.I.A., R. James Woolsey), Katrina, asthma and the stunning news from the oceanographer and author Sylvia Earle that “we've lost 90 percent of most of the big fish in the sea.”

Yes, it's bad, but it's not over yet. Many of those same sober talking heads also argue with equal passion that we can save ourselves, along with the sky above us and the earth below. The capacity for human beings to fight, to rise to the occasion, as Mr. Woolsey notes, invoking America's rapid, albeit delayed jump into World War II, gives hope where none might seem possible.

It is our astonishing capacity for hope that distinguishes “The 11th Hour” and that speaks so powerfully, in part because it is this all-too-human quality that may finally force us to fight the good fight against the damage we have done and continue to do. As the saying goes, keep hope alive - and if you're holding this review in your hands, don't forget to recycle the paper.

“The 11th Hour” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has freakily scary environmental images.


Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners; narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio; directors of photography, Peter Youngblood Hills and Andrew Rowlands; edited by Pietro Scalia and Luis Alvarez y Alvarez; music by Jean-Pascal Beintus and Eric Avery; production designer, Ms. Conners; produced by Mr. DiCaprio, Ms. Petersen, Chuck Castleberry and Brian Gerber; released by Warner Independent Pictures. Running time: 91 minutes.

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5. Getting Cruelty-Free Tefillin

I sometimes get questions re the possibility of getting kosher cruelty-free tefillin, made from the skins of animals who died a natural death after living a cruelty-free life. Until recently, I was not able to refer people to anyone.

However, I have recently found out thar Rabbi Shmuel Rosenberg (Shmuel the Sofer) of Tsfat, Israel makes such tefillin. He is highly recommended by JVNA advisor and author Rabbi Dovid Sears.

If interested, please contact Rabbi Rosenberg at

His web site is: His approach to making sure that specially-ordered tefillin are cruelty free is not yet posted at the site, but e is working on it and it should be posted soon. If you would like information re this before it is posted,, please email the Rabbi Rosenberg.

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6. Israeli City Starts Grassroots Environmental Project

[Thanks to JVNA advisor and author Rabbi Dovid Sears for alerting us to this initiative.]

Forwarded message from Leah Willis
Executive Assistant
5 Penn Plaza, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 646-378-2174
Fax: 646-378-2039

For thousands of years the Mystical City of Tsfat in Northern Israel has always been a beacon of light for spiritual searchers, artists and all Jews. Unfortunately, in the past years, her spiritual light has been partially obscured by the neglect of her physical beauty. Tsfat suffers from economic hardship and the funds for physical clean up and environmental education are seriously lacking.

The time is ripe for change.

Nachal Novea Tsfat Fund and Breslev Tsfat have developed a realistic, manageable grassroots program that will physically repair, clean up and beautify the Holy City of Tsfat and incorporate local environmental education of Tsfat's youth into every part of the process.

Please join the Nachal Novea Tsfat Fund and become partners in restoring Tsfat's physical splendor to a level befitting her spiritual magnificence.

To read about the 'A Beautiful Tsfat' project please visit our website and the 'A Beautiful Tsfat' Project page at

For gifting & dedication opportunities, contact:

Pamela Weiner, Director of Development & Special Projects / 516-205-0493

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7. Dead Sea is Dying/Are There Solutions?

Thanks to JVNA advisor and author Rabbi Dovid Sears for forwarding the following article:

Scientists Oppose Peres' Dead Sea Canal Scheme
by Gil Ronen

The World Bank has finished a series of public hearings on a project which will link the Red Sea in the Gulf of Eilat to the depleted and polluted Dead Sea, located between Israel and Jordan. The project, which calls for the digging of a canal between the two bodies of water, has been touted by President Shimon Peres as part of the "Peace Valley" scheme which he believes will bring Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel closer together.

But environmental groups and geologists quoted in an Al-Jazeera feature say the plan could damage three unique local ecosystems: the Gulf of Eilat; the Arava Valley between Eilat and the Dead Sea; and the Dead Sea itself.

The opponents of the project say the political motivation of uniting Israel, Jordan and the PA behind one joint project has produced a climate in which the environmental effects of the endeavor are not being properly considered.

Proponents say it will save the Dead Sea. The water level of the Dead Sea is dropping by an average of 1 meter per year. As a result, the unique ecology and the economic development in the Dead Sea region are in serious danger. Environmentalists have distributed a bumper sticker seen on many Israeli cars that reads "Save the Dead Sea."

The World Bank says the $5 billion construction of a water conveyance system bringing salt water regenerating the flow of the Jordan River to bring water to the Dead Sea will cost just than $800 million from the Red Sea would stabilize the Dead Sea's level and thus preserve tourism, agriculture and mineral extraction in the region.

'The Bank is refusing to listen'

Clive Lipchin, director of research at the Arava institute for environmental studies, said, however, that the Gulf of Eilat "is already overdeveloped with 70 percent coral mortality on the Israeli side." "For the Arava Valley," he said, "the threat emanates from possible earthquakes which could cause a break in the canal and flood the valley with seawater, destroying agriculture and polluting the groundwater used by Israel and Jordan."

"The most serious problem, about which very little is known," said Lipchin, "is the mixing of the waters - the Dead Sea with the Red Sea. This is what is unique to the project and has never before been attempted. We simply cannot predict what the outcome will be," he said.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), said: "The Bank is simply refusing to listen to real alternatives that have been put on the table."

One alternative to the plan proposed by environmentalists and local geologists includes channeling the flow of water in the north back to the Jordan River which flows into the Dead Sea. Over the past 50 years, the amount of fresh water the Jordan River has carried into the Dead Sea has decreased from 1.3 billion cubic meters annually, to just 70 - 100 million cubic meters. This is because Israel, Jordan and Syria now divert 95% of the flow.

As a result, "the culturally and historically important Jordan River has been turned into little more than an open sewage channel," FoEME said.

FoEME's report on rerouting water back to the Jordan River predicts: "There would be a sizeable net environmental gain from rehabilitating the Jordan River and the Dead Sea with no negative environmental implications. This must be compared to the significant risks associated with the RDC [Red-Dead Canal] project.

Dan Zaslavski, a former Israeli water commissioner, estimated that regenerating the flow of the Jordan River from the north to bring water to the Dead Sea will cost no more than $800 million, less than one-sixth of the estimated financial outlay of the RDC project.

Earlier this year, Israel's President Shimon Peres said the "project of the canal, or the peace conduit ... is vital for the preservation of the Dead Sea, but just as much for peace and prosperity in the area."
The World Bank's feasibility study regarding the planned project is expected to begin in September.

In the 1980's and again in the 1990's, Israel considered a canal channeling water from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, but eventually shelved the plans due to financial doubts. The Red Sea - Dead Sea alternative now being discussed is considered to be less worthwhile economically.

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8. Several Items Re Kapparot (Kapporos)

a. My article) on kapparot can be found in the section on animals at

Recently there have been at least two meetings of Orthodox rabbis, in response to some of the criticisms indicated below. (See article in Kosher today, item c below.) I have been informed by a good source who attended one of the meetings that “some of the leading figures in the Orthodox community are working on resolving these problems and will be effecting sweeping changes in the handling of chickens for Kapporos in the very near future”. So there should be far less abuses of chickens this year than in recent years. Of course, these are positive developments to be applauded. However, as indicated in my article and the item below, our ideal situation is if people performed the kapparot ritual using money, rather than chickens, so that at a time of year when Jews seek G-d's compassion and a healthy, successful year, they are not involved in any potential mistreatment and killing of chickens.

b. Message from Karen Davis, Director of United Poultry Concerns (UPC)

Contact the Rabbinical Council of America [RCA] About Kapparot Using Chickens

Please Ask Them to Advocate the Use of Money Instead of Chickens

"Kapparot is not consistent with Jewish teachings and law. Repentance and charity can be better accomplished using money instead of a slaughtered chicken." - Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren

To read UPC's letter:

Kapparot or kaparos, using chickens, is a religious slaughter ritual performed by [some Orthodox Jews] in the week before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. A chicken is held above the practitioner's head and swung three times in a symbolic gesture of exchanging the bird for the human. The bird is then slaughtered and may or may not be given to the poor.

Kapparot using chickens is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud, and those who perform the ritual generally use money which is then given to the poor. There is no requirement that chickens be used for kapparot, which means "atonements."

In the days before the slaughter the chickens are typically stacked in crates without food, water or shelter. The slaughter is cruelly performed, and birds have been found abandoned in the crates when the kapparot ceremony was over. [As indicated above, it looks like steps are being taken to improve the treatment of chickens use in the kapparot ritual this year.]

Responding to complaints about the suffering of chickens in kapparot rituals, United Poultry Concerns has produced a brochure entitled "A Wing & A Prayer: The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual," available for distribution in print form, and also online at order the brochures, please visit our Merchandise Section: Fact Sheets and Handouts at

What Can I Do?

This year, kapparot is scheduled for the week between Monday, September 17 and Friday, September 21. Please write a respectful letter to the Rabbinical Council of America and ask them to advocate that kapparot be performed with money rather than chickens. Contact:

Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, President
Rabbinical Council of America
305 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-807-7888
Fax: 212-727-8452

In addition, please write letters to your local Jewish newspapers expressing your objection to the use of chickens for kapparot. Ask them to do an article about kapparot that examines the ceremony from the standpoint of Jewish teachings that encourage compassion for animals. Thank you.

Support United Poultry Concerns!
United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

Don't just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.
Karen Davis
United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405
Phone: 757-678-7875
Fax: 757-678-5070

c. Report from Kosher Today, a publication generally representing the kosher food industry

Changes in Kapporos Handling Looming for Sidewalk Operators

New York... For the most part, the ancient tradition of using live chickens for "kapporos" on the eve of Yom Kippur is handled with the utmost humane concern for the chickens. But in recent years, a small number of street operations, many tied to charities (who later distribute the processed chickens to the poor for the holidays), were less than meticulous in their care for the welfare of the fowl, which was the essence of a charge by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in a letter sent to New York State and City officials on July 30th. PETA also released a video of some of the alleged unsafe and unhealthy practices. The organization, which generally arouses disdain in the kosher community for its relentless attacks against schechita [Actually PETA has publically stated that shechita, when properly carried out, is a relatively humane method of slaughter, but they have complained against abuses at the Postville Iowa and Gordon, Nevada slaughterhouses]. most notably Agriprocessor, this time did get the attention of a cross-section of community organizations and rabbis. Some said that they were aware of the inappropriate "kapporos" practices, which they claimed existed only "amongst a small group of ad hoc kapporos operations," and were already discussing possible changes. KosherToday indeed found that most Chasidic groups operated kapporos centers with the utmost care for the fowl. The rabbis have been meeting to set internal regulations for all of the kapporos centers in an effort to bring them into compliance with halacha. Amongst the changes to be addressed will be the requirement for each of these centers to have a mashgiach (rabbinic supervisor) that will be responsible for all halachic requirements. One rabbi quipped: "The PETA 'rabbis' are telling us that the kapporos practice can be done with money, as many Jews do, but fortunately in America, we can practice an ancient tradition without having animal rights 'rabbis' tell us what to do." KosherToday has also learned that State and City officials who received the PETA letter are satisfied that the community is taking rapid action to correct any inappropriate practice by the small group of sidewalk operators.

d. Message and letter in response to Kosher Today item above from Rina Deych

This letter illustrates the frustration of some who have observed the mistreatment of chickens used for the kapparot ritual. Based on the meetings of key rabbis that have been going on in the Orthodox community, it is hoped that the conditions described below will not occur this year and in all future years. Once again, JVNA advocates the use of money rather than chickens for the kapparot ritual.

Below is the letter I just emailed to Kosher Today. For anyone who would like to respond to their article, the email address is:

The "changes" that were discussed in the Kapporos article are meaningless. This problem cannot be dealt with until the Kosher authorities and the orthodox community are ready to acknowledge the full magnitude of it. These barbaric, unsanitary, cruel forms of Kapporos are the RULE, not the exception. They are widespread throughout the orthodox communities. Every year, chickens are found in horrendous conditions, starving, cold, plucking each others' eyes out for food. This is unacceptable, since the Torah mandates compassion for animals. Also, the practice of sacrificing chickens for this ritual is not even mentioned in the Torah. This brutal, unnecessary, archaic practice must be abolished. Period.

Rina Deych
1157 - 46th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11219
(The heart of Boro Park, where every year I personally witness these atrocities).
e. Letter sent by PETA in effort to reduce abuses to chickens during kapparot

[It may be that this letter and other complaints helped lead to the meetings of key Orthodox rabbis discussed above and that this will lead to an elimination of the abuses described in the letter.As indicatd above, JVNA advocates that Jews perform the kapparot ritual using money, rather than chickens, so that at a time of year when Jews seek G-d's compassion and a healthy, successful year, they are not involved in any potential mistreatment and killing of chickens.]

July 30, 2007

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth St.
New York, NY 10013

RE: Cruelty-to-Animals and Health Violations During the Kapporos Ritual in Brooklyn, N.Y.

A video (9 minutes, 11 seconds) and still photos are enclosed. The footage was taken in October 2005 and September 2006 in Crown Heights, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Frieden:

Kapporos is a religious slaughter ritual performed in the ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic Jewish community [it is also performed to a lesser degree in some other Orthodox communities, but this letter does not refer to these communities] the week before Yom Kippur. Thousands of chickens are roughly handled in the largest kapporos ceremony in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and then sacrificed in a makeshift slaughter area on a public street. The slaughtered chickens are later trucked back to a processing facility to be prepared as food. These massive slaughters have been taking place without any apparent regulation or enforcement.

Because of the mounting incidents of cruelty to animals recorded on video and published in media reports as well as the public health hazards involved in operating a de facto slaughterhouse on a busy urban street, the issuing and conditions of any permits for the kapporos ritual must be examined. It is a serious health concern that children handle live, feces-covered, and possibly diseased chickens and wade through the blood of slaughtered poultry. The risk of communicable avian diseases and bacterial contamination is alarming, and the inhumane treatment and mishandling of animals at every stage of the process must be prevented. Below is a full description of violations and concerns pertaining to sanitation (regarding human health and food safety) as well as cruelty to animals during transportation, handling, and ritual slaughter.

Note: The next kapporos slaughter period is scheduled for the week between Monday, September 17, and Friday, September 21, 2007. The largest kapporos event takes place near the intersection of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

We are writing to you in advance to request that measures be taken to ensure that any communities or congregations participating in poultry slaughter for kapporos are in full compliance with all municipal, state, and federal laws. We also request that a methodical enforcement plan be developed.

It is important to note that there is no religious requirement for slaughtering chickens on kapporos and that most Modern Orthodox Jewish congregations do not practice this form of the ritual. Even Chabad Lubavitch-the organization behind the largest kapporos street slaughter event-sanctions, on its Web site, alternatives to chicken slaughter for kapporos, including symbolic sacrifices, such as donating money to charity. Although PETA would prefer that chickens not be slaughtered, we do request that authorities insist that basic animal welfare laws be strictly observed and health codes be strictly enforced during the practice of this ritual.

To this end, we urge you to consult with Dr. Joe Regenstein from Cornell University, who is a specialist on kosher and halal foods, and Dr. Temple Grandin, who is a world-renowned expert on animal welfare and slaughter methods in particular. Both have written extensively about kosher slaughter and serve on the Animal Welfare Technical Committee of the Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants. Through this process, we hope that clear standards and increased scrutiny and enforcement along with education will minimize the negligence and egregious conduct seen in previous years. We have already been in contact with Dr. Regenstein on this matter, and he is eager to help your departments develop clear guidelines for kapporos that will ensure that organizers are in legal compliance without conflicting with the religious components of this ritual. He commented that, at this point, the practices that he observed in the enclosed video are not even up to the basic standards of the National Chicken Council, the United Egg Producers, and the American Meat Institute.

In 2006, Dr. Regenstein attempted to set up a private discussion with Yossi Fraenkel, the organizer of the large kapporos ceremony in Crown Heights, in an effort to discuss Dr. Regenstein's plan to improve practices and ensure that the event is in full compliance. However, Mr. Fraenkel declined.

Please also note that the Community Council of Brooklyn representative we spoke with cited that, in her long tenure at the office, the only permits required for kapporos organizers (that she is aware of) have been for Dumpster disposal. During the 2005 and 2006 kapporos ceremonies in Crown Heights, there was no visible presence of any enforcement/inspection officials-city, state or federal-to oversee transportation, handling, slaughter, and sanitation, and the only police activity was to block off intersections.

Below is a comprehensive list of health concerns and cruelty violations filmed at the 2005 and 2006 kapporos events in Crown Heights. A videotape of this footage is also enclosed for your review.

Alleged Cruelty Violations
Chickens-while still conscious in the bleeding-out cones, where they are placed immediately following the ritual-cut slaughter-had their heads pulled off by teenagers who were working in the slaughter area.
Bleeding-out cones (i.e., cut-off traffic cones) were too small, and many chickens jumped out of the cones onto the ground following shechita (ritual slaughter). Because of the rapid slaughter rate, many birds were removed from the cones prematurely while they were still conscious and tossed to the ground onto piles of dead and other dying chickens.

Many chickens-while still conscious and struggling following shechita (religious slaughter-were shoved into garbage bags. The bags were then tied up, leaving the chickens to suffocate.

Birds crammed into extremely crowded cages were left exposed to the elements and unattended without any food or water. In other locations in Brooklyn, the ASPCA had to respond to multiple similar incidents of neglect and abandonment, which sometimes continued for days before and after the ceremony. In one highly publicized notorious incident in October 2005, "surplus" birds (chickens who were not slaughtered during the ceremony) were abandoned in a parking lot. The chickens were crammed into crates, stacked on top of one another, and left out in the rain for days. These birds were encrusted with dried feces, urine, and blood. Many suffered from severed toes, plucked-out eyes, and severe dehydration. ASPCA agents had to sift through the pile of discarded chickens in order to rescue the remaining live ones. Volunteers and hired workers crammed injured and sick chickens into reject crates along with chickens who had already perished.

Participants, including children, were given no training or instruction on how to handle birds. Birds were teased and violently handled and exhibited distress as a result. Participants who had no training awkwardly grabbed chickens and swung them over people's heads during the ceremony, causing the chickens to vocalize in pain and fear.

Volunteers and hired workers threw crates containing live chickens several feet to the ground-without any regard for the safety of the animals.

Health Risks and Violations


We respectfully request that all these cruelty and public health issues be resolved before the September 2007 kapporos ceremonies. We have submitted this in advance of the kapporos ceremonies in the hope that positive measures will be taken that will prevent the worst abuses. PETA will again have a presence at the 2007 event to investigate any egregious behavior, but we hope that by addressing this matter now, it will avoid any public exposé that could cause embarrassment to the Hasidic community and the enforcement and administrative agencies responsible. We look forward to your response.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

cc: Charles J. Hynes, District Attorney, Kings County District Attorney's Office
Pearl R. Miles, District Manager, Community Board No. 9
Patrick J. Brennan, Commissioner, Mayor's Community Assistance Unit
John Huntley, D.V.M., Director, Division of Animal Industry
Rabbi Weiss, Kosher Law Enforcement, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Brooklyn Office
Haroon Mian, District Manager, Food Safety and Inspection Service

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9. Vegetarian Rabbi (JVNA Advisor) Blends Faith and Agriculture in Community Program
Faith meets farming and fuels community supported agriculture movement

For The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Wednesday evenings, faith and produce mingle at Atlanta's Congregation Shearith Israel synagogue.

As parents gather to collect their children from Hebrew school or attend
lectures, many also pass through the social hall, where they collect boxes
of tomatoes, peaches, spinach and other organic produce.

It's a blending of physical and spiritual sustenance that Rabbi Hillel Norry
calls the best of Jewish values in action, and it's just one of a growing
number of faith-based community supported agriculture (or CSA) programs nationwide.

"We're taking Jewish ideals of justice, economics, health, ecology,
well-being and responsibility and putting them to work in the real world in
a way that makes our lives and the life of the farmer better," Norry says.

Fueled by growing interest in local food, CSAs have gone from just a few
during the 1980s to about 2,000 today. They operate on the simple premise of enlisting community support for area farms, then rewarding that support with food.

In most cases, people buy shares in participating farms, paying a set amount upfront. For the Atlanta group, it's $700, though most CSAs cost between $400 and $600. In exchange, the farmer delivers to them a weekly share of the crops, usually for 20 weeks or more. Consumers get good, local food; farmers get guaranteed income.

Of course, interest is contingent on caring about where one's food comes
from. But for some faiths, that concern is built in. Many Jews and Muslims
follow kosher and halal tenets, which detail how foods can be raised,
processed and stored.

For others, it's a natural extension of existing concerns about the ethics
and values of food and eating, issues important to groups such as the
Iowa-based National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Under the group's leadership, several organic farms with CSAs have been
established on or are planned for church-owned land in Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, many of them operated by orders of monks and nuns.

"We're still at the beginning of this ethical food system revolution," says
Brother David Andrews, the conference's executive director. "Only a small
percentage of our institutions and dioceses are doing this, but as
consciousness of things like global warming, the obesity epidemic and
diabetes grow, support for this will continue to grow."

Launched this spring, Shearith Israel's program is one of 10 Jewish CSAs
created during the past three years as part of a project called Tuv
Ha'aretz, Hebrew for both "the best of the land" and "good for the land."

Under the auspices of Hazon, a New York-based nonprofit that also runs
Jewish environmental bike rides and a blog on Jews, food and contemporary issues, Tuv Ha'aretz was started at New York's Congregation Ansche Chesed.

"We needed 40 families to start, and we had 80 sign up," says Nigel Savage, Hazon's founder and director.

And interest elsewhere is strong, too. Tuv Ha'aretz coordinator Leah Koenig says she frequently gets e-mails from people around the country asking for information on starting a CSA in their synagogue or Jewish community center.

In Atlanta, Aaron Marks, a law student, said he and his wife joined the CSA
for their 16-month-old son. "We'd heard a lot of scary reports about growth hormones and pesticides and wanted to try to keep his diet as chemical-free as possible," he said. "We're both concerned about the environment, and the fact that we're doing something that might have a direct effect is good."

Frieda Socol, a member of Shearith Israel since before her wedding 57 years ago, says the fresh CSA produce has started to take center stage at her Friday night dinners, when her family comes together to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath.

"I've learned a lot, finding out just exactly what can be done with some of
these sometimes rather strange vegetables we have," she said. "They've made Friday night dinner more interesting."

Tuv Ha'aretz also runs CSA programs in St. Paul, Minn., Houston, Berkeley,
Calif., Philadelphia and Washington, and even provides them with relevant
biblical passages and other Jewish texts for inclusion in weekly CSA

Hazon hopes to share its CSA model with other faiths and is seeking funding to launch joint efforts with the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and Faith In Place, an ecumenical environmental group in Chicago.

Meanwhile, other faiths already are experimenting on their own.

Hisham Moharram, founder and chief executive of a company that promotes small, rural-based agribusiness in developing nations, is seeking community support for a Muslim organic farm in central New Jersey, one that would sell its produce at farmers markets and through CSAs.

In addition to shared environmental and social justice concerns, religious
groups are a good match for CSAs on a practical level, too, says Hazon's

CSA programs not only give farms a well-defined group of investors, they
also help draw in new congregants and strengthen the sense of community, he says.

"Buying your food from a local organic farm is in the deepest sense for
people who have this understanding a religious act," Savage says. "It's not just a good thing: As it says in Psalms, 'The earth is the lord's and the
fullness thereof."' c0c1d2bb814638814.txt

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10. A Challenging NY Times Op-Ed Column on Global Warming

The Big Melt
Published: August 16, 2007

If we learned that Al Qaeda was secretly developing a new terrorist technique that could disrupt water supplies around the globe, force tens of millions from their homes and potentially endanger our entire planet, we would be aroused into a frenzy and deploy every possible asset to neutralize the threat.

Yet that is precisely the threat that we're creating ourselves, with our greenhouse gases. While there is still much uncertainty about the severity of the consequences, a series of new studies indicate that we're cooking our favorite planet more quickly than experts had expected.

The newly published studies haven't received much attention, because they're not in English but in Scientese and hence drier than the Sahara Desert. But they suggest that ice is melting and our seas are rising more quickly than most experts had anticipated.

The latest source of alarm is the news, as reported by my Times colleague Andrew Revkin, that sea ice in the northern polar region just set a new low - and it still has another month of melting ahead of it. At this rate, the “permanent” north polar ice cap may disappear entirely in our lifetimes.

In case you missed the May edition of “Geophysical Research Letters,” an article by five scientists has the backdrop. They analyze the extent of Arctic sea ice each summer since 1953. The computer models anticipated a loss of ice of 2.5 percent per decade, but the actual loss was 7.8 percent per decade - three times greater.
The article notes that the extent of summer ice melting is 30 years ahead of where the models predict.

Three other recent reports underscore that climate change seems to be occurring more quickly than computer models had anticipated:

Science magazine reported in March that Antarctica and Greenland are both losing ice overall, about 125 billion metric tons a year between the two of them - and the amount has accelerated over the last decade. To put that in context, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (the most unstable part of the frosty cloak over the southernmost continent) and Greenland together hold enough ice to raise global sea levels by 40 feet or so, although they would take hundreds of years to melt. We hope.
In January, Science reported that actual rises in sea level in recent years followed the uppermost limit of the range predicted by computer models of climate change - meaning that past studies had understated the rise. As a result, the study found that the sea is likely to rise higher than most previous forecasts - to between 50 centimeters and 1.4 meters by the year 2100 (and then continuing from there).
Science Express, the online edition of Science, reported last month that the world's several hundred thousand glaciers and small ice caps are thinning more quickly than people realized. “At the very least, our projections indicate that future sea-level rise maybe larger than anticipated,” the article declared.

What does all this mean?

“Over and over again, we're finding that models correctly predict the patterns of change but understate their magnitude,” notes Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

This may all sound abstract, but climate change apparently is already causing crop failures in Africa. In countries like Burundi, you can hold children who are starving and dying because of weather changes that many experts believe are driven by our carbon emissions.

There are practical steps we can take to curb carbon emissions, and I'll talk about them in a forthcoming column. But the tragedy is that the U.S. has become a big part of the problem.

“Not only is the U.S. not leading on climate change, we're holding others back,” said Jessica Bailey, who works on climate issues for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “We're inhibiting progress on climate change globally.”

I ran into Al Gore at a climate/energy conference this month, and he vibrates with passion about this issue - recognizing that we should confront mortal threats even when they don't emanate from Al Qaeda.

“We are now treating the Earth's atmosphere as an open sewer,” he said, and (perhaps because my teenage son was beside me) he encouraged young people to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources.

“I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers,” Mr. Gore said, “and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.”

Critics scoff that the scientific debate is continuing, that the consequences are uncertain - and they're right. There is natural variability and lots of uncertainty, especially about the magnitude and timing of climate change.

In the same way, terror experts aren't sure about the magnitude and timing of Al Qaeda's next strike. But it would be myopic to shrug that because there's uncertainty about the risks, we shouldn't act vigorously to confront them - yet that's our national policy toward climate change, and it's a disgrace.
You are invited to comment on this column at Mr. Kristof's blog,

My letter to the columnist:
Dear Mr. Kristof,

Kudos on your superb column. I hope it helps awaken people to the unprecedented catastrophe the world is rapidly heading toward.

As you next write about steps people can take to reduce greenhouse emissions, please consider the effects of a shift toward plant-based diets. A November, 2006 UN FAO report indicated that 'livestock' agriculture produces more greenhouse gases (18% in CO2 equivalents) than all the world's transportation vehicles (13.5%). And the number of farmed animals is projected to double in 50 years, according to the same FAO report, and the increased greenhouse gas emissions would cancel the effects of many positive changes that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, it appears that the fate of humanity depends on a major shift toward plant-based diets.


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11. Correction

The link provided in the last JVNA newsletter to the video to see the criticism of Al Gore for not connecting animal-based diets to global warming is incorrect. To watch the video, go to

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12. Looking for Someone to Translate a Short Article from Yiddish to English

Please contact me if you would like to volunteer to do this. The work should not take more than an hour and it would be very helpful. You would be acknowledged in the JVNA newsletter in which the translation occurred.

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13. Hebrew Month of Cheshvan Declared Social Justice Month

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook ( for letting us know about this important initiative:

I read that the Knesset has declared Cheshvan (from Friday evening 10/12 through 11/10) to be Jewish Social Action Month, with worldwide observance.

This is further inspiration for us to get going (after the holidays)!

From the web site indicated above:

Activities in Israel ranged from environmental projects to volunteer fairs on campuses. In Mexico, Jewish school students of all ages began a year-long commitment to a social action project. South African youth groups advocated for better government handling of the AIDS crisis and ran picnics for HIV positive children. In Australia, ways to combat global warming were promoted and practiced.

Recognition by State of Israel

JSAM [Jewish Social Action Month] 2006 was launched at the Knesset with an event facilitated by Rabbi Michael Melchior MK. The proposal for JSAM to be recognized in the official calendar of the State of Israel was described by MK Michael Nudelman as the best he had heard put forward in the current Knesset. Jacob Edery, as Minister in charge of symbols and ceremonies, is helping shepherd the proposal through the political process.
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