October 17, 2007

10/15/2007 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Israeli Torah Environmental Research Group

2. Challenging Vegetarian Article/My Letter to Editor

3. Article Re Global Warming and Related Threats

4. Celebrate World GO VEGAN Days - October 26th to 28th

5. Should Vegetarians Support Production of Test-Tube Meat?

6. New Interfaith Group Promotes Ending Dependence on Fossil Fuels

7. Environmental Dvar Torah on Parshat Noach

8. Compassion for Animals And the Jewish Faith

9. More on Urging Al Gore To Become a Vegetarian and Publicly Support Vegetarianism

10. Canfei Nesharim Dvar Torah on Parshat Lech Lecha, This Coming Shabbat’s Torah Portion

11. Global Warming, Other Factors, Threaten the World’s Water Supply/Another Global Crisis

12. Jewish Social Action Month Starts

13. Is U.S. Environmental Record Worst of Developed Nations?

14. Still Another Reason to Be a Vegetarian

15. Pro-Vegetarian Bat Mitzvah D’var Torah

16. China and India Facing Major Pollution Problems

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. Israeli Torah Environmental Research Group

[I am hoping to work with this important group on issues of mutual interest.]

Forwarded message:



To stem the growing dangers of today's environmental crisis there is a need to develop a cultural consciousness that stresses the value of the roots of life and defines a path of action for sustainable living for individuals, families and communities. There is ripeness in Israel today to bring about a sea-change in attitudes and in practice in these areas. Judaism as a value system that links the spiritual and the material and belief with applied practice can provide a powerful basis for deepening consciousness and inspiring positive action in the interests of life.

In many religious communities, charedi and modern orthodox, there is a growing awareness that indifference in the face of the environmental challenges that face human society today will only worsen the situation for generations to come. However a serious commitment to change in attitude and practice regarding the environment in these communities can evolve only on the basis of proven Torah scholarship.

As in many areas of contemporary concern and social need, with regard to environmental issues as well there is a dire lack of Torah research that can bridge the gap between the rich sources of traditional Judaism and the realities of modern society. There is a critical need for a clearly formulated Torah based environmental ethic to move religious communities in Israel from interested bystanders to active participants in the creation of a "green reality" for modern Israel.

Bet Av – Creativity and Renewal in Torah in partnership with Shomera – Jerusalem Environmental Action has created a research team comprised of Torah scholars with experience in environmental studies and experts in ecology open to traditional Jewish sources. The team has created links to community leadership in Israel's religious communities. Our mission is to create an authoritative and lucid body of Torah knowledge that will empower that leadership to create a strong environmental consciousness and a more committed and aware practice in communities across the country.

Methods and Goals

The success of the team's mission is based on four critical steps:
- Mapping the key environmental issues in the global crisis that action items for individuals, families and communities can impact on. The environmental issues the team has identified are: energy and water use in the home appropriate for Israel's needs and for a safer human future, an environmentally aware consumerism an a healthy family diet.
- Systematic research on those issues that engages modern theory and the basic principles of Jewish thought and law. Formulation of an environmental ethic that clearly defines action items for individuals, families and communities.

- Dissemination of the team's research and conclusions in public seminars, publication and educational materials.
- Seminars for rabbis and other community activists and leaders to empower them with the theoretical base and the action items for community change.

A critical part of the team's work is the involvement of a group of rabbinic authorities. Their decisions regarding the practical issues of environmental wellbeing will be a key tool in gaining the support of community leadership and in creating a body of material that will impact on educational institutions.

Bet Av and Shomera have working relationships with important community figures and organizations in Israel. Important rabbinic figures figures are committed to being involved and to bring the action items to be proposed by the team to a broad public. They include “Tzohar" - Forum for Young Community Rabbis, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, environmental organizations in the "haredi sector", Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, Rabbi Binyamin Lau, Rabbi Avraham Gisser, Rabbi Dov Lior.


Rabbi Dov Berkovits (co-ordinator of the project) - Director of Bet Av; educator, lecturer and author. Rabbi Berkovits has been an important figure for thirty years in the creation of original educational programming for religious and secular young people and adults that links Torah study to personal life and to issues of community concern. He has done extensive research in the area of Judaism and the environment and has published and lectured in this area. He has lectured at conferences of the Heschel Institute.
Itai Lachman - fellow in Beit Midrash "Ra’ava" for the renewal of Talmud study. He studied Jewish and general philosophy at Hebrew University, is co-founder of P’nei Adama – Institute for Torah Environmental Education, and is director of a business venture that offers ecological solutions for the use of human waste.
Ariel Lavi – environmental activist. He pursues advanced studies in ecology and economics at Hebrew University. Lavie writes in the local media, including a monthly feature dealing with ecology and Judaism, and is editing a book on economics and Judaism.
David Smith - studied literature at Bar Ilan University University, is co-founder of P’nei Adama – Institute for Torah Environmental Education, and is director of a business venture that offers ecological solutions for the use of human waste.
Shaul Yudelman – environmental educator. He recieved a rabbinic ordination from the Bat Ayin Academy. Yudelman co-ordinates and teaches in a program in Judaism and ecology for college graduates in Jerusalem.
A professional advisory committee has been set up for regular consultation. Members of the committee will share their expertise with the team. They are:
- Jeremy Benstein – the Heschel Institute
- Shmuel Chen – environmental activist and research fellow
- Talya Schneider – expert in permuculture
- Rabbi Yuval Sherlo – "Tzohar", Head of Yeshivat Petach Tikvah

The team began meeting weekly in late August 2007. Each member of the team is committed to 10 hours weekly in group meetings and study and in specific research tasks.

Bet Av
For Creativity and Renewal in Torah
Registered Organization No. 58-037-322-3

24 HaPalmach Street
Jerusalem 92542
Tel: 972-(0)2-5630-358 Fax: 972-(0)2-5671899
E-mail: bet_av@netvision.net.il

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2. Challenging Vegetarian Article/My Letter to Editor

The meat of the matter

By Shammai Engelmayer
Published 09/7/2007
Jewish Standard


There is something not quite kosher about kashrut supervision these days. Treat animals with cruelty, treat workers with disrespect, and otherwise engage in poor labor practices, and exhibit one of the worst records in the United States for health violations, and you can still receive certification from the major organizations and be acceptable to the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County.

Let your waitress wear a miniskirt, play music that might cause someone to want to dance, or serve Shabbat lunch in a synagogue social hall equipped with a live microphone and you can kiss your certification good-bye.

Let us begin at the beginning — or, more correctly, the second beginning, after the Great Flood, for that was when God decided to let humans, who were supposed to be vegetarians, eat meat.

Explained the Babylonian sage Rav Yehudah, "Thus said Rav, ‘Meat was not permitted to the first human, for it is written [in Genesis 1:29, "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit,] they shall be yours for food. And to all the animals on land," [but it is not written] and the animals on land are for you. However, when the sons of Noah came along, He permitted [meat-eating in Genesis 9:1-6], as it states, "as with the green grasses, I give you all these."’" (See the Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 59a.)

Why the change? It was a concession to our bloodlust — but it included restrictions meant to protect the ill-fated animals from suffering.

From that point on, the Torah takes very seriously the welfare of animals. In its wake, the sages of blessed memory set aside rabbinic-ordained Shabbat proscriptions to save animals from suffering because "[the law against] pain to animals is biblical," and thus takes precedence (see BT Shabbat 128b). This includes unloading a pack animal that is laboring under too great a burden, according to Maimonides. (See his Mishnah Torah, the Laws of Shabbat 21:10.)

The sages prohibited a person from owning an animal unless he or she could care for it (see the Jerusalem Talmud tractate Yevamot 15:3, in a statement by Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah); required that animals be given their dinner before humans get theirs (see BT B’rachot 40b, with Rav Yehudah again quoting Rav); and banned the injuring or killing of animals for no good reason (see BT Chullin 7b in which the principle is assumed in a strange conversation between Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi).

The result of all this legislating is a category of law known as "tza’ar ba’alei chayim," which literally means "causing pain to living creatures."

Many of the laws of kosher slaughter were specifically designed to conform to tza’ar ba’alei chayim regulations. It follows, then, that if concern for the animal’s welfare is not apparent in the slaughtering process, the shechitah is invalid and the meat is treife. Hold that thought.

Other matters could, although not necessarily should, enter into the equation, as well.

The kosher laws fall into a category of law — the chok, or statute. The chief characteristic of this category is that there is no explanation for the law and, all too often, none is even discernible (not mixing linen and wool in a single garment, for example). Although such laws do not have specific reasons attached, there is a general reason that is obvious: These are laws that must be taken on faith. If you observe laws that perhaps make no sense to you merely because God decreed them, surely you must observe those laws He decreed that do make sense.

In other words, the laws of kashrut and their ilk function as mnemonic devices, keeping us rooted in Torah law generally, and reminding us especially of our responsibilities under tza’ar ba’alei chayim rules.

That being said, the Torah puts forth numerous laws regarding health and well-being, including the eating of foods that may have begun to spoil. The Torah also puts forth numerous laws regarding how one is to treat the laborer. It follows, then, that if concern for health and well-being, and for the laborer, are among the laws that kosher laws are meant to reference and remind us of, practices that violate these laws should be taken into consideration, at least, in deciding on certification.

And yet, the kashrut authorities do not see it that way. At least, they do not see it that way when it comes to the largest glatt kosher purveyor of meats—the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, owned by the Rubashkin family.

Its sometimes gross mistreatment of animals is captured on film. Its unfair labor practices — including, in another Rubashkin enterprise, withholding remittance to labor unions of the dues being taken out of employees’ paychecks — are well-documented (the Rubashkins had "a proclivity for violating" the National Labor Relations Act, according to an NLRB finding). Yet the certification remains unchanged.

Last month, the Forward newspaper published documents showing, it said, that AgriProcessors "received 250 non-compliance records from the United States Department of Agriculture during 2006, five of them for inadequate safeguards against Mad Cow disease, and multiple others for fecal matter in the food production area. While the entire beef, poultry, and egg industry had 34 recalls in 2006, AgriProcessors had two during the last eight months, both of them Class 1, the highest risk level."

And still certification remains unchanged.

On the other hand, according to an article in The Jewish Standard two weeks ago, the RCBC will deny certification to restaurants in which employees do not dress according to RCBC standards of appropriateness or in which music is played that could cause people to want to dance. The RCBC also has warned caterers that they will lose their certifications if they serve food on Shabbat in rooms that have open microphones.

What constitutes "tsni’ut" (modesty) in dress is subject to a wide variety of interpretations. Whether men and women may dance together also is subject to varying opinions. There can be no disagreement — or should not be — about what constitutes cruelty to animals, unfair labor practices, or health violations. Yet the former is regulated by kashrut authorities while the latter is ignored.

Something is wrong with this picture.

Shammai Engelmayer is rabbi of the Conservative synagogue Temple Israel Community Center in Cliffside Park and an instructor in the UJA-Federation-sponsored Florence Melton Adult Mini-School of the Hebrew University. He is the editor of Judaism: A Journal of Jewish Life and Thought.

My letter to the editor:
October 10, 2007

Editor, Jewish Standard

Dear editor,

Kol hakavod (kudos) to Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer for his very thoughtful, challenging article pointing out that rabbinic authorities are overlooking many violations of Jewish values in the production of meat at the Postville, Iowa glatt kosher slaughterhouse. As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I would like to add that, more generally, the production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people. Making the situation more urgent, animal-based agriculture contributes to global warming and other environmental problems that threaten all of humanity. So, it is time to put the many moral issues related to our diets on the Jewish agenda. This would improve our health, show the relevance of Judaism’s eternal values to today’s issues and help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

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3. Article Re Global Warming and Related Threats

a. Greenhouse Gas Levels Grave


The Associated Press reports: "Strong worldwide economic growth has accelerated the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere to a dangerous threshold scientists had not expected for another decade, according to a leading Australian climate change expert."

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4. Celebrate World GO VEGAN Days - October 26th to 28th

Forwarded message:

The 3rd annual World GO VEGAN Days are taking place this year from October 26th through 28th. These celebratory days of education and action are a time for people who care about animals, the environment, and their love ones' well-being to educate others about the vegan lifestyle as a compassionate, sustainable, and healthy way of eating and living.

This year's World GO VEGAN Days are being presented by some of the
nation's eading animal protection organizations, including The American Vegan Society (http://www.americanvegan.org/),
Animal Acres (http://www.animalacres.org/),
Animal Place (http://www.animalplace.org/),
Animal Protection and Rescue League (http://www.aprl.org/), Compassion Over Killing (http://www.cok.net/),
Farm Animal Reform Movement (http://www.farmusa.org/),
Friends of Animals (http://www.friendsofanimals.org/),
Go Vegan Radio (http://www.goveganradio.com),
In Defense of Animals (http://www.idausa.org),
Mercy for Animals (http://www.mercyforanimals.org/),
and Veg News magazine http://www.vegnews.com/).

-If you run an animal protection organization, become a presenter of World GO VEGAN Days. There are no costs to you for joining us as a
co-presenter. All you need is to post the World GO VEGAN Days banner on your web site, which links to the World GO VEGAN Days web page. Contact Melissa Gonzalez at 415) 388-9641, ext. 228 or Melissa@idausa.org for more information.


World GO VEGAN Days are a prelude to WORLD VEGAN DAY on November 1 (celebrated internationally since 2002), and celebrations and festivals are held around the world during the month of November. See

SNIP> To learn more about veganism and World GO VEGAN Days, visit
> www.worldgovegandays.com.

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5. Should Vegetarians Support Production of Test-Tube Meat?

[In the previous JVNA newsletter, some positive aspects of test-tube meat were presented.]

The Case Against Test Tube Meat

by Jeff Perz


Thanks to Elaine Aronoff, who is doing wonderful work for CHAI (Concern for Helping Animals in Israel) for forwarding this article.

On the 11th of August, 2005, the U.S. Associated Press reported that vivisectionists have succeeded in creating in vitro-cultured meat; the growing of non-human animal muscle cells on sheets or beads suspended in a growth medium, all without the physical body, brain or nervous system of any animal. [1] The story quickly spread to newspapers around the world, making a stop at the UK’s The Guardian [2] and then being picked up by Australia’s Sydney Mourning Herald [3]. All declared that in vitro meat presents the perfect or ultimate “conundrum for vegetarians” because it does not require the direct use of non-human animals or their being killed. [1,2,3] Then Professor Stevan Harnad of the University of Southampton and Jon Camp of the animal welfare organization Vegan Outreach chimed in, both advocating in vitro meat as a possible way of eliminating the suffering of non-human animals.[4] I am sure that this issue is being robustly discussed on various non-human animal activist oriented e-list serves around the world. Hot air aside, the actual Tissue Engineering journal article (co-authored by PhD. student Jason Matheny) that started it all contains several extremely disturbing facts. In vitro meat is immoral. I will argue why this is true in three separate areas; in vitro meat that could be created now involving maximum non-human animal exploitation, in vitro meat that could created now involving minimum non-human animal exploitation and in vitro meat that could be created in the future using techniques that do not involve any non-human animal exploitation whatsoever.

SNIP [This is a very important article, but too long for a JVNA newsletter. Please use the above URL to read the entire article. Thanks.]

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6. New Interfaith Group Promotes Ending Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Forwarded message:

We are writing to let you know that we have started a new non-profit called Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE). Our mission is to educate, mobilize and unite communities of faith to act on the increasingly harmful effects of our society's dependence on fossil fuels. We believe that energy consumption is at the core of the most pressing issues that confront people and governments all over the world: global security, human rights, the environment, health, and the economy. Our vision is for faith communities to become catalysts in the movement to eliminate our society's dependence on fossil fuels, leading the world toward a sustainable future.

Please visit our website at www.fusenow.org to learn more about our organization.

Best Regards,

Jesse Glickstein

Executive Director
Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE)
4144 Chase Ave
Miami Beach, Fl 33140
Fax: 305-830-9405

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7. Environmental Dvar Torah on Parshat Noach

Forwarded message from the Shalom Center: A Prophetic Voice in Jewish, Multireligious, and American Life

What God -- and We -- Can Learn from the Flood

Rabbi Jeff Sultar

(Director of The Shalom Center's Green Menorah Covenant Campaign)

Noach 5768
October 9, 2007

Between last week's Torah readings and this one, in the wink of a Divine eye, God has gone from the role of Creator to Destroyer. In between, the wonder of Creation has become corrupt. Things have not turned out the way that God intended. What does God learn in the generation of Noah?

Before the flood, God does not distinguish between human beings and the rest of Creation. God uses one phrase - "ha'aretz/the earth" - to speak of them both: "The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness" (Genesis 6:11). And in preserving a saving remnant, God makes a brit, a covenant, with humanity, saying to Noah, "I will establish My covenant with you" (6:18).

In Noah's generation, the entire earth suffers for humanity's misdeeds. Sound familiar? There can be no more dramatic example of the modern relevance of this story than the global climate crisis we now face. In Noah's generation, in the wake of human corruption and Divine destruction, God learns a crucial lesson.

After the flood, God learns that humanity and the rest of the earth are no longer to be lumped together. Each has a distinct value, and each has a distinct relationship with God. We see this clearly when God restates the covenant with Noah after the flood, saying, "I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you - birds, cattle and every wild beast as well" (9:9-10). God learns to invest inherent value in the non-human part of Creation.

Can we learn that lesson as well? Can we expand our sense of being created in the Divine image to include the aspect of Divinity that values all of Creation? Can we who are created in the Divine image also form a covenant with all the earth? Or, if we go on harming our planet as we are, does that mean that we are breaking our covenant with the earth? And if so, are we also breaking our covenant with God?

Even selfish reasons lead us to the same result. Because now, just as in the generation of Noah, the fate of humanity and the fate of the rest of Creation have once again become one and the same. We can no longer continue to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as if there's no tomorrow, or there won't be a tomorrow (at least as we know it).

That humanity is causing the earth to heat up is now a matter of scientific consensus. We know why it's happening. And we know many of the threats it poses. So why are we so slow to act?

We are taught in Pirkei Avot, "Everything is foreseen, and free choice is given" (3:15). Usually taken to be a paradoxical statement about predetermination and free will, it can instead be read as a description of human nature. We so often know the consequences of our actions (or inactions); things are foreseen. That knowledge, though, doesn't automatically lead us to do anything about it. Perhaps this is what led Rabbi Tarfon to lament, "The day is short; there is much work to be done; yet the laborers are lazy, even though the wages are great and the Master of the House is insistent" (Pirkei Avot 2:15).

This year, we read the story of Noah at the very beginning of the month of Cheshvan. Having just passed through the Days of Awe -- a month-long period of introspection and celebration, of honing our vision and resolve -- we now move into the only month that lacks a single non-Shabbat holy day.

It's as if, hard-wired into our calendar, is this lesson: we just spent an intense time reconnecting with who we should be and what we should do. Now go out -- into "normal" time -- and do it. Cheshvan, seen this way, doesn't so much come after the Days of Awe, but rather completes them, by giving us the opportunity to show how we've actually grown, how we will actually act differently in the new year.

This week's Torah portion ends with the Tower of Babel: "if, as one people with one language for all" - in other words, if the people of the world would act in concert, with a single voice, tackling the same problems together with shared resolve - "then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach" (11:6). Usually read as a warning, this story can instead be read as a message of hope. Created in the image of God, we share the power both to destroy and to create. What will we do with this power?

God learned a crucial lesson from the generation of Noah. This year, will we?
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8. Compassion for Animals And the Jewish Faith

Thanks to Debra Berger, a Jewish animal rights activist for sending us her article below:

"There is no difference between the pain of man and the pain of other living beings. … The tenderness of the mother bird for her young ones is not produced by reasoning but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in man, but in most living things."
– Maimonides

In May 2006, the Atlanta Jewish Times printed an article by Lewis Regenstein that outlined the strong teachings and laws of Judaism requiring us to treat animals with kindness and compassion. Lewis detailed the code of laws in the Torah, referred to as tsa'ar ba'alei chayim. If you would like to read more on Judaism and animals, contact Lewis at regenstein@mindspring.com, or go to www.jewishveg.com/schwartz, www.chai-online.org or www.hsus.org/religion.

The purpose of this column is to provide some practical means of reducing the suffering of animals. Most of us would not intentionally harm animals, but we are simply unaware of many of the issues that affect them. When we purchase clothing from the store, eat a meal or buy that cute puppy from the pet store, we may not realize the source from which each came. So, the most important step toward being kind to animals is to educate yourself.

An excellent organization that provides comprehensive information about animal welfare, both general and current, is the Humane Society of the United States. The Web site is updated daily if you want to stay current on issues, and you can search for any topic that you are interested in, from puppy mills to cage-free eggs. Visit www.hsus.org, or call (202) 452-1100.

Now you know . . . so where do you start?

* Consider reducing the amount of animal-based foods in your diet. The quaint family farms where Bessie the cow grazed peacefully are nearly history. Today's "factory farms" are business ventures where the animals [are considered] "units of production." Billions of animals, capable of feeling pain and fear, suffer terribly to become our dinner. They are denied everything that is natural to them and are subjected to routine mutilations and other abuses. Additionally, COFAs (confined animal farming operations) are devastating to our environment and a major contributor to global warming. For more information and recipes, visit www.hsus.org/veg or www.farmusa.org (see meatout Mondays).

* If you keep kosher, find out how your animal-based food was produced. It is a myth that kosher meat is more humane [although shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter, is designed to minimize pain during slaughter]. Despite the humane intention and spirit of Jewish law, kosher meat often comes from the same abusive factory farms as all other meat. In some instances, kosher slaughter has been shown to be crueler than conventional slaughter [if it is not properly carried out]. If you are part of a large kosher community, you might be able to influence the producers of the animal products that you buy to implement more humane methods [actually, make sure that shechita is properly carried out]. Avoid products like goose-liver pate and veal. These foods are produced by inflicting extreme cruelty on the animals. For more information, visit www.humanekosher.com.

* Get political for animals. Use the power of your pen and your phone to let your elected officials know "I care about animals and I vote." If you want to help in the campaign to end dogfighting in Georgia, visit www.georgialpa.org or www.georgiadogfightingbill.com.

* Adopt your next pet from a shelter. If you are truly ready for the long-term commitment of having a pet, check out one of the many shelters in the Atlanta area. Each year, millions (yes, millions) of dogs and cats are euthanized in this country, simply because there are not enough permanent homes for all of them. When you buy from a pet store or a breeder, you are adding to the overpopulation problem. Generally, mixed breeds are healthier dogs. If you have your heart set on a certain breed, however, Atlanta has a rescue group for almost every breed, and you will be surprised how many purebreds are in the shelter. For general information, visit www.ddal.org (see puppy mills). For local information, visit www.spotsociety.org.

* Purchase cruelty-free items for household cleaning and personal care. Today, buying products that are not tested on animals is really easy. Target has a full line of Method products, and you can even buy Seventh Generation products at Publix now! There are numerous cosmetic companies that do not test their products on animals. Visit www.neavs.org (scroll to CCIF) for more information.

* Research the [charity] that you donate to. Many health organizations are modernizing their research methods and using non-animal models. Using alternatives to animals in research has both ethical and practical advantages. You can find out if your organization has the Humane Seal at http://www.pcrm.org. If you want to support a charity that is working to cure many diseases, check out the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at caat.jhsph.edu.

As we pass the Days of Awe, consider the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer: "How can we pray to God for mercy when we ourselves have no mercy?"
Debra Berger has been concerned about animal protection for more than two decades and has a particular interest in the relationship between Judaism and animals. She is an Atlanta native and member of The Temple.

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9. More on Urging Al Gore To Become a Vegetarian and Publicly Support Vegetarianism

Forwarded message:

Feel free to cross-post:


Urge Gore to Add Going Vegetarian to the Global Warming Pledge

Former Vice President Al Gore is a
trailblazer http://blog.peta.org/archives/2007/10/petas_response_1.php when it comes to drawing attention to what has been deemed the world's most grave environmental threat-global warming. Through his work with a variety of events and organizations, such as Live Earth, The Climate Project, and the Alliance for Climate Protection, he has been able to reach millions with his message.

Unfortunately, Gore has not yet endorsed the most effective thing that
any individual can do to help -- going vegetarian.

In a groundbreaking 2006 report, the United Nations (U.N.) [FAO] said that raising animals for food generates almost 40 percent more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined http://www.goveg.com/environment-globalwarming.asp . And Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported
that the meat industry is "one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems http://www.goveg.com/environment-globalwarming.asp."

Although the Live Earth global warming handbook identified "refusing meat" as "the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint," the Alliance for Climate Protection, where Gore serves as chair of the board, has created a seven-point pledge http://www.climateprotect.org/TakeAction designed to identify easy steps that we can take as individuals to help end the climate crisis. However, going vegetarian is inexplicably missing from the list.

Please take just a few moments to send a polite letter to Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection asking them to make their seven-point pledge an eight-point pledge by adding going vegetarian to the list. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has already written to Gore and the alliance-read the letter here http://blog.peta.org/archives/Letter_Al_Gore_from_PETA.pdf - asking them to alter the pledge, and now it's your chance to ask them to promote the most effective way to fight our climate crisis.

Click on the link for the automated email generator to take action:

Message from Israeli animal rights activist Itae Amit as part of his signature of a petition to Al Gore:

“Hearty congratulations for the well-deserved prize and heartfelt gratitude for your inspiring work. Due to the irrefutable data (the UN report entitled "Livestock's Long Shadow") that proves that the livestock industry has a greater impact on global warming than all of the transportation sector taken together (!!!), would you consider incorporating a vegan message in your future content and actions..? Thank you, on behalf of the animals and the planet.. (P.S. - going vegan not only reduces ones emissions and saves valuable resources and lives of living beings - it is also very healthy on the personal level).”

To add your congratulations to Al Gore, please go to:

For many links to articles relating meat-eating to global warming, please check out:


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10. Canfei Nesharim Dvar Torah on Parshat Lech Lecha, This Coming Shabbat’s Torah Portion

Avraham: The First Jewish Environmentalist1

“Reprinted with permission from Canfei Nesharim’s Eitz Chayim Hee Torah Commentary for Environmental Learning and Action.” Canfei Nesharim’s website is www.canfeinesharim.org. The complete dvar Torah can be found at that web site.

By Tuvia Aronson, Parshat Lech Lecha

The Parsha of Lech Lecha is dedicated by Evonne and Jerry Marzouk in honor of the 35th wedding anniversary of Alfred and Vivianne Marzouk.

The Sefer of Bereishis is dedicated in memory of Jacob Cohen by Marilyn and Herbert Smilowitz and family.

In this week’s Torah portion, Avram and Lot’s inability to coexist on one piece of land leaps out at us. "And the land was unable to bear them to live together, because their possessions were great and they could not sit together" (Bereishit 13:6). In our era, when environmental issues such as population, food and land distribution are major concerns, we can look to this text for guidance.
The great commentator Rashi (France 1040-1105)2 interprets the verse to mean that the land was simply unable to provide sufficient pasture for all the cattle and sheep involved. It is as if there is missing information intended to be inserted in the verse: "And the [pasture of the] land could not bear them."

SNIP [For the complete d’var Torah: www.canfeinesharim.org..]

[1] Dedicated to P.M.K.H.A

[2]Bereishit 13:6 – quoting Bereishit Rabbah 41. RaMBa"N ( 1194-1270) and Rabbi Ovadia of S’forno ( 1470 – 1550) also explain the verse in this manner.

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11. Global Warming, Other Factors, Threaten the World’s Water Supply/Another Global Crisis

Our Drinkable Water Supply Is Vanishing

By Tara Lohan, AlterNet. Posted October 11, 2007.

Thanks to global warming, pollution, population growth, and privatization, we are teetering on the edge of a global crisis.


Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Hungarian biochemist and Nobel Prize winner for medicine once said, "Water is life's matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water."

We depend on water for survival. It circulates through our bodies and the land, replenishing nutrients and carrying away waste. It is passed down like stories over generations -- from ice-capped mountains to rivers to oceans.


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12. Jewish Social Action Month Starts

October 11, 2007

Jewish Social Action Month Starts this Shabbat! [October 12]
Read SocialAction.com


We at SocialAction.com are proud, for the third consecutive year, to be one of the partners and moving forces behind Jewish Social Action Month (JSAM), which takes place during Cheshvan — this year from October 13 to November 10. JSAM transformed Cheshvan, a month "of bitterness" because there were no Jewish holidays, into a global celebration of positive action. SocialAction.com hopes you will take part in this important initiative to promote worldwide Jewish unity and social justice, and that you'll continue practicing tikkun olam long after Cheshvan is over.

In this issue, we shine our spotlight on JSAM programs in the United Kingdom and St. Louis, and include a thought-provoking essay on JSAM as an "idea in action." We also offer an inexpensive way to eradicate malaria in Africa "one net at a time," look at Darfur activism and the Olympics from the Israeli point of view, recommend Torah commentaries for environmental learning, and ask you to help victims of domestic violence by signing the Jewish Women International petition. Plus much more. Act Now, with Wisdom and Compassion.

Carol Kort, Editor

Spotlight on Jewish Social Action Month 5768

JSAM 2007 in the UK
Organized by the Make Poverty History Jewish Coalition/Jewish Social Justice Network, the UK's Activist Training Day will offer teach-in workshops such as "Camp Darfur," with the focus on doing. Mitzvah Day will engage hundreds of volunteers in dozens of Jewish and non-Jewish causes, from singing in senior centers to visiting children's hospitals.

St. Louis Jewish Community Promotes Social Action During Cheshvan
The St. Louis Jewish community, a huge supporter of social justice, is sponsoring numerous JSAM events, including Project Noah for environmental activism, an interfaith tree planting, and a coat drive for recent immigrants and refugees. Contact the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis for more information.

Saving a Life One Net At a Time: Reform Movement's Campaign to Fight Malaria
In Africa, more than one million people infected with malaria die each year. But the spread of malaria is largely preventable by using insecticide-treated bed nets. A $10 donation goes directly toward purchase and distribution of the life-saving nets. Join the Union for Reform Judaism's "Nothing But Nets" campaign to supply bed nets to families in sub-Saharan Africa.

Torah Commentary for Environmental Learning/Action
Receive a free weekly environmental-related Torah teaching: Canfei Nesharim's Eitz Chayim Hee Torah Commentary for Environmental Learning and Action will be sent to subscribers by email. SocialAction.com will also make these Torah commentaries available. The weekly Torah-based materials are designed to help readers deepen and act on their understanding of Jewish environmental wisdom.


Contact SocialAction.com with your events, feedback, and ideas for future articles.

Together, we can make a difference.

Carol Kort
email: socialaction@jflmedia.com
web: http://www.socialaction.com

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13. Is U.S. Environmental Record Worst of Developed Nations?

Full story:

U.S. Worst for Environment in Development Commitment Index

Center for Global Development

Commitment to Development Index: U.S. Ranks Last on Environment; UK ranks 9th out of 21 countries

The United States ranks last of 21 rich countries on the environment component of the 2007 Commitment to Development Index (CDI). Norway ranks first on the environment component, followed by Ireland, Finland, and the United Kingdom. Spain had the second worst ranking on the environment policy component, followed by Australia and Canada.

The Index, produced annually by the Center for Global Development, an independent Washington research and policy organization, ranks 21 high-income industrialized countries on how well their policies and actions support poor countries' efforts to build prosperity, good government, and security. The scoring adjusts for size, leveling the playing field for large and small nations.

The environment component is one of seven policy areas that comprise the CDI. The other Index components are aid, trade, investment, migration, security, and technology.

On the environment component, the Index penalizes fishing subsidies, tropical timber imports, imports of endangered species, higher per capita CO2 emissions, and low gasoline taxes (which encourage consumption, thereby raising emissions and hastening global warming.)


CGD president Nancy Birdsall said that she hoped that the poor U.S. showing on the CDI's environment component would serve as a wake-up call, especially to policy-makers in Washington. "There is a growing body of evidence that developing countries will suffer first and worst from climate change," she said. "Americans aren't accustomed to being the bad guys, and there is growing public pressure domestically
for action on climate change. I hope by next year the U.S. will have moved up in these rankings."

Full story:

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14. Still Another Reason to Be a Vegetarian

Thanks to JVNA advisor and secretary/treasurer John Diamond and author and JVNA advisor Dan Brook for forwarding the following item:

A new, drug-resistant strain of E. coli in Britain

In England and Wales, around 30,000 people a year are infected with a new strain of E. coli bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. The new strain, an extended-spectrum B-lactamase (ESBL)-producing strain that causes urinary tract infections and can also lead to blood poisoning, is also starting to show up in U.S. hospitals. According to one expert, it is more dangerous than methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Doctors have few drugs available to treat such infections. The problem of antibiotic resistance is growing worldwide, in part due to agricultural practices that feed antibiotics to animals that are not sick. Continue to more from The Daily Telegraph at
> http://ucsaction.org/ct/Pd_5f0M13YqU/.

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15. Pro-Vegetarian Bat Mitzvah D’var Torah

D’Var Torah from the Bat Mitzvah of Ivy Elana McHenry
Eliana bat Miriam

1 Cheshvan 5768
October 13, 2007

Parashat Noach

Temple Beth Torah
Wethersfield, Connecticut

Thanks to long-time vegetarian activist Maribeth Abrams for submitting her daughter’s d’var Torah. We are happy that Ivy used material at the JVNA web site to help her to compose the very thoughtful message below.]

Shabbat Shalom!

By the time of Noah, human behavior had deteriorated. God wanted to do something about this so he decided to cause a flood that would kill every living creature on the face of the planet. He would need to repopulate the earth after the flood, though, so God told Noah, who he felt was a good man, to build an ark, and find two of each animal to bring with him on the ark. He also told Noah to bring extra “ clean animals” onto the ark – animals that could be sacrificed.

Noah brought his family and all the animals on the ark with him, and, as God said, it started to rain and there was a flood that covered the entire earth and killed everything that wasn’t in the ark - except the fish, because they live in water.

My Torah passage begins at the point when the rain stops, the ark hits dry land, and Noah gets off.

The first thing Noah did after getting off the ark was to build an alter for God, and to make a sacrifice to God by killing all of the extra “clean animals” that he had brought with him on the ark for this purpose. In the Torah, it says that God was pleased with this sacrifice. I think the reason God is said to be pleased with the sacrifice is because Noah was doing the thing that he felt would best show his appreciation to God. I also think that if this took place today, that Noah would have done something more compassionate, like helping the extra animals rather than killing them, to show his appreciation to God.

After this, several things happen.

First of all, God says that now, the natural course of nature will not again be interrupted, and that God will not cause any more huge floods with the purpose of killing, or for any other reason.

Also, God tells Noah “to be fruitful and multiply,” meaning that he and his sons [and their wives] will need to repopulate the earth.

And this now brings me to the part of my parasha that I am most interested in.

God then said that humans have a natural weakness when it comes to doing bad things, and that they are not always able to live up to God’s ideals, and that’s why they were having problems to begin with. Torah commentary says that God knew that the humans had been bad, acting like animals, so to speak, before the flood, and concluded that if it were made clear to them that they were superior to the animals, then they might act better.

Torah commentary also says that to make the humans feel superior to the non-human animals, God told Noah that all non-human living creatures have been “given into your hand,” which means that humans can now decide the ultimate fate of the non-human animals.

This is similar to the passage in Genesis when God says humans have dominion over non-human animals. However, dominion does not mean having the right to conquer and exploit. Rather, God did not identify animals as human food. He only encouraged eating fruits and vegetables and the other plants.

Dominion meant guardianship, or helping God to take care of and improve the world – including the non-human animals. This is similar to how parents have dominion over their children. However, with Noah, the instructions regarding animals were different. God said, “every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat.” In other words, for the first time in biblical history, humans were told that it is okay for them to eat the bodies of non-human animals.

It seems as though there were a few reasons God said it was okay to eat flesh. One reason, as mentioned before, was that God probably wanted the humans to feel superior to the non-human animals. In other words, if they can eat them, then they must be better than them. And if they are better then them, then they should certainly act better than them.

Secondly, also as mentioned, God had acknowledged human weakness – and knew that that human weakness did include wanting to eat meat. God felt that if they were not permitted to indulge in this weakness of wanting to eat meat, that they might end up killing [and eating] each other as a result.

God emphasized that humans killing each other is wrong, saying, “Whoever sheds the blood of man through man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God he made man.” This means that humans are not allowed to kill each other because God exists in every human, and to kill a human would mean to kill a part of God.

What seems strange to me, though, is why the punishment for killing a human is death, when killing the perpetrator would also mean killing a bit of God in that person. How can God have meant for us to kill people we consider to be murderers when that makes us murderers as well?

Maybe God didn’t think that people would actually kill each other, and therefore, no one would have to be put to death as a result. Maybe he thought this because perhaps people would not kill others out of respect for each other, or out of respect for their own lives. However, if someone did kill someone else intentionally, then God would be trapped by his word and would have to encourage the punishment to be death.

The way I look at it, this is true with the way humans treat animals as well. God probably never thought that we would treat animals raised for food the way we do today, out of respect for ourselves and for the animals. Also, all of the animals were created by God – just like God created us. They all have God’s image in them just like we do. [Actually, while Judaism has very strong teachings on compassion to animals, the Torah indicates that only humans are created in God’s image.] Any of you who live with a pet know what I’m talking about.

When it comes to sacrificing God’s magnificent creations, I think about an artist who created a magnificent painting and gave it away to someone as a gift. Would it make sense for that person to destroy it in honor of the artist? I don’t think that would make sense, but there have been places in the Torah, including at the beginning of my passage, when animals are sacrificed in honor of God.

I noticed that in my passage, God did not specifically tell Noah to build an alter and kill animals in honor of God. I wonder if this is because God cares for the creatures God created and hoped that Noah would do the same. This could be a sign that God wanted Noah and all of the other humans to be compassionate in all ways, including the way they treat those beings that they have power over.

Now, back to the eating animals issue. I think that it’s possible that God only intended this permission to eat flesh as temporary, until humans could overcome their weaknesses and grow spiritually.

Still, God did put limits on eating flesh, such as telling people that they must make sure that the animal is completely dead before eating its various body parts. This became the first of the Kosher laws. It’s also one of the seven Noahide laws, the seven laws that Noah lived by. These seven laws were considered the bare minimum for living a life according to God’s laws. The purpose of this first law was to be sure that an animal would not suffer. At the time, since there was no refrigeration, people had been cutting off a chunk of an animal’s flesh to eat, because if they killed to whole animal, it’s flesh would rot before they had a chance to eat it all. God felt that mutilating an animal like that was unacceptable. I will refer back to this point in a minute.

And now, we come to the covenant. God said, “ behold I am setting up my covenant with you and with your seed after you.” This means that he is setting up an agreement with Noah and all the future humans on earth. In this agreement, God reminds Noah that there will never be a flood intended to destroy the earth, and that the sign of this agreement is the rainbow that appears after it rains. The rainbow represents peace and the reminder that God will not flood the earth again. The actual shape of the rainbow is a bow, like from a bow and arrow, which is a weapon. However, this bow is inverted, showing how it is actually the opposite of a weapon.
I view this rainbow of peace as a sign that just because God told us that we can eat animals, does not mean that God said that we should eat animals. To me, an important part of what peace means, is having as much compassion as possible, especially when it comes to having absolute respect for life.

First of all, when God said it is okay to eat meat [later in Deuteronomy 12:20], the sages called it b’sar ta’avah which means, “meat of lust.” It was called that because meat is not considered a necessity of life. Obviously, people had been living without it for thousands of years, ever since the Garden of Eden.

Secondly, Judaism specifically forbids causing unnecessary pain to animals. If an animal has its throat slit, that is definitely painful – but it is also extremely unnecessary because humans do not have to eat animals to live. God said it way back in Genesis, and today’s medical research backs it up, telling us that a diet based on animal flesh is the cause of most of our chronic diseases that kill people every day.

Now, the experience of being slaughtered is just the end of the animals’ life. In today’s world, the way animals are raised, called factory farming, could be considered by many to be even worse than the actual death. The vast majority of animals raised for food – even animals that will be slaughtered in a kosher way – are subject to behaviors every day of their lives that would be considered torture by human standards. Interestingly, as I mentioned before, the first dietary law that God gave Noah was intended to prevent people from mutilating live animals. However, that’s what happens to millions of animals every single day, even to the animals that are ultimately killed in a kosher fashion. I ask you, in today’s world, would God even consider the flesh from these animals to be kosher?

Many people argue that the final slaughter of these animals raised for food is just a final ending to a horrible life. Yes, the Torah does say that we should relieve animals of their suffering. But if we’re the ones actually causing or supporting the suffering, then does that then make it okay for us to then kill them in the end?

In my opinion, there is no way that God could have possibly wanted this to happen when he gave permission to eat b’sar ta’avah, the meat of lust. True, animals were raised differently back then, but the fact of the matter is that today, there are so many people eating meat every single day, that the only way to produce enough meat to satisfy everyone’s meat desire is through intensive confinement and an assembly line life.

The Torah is the source of the Jewish mandates. Some of these mandates are to take care of our health, to treat animals with compassion, to protect the environment, to conserve natural resources, to help hungry people, and to seek and pursue peace. Every single one of these laws points to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews.

Today most Jews eat meat. But, God’s ideal, the original vegetarian dietary law that we received in Genesis [1:29] and the dietary law that I believe God still preferred in the time of Noah, still stands supreme in the Bible for Jews and the whole world to see - an ultimate goal toward which all people should strive.

Shabbat Shalom

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16. China and India Facing Major Pollution Problems

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


The article shows very serious pollution problems in China and India. It seems that a major change in consciousness and actions is needed worldwide.

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