November 26, 2007

Special JVNA Newsletter re: A SACRED DUTY

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter focuses on recent developments re: our documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD.

The newsletter has the following items:

1. Introduction/Overview

2. Article Announcing Availability of A SACRED DUTY/Please Help Spread the Word

3. Positive Responses Already Received About A SACRED DUTY

4. Your Financial Contribution Can Make a Tremendous Difference at this Critical Time

5. Providing Background Information/Action Suggestions re A SACRED DUTY

6. Article in Haaretz About the Israeli premiere of A SACRED DUTY

7. Article in the Jerusalem Post About Israeli Premiere of A SACRED DUTY

8. Program at the Israel Center for Premiere of A SACRED DUTY and Talks on Global Warming and Other Threats to Israel's Environment, presented on November 12, 2007

9. Updated Questions and Answers re: A SACRED DUTY

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. Introduction/Overview

We have gotten off to a great start re A SACRED DUTY.

* We had a very successful world premiere in Jerusalem. Articles about that event which appeared in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post are below.

* Due to the excellent efforts of our very capable and dedicated secretary/treasurer John Diamond, a total of about 900 DVDs have been sent to about 400 people. Many recipients are trying to arrange showings at local synagogues, JCCs and other Jewish institutions and getting copies to key people in their communities..

It is essential that A SACRED DUTY be as widely shown as possible. So please consider arranging a showing at a local Jewish setting. If you have not already done so, you may order one or more free DVDs by contacting John Diamond at Please let others who might arrange a screening or help promote the movie in some other way know about this great opportunity. Please let local rabbis, educators and other influential people in your community know about A SACRED DUTY and/or arrange to get a free DVD to them. Thanks. You might want to use the article in item 2 below for this purpose.

* We have hired a wonderful Publicity firm and they are doing much to get the movie to media sources, Jewish groups and others. They are also planning some major events in the Los Angeles area. Susan Tellem, the director, is a long time animal rights activist, and she and her staff are firmly committed to our objectives and they are treating their work on our campaign as far more than just a job. They are greatly committed to our success because they know how important our campaign is.

* Initial responses from viewers of A SACRED DUTY have been very positive. Please see some initial responses below.

* Information re A SACRED DUTY is now at the JVNA web site If you click on the A SACRED DUTY image on the home page, that will get you to the material. Or you can go directly to . Thanks to our web coordinators Noam Mohr, JVNA Vice President, and Maida Genser, a JVNA advisor, for their work on this and other aspects of the JVNA web site.

* Thanks to the efforts and financial support of JVNA advisor Rina Deych, we now have set up supporting web sites, and Many thanks, Rina.

* We are planning to make A SACRED DUTY available through the internet in many ways. If you can help re this, please let me know, as this is a very important part of our efforts. If you have previously volunteered, please contact m again as we are now getting ready to go forward in this area. Thanks.

There are new developments re A SACRED Duty every day and I plan to keep you informed about them. Suggestions always welcome.

As we go forward, we should keep in mind that the world is heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe, that it is essential that the Jewish community and other communities apply our values in responding, and that a shift towards vegetarianism is an essential part of the necessary responses to global warming and other environmental threats. Our movie is an important part of getting these important messages out there and we must succeed. You help and suggestions are most welcome. Many thanks.

I am probably overlooking important factors, but I hope to include them in future special reports re A SACRED DUTY. Overall I am thrilled that we have this valuable documentary to help us in our outreach work, and I again want to salute the incredible work done by our multi-award-winning producer Lionel Friedberg and his professional editor wife Diana and I want to thank all of you who are helping make it and our campaign built around the movie as successful as possible.

If you can volunteer to help in any way re our very important efforts, please let me know.

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2. Article Announcing Availability of A SACRED DUTY/Please Help Spread the Word


Richard H. Schwartz

Because the world is heading rapidly toward an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) has produced a documentary, A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD, to address these threats from a positive Jewish perspective. JVNA will send a free copy to anyone who will help arrange a screening or help promote the movie in some other way.

Almost daily there are reports of severe droughts, floods, storms or wildfires, of the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps and other indicators of global warming. It is frightening that, while these effects are due to an increase in temperature of less than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group composed of hundreds of the world's climate scientists, is projecting an increase of 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years. Even more ominous is that some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global warming may reach a tipping point and spiral out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes are soon made. Israel is especially vulnerable to global climate change, in terms of reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from a rising Mediterranean Sea.

A SACRED DUTY is a Jewish response to these realities. It reminds us that it is our sacred duty to become aware of current threats and our responsibility to apply Jewish teachings to how we obtain our food, use natural resources, and live among other creatures whom God created. It offers simple, practical measures for reducing our impact on the planet, including “an inconvenient truth” that even Al Gore has not yet acknowledged.

Produced by the highly acclaimed, multi-award-winning film maker, Lionel Friedberg, A SACRED DUTY reinforces the messages in Al Gore's AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and Leonardo di Caprio's, THE ELEVENTH HOUR about the dangers of global warming. However, it goes beyond these films, by showing how religious responses can make a major difference and why a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of efforts to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats. It also challenges people to consider the many moral issues related to our diets, including Torah teachings on how animals are treated on factory farms and the effects on human health and the environment.

The documentary features interviews with leading Israeli and American environmental, health, vegetarian and animal rights activists as well as
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular leaders.
Interviewees include: Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa; Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, Chief Scientist: Israel Environmental Ministry and many other rabbis and Jewish leaders and activists.

Biblical passages are read by the acclaimed Jewish star of Broadway and screen Theodore Bikel

Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, A SACRED DUTY speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie's universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as biblical teachings, Israel, the environment, health, nutrition, vegetarianism, hunger and resource usage. The movie may be said to be like Levy's Jewish Rye bread - you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it.

A SACRED DUTY and the many activities being planned around it have the potential to help move our imperiled world toward a sustainable path. But only if the movie is widely viewed and discussed.

So, please order your FREE copy and please consider taking one or more of the following actions after viewing the movie: have viewings for family, neighbors and friends; try to schedule showings at a local school, a synagogue and/or other houses of worship, a community center or other communal site, etc.; share the DVD with local rabbis and other religious leaders, teachers, politicians and other local influential people.

You can request a free DVD by sending your name and mailing address to JVNA's secretary/treasurer John Diamond ( If you feel that you can profitably use more than one DVD, just let John know, with a brief description of how you plan to use them.

JVNA plans to build a major campaign around the movie to get tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the world) to become a central focus in Jewish life today, with a shift toward plant-based diets as an essential part of the changes that can help move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path. If you would like to be involved in the campaign or have suggestions, please contact Richard Schwartz at
If you would like to support this unparalleled campaign to promote vegetarianism as an essential component of efforts to avoid the disaster facing the world, please send a tax deductible donation to the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, c/o John Diamond, 49 Patton Drive, Newport News, VA 23606-1744. Further information re the movie and the campaign can be found at the JVNA web site (

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3. Positive Responses Already Received About A SACRED DUTY

The responses below are just a sampling of the positive responses that I have received. Some early responses are not included because initially I did not think of presenting statements here. So, if anyone would like to resend their statement or send something new re your reaction to the movie and/or what you are doing too promote it, please do so, for possible inclusion in the next update of activities related to A SACRED DUTY in the next special JVNA newsletter
a. Response from Dan Medwin

I just watched your film. It is extremely powerful and affirms many
of the reasons that I am a vegetarian. As I watched it, I thought of
many friends and family members to whom I would love to show this.
Would you be willing to send me about 20 DVDs or so? I believe I can
give each one to someone who may be interested.

I am also a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in LA and would
be able to set up an opportunity for you to speak, if you are interested.

Thank you for your time and efforts in creating this film and in all
of the hard work you do.

If I may say so, you are a modern day Jeremiah.
Response from Terry Gips:

Thanks so much Richard,

I really appreciate your bringing A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World to our attention. It sounds like a wonderful resource which I'd appreciate receiving. We'll share it broadly through showings by the Center for Judaism and Sustainability and make it available to synagogues, schools and our 200 Congregations Caring for Creation.

We've done numerous showings of Inconvenient Truth and I often speak afterward and mention the missing inconvenient truth that livestock contribute more global warming gases than all of the cars, trucks, SUVs, planes and other forms of transportation combined. As the UN's report Livestock's Long Shadow point out, livestock is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet. I'm very excited about finally having a resource that tells the full picture.

If anyone would be interested, I'd be happy to come show it and then speak about it.

[This is great, as we are seeking people who are willing to show and then discuss the movie. Thanks, Terry, for this very kind and much appreciated offer.]

We'd also be happy to be part of your campaign and, as a COEJL Board member, will have COEJL help promote it.


Terry Gips, President
Center for Judaism and Sustainability
Alliance for Sustainability
In the Hillel Center at the University of Minnesota
1521 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Response from JVNA advisor and helper re the JVNA web site Maida Genser:

My husband and I both thought it was brilliant. I kept wondering when vegetarianism would be brought up - finally 27 minutes into the film. I think the way it is done will catch people by surprise and hook them in.

Response from author, editor, publisher and JVNA advisor Roberta Kalechofsky:

My DVDs just arrived---and I sat down immediately to watch it. It's great, it was well balanced, the photography is beautiful. The speakers were very articulate---you sounded great. Even the packaging was very attractive.

I am sure there will be criticism of the horrid pictures of the slaughter of the animals at the end---even I couldn't watch it---but we all knew that. Let no evil remain hidden. Tov me'od.
Response from JVNA advisor Steve Schuster:

Dear Richard,

I received my copy of the “Sacred Duty” DVD yesterday. My wife and I, along with my two youngest children (Sam and Jacob, 15 and 12) screened the movie last night. My wife has been a vegetarian since the age of 8, and the boys have never knowingly eaten meat of any kind (I gave up red meat in 1992, fowl in 2001, and seafood in 2004). My 18 year old son is a lifelong vegetarian, and my 20 year old daughter vacillates (depending on the eating habits of her boyfriend of the moment…).

All four of us were deeply moved by the film. The impact of the material is unquestionably powerful from any perspective. We agreed in our discussion afterwards that we did not want anything to do with food whose source we could not verify as cruelty free. This morning, we discarded all the eggs and cheese in our refrigerator and replaced everything with locally farmed products whose sources we could actually visit and see with our own eyes.

I am proud to have played even the most insignificant part in the realization of this important film and I surely hope the publicity efforts will result in a large viewing audience. My entire family thanks you for your personal efforts to shift the world away from meat-based diets.

All the best,


Steve Schuster, CEO
Rainier Communications - "Technology's Most Credible Voice"

Response from JVNA advisor and Israeli vegetarian activist Mark Feffer:

My review: The film gives a great Torah-spiritual rational for going vegetarian. A human and humane, Divine and appetizing vegetarian smorgasbord. For people of all spiritual and not so spiritual persuasions. A kiddush Hashem [sanctification of G-d's Name.].

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4. Your Financial Contribution Can Make a Tremendous Difference at this Critical Time

Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to JVNA, as we would be able to do so much more to have a very successful campaign with greater financial resources. We could get DVDs to many more key people, travel to more events, enter more film festivals, possibly take out ads in leading Jewish publications, etc.

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 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 tax deductible.

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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5. Providing Background Information/Action Suggestions re A SACRED DUTY

No time now for me to adequately comment on the very important message below, but I wanted to bring it to your attention and seek suggestions. We would welcome one or more volunteers to work on this. Carrying this out would make A SACRED DUTY truly part of a package that would enable people to change their lives in a very positive way and be part of the solution to the current environmental crises that threaten all of humanity.

Message for our producer Lionel Friedberg:

I think I've just had the most valuable feedback I've had so far regarding the movie and I want to immediately share it with all of you.

I showed it to my son David who is a physics and astronomy major from Berkeley, a vegetarian, 27 years old and runs his own highly successful internet company based in San Francisco.

He really liked the movie, but I think he hit the nail on the head. In his opinion, because of time and length constraints the movie covers a lot of critically important issues without really providing enough hard answers. It provides a powerful argument and prompts people to action but it is only 10% of the message. 90% should come as a follow-up. And that follow-up is the website.

People who see the movie will have major questions and will want Desperately to know more, to have access to answers, to find a place that tells them "Here's what YOU can do and here's where you can find out more." Just like Al Gore and 'An Inconvenient Truth,' we could not provide detailed and comprehensive answers and alternatives in the movie because, obviously, there is only so much you can do in an hour. The movie is a catalyst, not the be all and end all of the entire all-encompassing story. David advises that the movie be backed up by a really top notch website. And I believe he is right.

People who log onto '' need to have access to the answers that motivated them to want to know more. Examples....
1) What can I do to eliminate greenhouse gases from my personal lifestyle?
2) Where can I buy hybrid vehicles?
3) Where can I go to find a green congregation and an environmentally
friendly synagogue in my neighborhood?
4) How do I join a vegetarian group in my area?
5) Where can I find vegan food?
6) What stores sell environmentally friendly and cruelty free products and
7) Where can I donate to help the poor in third world countries?
8) How can I help the rest of humanity?
9) Where can I put my dollar to help abused farmed animals and to help cut down on animal cruelty?
10) Where can I find good kosher recipes?
11) Where can I find vegan and kosher restaurants in my area?

People will have many question when they come away from the movie and the website should provide answers to them.

1) Where in the Torah can I learn more about the environment and about
2) I'm lost, I feel helpless, please point me in the right direction. What do I do now? How do I teach my children? What do I give them to ensure that they get nutritious vegan meals?
3) What books should I read?
4) What can I do to save energy in my home?
5) Show me, tell me, help me. Give me answers, names, addresses, places,
projects, contacts, links.

This is the task and function of the website. I leave these thoughts with all of you for your consideration. All suggestions to ramp up the website and put it on par with movie will, I know, be most welcome. And anything we can all do to help Richard find the right people to accomplish this without expending more funds will be invaluable.



[Once again, if you have suggestions re this or would like to volunteer to put together responses, please let me know. Many thanks.]

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6. Article in Haaretz About the Israeli premiere of A SACRED DUTY

Film aims to show how Jewish values can 'help save the world'

By Ariel Zilber
Haaretz 11/20/07

Vegetarianism is not just a lifestyle choice or the latest fad, but rather a mitzvah that is in line with the ethical and moral teachings of the Torah and halacha - so says a new documentary, "A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Save The World," which was screened for the first time at the Israel Center in Jerusalem this past Monday.

With environmental activism increasingly gaining traction in the public consciousness, "A Sacred Duty" trains a critical eye on the consumption of meat, which it claims is a far bigger hazard to the environment which also poses complex moral questions.

"It is important that people know the realities behind their foods," said Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, who serves as president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, the Virginia-based organization which underwrote the making of the film. "If these realities are so shocking that people would greatly prefer not to see it, perhaps people should not eat these foods."

Indeed, to drive home the point, the film makes use of footage gathered by animal rights organizations capturing the prevalent abuses and animal cruelty practiced by the meat industry. One scene depicts the forced debeaking of laying hens to prevent them from fighting one another in the crammed cages into which they are held. Viewers are also shown the mass discarding of live male hens who do not lay eggs nor do are they suitable for meat production, the force-feeding of geese so as to enlarge their liver to meet the demand for the pricy delicacy, and dairy cows and sheep who have their tales curbed.

"A basic question for Jews should be is tsa'ar ba'alei chaim, the
mandate to avoid causing ay unnecessary pain to animals, being violated," Schwartz said. "Unfortunately, the facts have been hidden far too long from the public."

"One can't deny that Judaism condones meat eating," Rabbi David Rosen, the former chief rabbi of Ireland and a contributor to the film, said. "Nevertheless [Judaism] seeks to regulate such provision under circumstances that will minimize animal suffering. That indicates Judaism's concern not just with point Z in the process [of meat production] but A to Y."

[Some of Rabbi Rosen's quotes in this article are from his introduction of me on the CD “Judaism and Vegetarianism.”]

"Even if meat eating was a mitzvah, this would be a situation of a mitzvah haba b'aveira, a legitimate end that comes through illegitimate means, and therefore could not be considered to be halachically justified under those circumstances," Rabbi Rosen said.

Rosen recalled his experiences visiting slaughterhouses for the first time as a member of the Bet Din in Cape Town, South Africa.

"This was quite a shocking experience for me," Rosen said. "It posed initially a simple moral question for me. If what you see you find horrific and if you could avoid it is it right for other people to do it and for you to benefit from it?"

"As a believing, practicing Jew, religion is not something segmented from the rest of one's life," Rosen said. "It relates to questions of ethics, of health, and certainly of treatment of animals. All these are religious issues."

The film notes the correlation between countries whose high incidences of cancer is proportional to its high intake of animal fat. Recognition of the health dangers of meat consumption thus mandates Jews apply the halachic principle of pikuach nefesh, the saving of a life.

"If we want to reverse the epidemic of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other degenerative diseases that have been afflicting the Jewish community and other communities, it is essential that we recognize the connections between animal-centered diets and disease, and act accordingly," said Schwarz, who is also the author of the book Judaism and Vegetarianism.

"I think that religious Jewish vegetarianism is really a pioneering role in terms of the Messianic vision that Judaism has for human kind," Rosen said. "It's a role that was almost impossible to undertake in eras past for various social and cultural reasons. Today it's possible to do so. I believe that Jewish vegetarianism is a religious imperative for the person who is a religiously responsible Jew."

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7. Article in the Jerusalem Post About Israeli Premiere of A SACRED DUTY

Jews ban beef to save the world?


Nov. 18, 2007

Most Jews are not vegetarians, but some may consider a dietary shift after seeing A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.

Sponsored by Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), the documentary (which premiered at the Orthodox Union's Israel Center in Jerusalem last week) tackles three major themes: the current peril of global warming and other environmental threats; teachings in Judaism that may guide our response to these threats; and how a shift toward vegetarianism can both alleviate environmental problems and help us fulfill our Jewish duty.

"I hope to awaken the world to the fact that we are headed toward an unprecedented global catastrophe," Dr. Richard Schwartz, the film's {associate] producer and president of JVNA, told The Jerusalem Post prior to film's premiere. "A shift toward plant-based diets is essential to address global warming and tikkun olam (healing the world)."

The first part of the film presents global environmental concerns specifically as they affect Israel. Air and water pollution are two of Israel's biggest ecological issues and Israeli environmentalists worry Not only about the health effects of these problems, but also about the lack of government concern.

"Everyone is so obsessed with national security that the environment gets tossed aside," said Yair Cohen, a leader of Green Course, an Israeli student environmental group that appears in the film.

Leading Israeli environmentalist and founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Professor Alon Tal (also featured in the documentary), called the film "a curious juxtaposition." Aside from showing natural images, such as the polluted Yarkon River, A Sacred Duty presents a series of video clips portraying cruelty to farm animals. It ends on a positive note, however - that we can, in fact, reverse this catastrophic trend - complete with classic "clean earth" scenes of foliage, water sports on Israeli beaches and setting suns. FOR SCHWARTZ and his supporters, one lifestyle change in particular can Have far reaching effects: a shift to plant-based diets. Driven by a 2006 United Nations report which showed that 18% of greenhouse gases come from livestock agriculture, Schwartz concluded that a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle was the answer to staying healthier and healing the planet.

For the Jewish community, this dietary decision has particular significance. Eating an animal-based diet is "no doubt damaging the world and is in violation of the Jewish mandate to protect and care for the earth," said Jerusalem rabbi Adam Frank in the documentary. Schwartz agrees. He even takes it further, insisting that meat-eating is actually in violation of Jewish law, which requires us to "take care of the body, show
compassion to animals, conserve resources, help hungry people, and seek and pursue peace."

It taps on environmentalists and rabbinical leaders from multiple strands of Judaism to embrace this cause and preach it. Rabbi Sha'ar Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Haifa, credits his 80 years of good health to vegetarianism. Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland and international director of religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, calls leading a vegetarian lifestyle one of "the most sublime and noble values."

For Rosen, health and religion are inextricably linked. "I am vegetarian because I am a religious Jew," Rosen said. "Just because you have been given permission [to eat meat] does not make it ideal. Today's reality should lead any honest religious Jew to see that vegetarianism is a religious imperative."

As much as Schwartz tries to maintain that his documentary is "just trying to start a respectful dialogue" within the Jewish community and "fulfill a mandate of awareness," one cannot help but see the interviewees' hope of influencing the rabbinate with regard to changing the laws of kashrut.

Several figures in the film also claim that the current halachic standards of kashrut are not consistent with Judaism's approach to animals. "Even kosher is cruel," said Roberta Kalechofsky, founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights. She cites violations by two kosher Slaughterhouses in Nebraska and Iowa in addition to the farms that do abide by current standards, but still do not minimize pain as much as they could.

Still, while others like Prof. Tal may not discuss the violations of Kashrut in the film, it is clear that it is a belief that motivated them to contribute to the project. "It is unthinkable that kashrut would cause more pain," explained Tal. "It should be the safest, cleanest, and most humane way [to slaughter]. Halacha is an evolving issue that should change with technology. We need to be creative and courageous in this."

Schwartz has plans to mass distribute the documentary through screenings in Israel and in the United States, where free DVDs will be given away. Viewers are encouraged to organize screenings with leaders in their own communities to spread the word.

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8. Program at the Israel Center for Premiere of A SACRED DUTY and Talks on Global Warming and Other Threats to Israel's Environment, presented on November 12, 2007

[The response to the event below was very positive. I wish to thank Aryeh Gallin of



Monday, November 12, 2007

Israel Center 22 Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem (02) 566-7787

Forum sponsored by “Root and Branch”

1-2 PM "If not now, when? Jewish Environmentalism in Jerusalem"
[chevruta/small group learning and guided discussion]

Speaker: Leiba Chaya David
Director of Ru'ach HaSviva - the SPNI Center for Jewish Environmental Learning and Living

2:10-3:10 PM “How University Students Are Responding to Israel's Environmental Problems”

Speaker: Gidon Melmed
Director of Development and International Relations for
Green Course, Israeli University-based environmental group

3:20-4:20 PM “Applying Jewish Values in Response to Israeli and Global Environmental Crises

Speaker: Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and "Mathematics and Global Survival;" President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America

4:30-5:30 PM "Jewish Peoplehood in the Light of Global Warming - A Common Goal for Israel and the Diaspora"

Speaker: Naomi Tsur
Director of Community Development, SPNI
Coordinator, Sustainable Jerusalem

5:40-6:40 PM “SPNI's Response to the Threat of Global Warming”

Speaker: Michelle Levine
International Relations & Development Department
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

7:30 PM World Premiere of A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP SAVE THE WORLD. This one-hour documentary, produced by multi-award winning producer Lionel Friedberg, considers environmental threats to Israel and other countries and how Jewish values can be applied in responding.

After the film, there will be short talks by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa; Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and International director of Religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee; leading Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal; and Richard Schwartz, oresident of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, all of whom are in the movie, followed by a general discussion about the issues in the movie.

Admission to part or the total program: 20 shekels for members; 25 shekels for non-members

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9. Updated Questiona and Answers re A SACRED DUTY


* What is the main message of the movie?

The movie stresses three major themes:

1. The world is imperiled as possibly never before by global warming and many other environmental threats. Many examples of environmental problems in Israel and worldwide are shown.

2. Judaism has teachings that provide a powerful basis for responding to current environmental threats. Examples of groups in Israel and the US applying these values are discussed.

3. A shift toward vegetarianism is an essential part of the necessary response to global warming and other environmental threats. All the reasons for Jews (and others) to be vegetarians are carefully considered.

* Who produced the movie?

Multi-award-winning film maker Lionel Friedberg.

Lionel Friedberg's background in cinematography includes 18 feature film credits as Director of Photography. He has worked all over the world on both dramatic and non-fiction productions. For the past 30 years, he has supervised, produced, written and directed documentaries, reality, investigative report and educational programs, and has garnered many rewards, which include: A Primetime Emmy, a National Emmy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science 'Westinghouse' Award for Science Programming, three Columbus and three Golden Eagles for Best Documentaries, and various awards as a dramatic and episodic TV director.

We are deeply grateful to Lionel and his wife Diana, a gifted film editor, who both worked on this film without professional fee for their services.

* Who are some of the key people who are interviewed in the movie?

The documentary features interviews with leading Israeli and American environmental, health, vegetarian and animal rights activists as well as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular leaders.
Interviewees include:

Interviewees include:

* Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen -- Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa
* Rabbi David Rosen -- Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland
* Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - A Breslov Chassid and author
* Jonathan Wolf - Founder and first president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
* Roberta Kalechofsky - Founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications; author, editor and publisher.
* Richard H. Schwartz - Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism' and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
* Rabbi Michael Cohen - Director of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) and a teacher at the Arava Institute in Israel
* Rabbi Adam Frank - Rabbi of the largest Conservative synagogue in Israel
* Rabbi Warren Stone, Chairman of the Central Conference of Reform Rabbis' Environmental Committee
* Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, a Reconstructionist rabbi and environmental activist
* Rabbi Simchah Roth - Rabbi of a Conservative synagogue in Herzilia, Israel
* Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - A leading author and physician with a speciality in natural healing

Israeli Environmentalists

* Alon Tal - Leading Israeli environmentalist; founder of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense: author of "Pollution in a Promised Land." * Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or-- Chief Scientist: Israel Environmental Ministry * Raanan Boral - Environmental expert for the Society of Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)
* Yael Cohen Paran - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli student-based environmental group.
* Yair Cohen - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli student environmental group.
* Eli Groner - Teacher of environmental studies at the Arava Institute
* Samuel Chayen - Israeli environmental activist
* Yael Ukeles - Israeli environmentalist

* Is the movie's release tied to any campaign?

We are planning to build a massive, unprecedented campaign around movie showings to have a major impact in moving our imperiled world to a sustainable path, to get vegetarianism and related issues onto the Jewish and other agendas and to help revitalize Judaism.

We plan to use our many contacts in the vegetarian, animal rights, Jewish and other communities and the increasing awareness of current environmental and health crises to challenge all societal groups to make the major changes necessary to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats, including a substantial shift toward plant-based diets.

Starting in late November, we would like the movie to premiere in as many JCCs, synagogues, Jewish schools, meetings of Jewish organizations, etc., as possible. We hope that people will use the free DVDs that we will provide to help set up such events and see that they get widespread media coverage and a sizable attendance, including rabbis, educators and other key people in the Jewish community and other communities. We will also strive to arrange showings for other religious audiences and for general audiences.

* What other steps will be taken to further that campaign?

To build on and magnify the publicity related to the movie premieres, we are also planning the following:

1. A press release announcing the movie's release that will be sent to the Jewish media, the religious media and other media contacts.

2. A major letter writing campaign building on the themes of the movie..

3. Ads in major Jewish newspapers discussing the nature of present threats, why Jews should be involved, the importance of a shift toward vegetarianism and information about the movie and how people can order it.

4. Hiring a PR person who can get me and possibly others on many radio and TV programs over at least a three month period.

5. Sending out free DVDs to rabbis and other key members of the Jewish community and other communities. We are planning to produce 10,000 DVDs.

6. Trying to get blurbs from key rabbis and key vegetarian activists that we would use to help promote the movie.

7. Challenging rabbis to respectful email discussions/debates on “Should Jews Be Vegetarians?” We will also try to arrange debates on “Should Religious People Be Vegetarians?” and “Should People Be Vegetarians?” to try to reach wider audiences.

8. Challenging the media to stop generally ignoring the messages we are presenting re the major threats to humanity, the failure of the Jewish community to adequately respond and the necessity for major dietary shifts in response to current threats.

Through these and more steps (suggestions very welcome), we aim to do nothing less than change the consciousness of Jews and others re the threats facing all of humanity and the entire creation, vegetarianism, the need to respond to current environmental threats and much more. We have great potential and your help in promoting the movie and our messages will be extremely important.

* Will the movie result in people leaving the theater feeling overwhelmed and hopeless?

Although the movie deals with very weighty and serious issues, it ends on a positive and optimistic note, using a collage of dramatic images and inspiring music, to encourage viewers to consider how they can play their part in helping to heal the planet and improve their lives.

Also, the movie shows the Israeli university-based environmental group Green Course discussing responses to environmental threats and discusses the “greening” of two American synagogues. So viewers are not only presented with the problems, but are also shown some positive responses.

* What showings have already occurred?

1. The world premiere was at the Orthodox Union's Israel Center in Jerusalem on the evening of Monday, November 12, as part of an all-day program on global warming and other environmental threats to Israel. The event was well publicized through the weekly Torah Tidbits that is distributed at synagogues throughout Israel and through the many contacts that the sponsoring group “Root and Branch” has.

Speakers after the showing included Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland. Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal and myself (all of whom have prominent parts in the movie). As indicated above, we got very positive articles about the event in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz.

There was also a showing at Pardes, a yeshiva in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, November 18.

2. The US premiere was at the Staten Island JCC on Tuesday evening, November 20, as part of their already scheduled Jewish film festival. The response from the audience was very positive..

3. Along with our excellent publicist Susan Tellem, we are also trying to arrange several major showings in the Los Angeles area.

* Is the world really so seriously threatened?

The modern world is threatened as never before by climate change and other environmental crises. Recent articles have pointed out Israel's special vulnerabilities to global climate change, in terms of reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from a rising Mediterranean sea. Key climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that we may reach a tipping point within a decade after which global warming will spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences -- unless major changes are soon made. Recent reports, including the landmark “Livestock's Long Shadow,” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, have highlighted the major contributions of animal-based agriculture to the crisis our planet faces. It is therefore urgent and more timely than ever that the message of “A Sacred Duty” -- with its emphasis on the urgent need for a global shift to plant-based eating and agriculture -- be widely spread and heeded.

* How will the movie be distributed?

As a non-profit organization, JVNA is making the movie available completely free of charge to religious groups, educational institutions, the media and others that might be interested in it.

We plan to use our Jewish Vegetarians of North America email distribution list and our contacts with vegetarian and animal rights groups to get DVDs to people who will arrange showings in their communities.

* What has been the general response of the Jewish community (and other communities) to the issues raised in the movie before the movie's release?

Regrettably, in spite of the severity of the global environmental crisis and Judaism's powerful teachings on environmental stewardship, the Jewish community (and other communities) largely continues to ignore the issues. As Al Gore quipped, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

* Why does the movie make a strong argument for vegetarianism?

A SACRED DUTY makes a very strong case for vegetarianism from a Jewish perspective by dramatically showing that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health and the environment, to treat animals with compassion and to feed the hungry. These are strong "buttons" to push, and in the format of our passionate, professionally made film they can influence thousands of Jews (and other viewers) to choose a more compassionate diet.

While all the arguments for vegetarianism are fully presented, “A Sacred Duty” includes especially challenging coverage of the mistreatment of animals on factory farms, thanks to the powerful footage provided to us by animal rights groups. Again, these are "buttons" that can transform (and save) lives.

* Is the movie of interest only to Jews?

Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, A SACRED DUTY speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie's universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as Judaism, Israel, vegetarianism, the environment, health, nutrition, hunger and resource usage.

The movie may be said to be like Levy's Jewish Rye bread - you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it.

* How important is Israel in the movie?

As a model of what is wrong with planet Earth due to human activities, A SACRED DUTY hones in on the land of the Bible, on Eretz Yisrael itself. Israel is fraught with environmental problems that never make the headlines. Rivers are dirty; the Dead Sea is drying up; air pollution in metropolitan areas kill thousands every year; there are frightening projections about global warming causing record heat waves, reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from a rising Mediterranean Sea. There is progress in these fields, but that too seldom makes the headlines. The movie will shed light on many of these issues while considering the environmental threats faced by the planet as a whole. Since there is much interest by Jews and non-Jews alike in "the Holy Land" and its future, the movie has wide appeal.

* Why the title “A Sacred Duty”?

The movie reminds us that, as Jews, it is our sacred duty to become aware of these realities. As Jews, it is our responsibility to apply the teachings of the Torah to how we obtain our food, tap into the resources of the environment, and live among the many creatures that God created alongside us. Since this is really a universal duty for all human beings, A Sacred Duty will challenge and inspire non-Jews as well.

* Is the movie more of interest to certain types of Jews, such as religious Jews, secular Jews, etc.

The movie represents the thinking of Israelis and Americans, with interviews drawn from the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular segments of modern-day society in both Israel and the US. It conveys a truly broad-based message.

*There are many quotations in the movie from the Torah and other Jewish sacred texts, including the Talmud, since these texts are full of lessons and laws prescribing how we should live mercifully, efficiently, compassionately, and remain responsible custodians of this magnificent, yet highly imperiled world that God has bequeathed to us.

Though powerful and challenging, “A Sacred Duty” does not issue decrees or lecture its audience. It offers information on a wide variety of sensitive issues and food for thought. The net effect is a very positive message for all age groups.

* Aren't others working to reduce global warming and other environmental threats, and might it not be so important therefore for Jews to be strongly involved in these issues?

Judaism has many teachings that should impel us to active involvement in responding to environmental threats. These include:

o *We are to be co-workers with God in working to protect the environment.

o *We are to work the land and to guard it (Genesis 2:15); hence, we are to be shomrei adamah, guardians of the Earth.

o We are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (bal tashchit, based on Deuteronomy 20:19. 20).

We believe that it is essential that these teachings be applied in our congregations, schools and communities, so that tikkun olam (the healing and repair of the world) becomes a central focus in Jewish life today. As Pirkei Avot indicates, “The time is short and the work is great,” so it is essential that we respond quickly to current environmental threats.

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