December 12, 2007

12/10/2007 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Update on A SACRED DUTY

2. Israeli President Peres States That Pollution as Great a Threat to Israel as Terror

3. Bio of A SACRED DUTY Producer Lionel Friedberg

4. Why a Shift to Vegetarian Diets Is a Societal Imperative

5. JVNA Advisor Rabbi Adam Frank Explains Why He Became a Vegan

6. Climate Scientists Stress Responses to Global Warming Must Start Immediately

7. Root and Branch Leaders Start Consulting Group

8. Promoting A SACRED DUTY at Conferences

9. Statement From JVNA Advisor Roberta Schiff for Hazon Conference

10. Correction

11. Getting Vegetarians Together

12. My Letter to the Jerusalem Post

13. Blog Report of Hazon Slaughter of a Goat/Two Responses

14. Sir Paul McCartney Urges People to Go Veggie

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. Update on A SACRED DUTY

a. Update of Recent Events

I am very happy to report that we are getting very favorable responses to A SACRED DUTY. Many people are really raving about it. (Some examples are below, in addition to many sent out in previous JVNA newsletters.) One caution: Most comments so far are from Jewish vegetarians, but we have also received very positive responses from some non-Jews and from some non-vegetarians.

I think this great reaction is a tribute to our wonderful. dedicated producer Lionel Friedberg and his wife Diana, a professional editor, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Lionel’s biography is in item #3 below.

Due to the incredible efforts of our very dedicated secretary/treasurer John Diamond, almost a thousand DVDs have been sent to about 450 people. Many people have been sent more than one DVD so they can share them. We expect many showings to be generated by people who have received the DVDs and that this will help continue our major grass roots campaign. I have sent a follow-up email message to recipients of the DVDs, seeking their comments and suggestions, and encouraging them to actively promote the documentary.

A Hillel rabbi put our offer of free DVDs on a Hillel Rabbis' listserv and that has generated about 15 requests for DVDS, so A SACRED DUTY will be shown on many college campuses.

That same rabbi has also posted our message on a listserv of Reconstructionist rabbis, so that should also generate many requests for DVDs.

If you have connections or suggestions that might help us get our message and offer to more rabbis, JCCs, synagogues, yeshivas and other schools, etc., please let me know. Thanks.

JVNA advisor Laura Slitt has sent DVDs to about a dozen rabbis in New Hampshire and she plans to send out additional DVDs when her supply is replenished. If you would like to send DVDs to any special group, please let me know.

Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) has put one of its workers in charge of trying to arrange showings in the Washington, DC area. The director of “In Defense of Animals” requested a DVD today, and we hope IDA will also help promote A SACRED DUTY.

Rina Deych has set up web sites for, and Going to these sites will get a person to, where we have basic information about the movie and links to recent articles re the documentary in the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz and a blog.

Our very capable computer experts Noam Mohr and Maida Genser are organizing material about A SACRED DUTY at the JVNA web site. There are plans to get parts of the movie on You Tube and other Internet outlets.

Our very capable publicist Susan Tellem and her staff have already sent out 500 DVDs and supporting material to media outlets, food-related business and others. They are also planning for major events in the Los Angeles area, a major press release related to the first of these events, and other PR projects. I expect to get a summary report re the publicity efforts so far soon.

There is probably much more that I am probably overlooking, but I wanted to give you an overview of what has been happening so far. I have really been overwhelmed, but feeling great about the response to A SACRED DUTY and our campaign so far. So, if I have not responded to some of your recent messages, please forgive me, and please resend any message that is still relevant. I plan to try to catch up soon, but the messages often come in faster than I can answer them.

We have a great opportunity to really make a major difference. Your suggestions and offers to hep are very welcome and much appreciated.

Many thanks,


b. Blurbs Supporting A SACRED DUTY

We would like to have a wide variety of blurbs from key people, to help support and promote A SACRED Duty. Our first few are below. Please let me know if you have suggestions re others whom we should contact re getting additional blurbs. Many thanks.
A Sacred Duty should be mandated viewing for all people on planet Earth. Great job!

Howard F. Lyman, the Mad Cowboy
“A Sacred Duty” is a tour de force. Anyone who watches with an open heart and an open mind will leave the theater deeply moved and called to action.

--Bruce Friedrich, Vice-President, PETA.

A Sacred Duty melds modern science with Jewish religious teachings to make a compelling case for vegetarianism that conscientious viewers will find hard to resist. A cheekier title might have been “What Would Moses Eat Today?” in the face of catastrophic global warming and environmental degradation, world hunger and needless violence to billions of helpless animals every year. I hope A Sacred Duty will help redefine kosher for the 21st century Jew, for vegetarianism – a diet infused with kindness and blessedly free of bloodshed – is our Biblical root (“behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed”) and our moral destiny (“and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb”).

Syd Baumel, writer and animal activist, publisher of

c. Sampling of Very Positive Responses From Some Viewers

Thank you for sending me two copies of the DVD. The movie seems to me beautiful and poetic, inspiring and optimistic, good in all possible senses. The image of the tear shedding cow was so moving, that I couldn't restrain myself and burst out crying! The quotations from Tanach seemed to me very wisely selected and inserted in well suited places. I was glad to find in the movie the interview of Rabbi Simchah Roth, who is also a member of ELI (Esperanto-Ligue in Israel). I've already proposed a public presentation of his interview in Esperanto language, for a future Esperantist meeting in Tel-Aviv, and my proposal was accepted instantly by the president of ELI. Actually, I think we might present in such a way the whole movie, chapter by chapter, little by little. I am compiling a list of friends and persons I know, to whom I'd like to send copies of the DVD. Especially to medical persons I'd like to send it, but not only. Congratulations for all the team who prepared the movie. Keep on assuring a good distribution of it!
Luiza CAROL - writer, Israeli delegate of TEVA (Tutmonda Esperantista Vegetarana Asocio) (World Association of Esperantist Vegetarians)


Greetings from Bombay.

Thank you for sending the DVD so promptly.

I immediately saw it and am deciding to show it to an appropriate audience during my talks on vegetarianism. Off and on I am invited to give talks and will surely promote it.

Two days ago I have mailed a letter to your USA address expressing my sincere thanks.

I must congratulate the entire team for all their efforts in producing this
DVD. On our side we will do our best to promote it.

Many thanks once again for your efforts and for sending the DVD.

With kind regards,

Yours for a vegetarian world,

Hiren N. Kara
I watched the film right after I received the DVDs. Even knowing the issues and arguments, being a long-term environmentalist and vegetarian, I was taken in by the beauty and power of this remarkable film. A Sacred Duty is a must see and a must do, so that we and our children may live. I have already shared the film with rabbis and others and am in the process of scheduling screenings at my synagogue, other synagogues, the Jewish Community Center, and my local vegetarian society.-
--Dan Brook, Ph.D. (The Vegetarian Mitzvah)

d. Sample Message That Can Be Sent To Groups You Are Involved With/From Batya Bauman

I have just watched the new film, A Sacred Duty, produced by the Jewish
Vegetarian Society. It is very powerful and compelling, and I am still shaking from parts of it. It deals with imperatives from Biblical and other Jewish sources: how we, humans, should be relating to the earth, the environment and other animals. It deals with global warming and other
environmental disasters as well as extreme brutality and cruelty. The argument to change our ways is most compelling.

Do see it and recommend it to your Jewish friends, family and,
especially Jewish synagogues and organizations to arrange for viewings.

It is appropriate for all audiences, but especially so for observant
Jews, other religious communities, and also nonreligious environmental groups.

In addition to other attributes, there are beautiful scenes shot in
Israel, that extremely photogenic part of the world. It includes passages that show how Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians are working together to preserve rare water sources and reverse the dangerous climate changes we now live with. We often see these communities in conflict, but rarely cooperating and working together for the good of the region as a whole.

It is very important that this is shown to as many people as possible. For further information, please go to:

This site will also tell you how you can get a free copy.

e. Sample Blurb for Possible Placement on Web Sites or Listservs

This is a modified version of the blurb sent by Rabbi Warren Stone, Chair of the Environmental Committee of the Central Conference of American [Reform] Rabbis to the CCAR Bulletin.

NEW FILM: " A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World"

Free DVD Offered to CCAR Rabbis

World renowned, Emmy-Award-winning producer/director/writer/cinematographer Lionel Friedberg, the film
artist who helped create Planet Earth, has created a superb new one-
hour film on the subject of Global Warming, Judaism and creation
issues. This new film, A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD, addresses Global environmental issues from a
positive Jewish perspective. The documentary features interviews with
leading Israeli and American environmental, health, vegetarian and
animal rights activists as well as Reform, Conservative,
Reconstructionist, Orthodox 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 including Rabbi Warren Stone
of the CCAR. Biblical passages are read by the acclaimed Jewish star
of Broadway and screen Theodore Bikel. Richard Schwartz, noted writer
on Global and food issues helped with the production along with JVNA.

*They are offering CCAR Rabbis free DVD copies to be shown in
congregations. Send your mailing address to Richard Schwartz at If you can use more than one to share, please
let them know. Background information about the movie is at

CCAR Environmental Chair: Rabbi Warren Stone

f. Sample letter to editor supporting A SACRED DUTY

Rina Deych’s letter (below) was printed in the Jerusalem Post.

[Please consider writing similar letters based on recent news stories. Thanks.]

I read in horror and disgust Lauren Walker's "I, trapper." Fur is not a necessity. Neither is meat. In this turbulent world, in which people are killing each other, their fellow creatures and the environment, one would think it should dawn on us that we are doing something wrong.

Ms. Walker refers to herself as Jewish. Yet, as Jews we are supposed to be compassionate and prevent suffering to animals. I can only hope that upon watching the new documentary entitled “A Sacred Duty,” produced by Lionel Friedberg and Jewish Vegetarians of North America (available for free at, that people begin to reexamine their relationship with their fellow creatures and the earth.

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2. Israeli President Peres States That Pollution as Great a Threat to Israel as Terror

[This reinforces the message in A SACRED DUTY. Please also see item #4 below.]

Dec 2, 2007 21:17 | Updated Dec 3, 2007 14:06
Jerusalem Post

President Peres: Pollution as dangerous as terror


Environmental pollution in Israel is no less dangerous than the threat of terrorism, President Shimon Peres said Sunday. Peres received the annual report on the status of the environment from Tzipi Iser Itzik, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED), known in Hebrew as Adam, Teva V'Din, during a ceremony at Beit Hanassi.
[Ramat Hovav, in the south of...]

The report highlights several specific instances of pollution and evaluates governmental and industrial responses to pollution threats. It also evaluates several legal mechanisms that are meant to protect the environment.

In contrast to terrorism, which is the strategy of an external foe, Peres said, environmental pollution is something that comes from within our midst. Even though it is sometimes silent and invisible, he said, it is nonetheless a grave danger that must be eradicated as quickly as possible.

Peres called on the government, local authorities, industrialists and all Israeli citizens to join in the battle against this enemy from within.

The IUED chose three representative examples of pollution and its treatment to highlight a larger point; that no one is concerned with taking precautionary measures to prevent environmental disasters from occurring.

The IUED gathered all available information on the explosion at the Machteshim factory at the Ramat Hovav Industrial Park last August 14, which spewed a white cloud of pollutants into the air. Using what little information they could garner, after requests for information on the chemicals being used at the industrial park went unanswered by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the IUED scientists determined that the only thing that had prevented that blast from becoming a major catastrophe was the time of year the accident occurred. If it had been a cold winter night instead of a warm summer day, the explosion would have hurled concentrations of lethal chemicals as far as Beersheba and the area of the IDF training base to be built nearby.

Furthermore, the report said, 38 minor accidents had occurred in 2006, any one of which could potentially have been catastrophic.

The IUED suggested conducting a thorough threat assessment of Ramat Hovav's factories. According to the report, no such assessment has been carried out at the industrial complex.

The IUED also highlighted a curious example of an initiative designed to reduce air pollution but which is polluting our drinking water. MTBE (Methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is added to gasoline to raise the octane level. It also reduces the amount of air pollution internal combustion engines produce. But when it leaks into water it makes the water undrinkable; it ruins the taste and has been found to be carcinogenic in animals. (It is suspected of being carcinogenic in humans as well.)

The information on the effects of MTBE is not complete, the IUED said. However, there is no need to wait to find out how much more dangerous MTBE is than we already know, the report said. We must use the precautionary principle and not wait until irreversible health and environmental damage is done, the report concluded.

Many states in the United States have already banned MTBE as a gasoline additive. While the IUED did not call for a ban immediately, they strongly urged the government to investigate the matter but do so in the public eye. They called on the Health Ministry to create a standard for acceptable amounts of MTBE in water.

The IUED also suggested that potential pollution deterrents be evaluated on a holistic basis rather than focusing on a specific element, which is why MTBE was introduced into Israeli gasoline.

A particularly worrying example is that of the east Tel Aviv neighborhood of Nahalat Yitzhak, the report said. There are noxious vapors pervading many of the basements and first floor apartments throughout the neighborhood, according to the report. The pollution has been traced to several factories, including one which operated nearby for nearly fifty years.

The "Defender" arms factory was erected next to Nahalat Yitzhak in 1949. It used and stored hazardous materials for years until it was shut down about 10 years ago. In those years no one was really aware of the danger and did not take proper care of hazardous materials. Thus, dangerous chemicals and other materials were routinely poured into the ground near the factory.

After the factory was dismantled, the environmental damage became apparent. Because of the massive ground pollution, potentially lethal vapors had built up in the surrounding basements, according to the report. These vapors were carcinogenic, lethal to many internal organs and could cause genetic damage as well. Concentrations of more than three times the "safe" limit have been found.

One place they have built up is in the neighborhood Ayalon school, where the basement is routinely used by teachers and students. At present, there is no plan to treat the polluted areas, according to the IUED. What has been decided, instead, is to use special sealing materials in all new buildings. But residents in existing buildings must continue to suffer.

The report also highlighted the effect of public hearings and the IDF's attitude toward environmental concerns. Following its introduction last year, the report once again listed the "IUED 25," an evaluation of the thoroughness of the environmental reports of 25 major public companies.

Palram Industries and El Al headed the list with reports that divulged much of the environmental hazards the companies could create and were dealing with. Dan Automobiles ranked last, with no mention of the air pollution caused by its rental cars and leased cars.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

My letter in response to President Peres’s statement:

December 6, 2007

Editor, the Jerusalem post

Dear Editor:

Kudos to President Shimon Peres for pointing out “Pollution [is] as dangerous as terror” (December 2, 2007 article). The Israel Union for Environmental Defense reported in July that, unless major changes are soon made, global warming will cause Israel to suffer greatly from a 3,3 degree Celsius increase in average temperature, a decrease in rainfall of 20 to 30 percent, with much of the rain coming in severe storms, and a rising Mediterranean Sea which cause major flooding in the coastal plain where most Israelis live.

To respond to such threats, Jewish Vegetarians of North America has produced a one-hour documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD. Produced by Emmy-Award-winning producer/director/writer/cinematographer Lionel Friedberg, the movie has scenes from all over the world to enliven interviews with leading Israeli and American rabbis, environmentalists and activists. A free DVD will be sent to anyone who will help screen or promote the movie by contacting me at The movie has great potential to help shift Israel and the entire world to a sustainable path, so it is important that it be widely viewed.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

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3. Bio of A SACRED DUTY Producer Lionel Friedberg

I think you will agree after reading this bio that we are VERY fortunate to have Lionel as the producer of A SACRED DUTY and working with us to promote the documentary and its challenging message.

Lionel Friedberg

Lionel Friedberg, producer/director of A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, is an EMMY award-winning producer, writer, cinematographer and director.

Friedberg’s career has spanned four decades, covering every continent including Antarctica. For the past 30 years he has dedicated himself to producing non-fiction programming and documentaries. In addition to a Primetime EMMY, he is also the recipient of a National EMMY, the American Association for the Advancement of Science “Westinghouse” Award for Science Programming and three Columbus and three Golden Eagle awards for Best Documentary.

A native of South Africa, Friedberg began his career in television in Central Africa. He went on to produce dramatic and non-fiction specials for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) where some of his credits included A Delicate Balance: Humankind, Animals & Planet Earth, and The Tribal Identity: A Cultural Legacy of the Peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa.

After relocating to the United States, Friedberg continued his quest to create and produce features and television programming relevant to timely social issues and human interest. To that end, one of his first projects in the U.S. was the anti-apartheid docudrama, Across the Rubicon, aired nationwide on public television.

His next step was serving as a writer, producer and director for PBS, winning awards for his work on programs such as Secrets From a Frozen World, Crisis in the Atmosphere and Sail on Voyager, a retrospective of robotic planetary exploration. The Great Dinosaur Hunt won the distinguished American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Westinghouse” Award for Science Programming. His work for PBS on the National Geographic special Mysteries Underground, garnered him a Primetime EMMY Award.

Having established himself at the forefront of docudrama, Friedberg went on to create a string of thought-provoking, visually stunning programs for cable powerhouse, the A&E channel. A few of his programs included Mysteries of the Bible, Who Wrote the Bible, Genghis Khan and Greek Gods & Goddesses.

His work has since been seen on The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Lifetime and the UK’s Channel Four. Early in his career as a cinematographer his work was seen in theatres where his credits include 18 feature film titles.

Friedberg is passionate about his latest project, A Sacred Duty, and the film’s message that applying Jewish values and vegetarianism to life is the pathway to healing the global warming crisis.

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4. Why a Shift to Vegetarian Diets Is a Societal Imperative

Bali Conference: Climate Change Is Security Issue, Not a Green Dilemma

By Daniel Howden
The Independent UK

Thursday 06 December 2007

Foreign policy-makers are waking up to the impact of climate change on conflict zones worldwide, and will add their voice to those calling on governments at the UN conference in Bali to act urgently.

An internal presentation to senior diplomats at the Foreign Office listed every recent, serious breakdown of civil order around the world and mapped it against those countries hardest hit by climate change. The fit was almost perfect. One of the diplomats present said there was an "audible intake of breath" from the audience when the slide was shown.

As the scientific debate has been unequivocally settled by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year, it has become increasingly apparent that its effects will have major implications for foreign policy.

"Climate change presents an enormous challenge to the international community, and unless we respond effectively we won't be able to deal with the implications," said John Ashton, the UK's special representative for climate change. "We need to see how we can use the assets at our disposal to do something about it."

Those assets include the know-how to build international coalitions, and the kind of influence over governmental decision-making that environment ministers can only dream of. Analysts point out that while environment experts know how to make emissions trading work, it's a "political fact" that you get a quicker response to a security crisis.

Delegations from some 190 countries began talks on the Indonesian island of Bali yesterday, aimed at agreeing a "road map" for a successor to the Kyoto protocol. There are concerns that, despite scientific and business consensus on the urgent need for deep cuts to carbon emissions, Bali will be simply more talks about talks.

From rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean to the increasing spread of desert in Africa's Sahel region and water shortages in the Middle East, global warming will cause new wars across the world and is being described by diplomats as a "threat multiplier" - adding new stress to areas of traditional geopolitical instability.

Mr Ashton was brought into the Foreign Office by the former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett last year as a "climate-change ambassador" to try to instill a sense of urgency on the issue in the diplomatic service. Britain also used its presidency of the UN Security Council to lead its first debate on climate change and conflict. "What makes wars start?" asked Mrs Beckett. "Fights over water. Changing patterns of rainfall. Fights over food production, land use. There are few greater potential threats... to peace and security itself."

Those sentiments were echoed in June by the head of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, who launched a report revealing the environmental roots of the conflict in Darfur.

Mr Steiner said global warming would produce new wars. "People are being pushed into other people's terrain by the changing climate and it is leading to conflict," he said.

"Societies are not prepared for the scale and the speed with which they will have to decide what they will do with people."


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5. JVNA Advisor Rabbi Adam Frank Explains Why He Became a Vegan

Why I Became a Vegan

Rabbi Adam Frank

I grew up in a nonobservant household, but I had a strong Jewish identity founded on an appreciation for the dignified history of our people and for Judaism's value driven contributions to humanity.

Long before my acquisition of a serious Jewish education, I took great comfort and pride in the knowledge that Judaism pioneered the idea of respectful responsibility of interaction between humans and the animal world. At an early age I was taught that the laws of Jewish slaughter reflect the concern for minimizing an animal's pain at the end of life. In my adult studies toward rabbinic ordination, the Jewish texts and sources affirmed the teachings of my childhood. Painfully, in the summer of 2003, the realities of our food industry hit me like a closed fist.

Fours years ago, in Washington, D.C., I attended my first and only animal rights conference. Like the seeming majority of Americans, I considered myself an animal lover. This conference was the most sobering and important wake-up call to my nearsighted understanding of what it means to have concern for animals. My eyes and mind were exposed to the realities of modern animal husbandry, and I received an invaluable education. As a Jew, I was particularly affected by my evaluation that the treatment of animals to fulfill human food desires is an appalling violation of the Jewish law prohibiting the unnecessary infliction of pain on an animal.

Additionally, though the animal rights [movement] is disproportionately represented by a large number of Jewish activists, with the exception of one speaker I was the only observant Jew participating in the conference of more than 500 attendees.

At the conference, I was able to meet with people who were at one time on the front lines of animal agriculture. That is, many animal welfare activists are people who previously worked in the animal-based food industry and whose experiences led them to work to alleviate/eliminate the abuses they witnessed. These abuses are documented by hours of films, scientific data and research, and hundreds of testimonials. Critical thinking can help the reader better understand the issues: In the United States, more than 9 billion animals are killed each year for our food supply — the number equates to more than 25 million animals a day. It is not possible to breed, raise, handle, transport and slaughter this number of animals in a non-abusive way. Cruelty to animals is the industrial norm and not the exception.

How was I to reconcile Jewish teachings of human responsibility toward animals with the reality of modern factory farming?

I believe that Jewish law is intended to shape a character of sensitivity, kindness, passion and compassion. Not only does my observance of Jewish law craft my character, but it constructs my vehicle of relationship with God. To ignore the religiously unlawful atrocities inflicted by humans onto animals would be devastating to the integrity with which I approach my observance of Jewish obligations.

The wealth of knowledge we have about the realities of modern animal husbandry forces the critically thinking, compassionate person to conclude that modern society's appetite for personal pleasures through food consumption comes at the expense of a nonrepresented other, namely the animals. For a Jew who has spent years learning Jewish sources that indicate that part of the mission of an ethical society is to protect its weakest members, the decision to abstain from foods directly related to animal abuse is a mandate.

I do not want to be misunderstood: Jewish teachings affirm that humans have the privilege to use animals for our needs.

Were it not for the use of animals as instruments of labor, communities could not have developed and succeeded. However, Judaism also legislates that human use of animals must be done with a concern for the animals' physical welfare and dignity. To be clear: We humans are permitted to use animals for our needs only in concert with concern for animal suffering. The end user of a product knowingly derived by cruel means is a participant in the cruelty.

I will use a pronounced example to illustrate the point. It is unlawful to poach the elephant. For years elephants were hunted for the sole purpose of harvesting the ivory of their tusks. Today, the illegal poaching of elephants still occurs. Not only are the elephant-poachers criminals, but those who purchase the ivory of the hunted elephants have also committed a crime. Were there no consumer willing to buy the tusks, there would be no incentive for the hunters to poach elephants. I apply this same principle to my food choices.

Modern societies permit atrocious living conditions and heinous mistreatment of animals for the food industry. The reasons for this abuse are economic — produce vast quantities at the least possible expense.

Modern, secular thinking allows for sentient creatures to be treated like inanimate objects, but Jewish tradition does not.

Unarguably, Jewish law legislates human interaction with animals. Unarguably, adherents to Jewish law view observance of the law as a medium of relationship with God. A holistic reading of Jewish law prohibits modern factory-farming practices.

My decision to abstain from the consumption of animal products is an expression of my adherence to Jewish law, and it expresses my disapproval and disdain for the cruel practices of the industry.

When we are children, we are taught to trust the police, the judicial system and the government. Only with intellectual maturity do we understand that corruption makes these institutions imperfect. Similarly, we trust that Westernized governments have adequate laws and law enforcement to protect animals from painful abuses. As children we grow up with images of pastoral farms and happy animals and caring stewards.

Intellectual maturity, i.e., the critical thinking to which I referred earlier, should dispel our beliefs that societal rules protect animals from torturous conditions. The powerful and wealthy industrial-animal farming lobbyists maintain such influence on government that reforms for the sake of morality are virtually nonexistent. Mounds of evidence prove that both the government and the food industry, and even Jewish leadership, have betrayed our trust in the prevention of animal cruelty and suffering.

Judaism does not make the claim of moral superiority; rather, it makes the demand for responsibility of actions.

Judaism starts from a place of concern for justice and tries to protect all members of community, both local and global, from abuses of power and privilege.

Thus, Judaism's critique of a social system that fails to protect all of its inhabitants is that the system needs repair. Within Judaism there is a self-correcting mechanism for its own failures. This mechanism depends on its members voicing concern and condemnation at a societal leadership that fails them. The decision not to oppose the systemic animal abuse in the food industry is to condone this abuse — and it is the wrong decision for the serious Jew and the compassionate person. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel writes, "The mission of the Jewish people has never been to make the world more Jewish, but to make it more human."

The writer is spiritual leader of Congregation Moreshet Yisrael in Jerusalem. He is also a graduate of Greenfield Hebrew Academy, Riverwood High School and Emory University.

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6. Climate Scientists Stress Responses to Global Warming Must Start Immediately

Scientists Beg for Climate Action

By Seth Borenstein
The Associated Press

The Associated Press' Seth Borenstein reports, "For the first time, more than 200 of the world's leading climate scientists, losing their patience, urged government leaders to take radical action to slow global warming because 'there is no time to lose.'"

Wednesday 05 December 2007

Washington - For the first time, more than 200 of the world's leading climate scientists, losing their patience, urged government leaders to take radical action to slow global warming because "there is no time to lose."

A petition from at least 215 climate scientists calls for the world to cut in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is directed at a conference of diplomats meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate the next global warming treaty. The petition, obtained by The Associated Press, is to be announced at a press conference there Wednesday night.

The appeal from scientists follows a petition last week from more than 150 global business leaders also demanding the 50 percent cut in greenhouse gases. That is the estimate that scientists calculate would hold future global warming to a little more than a 3-degree Fahrenheit increase and is in line with what the European Union has adopted.

In the past, many of these scientists have avoided calls for action, leaving that to environmental advocacy groups. That dispassionate stance was taken during the release this year of four separate reports by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But no more.

"It's a grave crisis, and we need to do something real fast," said petition signer Jeff Severinghaus, a geosciences professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. "I think the stakes are way way too high to be playing around."

The unprecedented petition includes scientists from more than 25 countries and shows that "the climate science community is essentially fed up," said signer Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in Canada. It includes many co-authors of the intergovernmental climate change panel reports, directors of major American and European climate science research institutions, a Nobel winner for atmospheric chemistry and a winner of a MacArthur "genius" award.

"A lot of us scientists think the problem needs a lot more serious attention than it's getting and the remedies have to be a lot more radical," said Richard Seager, a scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The organizers of the petition - two Australians, two Germans and an American - would not comment about their efforts before their 11 p.m. EST press conference. But several scientists who signed on talked of losing patience.

"Action needs to be taken and needs to be taken now," said Marika Holland, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who signed on. "The longer we wait, the worse it's going to become."


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7. Root and Branch Leaders Start Consulting Group

Forwarded message from Aryeh Gallin: (Aryeh has been tremendously helpful re sponsoring and promoting my vegetarian and environmental talks in Israel for many years.]

Dear Jewish Vegetarians of North America,

Mssrs. Reuven Kossover and Aryeh Gallin have established the Kossover & Gallin English Language Writers' Group of Israel (Research/Writing/Editing).

Reuven Kossover, an essayist whose work is distributed through the Root & Branch Association Information Services, writes for:, and

Aryeh Gallin, President of the Root & Branch Association, Ltd. [], serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Root & Branch Information Services.

Please contact us about your English language research, writing and editing needs (Reuven Kossover -- Cellphone: 972-54-761-0827 (outside of Israel), 054-761-0827 (in Israel),; Aryeh Gallin --

We serve an international clientele and welcome your worldwide referrals.

Shalom from Ma'alei Levunah and Yerushaliyim,

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8. Promoting A SACRED DUTY at Conferences

We have been very fortunate to have our two dynamic Robertas, Roberta Kalechofsky and Roberta Schiff, representing us at some recent conferences. They have been able to interact with conference attendees and to get DVDS of A SACRED DUTY and other Jewish vegetarian material to them. Many thanks, Robertas.

Please be on the lookout for conferences and other meetings in your area, and please consider representing JVNA at these meetings. We can provide leaflets, booklets, DVDs and other material. Thanks.

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9. Statement From JVNA Advisor Roberta Schiff for Hazon Conference

This is preliminary material from “Robbie,” but it gives a good indication of her excellent arguments.

“Can You Eat Meat Ethically?” is the title of the panel at the upcoming Hazon Jewish Food Conference, December 6-9. As moderator, you have asked those of us on the panel to let you know what we want to say.

My position is that the answer is no for reasons of health, cruelty to animals and damage to the environment.

Heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer are all more prevalent in countries where animal flesh and fluids are regularly consumed. Obesity is an increasing problem, especially among children. Our anatomy and physiology are constructed and function in a way best suited to a plant based diet.

Ten billion animals are slaughtered every year in the USA. One million two hundred and fifty thousand, in the time we will be holding the panel. This does not include fish. The animals are confined, fed, bred and manipulated to produced the most "product" in the shortest growth time. They are transported long distances in all extremes of weather, crammed together w/o food or water. Conditions at slaughterhouses, both kosher and non are appalling. Not only do the animals suffer greatly; it is the most dangerous occupation of all.

I believe that there is no such thing as "humane meat" or "humane slaughter". Some methods of raising and killing are somewhat less inhumane than others. From what I have read, there will be presenters and attendees discussing "humane" and "sustainable" ways of turning animal flesh into food. This, I feel, is an elitist position. There is no way that everyone who eats meat could be supplied with this product, nor could it be made affordable.

70 percent of the grain grown [in the U.S.] is fed to farmed animals (a very inefficient way to produce food) and one-third of all arable land used for cattle grazing [or to grow feed crops]. If this food was fed directly to people, we could adequately feed all the world's people, including the twenty thousand of the world’s children who die of starvation every day.

Animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than transportation does. This was reported earlier this year by the Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in their report "Livestock's Long Shadow". Yet most discussions of global warming do not include this topic. Huge amounts of water, electricity, fuel and transportation are used in animal agriculture. If everyone in the world ate as we do, three planet earths would be necessary to produce enough food. In addition, factory farming pollutes the water and destroys the productivity of the soil.

If we are truly desirous of healing and repairing the world, we can chose to do so every time we purchase and consume food.

For the Jew there is no commandment to eat meat. A challah is a lovely sight on a Friday night Shabbat table. But hidden inside in most cases is the egg, laid by a chicken who spent her whole life crammed into a cage with no room to even stretch her wings. The cream cheese so eagerly slathered on bagels in preparation for Torah study on Shabbat morning comes with much cruelty to the cow, who is manipulated to give ten times as much milk as her ancestors did fifty years ago. Her calf is taken away at birth so her milk can used by humans, The cries of mother and baby are horrific. Some people think it is important to discern if animals have souls. We don't know this, but what we do know is that animals feel pain and fear, they care for their young, they enjoy their lives. Does dominion mean that we can become blind to this? Many people love their dogs and cats and are horrified that these animals are raised for food in other cultures. Yet cows and chickens will interact with humans if given the chance. Yes, a chicken will jump in your lap and demand a hug. Choose life, we are emphatically taught. All living creatures ought to live as nature intended. I do not believe that God put animals here for us to eat. Some Jews believe that when the messiah comes, we will all be vegetarian. I would think that those with that point of view would want to give up meat to hasten that day. I don't think anyone here at this conference would deny that Judaism is a religion that teaches love, kindness and compassion. How we treat the animals and our earth does not meet any of these tests.

Our panel will take place after the goat has been killed with many attended watching and many having consumed the flesh. I wonder what varied reactions will be expressed.

I do not believe that separating meat from milk causes reverence for life. Rather I think it has eliminated serious consideration of the practical, economic, health and humane reasons for choosing meals that contain neither flesh or fluid.

We are forbidden to consume blood as it is the life force. Why then, would we want to eat the muscle tissue that was nourished by that blood?

A bottom-line question that I hope will be considered by all at this conference is: Since the production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic Jewish teachings to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people, shouldn’t Jews Be Vegetarians?

Please feel free to ask me about any or all of this. In addition to the handout I sent Judith for the book, I will be bringing many supporting materials, including copies of the new DVD made by Richard Schwartz, head of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and Lionel Friedberg, called "A Sacred Duty - Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World. A copy is available to any attendee who requests it. I have also worked with Roberta Kalechofsky, director of Micah Publications and author of "Vegetarian Judiasm" and have a handout she has written about kosher slaughter.

The original title of the panel was "How To Eat Meat". I am glad that it was changed to make a place for those of us who advocate a vegan lifestyle as an enhancement to Jewish practice and values.

Roberta Schiff, President
Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society

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10. Correction

The following message appeared in last week’s JVNA newsletter.

JVNA Message Going International

Article re A SACRED DUTY in Portuguese
The article is actually in Romanian!

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11. Getting Vegetarians Together

With regard to the message below that was sent to JVNA, if you know of any such groups, please let me know.

My son is a kosher vegetarian teenager. Do you know of any groups for
him to meet like minded teenagers. Thank you.

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12. My Letter to the Jerusalem Post

December 4, 2007

Editor, the Jerusalem Post

Dear Editor:

RE: "'Green Hanukkia' campaign sparks ire" (December 4, 2007 issue)

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I must say that there are far better ways to reduce greenhouse emissions that to light less Chanukah candles, including reducing the consumption of meat and other animal products. The 2006 report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars, trucks and other forms of transportation worldwide combined. The report also projected that the number of farmed animals is expected to double in the next 50 years, causing additional greenhouse emissions that would negate the effects of many positive actions.

A recent report from the Israel Union for Environmental Defense warned that global warming could cause the average temperature in Israel to increase by six degrees Fahrenheit, the rainfall to decrease by up to 30 percent, with much of the rain coming in severe storms, and the Mediterranean to rise, flooding the majority of the Israeli population who live along the coastal plain, unless major changes soon occur. So, a shift to plant based diets is not only an important personal choice -- it is a societal imperative, necessary to move Israel and the entire planet to a sustainable path.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz

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13. Blog Report of Hazon Slaughter of a Goat/Two Responses

Jew School
Chad Gadya

by Kol Ra'ash Gadol • Sunday, December 9th, 2007

…Also, the goats.

My response:

Thanks for these very thoughtful, sensitive comments re the shechting of a goat. I hope now that the slaughter has occurred that it will help focus people’s attention on realities involved in the slaughter of animals.

I hope Hazon will also help get attention on other issues related to the production and consumption of meat, such as:

* While the world faces many problems re pollution, global climate change, widening water shortages, rapid species extinction, and many more, over 50 billion animals are being raised for slaughter annually worldwide.

* According to the UN FAO, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases ((in CO2 equivalents) than all the world’s cars, trucks and other means of transportation combined.

* A typical animal-based diet requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet.

* Over 70% of the grain produced in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter as anestimated 20 million people die annually worldwide due t hungera nd its effects.

* There is an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish community and other communities today, largely due to the high consumption of meat and other animal products.

* The production and consumption of animal products violate important Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and helping hungry people.

I think that Hazon would do a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s Name) by facilitating respectful dialogues in the Jewish community on these issues.

Response from JVNA advisor Rina Deych

With all due respect, on one hand, you acknowledge the need to keep our lust in check. On the other hand, you ate the goat.

It's kind of perplexing to me that one can compartmentalize and rationalize such behavior even when one is acutely aware of the ethical and global implications of one's actions.

It seems that the end result of all that contemplation and soul-searching was to cave in to one's desires.

You do not know for sure the Black and White, Waddles, or Monster did not suffer. Suffering is subjective.

And, since most animals are not raised and slaughtered in the "gentle" fashion, (which is not exempt, by the way, from emitting greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming), I don't think promoting *any* meat is responsible.

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14. Sir Paul McCartney Urges People to Go Veggie

Thanks to author and JVNA advisor Lewis Regenstein for forwarding this message to us:

Sir Paul McCartney called on people to consider altering their eating
habits to "strike a blow for the environment, our children and the

He drew attention to a United Nations report which found that the
livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured
in CO2 equivalent - 18% - than transport.

In a letter to the Press Association he quoted Henning Steinfeld,
chief of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's livestock
information and policy branch, who said: "Livestock are one of the
most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental
problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation."

Sir Paul said the report, “Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental
Issues And Options,” contained one clear message - that the single most
effective act that any individual can currently do to lessen the
effects of global warming is to become vegetarian.

"That this message comes directly from an authoritative body such as
the UN (whose member states, it should be remembered, are not
generally considered vegetarian) rather than an organization committed
to vegetarianism is significant."

full story:

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