December 20, 2007

12/18/2007 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. I am going to be on Bob Linden’s Nationally Broadcast Radio Program on Saturday Night

3. Tu B’Shvat and Vegetarianism

4. Is Fur A Jewish Issue?

5. Latest on CHAI’s Efforts To Stop Horse Racing in Israel

6. Update on Hazon’s Slaughter of Three Goats

7. Rabbi, Inspired by A SACRED DUTY, Plans to Offer Two Related Courses

8. Report From Roberta Kalechosky on Hechsher Tzedek Commision Decision at Conference of Conservative Rabbis

9. Animal Rights Group Seeking Energetic, Motivated Workers

10. New, Comprehensive Jewish Vegetarian Web Site Set Up

11. Why Factory Farming Should Be Abolished

12. Still Another Reason Why Our Efforts Are So Important

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. Internet Connections

The following message was sent by JVNA advisor Rina Deych. Her efforts on this and many other activities to promote A SACRED DUTY are very valuable and much appreciated.
Our film A Sacred Duty is being met with great enthusiasm around the globe! In preparation for widespread internet promotion, our film not only has its own web site (, which, for now, is being redirected to the JewishVeg site), but also a MySpace page (, a MySpace film page ((( ),
and a Face Book page (( ). If you have personal pages on MySpace or Face Book, please send us friend requests! Let's keep this great momentum going!
b. Los Angeles Jewish Vegetarian Group Schedules Showing of A SACRED DUTY

For further information, contact:

Jewish Vegetarians

Singles - Datebook - Calendar Events

January 6, 2008
2:00 p.m.

The Jewish Vegetarian Society of Los Angeles invites you to join us for an enjoyable and remarkable movie "A SACRED DUTY," an hour-long documentary beautifully put together by Emmy-Award-winning producer/director/writer/cinematographer Lionel Friedberg, which portrays the message that a time for healing is upon us. Further information about A SACRED DUTY may be found at

At Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue (meeting room 1st floor)
15730 Ventura Blvd, Encino Contact: 818-342-5555

c. Lionel and I Were on Go Vegan Texas Radio Program/You Can Hear It

To download the program (

Click on:
Go Vegan Texas,
then December 17, 2007.
then download.

Lionel and I are on after the midpoint of the one hour show.
d. Article to Appear in Florida Newspaper:

Message from Judy Lipson, followed by her article:

Nothing I have read or seen before compares with your amazing documentary A SACRED DUTY. It is a masterpiece. If no other scene
did it, the one scene where the cow' s tears are flowing is heart
rendering and really connects us to the animals.

I have written and submitted my once-a-month column " A VEGETARIAN'S
VIEWPOINT" titled "A SACRED DUTY" which will be distributed to all of
our 8000 residents on January 1st.
[Judy’s article is below.] Many thanks, Judy.
By Judy Lipson

Most of us have seen Al Gore's award winning film "An Inconvenient Truth" which won him an Academy Award and the coveted Nobel Peace Prize. Though Gore's film did an excellent job showing the catastrophic impact GLOBAL WARMING is having on our precious planet, he neglected
to mention one of the main causes of this monumental crisis - the production and consumption of our meat-based diet. He deprived us
of this very important information, which we needed to know, so that we could be part of the solution instead of the problem by just changing to a plant-based diet.

Thanks, however, to award winning cinematographer, Lionel Friedberg's beautifully produced documentary "A SACRED DUTY - Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal The world," we now have all the necessary facts. Not only does this 59 minute DVD documentary address the environmental crisis now facing humanity, the film offers solutions based on the ancient
teachings of the Torah and other Jewish scriptures.

The movie includes numerous references to the sacred texts - read by
acclaimed Broadway and screen actor, Theodore Bikel - and examines
how they have profound relevance today. This film aims to motivate
positive action by applying Jewish teachings as to how we should use
natural resources, take care of our health, obtain our food, and live
in peace with our fellow beings. It offers simple, practical measures
for reducing our impact on the planet, and shows how a plant-based diet
can reduce environmental degradation and improve human health and
welfare. It also addresses fundamental moral and ethical issues related
to our diets, including how animals are reared and mistreated on
factory farms today.

This film has been inspired by the writings of Prof. Richard H.
Schwartz, author of JUDAISM and VEGETARIANISM and JUDAISM and GLOBAL SURVIVAL. It features leading Israeli and American environmentalists, physicians, medical authorities, educators and social activists. In addition to compelling scenes filmed all over the world, it includes statements from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis, as well as secular leaders......IT IS A MUST SEE FILM.

Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin from the University of
Chicago stated that changing one's diet eating habits from the Standard
American Diet (SAD) to a vegetarian or vegan diet will do more to
fight global warming than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a
fuel-efficient hybrid car. Of course, you can do both.

Shifting away from SUVs and SUV-style animal-based, meat diets, to much more energy efficient alternative is the key to fighting global
warming. LET US ALL DO OUR PART. Helping to save our planet would be
the best gift you can give your children, grandchildren.
great-grandchildren and all future generations.

If you would like to see A SACRED DUTY call me at ____________. I also have more VEGETARIAN STARTER KIT booklets available."

More information about A SACRED DUTY can be found at

Return to Top

2. I am going to be on Bob Linden’s Nationally Broadcast Radio Program on Saturday Night

I am scheduled to be taped Wednesday night for a ten minute interview re A SACRED DUTY on Bob Linden’s program “Go Vegan Radio” on Air America. The program airs in the NY City area on WWRL (1600 on the AM dial), starting at 10:06 PM. I will be on for about ten minutes, probably after 10:30 PM, but the exact time is subject to change.

The program airs in many cities throughout the US. To find out when it will air in your area, check local listings or visit

This is the only national animal rights/vegan program on the radio. It is essential that it remain on the air. A special fund raising appeal was recently sent to you. Too contribute, please go to Many thanks.

But to do that, it desperately needs funds. Please consider making a contribution, by visiting Many thanks.

Return to Top

3. Tu B’Shvat and Vegetarianism

With Tu B’Shvat on January 21-22 this year, I am planning to send the article below and the sample letter to the Jewish media. Suggestions for improvements welcome. For more material on connections between Tu B’Shvat and vegetarianism, please vist the holiday section at

Richard H. Schwartz

One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the recitation of the four questions which consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Similar questions are appropriate for Tu B’Shvat, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other days of the year.

While four cups of red wine (or grape juice) are drunk at the Passover seder, the four cups drunk at the Tu B’shavat seder vary in color from white to pink to ruby to red.

While Passover is a holiday of springtime, Tu B’Shvat considers the changing seasons from winter to autumn, as symbolized by the changing colors of the wine or grape juice, to remind us of God’s promise of renewal and rebirth.

While Passover commemorates the redemption of the Israelites, Tu B’Shvat considers the redemption of humanity. The kabbalists of Safed, who inaugurated the Tu B’Shvat sede,r regarded the eating of the many fruits with appropriate blessings and kavannah (intentions) on Tu B’Shvat as a tikkun (repair) for the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

While other Jewish holidays honor or commemorate events and people, Tu B’Shvat honors trees, fruits, and other aspects of nature.

While people generally eat whatever fruits are in season, on Tu B’Shvat people try to eat fruits from Israel, especially fruits mentioned in the Torah.

While people generally take the environment for granted, on Tu B’Shvat there is an emphasis on the proper stewardship of the environment.

While people do not generally think about trees in the winter, there is much interest in trees on Tu B’Shvat, although the spring is still months away.

While people generally think of Israel as the land of the Bible, as the Jewish people’s ancestral home, and as the modern Jewish homeland, on Tu B’Shvat people think of Israel in terms of its orchards, vineyards, and olive groves.

While people generally think of fruit as something to be purchased at a supermarket or produce store, on Tu B’Shvat people think of fruit as tokens of God’s kindness.

While people generally try to approach God through prayer, meditation, and study, on Tu B’Shvat people try to reach God by eating fruit, reciting blessings with the proper feelings, and by considering the wonders of God’s creation.

While many people eat all kinds of food including meat and dairy products during most Jewish holidays and on most other days, the Tu B'Shvat Seder in which fruits and nuts are eaten, along with the singing of songs and the recitation of Biblical verses related to trees and fruits, is the only sacred meal where only vegetarian, actually vegan, foods are eaten as part of the ritual.

While people generally look on the onset of a new year as a time to assess how they have been doing and to consider their hopes for the new year, Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for Trees, when the fate of trees is decided.

While most Jewish holidays have a fixed focus, Tu B’Shvat has changed over the years from a holiday that initially marked the division of the year for tithing purposes to one in which successively the eating of fruits, then the planting of trees in Israel, and most recently responses to modern environmental crises have became major parts of the holiday.

Shlomo Carlebach once quipped that the most important Jewish holidays are the ones that are least celebrated. While there has been increasing interest in Tu B’Shvat recently, this holiday that is so rich in symbolism and important messages for today is still not considered to any great extent by most Jews. Let us hope that this will soon change and that an increased emphasis on Tu B’Shvat and its important lessons will help revitalize Judaism and help shift our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

Letter re Tu B’Shvat and environmental activism

Dear editor,

Many contemporary Jews look on Tu B'Shvat (January 21-22 this year) as a Jewish ‘Earth Day,’ and use Tu B'Shvat seders as occasions to discuss how Jewish values can be applied to reduce many of today's ecological threats. This is now more important than ever in view of the many environmental threats currently facing our planet.

While Judaism teaches that “The Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalms 24:1), and that we are to be partners with God in preserving the environment, there are daily news reports about global warming, water shortages, air and water pollution, the depletion of the ozone layer, soil erosion and depletion, and other environmental threats. Tu B'Shvat is the New Year for Trees, the date on which the fate of trees is decided for the coming year. Hence, it is an ideal time to consider the rapid destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats. While we are already facing many negative effects of rapid global climate change, recent scientific reports have projected that the earth’s average temperature will increase by 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in a century, and this would have catastrophic impacts on ecosystems and humanity. While Israel has made remarkable progress in many areas, it faces chronic droughts, very badly polluted rivers, severe air pollution in its major cities and industrial areas, rapidly declining open space, congested roads, and an inadequate mass transit system.

In view of the above and much more, I urge Jews to use Tu B’Shvat and activities related to this increasingly important holiday, as occasions to start to make tikkun olam, the repair and healing of the planet, a central focus in Jewish life today.

Return to Top

4. Is Fur A Jewish Issue?

I plan to send the message and article below to the Jewish media. Suggestions for improvements very welcome. Thanks.

Dear editor,

As the weather gets colder and many women consider coming to the synagogue on Shabbat mornings wearing fur coats, I hope that you will publish my article below. Perhaps you might also include an article with another point of view or arrange a respectful dialogue/debate on the issue.

No fee expected and you may edit my article to meet your needs, as long as the basic arguments are not modified.

Many thanks, and best wishes,

Richard (Schwartz)

Is Fur a Jewish Issue?
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Jewish worshipers chant every Sabbath morning, "The soul of every living being shall praise God's name" (Nishmat kol chai tva'rech et shim'chah). Yet, some come to synagogue during the winter months wearing coats that required the cruel treatment of some of those living beings whose souls praise God.

To decide whether the use of fur is a significant Jewish issue,we should consider several related questions:

1. What does the Jewish tradition say about the treatment of animals?

2. How much suffering do animals raised or trapped for their fur experience?

3. Does the wearing of fur coats have redeeming factors that would over ride Jewish teachings related to the proper treatment of animals?


Judaism has beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:
Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals,when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Eliezer, Abraham's servant. Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, the redactor of the Mishna, was punished for many years at the hand of Heaven for speaking callously to a calf being led to slaughter who sought refuge beside him.

Many Torah laws mandate proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and aweak animal together. Animals, as well as their masters, are meant to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments and on every sabbath morning as part of the kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates G-d's concern for animals, stating that "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalm 145:9). And there is a mitzvah (precept) in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best expressed by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal." The Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain, including psychological pain, to living creatures.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the jewish view on treatment of animals:
Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours. (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)

Fur is obtained from animals who are either trapped or raised on ranches. Both involve treatment of animals that appears to be far from the Jewish teachings that have been previously discussed:

Animals caught in steel-jaw leg hold traps suffer slow, agonizing deaths. Some are attacked by predators, freeze to death, or chew off their own legs to escape. It has been said that one can get a "feel for fur" by slamming your fingers in a car door. A Canadian Wildlife service report gives an idea of the terror that trapped animals face and their desperate efforts to escape:

The stomachs of [trapped] arctic foxes . . . often contain parts of their own bodies. They may swallow fragments of their teeth broken off in biting the trap, and sometimes part of a mangled foot; almost every stomach contains some fox fur, and a considerable number contain pieces of skin, claws, or bits of bone.

Over 100 million wild animals are killed for their pelts every year. Many species of animals killed for their furs have become endangered or have disappeared completely from some localities.Millions of animals not wanted by trappers, including dogs, cats, and birds, die in traps annually and are discarded as "trash animals." Many trapped animals leave behind dependent offspring who are doomed to starvation.

Treatment of animals raised on "fur ranches" is also extremely cruel. Confined to lifelong confinement, millions of foxes, beavers, minks, ocelots, rabbits, chinchillas, and other animals await extinction nothing to do, little room to move, and all their natural instincts thwarted. The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being. Because of the enforced confinement and lack of privacy, naturally wild animals often exhibit neurotic behaviors such as compulsive movements and self mutilation. The animals finally suffer hideous deaths by electrocution by rods thrust up their anuses, by suffocation, by poisoning, which causes painful muscle cramping, or by having their necks broken.

According to the International Society for Animal Rights, Inc.,to make one fur garment requires 400 squirrels; 240 ermine; 200 chinchillas; 120 muskrats; 80 sables; 50 martens; 30 raccoons; 22 bobcats; 12 lynx; or 5 wolves.


Judaism puts human beings on a higher level than animals and indicates that animals may be harmed and even killed if an essential human need is met. However, is the wearing of fur truly necessary for people to stay warm during wintry weather? There are many non-fur coats and hats, available in a variety of styles, that provide much warmth. Imitation fur is produced at such a high level of quality that even among Chasidim there is a small but growing trend to wear synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats).

Based on the prohibition of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Halevy, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv issued a p'sak (rabbinic ruling) in March, 1992, indicating that Jews should not wear fur. Rabbi Halevy asked: "Why should people be allowed to kill animals if it is not necessary, simply because they desire the pleasure of having the beauty and warmth of fur coats? Is it not possible to achieve the same degree of warmth without fur?"

In his book, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Rabbi Nachum Amsel, a modern Israeli educator, states: "If the only reason a person wears the fur coat is to "show off" one's wealth or to be a mere fashion statement, that would be considered to be a frivolous and not a legitimate need. Rabbi Amsel also points out that hunting for sport is prohibited because it is not considered a legitimate need (Avodah Zarah 18b).


The Talmud teaches that Jews are "rachamanim b'nei rachamanim," compassionate children of compassionate ancestors (Beitza 32b). One has to wonder if the wearing of fur is consistent with that challenging mandate.

Are the words of Isaiah valid today if we fail to show compassion to animals?

Even though you make many prayers,I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12-15)

What kind of lesson in Jewish values are young people getting when they see worshippers coming to synagogue in fur coats on the Sabbath day?

Not only do animals benefit from our compassion and concern -- we, too, benefit by becoming more sensitive and more humane, as Jews and civilized human beings.

Return to Top

5. Latest on CHAI’s Efforts To Stop Horse Racing in Israel

Forwarded message from CHAI:

To read this alert with photos on the CHAI website, see:

December 11, 2007


The bill that will legalize gambling on horse racing in Israel is about to be introduced in the Knesset. It is urgent that we have strong lobbying and media efforts to educate Knesset members and the public about the cruelties inherent in the racing industry in order to block passage of this bill.

Cruelty to horses is already a very significant problem in Israel, and there is no infrastructure to deal with it. Municipal vets admit they don't take abused horses away from their abusers because they have no place to put them. Multiply this problem by thousands — the plan calls for importing 2,000 horses for racing in the first year.

Lobbying and public relations are expensive. Please read about what is at stake, and please give generously to CHAI's campaign to prevent this industry from becoming established in Israel.

The racing industry presents an image of glamour, but in reality, it is filled with cruelty, corruption, and death.

Death: Thousands of racehorses die in training or on the track every year. This year in England, for example, a racehorse died nearly every other day on the track. An average of 375 horses are raced to death every year in that country alone. One-third die on racecourses, while the others are destroyed as a result of training injuries, or are killed because they are no longer fast enough to earn money. In all countries, most racehorses suffer from bleeding in the lungs, which can be fatal, and chronic stomach ulcers. Some have heart attacks from the unnatural exertion.

Corruption: This cruel industry is filled with corruption in every country where it exists. Widespread drugging of horses to enhance performance or dull pain so they can race even while injured was the subject of a New York Times front page article. Insurance fraud — killing slow horses to collect insurance money — has been repeatedly exposed in the U.S. media. In one case, for example, a horse's legs were tied to a truck and broken as the truck drove away.

The end of the line: Every year, the same number of horses leave racing as enter it. Like all countries where there is racing, Israel will either have to go into the horse slaughter business or into the cruel live-export trade, transporting horses abroad to end up on dinner plates.

Horse slaughter:

If this industry is so ruthless, why would it now be allowed to enter Israel, a country where racing never existed before except on a tiny scale? Because now money is at stake: gambling, on which the racing industry depends, generates huge sums of money. It also generates social welfare problems, including crime and the breakup of families. The Chief Rabbi of Israel has issued a ruling stating that the racing industry violates Jewish law, which prohibits gambling and cruelty to animals.

Chief Rabbi's ruling:

We have amassed a great deal of factual information about racing, all of which is available on our website. Experts from around the world have offered their testimony, confirming the inherent cruelty of horseracing. See our Horse Racing Q and A page for answers to some frequently asked questions.



CHAI has fought against bringing racing into Israel for nearly three years. The campaign has been extremely expensive, and most people have assumed the horses can't possibly win against such powerful money interests.

PLEASE help us show that compassion can be stronger than greed. This is our only chance to stop this grotesque industry from entering Israel.

To make a contribution to support CHAI’s work, please visit:

Yours for a more compassionate world,

Nina Natelson, Director
CHAI - Concern for Helping Animals in Israel
PO Box 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302

Return to Top

6. Update on Hazon’s Slaughter of Three Goats

a. JTA Article:
This food conscious conference was no place for kids

By Natasha Rosenstock

FALLS VILLAGE, Conn. (JTA) -- I was torn between my professional responsibility to attend the most experiential learning moment of the conference and my personal squeamishness.

Certainly it was noble that Hazon, the environmental group, wanted to connect participants to their food and halachically slaughter organically, pasture-raised goats and feed them to the participants. But would I be able to watch the killing of not one but three goats?

Then I learned that like me, the ritual slaughterer and the kashrut supervisor who had been brought in to kill the goats generally do not eat meat except on Shabbat, when many say it is a mitzvah to do so. Although I am no longer officially a vegetarian, I don't eat meat very much outside of Shabbat. I can't even eat chicken on the bone because it seems too close to a real animal to me.

Rabbi Yehuda ben Chemhoun, a prominent shochet of 27 years, and Rabbi Seth Mandel, the senior mashgiach at the Orthodox Union, made their revelation at a panel discussion the evening before the Dec. 7 ritual slaughter, or schechting. I was surprised to learn that these bearded, black-hatted, serious rabbis order the veggie option.

The organizers of the Hazon conference, "Planting Seeds for the New Jewish Food Movement, " made the session mandatory for anyone planning to attend the ritual slaughter the next morning.

Simon Feil, the conference co-chair and creator of Kosher Conscience, an organization that provided Jews with kosher organic turkeys this Thanksgiving, said, "For those of us who eat meat, this is an opportunity to get more in touch with that. And if that's uncomfortable for you, maybe that's a good thing."

Mandel said that Jews have eaten meat throughout history and are commanded to eat the pascal lamb on Passover. We can't get away from that reality. This is where moderation comes in.

The participants challenged Mandel on the slaughterhouse system. He responded, "Maimonides said we should eat meat, at most, two times per week. Judaism is a religion of moderation. If people did that, we wouldn't have to have slaughterhouses and could go back to pastures."

While it was a huge step to engage the Orthodox Union in this discussion, and shocking to hear its head mashgiach call the system of mass slaughter inhumane, many participants did not understand why the O.U. didn't simply use its power to change the system.

Mandel explained the laws of what makes meat kosher and how studies have shown the animals do not feel pain. He said the current system may not satisfy the participants, but one cannot claim it isn't kosher.

I decided I would attend the schechting in the morning. It was the least I could do as a sometimes carnivore.

I wasn't prepared for how upset it made me feel simply watching the goat lifted into position on the wooden bench. A green tarp lay to the side. I turned away and only saw it after it was dead. I looked back and saw them carry the green tarp to the tent off to the side. I heard banging and only later realized it was the goat hitting its hooves on the table after being slaughtered, as the rabbi had warned us in advance. But by the second shechting, I felt surprisingly at peace with the process.

Then I accidentally saw the first goat's head peeking out from the side of the tent. Judging from the movement and angle, it must have been hanging. It looked like it was sleeping, but just with a few drops of blood on its face. Again, although I felt upset, I still thought the animal looked like it was sleeping peacefully and was not mistreated.

I didn't eat the goats' meat on Friday night, or the chicken. The meat was placed on a platter in the center of the room, separate from the general buffet table. It was announced that there was a limited amount, so participants should ration what they take and note all the efforts that went into the few trays of meat.

"When we were eating the goat on Friday, we had a different intent around eating it," said participant Dassee Berkowitz, a Jewish educator in New York. "I specifically did not also eat the chicken. I'm now considering how we eat meat and how often we eat meat."

At last year's Hazon conference, Nigel Savage, the group's founder, asked meat eaters if they would eat meat if they had to raise and kill the animal themselves. He also asked vegetarians if they would eat meat if they raised and killed the animal themselves. There were takers on both sides.

After Shabbat dinner this year, Savage asked of the crowd, "Stand up if you do eat meat and didn't eat the goat." Then, "Stand up if you are a vegetarian and ate the goat." The numbers appeared to be even.

Aaron Philmus, a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, contrasted his experience here with an earlier shechting of lambs he had witnessed in Israel at a Lag B'Omer celebration. The earlier experience, he said, felt unholy to him. People were talking and taking pictures, children were watching. One of the lambs watched another being slaughtered.

At the Hazon event, cameras were forbidden, and each goat was protected from seeing the others. Philmus lauded the Hazon environment, compared to the modern slaughterhouse, which he called "the least holy place I can think of."

He said, "I talked to the shochet about the levels of his holy intentions. It was clear to me he considered what he was doing God's will, God's work. It deepened my belief in and respect for the way Jews do this."

While the conference included more than the schechting, it was clearly the most talked-about moment. The common theme of connecting to where your food comes from, eating and living seasonally and organically, and concern for public and private health, was espoused from different angles by a series of high-profile speakers.

The wide spectrum of Jews here agreed that it is a very Jewish thing to want to know where our meat comes from and how the animal lived and died.

While I may not be able to commit to eating only seasonal, local produce from my farmer's market, I think I will definitely quit the fake foods, such as 10-calorie frozen "yogurt." And I certainly don't see myself looking at another piece of beef in the same way anytime soon.

(Natasha Rosenstock is a writer living in Washington, D.C.)

b. My Article On the Hazon Slaughter of Goats Sent to the Jewish Media/Chicago Jewish News to Publish It

Hazon Lacks Vision About Animal-Based Diets

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I strongly condemn the slaughter of three goats at Hazon’s food-related conference on December 7 at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut.

JVNA has long supported Hazon’s environmental bike rides and its efforts to increase awareness of environmental and food-related issues in the Jewish community and has often placed announcements of Hazon events in its newsletter. We also appreciate Hazon’s objective of increasing awareness of the slaughter process, but its objective could have been far better and more humanely been carried out if they had shown videos of slaughterhouse practices, rather than destroying innocent life.

Hazon is ignoring the very negative effects that animal-based diets are having on human health and the environment. They are also ignoring the fact that the production and consumption of meat and other animal products is inconsistent with basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and pursue peace. Hazon would have done far more good by a thorough consideration of these issues at its conference than by slaughtering some of G-d’s defenseless creatures. On behalf of JVNA, I respectfully challenge Hazon and other leaders in the Jewish community to engage with us in a dialogue/debate on ‘Should Jews Be Vegetarians?’”

At a time when the world is so imperiled by global warming and other environmental threats, dietary concerns should be considered in terms of environmental impacts. In view of the many current environmental threats to humanity, it is scandalous that the world is not only trying to feed 6.6 billion people, but also over 50 billion farmed animals; that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the world’s forms of transportation; that 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over a third produced worldwide are fed to animals raised for slaughter; and that the standard American diet (SAD) requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet.

To increase consideration of such issues in the Jewish community and other communities, JVNA has just released a one-hour documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD ( They will send a free DVD to anyone who contacts them ( and indicates plans to consider using the movie to help increase awareness of environmental and food-related issues. Further information about the movie can be found at a

Further information about these issues can be found at JVNA welcomes opportunities to dialogue and work with others to increase awareness of Jewish teachings on dietary concerns.

Return to Top

7. Rabbi, Inspired by A SACRED DUTY, Plans to Offer Two Related Courses

Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg’s Message for January Bulletin

Dear Friends,

January is the time for New Year’s Resolutions. How many times have we resolved to eat less and exercise more? What happened? At least we annually acknowledged the need to clean up our act.

This year I have a New Year’s Resolution for us all: “Go Green!” Huh? It is one thing for individuals to neglect their health, but quite another when we collectively abuse Mother Earth. I am reminded of the Midrash: “The Holy Blessed One took the first human and passing before all the trees of the Garden of Eden, said, ‘See My works, how fine and excellent they are. All that I created, I created for you. Consider that, and do not desolate My world, for if you do, there will be no one to set it right.’”

There may be some deniers who question Global Warming, Greenhouse Gasses, the ramifications of denuding forests, or polluting land, water and air. Perhaps, these ostriches feel if they ignore the facts, they will go away. Or do they doubt that the little bit of damage they personally cause can do much harm. Or maybe they just don’t want to turn down the thermostat, drive more fuel efficient cars, recycle, etc. etc. Kermit the Frog was right. “It’s not easy being green.”

In a rabbinic story 2 people were in the midst of a vast sea, when one took out a drill and began boring a hole in the bottom of the rowboat. The other exclaimed in horror, “Stop before we drown.” The driller responded, “What’s it to you? The hole is under my seat.” It matters when polar ice caps melt, warmer oceans cause extreme storms or people toss litter out a car window. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but we are all in the same boat, and our family, the human family, is at risk.

Recently, I viewed a film entitled, A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World. That along with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth have motivated me to resolve to “Go Green.” For both the Institute of Adult Jewish Studies and the Jewish Community High School I will be teaching “Tikun Olam, a Jewish Course in Healing Our World.” In addition to exploring Jewish wisdom for this crisis, we will seek practical solutions for our planet, our synagogue and ourselves. I welcome any suggestions you may have.

Coincidentally, Jan. 21st is both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the beginning of Tu B’Shvat, our New Year for Trees. In that spirit, I too have a dream: I have a dream that one day humankind will live out the mission charged to Adam and Eve to diligently tend this garden we call Earth.

I have a dream that land blighted with contaminants will be transformed into an oasis of vegetation producing so much food that no one goes hungry.

I have a dream that rivers and streams, lakes and oceans will never experience drought or pollution. They they will once more be mayim chaim, living waters.

I have a dream that the air we breathe will be pure, and that an ambience of safety and security will exist for all God’s people, and the animals as well.

Happy New Year! Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg

Return to Top

8. Report From Roberta Kalechosky on Hechsher Tzedek Commision Decision at Conference of Conservative Rabbis

A New Heksher Symbol is Born

Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D.

An historic event took place at the USJC Biennial in Orlando, FL, Dec.
1. After years of planning, a panel of rabbis, Rabbis Morris Allen,
Michael Siegel, Jill Borodin, Avram Israel Reisner, chair of the
commission, Scott Kapan and Project Manager, Dr. Richard Lederman,
members of the Heksher Tzedek Commission, presented a new symbol for
kashrut, the Heksher Tzedek---Connecting Halacha to Social Justice.
This was a joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Five benchmarks were defined to indicate that "a kosher product was
made in compliance with a set of social justice criteria in keeping with
the teachings of the Jewish faith." Though the Commission has had such a project in mind for years, it is no secret that the recent scandals at
the Agriprocessor slaughtering plant in Iowa made the creation of the
new symbol urgent. But in spite of its roots in Jewish concerns, the
commission eloquently stated that "The ethical treatment of workers is
an issue that transcends religious affiliation."

The Heksher Tzedek is a response to the changing nature and complexity
of modern food production and the need to implement a standard of just
wages, working conditions and animal welfare concerns. It expands the
meaning of the traditional kashrut symbols, but does not replace them.
It recognizes the fact that food in the modern world has become a
complex political problem. The historic kashrut symbols, which guided
traditional Jewish households for centuries, were developed in a rural
economy and society. Food production in an industrial society is far
more complicated, and the Heksher Tzedek Commission felt that a new
symbol was required to recognize the complexity of modern food

The major concern of the commission was to develop a symbol that would
indicate fair working conditions, particularly for those in slaughter
houses. Food stamped with the Heksher Tzedek symbol would indicate that this food was produced in an industry that recognized proper minimum worker pay, health insurance for workers, retirement benefits, vacation, sick leave, maternity leave and the right to organize. If such concerns sound modern, a booklet explains how each of these issues is rooted in historic halacha. Other employee issues concerned health and safety in the working condition, proper employee training, safety inspection, and employee turnover.

The Commission also stipulated that animal welfare policies must be in
place, that foods must be marketed responsibly, that there must be
corporate social responsibility, and transparency in accounting
practices. The Commission also addressed itself to the problem of
environmental impact in the working environment, which would attend to
such concerns as hazardous waste, toxic emissions, regulatory reporting,
and environmental initatives.

The new seal is voluntary and is meant to be added to the traditional
kashrut symbol. Why then is it necessary? The Commission believes that
the Heksher Tzedek justice certification deepens the meaning of kashrut
and "will appeal to socially conscious consumers within and beyond the
Jewish community." It will reach out to Jews for whom the traditional
Kashrut symbols have become inert and in this way, it is hoped that Jews
will once again find themselves bound together by common standards of
concern about the food they eat.

The members of the Biennial voted to adopt the Heksher Tzedek symbol with an almost unanimous vote. At the conclusion of the often
passionate presentation of the need and meaning of the Heksher Tzedek I
presented each member of the panel with a DVD of the new documentary, A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World (to Environmental and Global Problems), inspired by Richard Schwartz. It was received with great appreciation. We all understood the historic moment: the Jewish people who have one of the oldest meditations on the ethics and ritual of food, must apply their historic consciousness to the new conditions of food production and consumption.

Copyright (c) Roberta Kalechofsky, 2007

Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D., fiction writer, speaker, essayist,
Micah Publications ( is the source for Jewish
vegetarian and animal rights books. See website for these and other

Return to Top

9. Animal Rights Group Seeking Energetic, Motivated Workers

Forwarded message:

PETA, an international nonprofit organization, is looking for energetic, motivated, like-minded people to help support and continue our mission. PETA is hiring for a variety of positions, and we encourage everyone to apply. To view all our current openings and to apply for a position, please visit It would be nice to have some people with the JVNA philosophy working at PETA. We have much common ground with them, although we disagree with some of their statements and methods.

Samuel Puccini
The PETA Foundation

Return to Top

10. New, Comprehensive Jewish Vegetarian Web Site Set Up

Forwarded message from web coordinator Boris Dolgin: is a new online Jewish vegetarian and animal rights
community, with the goal of connecting members, and providing
resources for learning and activism. Users of the site can join the
forums, catch up on updated veggie, animal rights, and Jewish news,
read the blog, add to and review recipes in the growing recipe
database, and explore the learning section. Registering on the site
allows access to the following additional features:

-Create your own blog space to share your thoughts with others in the
Jewish veggie community.
-Create an online profile and meet other people who share your
interests and passions. Add others to your friends list, send
messages and create your own mini-community.
-Use the classified ads pages to buy, sell, share a skill, make an
announcement, or even meet that special someone through the personals
-Submit your own articles, essays and stories to share with ShalomVeg

ShalomVeg is a free service made for the the Jewish vegetarian
community. With so many organizations and people in so many
different places, can be a "virtual meeting place" to
help strengthen our community, and provide the resources to help us
make more of a difference in the world.

The site can be found at:

For more info, email:

Return to Top

11. Why Factory Farming Should Be Abolished

The following article, very slightly edited, is by Christian Vegetarian Association director Steve Kaufman.

Why Factory Farming Should Be Abolished

Should We Hope for God’s Mercy?

I contend that contemporary factory farming is among the most egregious offenses against God and God’s Creation ever perpetrated by humanity, for the following reasons:

1) Factory farming is unnecessary. We have access to healthy non-animal foods, and those who insist on eating animals and animal products could obtain them from far less abusive systems. In fact, the article below shows that factory-farmed foods cost less than other methods largely because of federal price supports.

2) Factory farming is cruel. Only those who close their eyes to standard practices of factory farms – including intensive confinement, mutilations without anesthetics, and prohibition of virtually all behaviors God created animals to do – can believe that factory farming doesn’t constitute animal abuse.

3) The victims are innocent. Animals have done nothing to deserve the unrelenting abuse they experience. Even “humane” farms typically kill animals in adolescence or young adulthood. It is human arrogance to believe that animals belong to us, not God, and it is human callousness and hardness of heart that accounts for the massive abuse of about 10 billion land animals in the U.S. (50 billion in the world) each year. The number of fish killed is far higher. At no time in history have human beings tortured more animals, and tortured them more exquisitely, than our current times.

4) Modern animal agriculture causes suffering to humans. As the CVA [Christian Vegetarian Association] booklet "Are We Good Stewards of God’s Creation?" discusses, modern animal agriculture contributes substantially to world poverty and hunger, global warming, environmental degradation, disease propagation, antibiotic resistance, and human diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Factory farming is a choice – a choice that is having disastrous consequences for animals right now and threatens to contribute heavily to the collapse of human civilization. Will God save humanity from its own violence, cruelty, destructiveness? Should God save humanity from its own violence, cruelty, and destructiveness?

What can we do? For starters, we can stop consuming the products of cruelty. But we can do much more. Organizations like the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, Christian Vegetarian Association, Vegan Outreach, and PETA have excellent resources to help all of us make visible the hidden, invisible victims of factory farming. Our being a witness to the abuse, and compassionately and respectfully showing people ways that they can avoid contributing to the abuse, we can serve God and God’s creatures. In addition, I encourage those people of compassion who are able to offer financial support for these or other organizations that strive to prevent the massive crimes against God’s creatures.

Steve Kaufman, M.D., CVA chair

Return to Top

12. Still Another Reason Why Our Efforts Are So Important

Thanks to Lionel Friedberg (Producer/Director/Writer/Cinematographer), the splendid produce of our DVD/film, A Sacred Duty, for forwarding the following item:

** Rising seas 'to beat predictions' **

The world's sea levels could rise twice as high this century as UN climate scientists have previously predicted, according to a study.

Return to Top

** Fair Use Notice **

The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of vegetarian, environmental, nutritional, health, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for educational or research purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal, technical or medical advice.