December 30, 2007

12/25/2007 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Let Us Make 2008 a Very Successful Year for Vegetarianism

2. Still Time To Make a MUCH-NEEDED Year-End Tax-Deductible Contribution to JVNA

3. Update on Our New Documentary A SACRED DUTY

4. Important New Jewish Vegetarian Web Site/Please Visit

5. Eyewitness Account of Slaughtering of Three Goats at the Hazon Conference

6. Roberta Schiff’s Talk at the Recent Hazon Conference

7. Does Judaism Require More Than That Our Food Be Kosher?/Important Comment in Article by a Lubavitch Rabbi

8. Reflections from Bali re Global Warming Conference

9. Jews Obligated To Preserve the Environment

10. Forward Article: Being an Environmentalist is Our Sacred Duty

11. New Web Site Provides Vegetarian and Animal Rights News

12. Israeli Cats Need Speedy Help

13. Story Shows Importance of Every Act To Improve The World

14. Article re the Israeli Vegetarian Community Amirim in Jerusalem Post

15. Correction

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. Let Us Make 2008 a Very Successful Year for Vegetarianism

As we look back on the year that is about to end, we can take great pride on a major achievement, the completion of A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD, thanks largely to the superb efforts of Emmy-award-winning producer/director/writer/cinematographer Lionel Friedberg and his wife Diana, a professional editor. As indicated in previous messages and in the next item, the movie is being very well received, by Jews and non-Jews. And thanks to the Herculean efforts of our dedicated secretary/treasurer John Diamond and his wife Donna, DVDs have been sent to many people throughout the U.S. and many more countries, and we have started a grassroots campaign that is building momentum daily as many screenings have already taken place or are scheduled and more and more people are hearing about the movie.

We are planning to build on A SACRED DUTY to respectfully challenge the Jewish community and other communities, largely based on the three main points brought out in the documentary:

* The world is heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe due to global warming and other environmental threats;

* It is essential that everything possible be done to respond to these threats. To paraphrase Al Gore, the saving of the planetary environment must become a “central organizing principle for society today.” Tikkun olam, the healing and repair of the world must become a central focus for Judaism and other religions.

* among the many necessary steps to respond to global warming and other environmental threats is a major shift to plant-centered diets.

More details re the major campaign we will be mounting will be in future JVNA newsletters.

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2. Still Time To Make a MUCH-NEEDED Year-End Tax-Deductible Contribution to JVNA

As indicated above, the response to A SACRED DUTY has been outstanding and we have great potential to really make a difference in getting vegetarianism, animal rights, environmental activism and related issues on society’s agenda. We have already given out many complimentary DVDs to a wide variety of people, many of whom are arranging screenings or promoting the documentary in some other way. And we plan to continue to do so. We have also hired a publicist who is trying to get celebrity support for A SACRED DUTY, to arrange major screenings and to get media coverage and interviews for me and Lionel.

However, our money supply is rapidly being depleted. In order to continue our major campaign we desperately need additional funds.

As indicated previously, in view of the unprecedented threats to humanity from global warming and other environmental threats, and the significant contributions from animal-based agriculture to these threats, I believe the most important contribution we can make for future generations is to support efforts like ours to try to produce a major shift toward vegetarianism.

To make a tax deductible contribution, please go to (bottom of the page) or send a check made out to Jewish Vegetarians of North America (or JVNA) to our secretary/treasurer John Diamond at:

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

MANY Thanks!

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3. Update on Our New Documentary A SACRED DUTY

A Sacred Duty: Film Explores Jewish Values to Heal World, Help Animals

The environmental crisis of global warming is addressed by A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, which makes the case that it is "our responsibility to apply Jewish teachings to how we obtain our food, use natural resources, and live among other creatures whom God created." Presented by Jewish Vegetarians of North America. Read an >(interview with Richard Schwartz, president of JVNA.

Watch a film clip from A SACRED DUTY.


b. Strong statement of support from South Africa

I have just watched your video A SACRED DUTY and I am totally overwhelmed. I honestly never knew that the Jews (i am Jewish) had this deep understanding of the world and the crises we are in. From Global warming to the horrors of our tortured animals. some in my family are vegetarians. I am to become one. I would like to see this video shown at every synagogue in South Africa. It should also be viewed on TV. perhaps Carte Blance, have you heard of it? It must be put out in the world right away....

I am willing to assist in any way I can. My son is an ecologist and has his own website called He is very involved in trying to save our forests... as well as all other areas of ecology, animal farming etc. He would also love to get involved in this project. I want to
congratulate all of you who put this video together. It was absolutely brilliant, although I could not watch the animals torture. I hope to hear from you soon. Love and Blessing. You are an amazing bunch of human beings.

Message 2 from Marcia:

I have started circulating it already and showed it to some of my family and friends. All were deeply moved and want copies to circulate.

Will make enquiries how to have it screened on television. Your approval would have to be given on this I am sure.

Also Jewish schools and Learning centres.

I am the leader of a Kabbalah study group in Cape Town and will be showing it at our next meeting.

After watching ‘Sacred Duty’ I suddenly feel very proud to be a Jew.

Love & Blessings

Marcia Schlesinger
Cape Town, South Africa.

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4. Important New Jewish Vegetarian Web Site/Please Visit

Forwarded message from Boris Dolin, the web coordinator:

[Boris helped set up a screening of A SACRED DUTY at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, where he is continuing his studies toward being a rabbi. I think it is great for the Jewish vegetarian cause that he has set up this web site. I wish Boris much success and I urge you to visit and participate in its development. Many thanks.]

Last week officially went online, and already a small group of people have registered and begun to use the site. I am finishing up the final touches on the site, and making sure that everything works properly. The main goal right now is to get more people to join, so that the networking and other features will be most useful to users. As mentioned in last week's JVNA newsletter, users can register and then create a profile (like a simple version of Facebook) where you can add information about yourself, your "story", a picture, activist goals etc.--or keep it simple and just have your name. Hopefully this will be a convenient way for people from different groups and places to meet each other--to work on projects together, learn and share information, network in your own community, become friends, or even find a partner. My hope is that as more people register, this part of the site will become more interesting and useful. When registered, members can also make their own personal blog to share with the community.

There is also a forum section where users can ask questions, and have "conversations" with other members of the community. This is especially useful for continued discussions about current events and other issues.

All articles on the site can be commented on, so if you read an article, you can easily share your thoughts, or even ask a question of your own for other readers. You can also easily add your own articles or essays to the site.

In the recipes section, you can add or search for recipes and review and rate ones you have tried.

The site also contains a links section, and a classified ads feature where you can post ads to buy, sell, share a skill, make an announcement or post events. There is also a main blog for the site, which will hopefully have a few different authors writing on news and other issues relevant to the Jewish veggie community. Anyone interested in becoming a blogger for ShalomVeg, please let me know.

I will soon be adding a "chat" feature to the site, and possibly organizing a weekly or biweekly "community chats", where users can join a chat room and talk with other members of the community. This could also be used for moderated discussions with guests, or for anything else the community might want.

Thanks to those of you who have already registered on ShalomVeg. Since the site is still growing I would appreciate any and all comments about what you would like to see on the site, or any other thoughts you might have. I look forward to meeting you on ShalomVeg!

-Boris Dolin

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5. Eyewitness Account of Slaughtering of Three Goats at the Hazon Conference

Thanks to JVNA advisor and long-time vegetarian activist Roberta Schiff for this very thoughtful and sensitive report:

Richard, here is my eyewitness account of the shecting (ritual slaughtering) of the goats at the Hazon Conference, I read the JTA account in the last JVNA newsletter and hope you will put mine in next week,
About The Slaughter

Hazon Jewish Food Conference - Camp Isabella Friedman, Falls Village CT Dec 6-9 2007

On Friday December 7, at 7 AM about 40% of the 240 people attending the conference went a mile down the road to a farm (where the Adamah farm project happens). The first sight was a makeshift pen where three goats, two white, one black and brown, were being fondled by their handlers as they ate some plants. They seemed happy and to use a goat stereotype, frisky.

Further along was a bench and some plastic tarps. The mashiach (ritual supervisor) was wearing a yellow plastic raincoat, while the shochet) ritual slaughterer) was in shirt sleeves (even though it was a very cold morning) and a green plastic apron. Seeing the goats, I was motivated to call my daughter Andrea who is a veterinarian in Puerto Rico and sometimes treats goats, especially if they need a Cesarean delivery for twins. She said she would return my call on her other line, so I was holding my phone. Nothing had as yet taken place. One of the staff came up to me and said no pictures, which they had made quite clear. I told her I was waiting for a call, but she seemed not to believe me. She said the staff was all very concerned. A few moments later, Simon, who would moderate the panel called "Can We Eat meat Ethically - Or Not" on Saturday, came up and said all the same things. I told him also that I was not using the phone as a camera and put it away. He asked for "my word" that I was not taking pictures. Meanwhile the official photographer began snapping away.

The mashgiach gave an extensive talk about the killing process saying the animal does not feel pain, just faint, and that the kicking that comes after the killing; is just a reflex and that this is "a good way to die." Both the trachea and the esophagus must be cleanly cut, without any tearing. The knives, which must be twice as long as the animal's neck, are square. Special steel and an Arkansas sharpening stone insure that there are no nicks. The shochet bears down with the knife, without any sawing motion. Any mistakes and the animal will not be considered kosher.

Two people carried the goat in and stood it up on the bench. The goat looked puzzled but did not start to struggle until it was laid down. Then he began to kick. He was held down - the shochet said a prayer, slit the goat’s throat, and immediately a copious amount of blood flowed onto the ground. Then the goat did start kicking. He was placed on a tarp on the ground and covered. The he was carried into the next area, a shed where there were three sets of hooks, he was hung on one set and two people began skinning him. The mashgiach told us what conditions must be met for the carcas to be considered kosher. The shochet must examine the lungs. This was, to me, as disturbing as the actual killing. As he held up the heart and lungs, it was most obvious that these organs were from a young, healthy animal in the prime of his life.

The Torah says we must not eat the fat that is found on the kidneys; this is why the hindquarters of the animals killed for food can not be eaten. So this part is sold to non-Jews.

The goat's head was severed and carried to the bench along with the skin and fur from his back. These were placed on the bench. This sight, with the blood on the ground, is etched in my mind -- no photo necessary.
Back in the shed, the intestines were emptied into a wheelbarrow and the spinal cord was severed into the kosher half and the treyf half.
The misgiha again told us that this is a good way to die rather than to get sick and old.

The other two goats were killed in the same manner.

Although many of the people present were visibly upset, it was hard to know what people really felt. The night before, at a session that was required for all who planned to attend the slaughter, we were adamantly told to be quiet, respectful and not to do anything to turn this event into a spectacle. Still someone dared to take out her cellphone, causing the aforementioned consternation.

The killing took place on what had been a field of collard greens. There were the remnants of the plants, still green.

When it was time to leave, I realized that I had been standing in the cold for two hours and had not looked at my watch even once. Obviously, I was in an altered state.

Although this thought goes against Jewish tradition, I do not believe that wrapping killing in piety and saying a prayer before taking a life makes it holy. Or right. I believe in the Reconstructionist Jewish philosophy, that tradition has a vote, but not a veto. Now if only more Reconstructionists would use that to change their outlook on eating meat. But that is for another day. Actually, that is the purpose of our DVD "A Sacred Duty."

I also will not use the term "humane slaughter." I will concede that what we have been taught about traditional, small scale, kosher slaughter is true. It is somewhat less inhumane that what we have learned about the conditions in large scale slaughterhouses. Both the shochet and the mashgiach told us that they eat meat once a week, only on Shabbat. Yet the mashgiach says he supervises kosher slaughter all over the USA for The Orthodox Union. So although he eats only a little animal flesh, he makes it possible for thousands to have a lot of meat for little money. This small scale killing that I witnessed, although not as gory, is, I feel, very elitist. Few people could afford the cost or find it available.

Why did I attend? After all, I have eaten no animal flesh since 1993. But I felt that I should atone for all the years that I did eat it with very little thought and no action. And I did want to see how others reacted, and knew it would be highly discussed during the rest of the conference. As it was.

At the Friday night dinner, the platter with the roasted goat meat was not put on the buffet table, but on its own table in the corner, presumably not to offend. I did not go look at it, but to me it was no more offensive than the platter of chicken breasts, which came from animals that had a hard time carrying their weight. Or the whole fish at the next day's "dairy meal" still wearing their heads and eyes and their mouths open, as they had been when they drowned in the open air. Yes, there were good vegan selections too; we did not have to suffer the oft offered steamed zucchini, but I would have enjoyed it more without having to see others consume animal flesh and fluids.

On Shabbat morning I attended the traditional egalitarian service, done in Hebrew by very competent women and men. The D'Var Torah talk was given by a young man who had attended the shecting with his wife and six-months old baby. He spoke enthusiastically about what a wonderful and moving experience this had been, keeping the baby warm and away from the smoke of the fire, remembering her birth, seeing death, knowing death is part of life and it is all holy. This is when my tears came. I would rather hear the often repeated "But I like Meat," that I think is more honest.

Who can answer this? If, as Torah teaches, we are forbidden to consume blood as it is the life force, why then, should we desire to eat the muscle tissue that was nourished by that blood?

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6. Roberta Schiff’s Talk at the Recent Hazon Conference

What is below is actually an outline that Roberta presented to the moderator before her talk.

"Simon, Can You Eat Meat Ethically?" This 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, which are now also raised in confinement which causes pollution. Factory-farmed animals are confined, fed, bred and manipulated to produce 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-kosher, 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 is fed to animals (a very inefficient way to produce food) and one-third of all arable land used for cattle grazing or growing grain for cattle feed. If this was not done, we could 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; the Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in their report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” validated this earlier this year [2007]. 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. 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, almost always, 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 that her milk can consumed 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, and 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 reaction 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 nor 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?

Please feel free to ask me about any or all of this. 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, owner of Micah Publications and author of "Vegetarian Judaism" 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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7. Does Judaism Require More Than That Our Food Be Kosher?/Important Comment in Article by a Lubavitch Rabbi

The article below by a very well respected Lubavitch Rabbi is very significant because it indicates that for Judaism, it is not enough that our food be kosher. It also must be produced in a way that is consistent with Jewish law. Hence, my long time claim that the production and consumption of animal products violate at least six basic Jewish teachings and Rabbi David Rosen’s claim that meat eating is halachically unjustified because of health considerations and the mistreatment of farmed animals should be carefully considered.

Please read the following question and responsa (rabbinic response)and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Thanks to vegetarian writer Jampa Williams for forwarding the article to us.

Why Do We Keep Kosher?
By Tzvi Freeman


I have two questions regarding kashrut (the Torah's dietary laws). I understand that the sages explain that non-kosher animals have negative characteristics that we would absorb by eating their flesh. But many kosher animals consume non-kosher animals (i.e. kosher fish that eat non-kosher fish and sea creatures). If "we are what we eat," don't we indirectly absorb those negative elements when we eat those animals?

My second question: Many Jews insist that kashrut is mostly based on objections to cruelty (i.e., flesh torn from a living animal is not kosher, the rigorous requirements of the shechita procedure ensure that an animal is killed painlessly, etc.). Yet I understand that veal is kosher. And any animal rights activist will tell you that veal is the most cruel meat that is available: tortured calves who stand in a small pen for life being fed only milk. How can veal be kosher if Kashrut is about compassion towards animals?


Before I deal with your specific questions, it is important to understand that we didn't make up the kashrut laws. Just like we didn't create the fish. We never claimed to have conceived them, nor to fully understand them. When Nachmanides and others provide reasons for these laws, they also make it clear that they are not getting to the bottom of it. It would be absurd to think that G-d gave us the Torah as a sort of bandage for His mistakes. "Oops! I didn't mean to put those nasty animals there! People might eat them! What do I do now?"

Rather, the Torah came first, and the world was designed to follow. Something like this: The Creator desired a world where we creatures would have a choice to connect with Him or go on our own messy way. He conceived of us as creatures who consume food, and that would be one of the areas where we would have this choice. If so, there are going to have to be animals that He doesn't want us to eat and animals that we may eat.

Whenever we eat something with mindfulness of our Creator and Divine purpose, our act of eating acts as a connection to Above. The energy we receive from that food itself becomes elevated into that higher purpose.

On the other hand, if we just eat that food because we are hungry, with no inner intent, we and the food remain just another chunk of this fragmented world.

That's how it works with kosher food. If it is of the sort of food that the Creator doesn't want us to eat, then the nature of that food is such that it can never be elevated by eating. No matter what we do, it remains stuck within this world, and shleps us down with it.

Some of these animals reflect this spiritual negativity in their actual nature and behavior. So Nachmanides speaks of the negative character traits imbibed with the flesh of non-kosher species. In many cases, what is not healthy for the soul is also clearly not healthy for the body, as well. So we have nutritionists confirming that a kosher diet is more healthy. Nice dividends, but not the underlying factor.

As for cruelty to animals, the Torah expressly forbids this. We are permitted to take the life of an animal only when it is necessary for direct human benefit -- and even then it must be done as compassionately as possible. The prohibition of cruelty towards animals exists independently of the prohibition to consume non-kosher foods -- an animal that was killed in a humane way can still be not kosher, and the fact that a certain procedure does not render an animal unfit for consumption does not imply that the procedure is not forbidden for reasons of cruelty to animals. This latter kind of cruelty is an area that needs correction today, as many have already realized. [Our emphasis.]

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8. Reflections from Bali re Global Warming Conference

Green Course Director, Gil Ya'acov Returns from Global Summit on Climate Change

Think globally act locally

, this was the underlying message taken from the Global Conference on Climate Change which took place in Bali last week. World leaders agreed to craft a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol by 2009. While the United States led a hard line throughout discussions, trying to step away from future responsibilities, calls from organizations from across the world to commit to a long lasting agreement increased public pressure on developed countries. Green Course too, had a share in the historic process by representing the Israeli delegation in discussions and assisting various organizations to keep track on developments.

While developed countries, headed by the E.U, the U.S and China were swamped in political scrimmage, hundreds of mayors from across the globe convened to discuss ways of taking responsibility and adopting practical methods of energy consumption, public transport and decreasing emissions.

…and Israel? Israel is at a cross-road. The coming years are due to bring with them increasing commitments to adhere to international conventions and apply policy for gas-emission reduction. Alongside the obligations, Israel has tremendous potential to ride the rising wave of environmental awareness and push for local green-technology development and promotion. It has the potential of playing a critical role as a leader and as a role-model.

That said, no doubt we have much to do in order to promote local awareness and decision making for these changes to take place!

We at Green Course look forward to proactively facing the upcoming challenges; to promoting the next generation of environmental leadership in Israel for cleaner air, public transportation and sustainable energy. It is our privilege to take part in what we believe to be the essential processes of change that are so vitally needed: to act locally on this global call.


Gil Ya'acov,
Green Course
December 2007

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9. Jews Obligated To Preserve the Environment

December 24, 2007 Jewish Chronicle

Torah commands conservation, says Becher
By Susan Jacobs
Associate Editor

Although environmentalism has been at the forefront of the agenda for much of the organized Jewish community in recent years, issues of conservation, recycling and waste reduction have not been as prominent within the Orthodox community.

"Our priority has been on survival," said Rabbi Mordechai Becher, a senior
lecturer for Gateways, a Jewish education organization. "We have to start with survival and then work on other things."

But, he said, that is beginning to change.

"Now that so many people live in Israel, they're a little closer to the
land," he said.

The Torah's numerous agricultural commandments - most of which are directly tied to Israel - are intrinsic to this connection, Becher explained.

"It's very difficult not to be aware of the nature around you if you are thinking of these commandments," he said.

Becher, the author of the book "Gateway to Judaism" and an advisor to Canfei Nesharim, an Orthodox environmental group, spoke on Sunday, Dec. 16, at Poale Zedeck Congregation.

Becher's talk, which was part of a contemporary issues lecture series jointly sponsored by the Kollel Jewish Learning Center, touched on a variety of environmental issues and their relationship to Judaism.

Becher detailed some of the specific ways in which traditional Judaism is tuned into the natural world, beginning with the daily prayer service, which includes a blessing for being able to distinguish between night and day.

"The first manifestation of the connection between humans and all the rest of creation is when we hear the rooster crowing," he said, attributing that sentiment to Rabbi Abraham Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of pre-state Israel. "In a spiritual sense, we're all part of one reality."

That spiritual reality is reflected in the physical world, said Becher, such as when chemicals produced in one part of the world cause environmental damage in faraway lands.

He gave several examples from the Torah related to the environment, including:

. The prohibition to kill any living thing on Shabbat, even an insect;

. The prohibition to cut down fruit trees in time of war, which is
understood as a broader precept forbidding any type of wanton destruction
(baal taschit);

. The commandment for farmers to let their land lie fallow every seventh
year; and

. The commandment to surround Levite cities with uninhabited green space.

"There is a recognition that everything in creation has a purpose, a spark
of spirituality," said Becher. "Nothing is without a place and a purpose. It
gives you a certain level of respect."

In spite of these indications of Judaism's perspective on the environment,
Becher said the approaches of some conservationists have been in conflict with Orthodox beliefs.

"We are concerned with ecology, very often for totally different reasons,"
he said.

The strategies of some environmental groups may be partly responsible for the slowness to embrace environmentalism in some parts of the Orthodox spectrum, said Evonne Marzouk, executive director of Canfei Nesharim.

"Sometimes the environmental movement has been in conflict with Torah values," she said. "But whatever you think of environmentalism, that doesn't mean there are not serious environmental problems."

"We're trying to put it in a halachic and hashkafic (philosophical)
framework - that it's part of our responsibility as Torah observant Jews."

Becher used the story of Adam and Eve to illustrate humanity's
responsibility to be stewards of the earth.

"God showed the world to Adam and Eve.

He said, 'Is it not beautiful? ... Take care, do not destroy it,' " said

"If God tells us don't destroy, we have the ability to destroy. It's clear that we have an impact on the environment."

(Susan Jacobs can be reached at

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10. Forward Article: Being an Environmentalist is Our Sacred Duty

Mon. Dec 24, 2007

Thinking Green: It’s Not Just A Virtue — It’s Your Jewish Duty
The Polymath
By Jay Michaelson
Mon. Dec 24, 2007

The rhetoric of Jewish environmentalism has long been kind and gentle. Like much of American environmentalist talk, it accentuates the positive: what we can do, how you can help. This is Left-Wing Activism 101: Fight despair, and don’t alienate anyone. And it’s abetted, in both secular and Jewish contexts, by the propensity of tree-hugging liberals to be, well, tree-hugging liberals — nice people who, when not urging recycling and conservation, are also practicing nonviolent communication and advocating for pacifist politics.

But does touchy-feely rhetoric work? And is it really the Jewish way? No on both counts.

First, “accentuating the positive” allows corporations to greenwash their way out of accountability, and individuals to view environmentalism as a virtue and not a responsibility. When going green is a matter of symbolism (“beyond petroleum”) rather than substance, anyone can buy it, as long as he’s got a good publicist. We may be afraid of pointing fingers, but fingers need to be pointed: At the Republican Party, for blocking the Kyoto climate treaty; at the fossil fuels industries, for creating doubt where there isn’t any; and at every politician who blocks commonsense solutions like better mass transit.

I submit that this sternness of vision, rather than the soft stuff, is what our Jewish tradition demands. The Ten Commandments are not suggestions. The Golden Rule is not a “guideline.” If Judaism means anything, it means taking seriously our ethical responsibilities and not waffling on the details. It’s also good politics; last I checked, the fear-mongering over the “War on Terror” and “threats to the American family” has done pretty well. But even if it were political suicide, it would be the Jewish way. Were Moses, Isaiah and Rabbi Akiva worried about “not alienating anybody”? No. Jewish law is famously human, accommodating and livable; but the values are crystal clear.

Of course, there’s no environmentalism in the Torah. Environmental stewardship only makes sense when you have an alternative, and we’ve only been able to destroy large swaths of the planet in the past two centuries or so. Searching the Torah for evidence of recycling is like expecting our laws today to govern life on Mars. Sure, there are important norms that can easily be extended to today — the prohibition on waste, the Talmud’s rules about controlling pollution and God’s

much-contested injunction to rule over/take care of the earth. But they’re not enough. They miss the heart of the problem, and they seem peripheral to “real” Jewish concerns, like antisemitism (also not mentioned in the Torah).

If we get real about what climate change means for future generations, suddenly it’s not so peripheral. It’s bad form to trot out doomsday scenarios, and since they’re all based on projections, they really are uncertain. But if even one of them comes to pass, then there is a direct causal nexus between our actions today and our children’s suffering tomorrow. We are causing millions of people to suffer, struggle and possibly even die — it’s just that many of them haven’t been born yet. (If I seed my yard with landmines, can I really escape Jewish ethical responsibility for injuring the people who just happen to step on them? After all, no one can predict the future….)

Add to the mix that, as Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal reported in Zeek magazine recently, the local effects on Israel of global climate change could be quite severe: decreased agricultural productivity, increased drought (as if Israel’s water crisis weren’t severe enough), increased “severe weather events” and loss of valuable beaches. Even if you’re not too concerned about your responsibilities to your grandchildren, if you care about Israel, you must care about climate change.

Preventing climate catastrophe is an ethical responsibility rooted in the fundamental values of our religious tradition. Like not doing unto others as we wouldn’t want them to do unto us. Like not stealing the resources of the future for our wasteful enjoyment today. Like not destroying God’s creation without regard to others who may want to use it. This isn’t tree hugging; it’s Torah.

And that has consequences. First, synagogues should take a stand on the issue — not merely hortatory sermons from rabbis, or committees made up of a few eco-Jews, but real policies. Non-hybrid SUVs should not be allowed in synagogue parking lots. Buildings should be built responsibly, from fluorescent light bulbs to improved insulation and efficient climate-control systems. And while people should of course remain wholly free to be as wholly unethical as they want, within the law, communities should be as disapproving of carbon-hogging behavior as they once were (and in some cases still are) of intermarriage.

Second, ignorance is no excuse. If you still think there’s real debate, pore over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Read between the lines of such mass-media products as the 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” to appreciate the subtleties and complexities of the problem. But don’t claim that because you don’t know enough about climate change, nobody else does, either. The truth is that, just as every scientist except those in the pocket of Big Tobacco knew that smoking was bad for you, so, today, every scientist without a political or financial tie to certain industries knows the truth about climate change. If you don’t want to do the research yourself, then you have a responsibility to be sure you’re acting ethically, and err on the side of caution.

Finally, for religious Jews, this matters to God. Just as it’s hypocritical to be ritually pious but never give tzedakah, so, too, it’s fundamentally inconsistent to pray three times a day but still lead a wasteful, Styrofoam-laden lifestyle. We’re not talking here about political correctness or being a vegetarian. This is about waking up to the way our society transgresses ethical norms, defaces the Divine creation, and pretends that it isn’t to blame or that it doesn’t know any better.

American Jews have often risen to the challenge of our prophetic tradition. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish labor unionists and, more recently, the Jewish leadership on the Darfur issue are all examples of Jews realizing that their commitment to Jewishness required them to act. To be sure, there have always been opponents: For every Heschel, there were other rabbis condemning his “agitation.” But — and as a Jewish Buddhist I’m not one to advocate for more righteous indignation — at least there was a tone of seriousness to the debate. I’d even prefer the rancor of the left/right name-calling over Israeli politics to the moral minimization of environmental issues. Disagree if you want. Learn the facts if you want. But don’t yawn and call yourself a Jew.
Mon. Dec 24, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Forward Association, inc.

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11. New Web Site Provides Vegetarian and Animal Rights News

Forwarded message from

Tech savvy vegetarians launch VegBang, the first veggie news sharing site, to fight the Digg mafia, the first vegetarian and vegan news sharing network, was launched today. VegBang is a veggie oriented clone of Digg, and was born as a response to the systematic link rejection suffered by vegetarians in that popular site.
Dec 20, 2007 10:17:58

(PRLog.Org) – Dec 20, 2007 –, the first vegetarian and vegan news sharing network, was launched today. VegBang is a veggie oriented clone of Digg, and was born as a response to the systematic link rejection suffered by vegetarians in that popular site.

VegBang started as a way to fight back the Internet gang called the Digg mafia (also known as the bury brigade), who blatantly bans every pro-vegetarianism submission to Digg. Being vegetarianism one of Digg's taboo topics, a couple of vegans joined together and decided to develop a whole new site to spread the news and links that were not allowed to share over the Digg network. That was VegBang's kick start. And after one month of succesful Alpha testing, VegBang now reached its Beta status.

Today, with hundreds of registered users and daily links submissions within categories such as Animal Rights, Environment, Events, Health, News and Recipes, VegBang is reaching its main goal: to provide the vegetarian and vegan community with the ultimate social framework for fresh news and substantial links sharing. Vegetarianism is exploding everywhere over the Internet (big media, weblogs, newsletters, forums) and the VegBang team hopes to ignite that vegetarian explosion.

About VegBang:

VegBang is the first social network for people to share the best vegetarian related Internet content. From news to recipes and from health documents to weblog posts, VegBang's users love to crawl the web and share their latest finds. This value content is auto-regulated by members themselves: anyone who joins the community becomes an editor. VegBang's social network technology allows all its users to submit an article that will be reviewed by all and will be promoted, based on popularity, to the main page.

For more information about VegBang please visit or write to

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12. Israeli Cats Need Speedy Help

Forwarded message from vegetarian and animal rights activist Eileen Weintraub

Fw: can you help or forward to your contacts? Fw: Israel: Girgurim cats need roof and repairs fast!

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13. Story Shows Importance of Every Act To Improve The World

Thanks to Animal rights activist Batya Bauman for sharing this story:

This is an old story, but bears repeating now and then. It is good to
be reminded of this whenever we feel that no matter how much we try, our efforts seem to be of little consequence in the enormous scheme of things.

Thanks to "Apesman" for reminding me. bb
Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore.

As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out, "What are you doing?"

The young man paused, looked up and replied, " Throwing starfish in the ocean." "I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"

"The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach, and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."

There is something very special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference, and if we can become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our visions the power to shape the future.

We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, the world will be blessed.

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14. Article re the Israeli Vegetarian Community Amirim in Jerusalem Post

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15. Correction

The article in item #1 in the last JVNA Newsletter was by Judy Lipman (not Lipson).

We regret the error.

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