July 28, 2008

7/27/2008 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism

2. Update on A SACRED DUTY

3. Summary of Responses to Problems at Agriprocessors Kosher Slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa

4. Another Summary Analysis of Agriprocessors Situation

5. JVNA Press Release Urging Agriprocessors Situation Be Seen as a Wake-Up Call

6. Jewish Teachings On Avoiding Waste and Destructiveness

7. Challenging Hechsher Tzedeck and Rabbis to Take a Stand Re Vegetarianism

8. Report on Recent Activities and Plans of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)

9. Last Call for AR2008 National Conference Discounted Registration

10. Israeli Knesset Passes Clean Air Act

11. PCRM Spells Out (Literally) Real Cause of Salmonella Outbreak/Hint: It's NOT the Tomatoes

12. Rising Food Prices, Dollar's Fall Squeeze Israeli Aid Groups, Poor

13. Awesome Vegan Video/A Must See!!

14. “The Diet of Disaster”

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. Tisha B'Av and Vegetarianism

Tisha B'Av, which begins at sundown on August 9 provides, among other important things, an opportunity to promote vegetarianism as a way to reduce current potential destructions. Please see my sample letter below and articles at the holiday section of JewishVeg.com/Schwartz, and please consider using the material for your own letters and talking points about the need for shifts to plant-based diets to reduce current threats from global warming and other environmental problems. Thanks.

Sample Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year on August 9-10, reminds us that over 2,000 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, with the result that the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

Today there are many modern “Jeremiahs” warning us that now it is not just Jerusalem but the entire world that faces destruction from global warming and its effects, species extinction, destruction of tropical rain forests and other valuable habitats, and many other environmental threats. We have already seen many effects of global warming, including severe heat waves, droughts, wild fires, storms and floods. Many climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global warming may reach a tipping point, and spin out of human control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes soon occur.

Israel is especially threatened by global warming. A report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense in 2007 indicates that global warming could cause: (1) a rise in average temperature of 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit; (2) a significant increase in the Mediterranean Sea level, which would threaten the narrow coastal strip of land where 60% of Israel's population lives and where major infrastructure, such as ports and power plants, would be seriously damaged; and (3) a decrease in rainfall of up to-30%, which would disrupt agricultural production and worsen the chronic water scarcity problem in Israel and the region.

This Tisha B'Av, I hope that we will begin to heed one of its basic lessons -- that failure to respond to proper admonitions can lead to catastrophe. The Jewish people must make tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the planet) a major focus in Jewish life today, and consider personal and societal changes that will start to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a more sustainable path. By doing this, we would be performing a great kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God's Name) by working to meet our mandate to be a “light unto the nations,” and showing that eternal Jewish teachings are relevant to today's crises.

Return to Top

2. Update on A SACRED DUTY

We continue to get requests for A SACRED DUTY DVDs and hear of efforts to promote the documentary. And, as indicated, many DVDs have been given or will be given at many important vegetarian and animal rights conferences and Jewish conferences this summer. Thankfully, the response has been very positive.

However, there are still many important people we would like to get DVDs to. Please consider volunteering a little time to contact local rabbis and other religious leaders, synagogues and other houses of worship, JCCs and other community centers, educators, environmentalists and other influential people and please tell them about our offer of a complimentary DVD. You can suggest that they can visit ASacredDuty.com to:

o View the complete movie;
o Order one or more complimentary DVDs
o Read background material, including blurbs, reviews and questions and answers.

Many thanks.

Return to Top

3. Summary of Responses to Problems at Agriprocessors Kosher Slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa

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

Chevra [friends],

Aliza Becker has compiled an extremely useful report on Jewish actions concerning the unkosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. (The Shalom Center remains the only Jewish organization that has urged the US government to pursue law violations by the owners. We encourage you to do so.) Her report follows:

Shalom, AW [Rabbi Arthur Waskow]

July 22, 2008
We are writing you today because we believe that the rash of problems at Agriprocessors, Inc, the nation's largest Kosher slaughterhouse, exemplify many concerns that Jewish clergy --- regardless of denominational affiliation -- - ought to be grappling with before our congregations and the greater Jewish community.

Below, please find a brief summary of the situation at Agriprocessors' plant in Postville, Iowa, a list of activities conducted by Jewish organizations to date that address the problems there, and additional reference materials.

Most of the actions against Agriprocessors have dealt with:
- the relationship between kashrut and worker rights;
- the relationship between kashrut and the ethical treatment of animals;
- the social welfare of families separated by the immigration raid carried out there in May; and,
- a call for reform of the nation's immigration system.
All lend themselves to sermons and social action committee activities.

If you would like to continue to receive occasional updates on immigration-related issues, please email either one of us. Thank you.


Rabbi Bruce Elder, rabbi@hakafa.org
Aliza Becker, azbecker@mindspring.com
Glencoe, IL Chicago, IL

In 1987, the Rubashkin family of Hassidic Lubavitchers relocated from Brooklyn, NY to the small town of Postville, Iowa to open an industrial scale, state-of-the-art Glatt Kosher meatpacking plant. It was initially considered an economic lifeboat to the depressed, Midwest community. However, stories soon emerged of cultural tensions between the Hasidic newcomers and the established community. These were followed by accusations of unsafe working conditions, use of child labor, sexual harassment, failure to pay wages, the active hiring of undocumented workers, and cruelty to animals. In 2006, Agriprocessors paid a $600,000 settlement to the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve wastewater pollution problems, and in March it was assessed $182,000 in fines for 39 state health, safety and labor violations.

The situation at the plant became a national news story when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted its largest immigration raid in American history on May 12, 2008, detaining some 390 employees, largely indigenous Guatemalans. The raid not only gave rise to numerous humanitarian problems by separating families and jailing breadwinners, but was also used as a laboratory for a new approach by the federal government to prosecute undocumented workers using false documents to obtain work. Instead of being treated as civil violators of immigration laws and immediately deported, those detained were shackled and charged with a felony as criminal offenders. Most were sentenced to five months in jail to be followed by deportation in a rarely used legal tactic. If they appealed their case, they faced a two-year sentence prior to deportation. This re-categorization will enable the government to significantly bolster its war-on-terror statistics through the deportation of "criminal aliens." (For more information on the raid and its aftermath as told by a government interpreter, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/us/11immig.html?_r=1&oref=slogin).


*Rabbi Menachem Genack, administrator of the Orthodox Union's (OU) kashrut department and the largest kosher certifier of Agriprocessors, said that if Agriprocessors is found to be criminally liable, that the OU will withdraw its hashgachah (kashrut certification). He claimed that the OU did not have the expertise to develop standards and monitor issues related to safety, employment and environmental concerns. In regards to the immigration issue, Genack stated that the issue of factories hiring workers with illegal documentation was widespread and that a faulty American immigration policy was to blame.

*The Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of Orthodox rabbis, issued a statement on June 3 that expressed concern at news reports but also a reminder that "both Jewish Law (Halacha) and civil law require a presumption of innocence by all parties" and "it would be inappropriate to rush to judgment before all relevant facts are clarified."

*Uri L'Tzedek - http://uriltzedek.webnode.com - an Orthodox social justice organization started by students at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, initiated a boycott campaign of Agriprocessors, Inc. (later rescinded) to give "voice to thousands of observant Jews who believe that the standards of kashrut of our food be matched by the kashrut of our ethics." They cite the 1949 essay, "Glatt Kosher - Glatt Yosher," by Rabbi Yossed Breuer as spiritual guidance for their work: "God's Torah not only demands the observance of kashrut and the sanctification of our physical enjoyment; it also insists on the sanctification of our social relationships."

--On May 23, Uri L'Tzedek sent an open letter to Aaron Rubashkin, signed by over 1000 Jews on behalf of the "Kosher meat consumers of America," expressing deep concern at evidence of worker mistreatment and abuse of animals at Agriprocessors and calling for a boycott of their products until systematic changes were instituted.

--On June 16, Uri L'Tzedek leadership met with Rubashkin family members and high level corporate representatives to find ways to encourage and support Agriprocessors to make needed changes. At the meeting, Agriprocessors announced their hire of a new Chief Compliance Officer to set in place procedures and personnel to ensure that the compliance effort is "continual, robust, and permanent." http://jspot.org/showDiary.do?diaryId=1911

--On July 8th Uri L'Tzedek rescinded their call for a boycott based on initial progress, but will continue to monitor the situation to assure that problems are addressed appropriately.

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) and the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the two main arms of the Conservative movement, put out a statement on Agriprocessors, Inc. entitled, "You Shall Not Abuse a Needy and Destitute Laborer: Deuteronomy 24:14." It requests that individual consumers "evaluate whether it is appropriate to buy and eat meat products" from Agriprocessors, but stops short of endorsing a broad-based boycott. It states: "The allegations ... have shocked and appalled members of the Conservative movement as well as all people of conscience. As kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting any kind of human suffering." To read the full statement: http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/press/docs/hekhsher2008.doc

Hekhsher Tzedek is referred to in the statement. The project is a shared effort between the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism to display a seal on already designated kosher foods that reflect production benchmarks consistent with Jewish ethical standards, including how companies treat their employees. Accompanying it is a study, "Hekhsher Tzedek Al Pi Din," written by Rabbi Avram Reisner. http://rabbinicalassembly.org/law/kashrut.html

Rabbi Morris Allan, http://rabbimorrisallen2.blogspot.com, director of Hekhsher Tzedek and founder of the movement that advocates for animal and worker welfare in kashrut, has been addressing concerns with Agriprocessors since 2006. He formed a commission of inquiry with the support of the Conservative movement's leadership that visited the Iowa plant and made recommendations to its owners. His complaints: "Pregnant women working on their feet all day were denied bathroom breaks; injured workers lacked proper medical care; and, accounting machinations deprived workers of payment for all clocked hours." After the raid, Rabbi Allan returned to Postville to meet community leaders, clergy, and workers awaiting deportation.

*After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released recent, undercover video footage of systematic animal abuse at Agriprocessors - footage that caught the attention of the U.S.D.A.- a petition was circulated to rabbis calling on the company to stop moving animals or performing any procedure on them after shechita and before loss of consciousness. It also urged "the Orthodox Union and other kosher certification agencies to institute specific, public guidelines for the humane treatment of animals in all the facilities they certify."

*American Jewish Youth Organizations and summer camps that joined the boycott of Agriprocessors meat include: BBYO, Habonim Dror, Ramah, Camp Interlaken JCC, and Young Judaea.

*HIAS President and CEO Gideon Aronoff issued a statement at a Postville Immigration Raid Press Conference calling "for an end to the current de facto illegal immigration system. This system only results in chaos and death on the borders, exploitation and insecurity in communities throughout the country, and haphazard state and local laws. Instead of this illegality, we are calling for federal immigration reform."

*The Shalom Center, directed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, prominent advocate of the eco-kashrut movement (applying ecological standards to the consumption of food, coal, oil, etc.) has on its website original commentary and Agriprocessors-related resources. They offer a template letter to the editor: "I urge that Federal authorities take vigorous action against the owners to the full extent of the law, while dropping criminal charges against workers caught in this oppressive bind." To read the complete letter and send, fill in your zip code: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/602/t/4180/letter/?letter_KEY=985

Agriprocessors Resources http://www.shalomctr.org/taxonomy/term/164

*The Jewish Labor Committee issued a statement that says, in part: "We call on Agriprocessors to live up to the responsibilities of corporate citizenship, end its campaign of worker abuse, and respect the rights of its employees including their legal right to union representation. Until Agriprocessors establishes its commitment to these responsibilities, we urge consumers of kosher meat products to seek alternatives to the Rubashkin labels.

*A Consortium of Jewish Social Justice Groups issued a press release on the plight of immigrant workers. "As Jews, our history compels us to stand up for justice, whether it affects us directly or indirectly. We stand by immigrant communities who - much like our own - have come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families, oftentimes escaping violence, war, and crushing poverty. Together, we are organizing communities for comprehensive federal immigration reform and to avert future raids."

Organizations included: Hekhsher Tzedek; Jewish Community Action of St. Paul, MN; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Hazon; KOL Foods; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Jews United for Justice; and, the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

*Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) of Chicago launched a relief campaign to help provide food, housing, and legal assistance for some 250 families, including 500 children, affected by the raid in Postville. They also are organizing members of Chicago's Jewish community to travel to Postville, Iowa for a solidarity rally and march on July 27 in support of workers at Agriprocessors.

JCUA Statement on Postville immigration raid

JCUA's Agriprocessors Fact Sheet

Relief Campaign

*Jewish Community Action (JCA) of St. Paul is also collecting funds for humanitarian assistance for workers and their families affected by the raids and organizing members of the Twin Cities Jewish community to participate in the July 27 rally and march in Postville. They have extensive information about Agriprocessors including an FAQ on their website: http://www.jewishcommunityaction.org.


Agriprocessors, Inc. Website: http://www.agriprocessor.com/

National Commission on ICE Misconduct and Violation of 4th Amendment Rights

"Liberal Jewish groups organizing immigration rally at Iowa kosher plant," by Ben Harris, jta.org, July 1, 2008

"Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in US History: A Personal Account," by Erik Camayd-Freicas, PH.D, Florida International University, June 13, 2008

"Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town," by Spence S. Hsu, Washington Post, May 18, 2008

"Kosher Slaughterhouse Hit With Lawsuits," by Nathaniel Popper, Forward, May 18, 2007http://www.forward.com/articles/kosher-slaughterhouse-hit-with-lawsuits/

"In Iowa Meat Plant, Kosher 'Jungle' Breeds Fear, Injury, Short Pay," by Nathaniel Popper, Forward, May 26, 2006

Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, by Stephen G. Bloom, Harvest Books, 2001

[Since JVNA and our approach is not mentioned, I plan to send the press release below. Suggestions welcome. Thanks.]

For sample sermons, newsletters and the like, or to share your resources, please contact:
Rabbi Bruce Elder - rabbi@hakafa.org

The Shalom Center | 6711 Lincoln Drive | Philadelphia, PA 19119
www.shalomctr.org | office@shalomctr.org | 215.844.8494

Return to Top

4. Another Summary Analysis of Agriprocessors Situation

Thanks to JVNA Secretary/Treasurer and Advisor John Diamond for Sending this link to Us:


As I have often indicated, aand as the press release below indicates, I think our best strategy is to go beyond just the situation at Agriprocessors.

Return to Top

5. JVNA Press Release Urging Agriprocessors Situation Be Seen as a Wake-Up Call



For Immediate Release:
July 27, 2008
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
President@JewishVeg.com Phone: (718) 761-5876

Jewish Vegetarians of North America issued the following statement today:

The disturbing reports of appalling conditions for animals and workers at the Postville, Iowa slaughterhouse should be a wake-up call to the Jewish community and to consumers of Agriprocessors' meat products to the urgent need for a major reassessment of how the current production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic Jewish teachings.

We strongly support efforts by many groups to improve conditions at the slaughterhouse. But, even if these conditions become far better, we believe that it is still urgent that Jews shift away from animal-based diets for the following reasons:

* Producing and consuming meat and other animal products represent strong violations of basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and avoid a chillul Hashem (desecration of God's Name).

* The raising of 60 billion animals worldwide for meat, eggs and milk is contributing to global warming, widening water shortages, rapid species extinction and many more environmental problems that threaten humanity and all of creation.

* We can reduce the current epidemic of diseases afflicting Jews and others through a switch toward plant-based diets.

* In view of the many current threats to humanity, it is scandalous that the world is not only trying to feed 6.7 billion people, but also over 50 billion farmed animals; that 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to animals raised for slaughter; that the standard American diet (SAD) requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet.

* A 2006 UN FAO report indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (18 percent in CO2 equivalents) than all the world's cars and other means of transportation combined (13.5 percent), and that the number of farmed animals is projected to double in 50 years. Therefore, what we eat is more important than what we drive and consciousness about both are ethical imperatives.

* This is extremely important for Jews today because Israel is especially threatened by global warming. A report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense in 2007 indicates that global warming could cause: (1) a rise in average temperature of 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit; (2) a significant increase in the Mediterranean Sea level, which would threaten the narrow coastal strip of land where 60% of Israel's population lives and where major infrastructure, such as ports and power plants, would be seriously damaged; and (3) a decrease in rainfall of 20-30%, which would disrupt agricultural production and worsen the chronic water scarcity problem in Israel and the region.

We urge that tikkun olam-the healing and repair of the world -- be a central issue in synagogues, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions. Judaism has marvelous teachings on environmental conservation and sustainability, and it is essential that they be applied to respond to today's many current environmental threats.

Further information about these issues can be found at our JVNA web site JewishVeg.com. We will provide complimentary copies of our new, highly-acclaimed documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD and related materials to rabbis and others who will contact us and indicate how they might use them to involve their congregations, schools or other groups on the issues. The entire documentary can be seen at ASacredDuty.com, and there is much background material about the film at that web site.


SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL (for the press release)

Support for our argument that the mass production and widespread consumption of meat conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:

1. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

2. While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher consumers -- are raised on "factory farms" where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.

3. While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.

4 While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of grain, land, water, energy, and other resources.

5. While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.

6. While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.

In view of these important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, and since animal-centered diets violate and contradict each of these responsibilities, JVNA believes that committed Jews (and others) should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.

“One could say "dayenu" (it would be enough) after any of the arguments above,” stated JVNA president Richard Schwartz, “ because each one constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.”

Return to Top

6. Jewish Teachings On Avoiding Waste and Destructiveness

We Jews follow the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, which includes 613 commandments. One of these commandments is “Be not destructive.” This law is derived from the passage “thou shalt not destroy the trees.” (Deut. 20:19)

The Sefer HaHinnuch, which codifies all the laws from the Torah, says, “It [the commandment not to be destructive] is in order to train our spirits…we will move well away …from every matter of destructiveness. This is the way of the kindly men of piety and the conscientiously observant…they are distressed at every ruination…they will save anything from destruction, with all their power.” (145) Jews are supposed to stay as far away as possible from destruction. Nothing is supposed to go to waste. Later on, The Sefer HaHinnuch says “as a general rule, however, the Sages of blessed memory forbade doing anything destructive.” (147) This prohibition should be taken very seriously. When Jews were ruled by their own courts, the punishment was “For any…act of destruction…he should be flogged with lashes of disobedience.”

Maimonides was an excellent Jewish philosopher, Rabbi, and Jewish legal scholar during the 13th century. Today, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest Jewish legal scholars of all time. One of his works, Mishneh Torah, is a codification of Talmudic law. In Mishneh Torah, Maimonides says “One should be trained not to be destructive.” (Mishneh Torah, Mourning 14:24) In another section, he writes, “destroying food…transgresses 'Be not destructive'” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 6:10)

Samson Raphael Hirsch, was a tremendous legal scholar who lived in Germany during the 19th century. One of his books, Horeb, was written as a textbook on Judaism. In this book, he writes, “you should hear the warning of God: 'Do not destroy anything.” (Horeb, 279) Continuing to talk about the commandment, he says, “The first prohibition of creation is thus not to destroy anything…There is a lesser degree of destruction which must nevertheless be avoided; wasting.” (Horeb, 280-281)

Moshe Kwiat

Return to Top

7. Challenging Hechsher Tzedeck and Rabbis to Take a Stand Re Vegetarianism

A letter Sent to Hekhsher Tzedek Leader Rabbi Morris Allen (slightly revised) is below. Suggestions related to it are very welcome. Many thanks.

Shalom Rabbi Allen,

Kol hakavod for your wonderful work with Hekhsher Tzedek. I wish you much continued success, and please be assured that JVNA will strongly support your efforts to add another component to kosher certification that will produce better conditions for workers and other positive developments.

I know that you have already been attacked for your present stands re the Postville slaughterhouse. However, in this time when animal-based diets are causing an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and when modern, intensive animal-based agriculture is a major cause of global warming, widening water shortages and many other environmental problems that threaten Jews, Israel and, indeed, all of humanity, I believe, very respectfully, that you can have a tremendous positive effect by pointing out these facts and also that the current production and consumption of meat and other animal products violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people. How do we justify a diet that involves feeding over 70% of the grain produced in the US to animals destined for slaughter, that requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet, and results in more greenhouse gas emissions (in CO2 equivalents) than all of the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined?

Please forgive me -- I know that I am asking a lot. But I feel compelled to do so, because I believe that the fate of humanity is at stake, so we must act quickly.

Perhaps as a sort of compromise, Hekhsher Tzedek might be willing to sponsor a respectful dialogue/debate on “Should Jews be Vegetarians?” I think it would be a kiddush Hashem in applying Jewish teachings to dietary issues.

JVNA will be happy to send a complimentary copy of its newly released one-hour DVD A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD to you and also to other Hekhsher Tzedek leaders and others you would recommend.

Although you are a long-time vegetarian, and well-aware of the issues, please note that many articles that respectfully promote vegetarianism from a Jewish perspective are at JewishVeg.com/Schwartz.

Many thanks again for all the important work that you are doing.

Kol tuv,

Return to Top

8. Report on Recent Activities and Plans of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)

Forwarded message from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin:

I wanted to bring you up-to-date on the renaissance of COEJL, especially in response to Richard's and Diane's passionate and uplifting posts. [I think that Richard is me, as I often send messages to the list serve.]

Over the past 7-8 months, COEJL has been enjoying a renewal of vision, mission and energy.

I serve as their General Consultant, working with them through this restructuring.

Liore Milgrom-Elcott is our Project Manager, tending to many of the exciting projects and daily tasks COEJL is undertaking.

Jennifer Kefer is our Climate and Energy Policy Program Coordinator, guiding our energy policy work in Washington, DC.

(You can find out more about us and the things we do, as well as check out our blog, at www.coejl.org)

COEJL is currently focusing on three main projects (two programmatic, one process):

1) COEJL is coordinating a national effort to promote Birkat Hahammah,
the Year of the Sun.

On April 8, 2009, the Jewish community will celebrate a once-in-every-28-years ritual called Blessing the Sun. It is a rabbinic holiday marking, according to early rabbinic astronomy, the confluence of the exact place, day and time when the sun was created. (You have probably received emails from Arthur Waskow talking about his
pioneering celebration 28 years ago and his teachings about this coming

COEJL has begun to form a coalition of Jewish environmental organizations and partners who, together, will host a website, www.blessthesun.org (it is live now but just in the earliest of stages of being built) and who will turn this day into a year-long celebration of learning, programming, advocacy and action.

Through the coincidence of this rare holiday, and the extreme need to focus the world's attention on renewable energy sources (including solar as well as wind, tidal, etc), we are being given a grand opportunity to both celebrate the age-old wisdom and richness of Judaism and to promote awareness about and responses to the greatest challenge to the earth's well-being today. Please do feel free to be in touch with Liore, who is our national coordinator of this project, at Liore@coej.org for more information and to join this effort.

2) COEJL is co-hosting, along with the UJC (United Jewish Communities) a task force dedicated to exploring how we can come together to guide the greening of the American Jewish built-infrastructure (buildings and operations) of the major national Jewish organizations. We are exploring what organizational structures, leadership investment, financial resources we would need to guide each of these organizations (and others who join us) in the complex but necessary processes of greening our buildings and operations, promoting sustainability as an integral and central value in all our work, and incorporating environmental learning and programs throughout our various networks. This should have far-reaching impact that begins to get rolled out this coming year.

3) COEJL is continuing is work on re-building our operations and governance. In addition, COEJL has established various "roundtables," that is, on-going conversations with significant constituencies designed to strengthen our movement and facilitate exploration of best practices and critical strategies. The groups include a Green Environmental Professionals Roundtable, and a Green Synagogue Roundtable that bring together on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis Jewish professionals whose portfolio it is to help green the American Jewish community. These virtual gatherings enable us to learn about each others' initiatives, progress, needs and successes, and affords us the opportunity to explore partnerships where appropriate.

There is much more COEJL does on a daily basis, but I wanted to give you a brief view of our major initiatives we are currently engaged in.

One more item, while Kol-Chai was born as a COEJL list-serve, and continues to serve as a connecting thread to many of us engaged in this sacred work, we want to be certain that people know that COEJL no longer "owns and operates" Kol-Chai. We are pleased that David Seidenberg is now the independent manager of this list-serve.

Meanwhile, we are eager to continue to be in touch with you all. Please do visit our website as often as you like. We are collectingsuggestions for improving and updating it - so do share with us your suggestions.

And let's keep in touch especially about the Birkat Hahammah initiative. This is going to be very exciting.

Nina Beth Cardin

Check Out COEJL's New Blog, "To Till and To Tend"


Return to Top

9. Last Call for AR2008 National Conference Discounted Registration

Forwarded message from Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM):

[I plan to attend on Sunday and Monday, August 17 and 18, and I am scheduled to give 5 talks on Sunday, including one talk at a plenary and one introducing a showing of A SACRED DUTY. More information about R 2008 can be found at the web site: www.ARConference.org.]

The discounted registration rate for the Animal Rights 2008 National Conference ends on Thursday, July 31st. To register, check out our AR2008 Conference website, then visit the registration page. If you would like to cover your registration fee by helping with office work, registration, or photography, please contact our Registrar.

The final program schedule includes:

* Eyewitness reports on the whale and seal wars from the Sea Shepherd crew
* Personal accounts of amazing individual achievements by movement activists
* Discusssion of our movement's most controversial internal issues
* Presentations by leaders of other movements on how we can all work together
* Acceptance of our Celebrity Animal Advocate Award by Heather Mills
* Animal Rights Hall of Fame and Henry Spira Grassroots Activist Awards

The Conference will be held on August 14-18 at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, a Washington DC suburb. The hotel offers excellent meeting facilities, discounted rooms, and a free shuttle service to Pentagon City Metro & National Airport. It welcomes animal companions!

This is our most attractive venue since we started hosting conferences in 1981. The building has lots of sunlight, and we have the entire conference level. It adjoins a small lake and a botanical preserve with running trails.

Please don't miss the hotel's early August reservation deadline!

Animal Rights 2008 is the animal rights movement's annual national conference. It is a forum for sharing knowledge, reporting on progress, discussing strategies and tactics, networking, and "recharging our batteries." All viewpoints that support the goal of animal liberation from all forms of human oppression are welcome.

Our co-sponsors include In Defense of Animals, Sea Shepherd, E-Magazine, Healing Species, many more.

Be there as if their lives depended on it. They do!

If you're not planning to register, we would appreciate your completing brief survey.

10101 Ashburton Lane, Bethesda MD 20817;

Supplementary message to me re AR2008:

Dear Richard,

It's less than four weeks until the Animal Rights 2008 National Conference (August 14-18). We're thrilled to include you as a participant in this year's conference.

In addition to training and networking for animal activists, the conference is also designed to encourage visitors and newcomers to embrace animal rights and adopt a vegan lifestyle. So the more people who attend, the better it is for animals.

As part of your efforts on behalf of animals, please help us promote the conference in these final weeks (especially if you're driving distance from Washington DC or anywhere on the East Coast). You can request free AR2008 postcard handouts by replying to this email or order them online at: http://www.farmusa.org/litRequest.php. If you have places to hang posters, just let us know.

Also, we hope that you will be able to stay through Monday, August 18th to participate in the intensive seminars in the morning and lobbying or demonstrations in the afternoon.

If you do plan to lobby, it helps to make a prior appointment with your senators' or representative's staff for between 1-4pm on Monday afternoon. Their contact information, including phone and room number, is available at www.congress.org. It's best to bring a business outfit for your meeting and to attend the lobbying training sessions during Sunday and Monday lunches. Please direct your lobbying questions to petermuller@verizon.net.

Additional details regarding the demonstrations will be available at the Conference.

For other exciting details about the conference program, sponsors, speakers and exhibitors, visit our frequently updated website at www.ARConference.org.

For the animals,

Dawn Moncrief
Director, AR2008
888-ASK-FARM (275-3276)

Return to Top

10. Israeli Knesset Passes Clean Air Act

House votes unanimously in favor of bill meant to regulate air quality in Israel

Yael Ivri-Darel
Published: 07.24.08, 11:42 / Israel Activism

After three years in the making, the Knesset finally passed Israel's Clean Air Act Tuesday, with 39 MKs voting in favor of it and none objecting.

The act is expected to regulate all issues pertaining to the air quality in Israel, enabling local authorities to crackdown on industries or individuals that contribute to excessive air pollution. The bill is said to take effect at the beginning of 2011.

Israel Union for Environmental Protection lobbies for new bill to increase recycling of household waste, rerouting costs to packaging manufacturers. Group's poll says 63% of Israelis would be willing to comply

"This is a great victory for the environmental movement and the Israeli citizens," said Knesset Member Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), who co-chairs the Knesset's environmental lobby.

The Green Course environmental group welcomed the decision, saying its merit is in the fact that it provides local authorities with the tools to fight air pollution.

"This bill will revolutionize they way we deal with air quality issues, which affect all the health of each and every one of us," said Environment Minister Gideon Ezra.

"Industrial and economic growth may lead to an increase in air pollution. It is our job as public officials to ensure that this growth's byproducts would be regulated and will cause no harm to the environment we live in."

Fluent monitoring, increased enforcement

The new act calls for the forming of a national air pollution monitoring authority, which would make its data public.

The new act would further allow for redefining air pollution standards, which would have to be implemented by the various industries; which would also be made to keep prolific records of all emissions and their components. The monitoring authority will ensure the data is correct. Those found at fault would be subjected to fines between $29,000 and $300,000 and may face up to two years in prison.

The original outline for the Clear Air Act was brought before the Knesset by the Union for Environmental Defense in 2005. The act's final version calls for the cooperation of 11 government bureaus, which along the years have filed 200 amendments to its original form.

The new act still has to overcome its final hurdle - that of the Treasury, which is supposed to allocate the necessary, additional funds to the Environmental Protection Ministry. Its implementation is scheduled to begin in 2011.

Return to Top

11. PCRM Spells Out (Literally) Real Cause of Salmonella Outbreak/Hint: It's NOT the Tomatoes

Forwarded message from PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine):



Angry Doctors Use 1,000 Tomatoes To Spell Out Salmonella Source For FDA: "It's The Meat, Stupid!"

Demonstration July 8 at U.S. Health and Human Services Seeks FDA Focus on Animal Agriculture's Key Role in Foodborne Illnesses Linked to Tomatoes

WASHINGTON-As the Food and Drug Administration enters the 13th week of its struggle to identify the source of the salmonella outbreak that
has reached 38 states and the District of Columbia, doctors will spell it out for them-quite literally. Doctors from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will use more than 1,000 tomatoes arranged to write “IT'S THE MEAT, STUPID!” in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building at 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., on Tuesday morning. They aim to highlight the key role of meat industry pollution in spreading salmonella, E. coli, and other foodborne pathogens that affect thousands of Americans every year.

“Salmonella are intestinal bacteria, and tomatoes have no intestine,”
PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., says. “These germs come from chicken and cow feces that contaminate waterways used for irrigation and contaminate kitchen counters and grocery store shelves.”


Dear Mr. Schwartz,

During the current salmonella outbreak, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration, an agency within HHS, have focused Americans' attention first on tomatoes and now on jalapeƱo peppers as a likely source of the infectious bacteria. However, contaminated produce is only the last link in a chain that begins with the meat industry. It is essential for consumers to know that burgeoning meat consumption has caused a massive overproduction of chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals, leading to unprecedented production of feces that end up in rivers, streams, and irrigation water, and contaminate otherwise healthful produce.

Salmonella are intestinal organisms. Needless to say, tomatoes and peppers do not have an intestinal tract. When feces end up in irrigation water, salmonella can contaminate the surfaces of plants and can apparently pass into their rootlets, ending up inside produce. Infectious bacteria from animal feces also contaminate agricultural fields, workers' hands, retail shelves, and kitchen surfaces.

Join PCRM in calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the source of the contamination-the root of the problem lies in the meat industry! We need your help today. Click here to sign our petition and add your name to our list of outraged citizens. Help us provide a wake up call to HHS and demand it starts protecting our food supply.

Best regards,

Neal Barnard, M.D.

Neal Barnard, M.D.
PCRM President

It's the Meat, Stupid, petition/PCRM-sponsored


Return to Top

12. Rising Food Prices, Dollar's Fall Squeeze Israeli Aid Groups, Poor

Brian Hendler
Israeli shoppers, here at a Jerusalem market, are paying "from rock bottom to retail," says an Israeli expert on hunger.
By Dina Kraft Published: 07/18/2008


TEL AVIV (JTA) - It's mid-afternoon and Michael Dahan is buying food for his first meal of the day. With rising food prices compounding his already dire economic situation, it has become his habit to skip meals, he admits.

"What can I do?" the unemployed 49-year-old says with a shrug, holding the small carton of milk he has just bought at a grocery store in the rundown Shapira neighborhood of south Tel Aviv. "I hardly have anything to get by on once I've paid rent and utilities."

A block away, on a sidewalk strewn with cigarette butts and plastic bags, Maria Arnov, 28, an immigrant from Latvia and mother of two, says food prices have changed the way she shops. Arnov goes to the store less often and cuts corners wherever she can, like buying cheaper frozen meat and not buying the type of rice her family favors because its price has doubled in the past three months.

Israel, like many parts of the world, has seen food staples such as meat, rice and vegetables rise significantly. Its poor, already struggling to make ends meet, have been hardest hit -- along with the nonprofit groups that serve them.

Although it is rare for Israelis to go hungry, food insecurity is a growing problem in their nation as traditional social safety nets fall short and nearly a quarter of Israeli families find themselves subsisting on less nutritious diets than before.

Many of the nonprofit groups that deliver food to the needy say they have been reeling from the one-two punch of rising prices and a sinking dollar.

In Israel, groups that rely in large part on funds raised in the United States have been forced by the dollar's plunge to cut back on services, sometimes reducing the number of families they serve by as much as 40 percent.


Return to Top

13. Awesome Vegan Video/A Must See!!


This video is so good that I am giving you the link again - it also appeared in another recent JVNA newsletter.

Return to Top

14. “The Diet of Disaster”

Forwarded article with very good information on dietary links to global warming and other problems:


Global Warming
The processes through which greenhouse gases trap heat and warm the Earth are now well established. That it is human activity which carries the blame is also well established by an almost unique scientific consensus that has probably never been seen in living memory.

Former US vice president Al Gore, in his Nobel Peace Prize-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth spelt out the extent of that consensus - published scientific papers that establish human responsibility for the problem: almost 1,000. Scientific papers showing it's got nothing to do with humanity: zero. US media reports on the same issue show a very different slant: 68 per cent in favour of global warming being a natural phenomenon and 32 per cent supporting the scientific consensus (Gore, 2006),

The ratio may not be quite so wide in the UK but there is still nothing like balance in the debate. Climate change denial, or at least humans' responsibility for it, has become editorial policy in the Daily Mail, including its science editor. Some other papers and the BBC adopt an 'even-handed' approach, providing equal space for denial and therefore presenting the debate as one which is evenly divided in terms of scientific opinion.

Incredibly, when the UN FAO published its report in 2006, establishing that livestock are not only the second largest source of greenhouse gases but central to every other environmental catastrophe, it was virtually ignored in Britain. What should have been an Earth-shattering report was carried by three titles, two of them agricultural papers.

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.