August 5, 2008

8/4/2008 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. I am Scheduled to Give 5 Talks at AR2008/Perhaps Attend

3. Update on A SACRED DUTY

4. Getting A SACRED DUTY Shown on Your Local TV/VERY IMPORTANT!/Please Help

5. Report from Producer Lionel Friedberg re Recent Conference Relating Animal-Based Agriculture to Global Warming

6. Blog Entry Re JVNA's Activities

7. Challenging the Media to Cover Our Campaigns

8. Israel Faces Severe Water Shortage

9. 2007 Nobel Prize Winner Asserts: Less Meat, Less Heat!

10. Resolution on Global Warming

11. A Jewish Response to Current Environmental Threats

12. NY Times Op-Ed Article Condemns Factory Farming of Animals

13. New Environmental Bill Passed in Israel

14. Interesting Approach to Spreading the Jewish Vegetarian Message:

15. HSUS Initiates Web Site as part of its “All Creatures Great and Small” Initiative to Reduce Animal Abuses on Factory Farms

16. Update On a Shrinking Dead Sea

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

Best wishes for a very meaningful Tisha B'Av, which starts right after Shabbat on August 8. Let us hope the day of mourning for the destructions of the Temples in Jerusalem ushers in an awakening that will lead to far better times.

Please see the articles on Tisha b'Av and vegetarianism and on environmental activism at the holiday section at, and please use the information and concepts for your letters and talking points. My letter sent to the Jewish media is below.

Dear Editor:

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year on August 9-10, reminds us of the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem.

Today it is not just Jerusalem but the entire world that faces destruction from global warming 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 control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes soon occur.

Israel is especially threatened by global warming. A 2007 Israel Union of Environmental Defense projected severe heat waves and storms, an average decrease in rainfall of up to 30 percent and a rising Mediterranean Sea that could cause major flooding.

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.

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2. I am Scheduled to Give 5 Talks at AR2008/Perhaps Attend

Below is my speaking schedule for the AR2008 conference on Sunday, August 17:

8/17/2008, 11:03 AM: Engaging Religion
(engaging Christian, Jewish, Moslem, and minor religious denominations)
Other people assigned to this session:
Saurabh Dalal,
Sue Grisham,
Kris Haley,
8/17/2008, 1:33 PM: Effective Tactics for Agriculture
(tactics for ending abuse of animals raised for food)
Other people assigned to this session:
Harold Brown,
Karen Davis,
Alex Hershaft,
8/17/2008, 4:32 PM: Producing/Airing Videos
(producing and airing of TV documentaries and PSAs)
Other people assigned to this session:
Shannon Keith,
Howard Lyman,:
Jonny Vasic,

8/17/2008, 5:25-6:35 Screening of A SACRED DUTY and questions and answers

8/17/2008, 7:40 PM: Acting Globally Plenary Session
(presentations by activists acting globally)
Other people assigned to this session:
Anthony Marr,

JVNA activists who will be attending and helping distribute DVDs of A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD and JVNA literature include JVNA Secretary/Treaasurer John Diamond, Donna Diamond, Ron Landskroner and George Shea. JVNA will have a table at the event and we hope to be playing A SACRED DUTY there.

Please consider attending this important conference and helping. Please let me know if you are planning to attend.

Excerpt of comments from author and animal rights activist Karen Dawn re AR2008 conference:

Here is what the organizers tell us about the conference:

"The final program schedule, available at, includes:

* Eyewitness reports on the whale and seal wars from the Sea Shepherd crew
* Personal accounts of amazing individual achievements by movement activists
* Discussion 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

"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."

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3. Update on A SACRED DUTY

a. Showings of A SACRED DUTY at 3 locations as part of The Green Lifestyle Film Festival

Message from Dorit of The Green Lifestyle Film Festival:

Below is the schedule of showings of A SACRED DUTY Richard and please encourage people to tell others in these regions to come and watch the film: thanks:

All these showings are organized by Dorit of The Green Lifestyle Film Festival

4th Annual Vibrant Living Expo and Culinary Showcase on the Mendocino coast, Fort Bragg Northern California
Lionel Friedberg will be speaking here and doing Q&A

5th-7th September Ottawa Canada

12th -14th September in Sedona, AZ
Lionel Friedberg will be speaking here and showing the film on 13th September from 6:30-9:30am . He will be available at the Green Lifestyle Film Festival Booth all weekend for Q&A

Dorit, Green Lifestyle Film Festival Organizer
Book, Celebrating Our Raw Nature 1 & 2 310-854-2078 310-928-7689

b. Video of Scenes from the Raw Lifestyle Festival

Lionel Friedberg Appears at this event which occurred in Los Angeles. A SACRED DUTY won an award at the festival.

c. DVDs of A SACRED DUTY being widely distributed

JVNA author, editor, publisher and advisor Roberta Kalechofsky reports that about 250 DVDs of A SACRED DUTY were given out to vegetarian activists from all over the world at the World Vegetarian Congress in Dresden, Germany last week. Thanks to her, her husband Bob and Roberta Schiff who helped get the DVDs to key people.

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4. Getting A SACRED DUTY Shown on Your Local TV/VERY IMPORTANT!/Please Help

Suggestion from JVNA advisor Rina Deych:

The two main cable companies in this area are Time Warner and Cablevision. I have the latter. Maybe you should send out a special JVNA alert (separate from the newsletter) requesting that each member call his/her cable company to find out all the names/contact numbers for the public access stations, then contact each one and respectfully request that they show the film.
Related suggestion from publicist Susan Tellem:

Call up your local cable company - they almost always show stuff on their “public access channel.” We need to do that because of Genesis [to be eligible for the Genesis Awards]. They do not care about films fests only TV. If you can get all your supporters to take the DVD to their local cable vendors in their towns or the closest ones and then let us know who played it where.

Getting A SACRED DUTY shown on local TV stations is very important, so please help.

Many thanks,.

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5. Report from Producer Lionel Friedberg re Recent Conference Relating Animal-Based Agriculture to Global Warming

The first International Climate Change Conference, produced by the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association, took place at the very glamorous Pacific Design Center in the heart of West Hollywood, California, on July 26th. Proceedings at the conference were broadcast live on 14 satellite TV channels, on cable and on the worldwide web. Forecasts predicted an audience around the world of at least six to seven million. No effort was spared to make the conference a truly dazzling occasion. Replete with Celebrity VIP Green Carpet arrivals area, a press gallery, a sumptuous vegan hors d'oeuvres reception and followed by a delicious vegan dinner, the event was attended by over 400 people.

The emphasis of the conference was the major role that our dietary choices play in global warming. The consumption of meat and dairy products contributes about 18% of the greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, catapulting our planet into the worst potential environmental disaster since an asteroid violently slammed into the Earth 65 million years ago. Many in the audience were not aware of this, so the conference can be seen as a huge success in getting that critical message out into the mainstream.

TV anchor and broadcasting personality Jane Velez-Mitchell acted as MC. Howard Lyman, often referred to as the 'Mad Cowboy,' delivered the keynote address. Other speakers included Dr. Gurminder Singh, the Chairman of the Green Technology Institute, Dr. Jim Stewart, Chairman of the Global Warming division of the Sierra Club, Prof. Ryan Galt, agricultural sustainability expert at UC Davis, Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Founder of the Tree of Life Center in Arizona and Scott Badenoch, CEO of Creative Citizenry. I sat on a panel that discussed the ethics of the growing environmental movement and the role of religion in ushering in change. With me on the panel were two superb speakers and dedicated activists, Dr. Elliott Katz, the head of In Defense of Animals (IDA), and Dr. Will Tuttle, peace activist, educator, author and musician. The audience was extremely receptive to what we had to say and we were met with enthusiastic applause.

During dinner the JVNA-sponsored documentary 'A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD' was screened on monitors strategically placed in the dining and reception areas. Free DVD copies of the movie were included in the gift bags handed out to all attendees at the conclusion of events.

For me it was a day that underscored the criticality of our message, and I was deeply impressed at how willingly people embraced it. Hopefully the conference will be seen as an example of what can be done to educate people on the importance of switching to a plant-based diet and on the ramifications of this most pressing issue.

Lionel Friedberg
Producer: 'A Sacred Duty'

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6. Blog Entry Re JVNA's Activities

Eating meat turns up the heat: Author Richard Schwartz offers up a solution to the problem of global warming

Posted by Josh Fleet on July 28th, 2008

From The SHPiEL Vol. 5, Issue 7 - printed on April 1, 2008

Jews, it seems, have now taken to complaining about cow [manure].

Richard Schwartz, is the president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, a group that put out a press release on March 6, recommending that Jews become vegetarians as a response to global warming.

“We believe Jews should be vegetarians,” said Schwartz, 73, the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism and professor emeritus of mathematics at the College of Staten Island.

Overflowing with facts of the failings of animal diets, Schwartz pointed to six Jewish principles violated when one insists on munching on meat

These transgressions (to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people and pursue peace) can be found, along with dozens of heady dissertations on Jewish vegetarianism, at JVNA's Web site, Veg

But what does this have to do with global warming?

Livestock agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than anything else because cows give off a lot of methane gas, Schwartz said.

“Unless there's a change in diet, we're not going to solve the global warming problem,” he said. As long as human beings crave cows, humans will raise them on “factory farms” for mass slaughter.

The main gripe, as laid out and painstakingly sourced on the JVNA Web site, is that animal diets promote wastefulness. Forests, which cycle carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, are cut down for livestock production. On the other hoof, livestock production, which is the “single largest source of emissions of methane and nitrous oxide,” builds upon the bulging store of trapped carbon dioxide, inducing further environmental damage.

It would be a Kiddush HaShem, a sanctification of God's name, to bring this issue to the forefront, to be vegetarians, said Schwartz, an aging ba'al teshuvah (one who returns to traditional Jewish observance later in life). Rabbis and other Jewish leaders aren't talking about this issue, he said.

Schwartz and JVNA have even produced a documentary about current environmental threats and their version of the proper Jewish response. “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World” is the Jewish vegetarian's response to the day's inconvenient truths.

The one-hour documentary, like the Web site, is brimming with free facts about the perils facing God's green earth-it can be viewed in full on YouTube or at

Through these efforts, Schwartz and JVNA hope to raise an authentic Jewish voice and muscle to an issue that is slowly being surrounded by the hollers and yelps of the masses.

Still, in the words of the Talmud, “the time is short and the work is great,” Schwartz said.

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7. Challenging the Media to Cover Our Campaigns

My letter to the editor: [Please consider writing similar letters and getting similar messages out. Thanks.]

Dear editor,

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I urge you to cover a critically important story, one that is generally being ignored. I believe that such coverage would facilitate the Jewish community in helping shift our imperiled world to a sustainable path.

For many years, JVNA has argued that vegetarianism should be on the Jewish agenda and that Jews should shift toward vegetarianism because the production and consumption of meat and other animal products:
1) violate at least six basic Jewish mandates (see supplementary material at the end of this message),;
2) are causing an epidemic of diseases; and
3) are contributing to global warming and other environmental threats that are rapidly leading the world toward an unprecedented catastrophe.

Some additional important reasons why it is urgent that this story be covered and these issues be put squarely on society's agenda are:

* At a time when food prices are skyrocketing, food riots are occurring in many areas and an estimated 20 million people are dying annually worldwide from hunger and its effects, over 70 percent of the grain produced in the United States and over 40 percent produced worldwide are fed to farmed animals.

* In an increasingly thirsty and energy-dependent world, animal-based diets require up to 14 times as much water and 10 times as much energy as vegan (all plants) diets.

* While the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, according to a 2006 UN FAO report, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the cars and other means of transportation worldwide combined (18 percent vs. 13.5 percent).

* Even if animals are slaughtered strictly according to Jewish law, with minimum pain, billions of animals still suffer greatly from cruel treatment on factory farms.

* Making all of the above points more serious, the consumption of animal products is projected to double in 50 years. If this happens, it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce greenhouse emissions enough to avoid very severe effects from global climate change.

It is essential that our rabbis and other Jewish leaders recognize that a major shift toward plant-based diets is essential to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe that the world is rapidly approaching and to move our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.

When we read daily reports of the effects of global climate change, such as record heat waves, severe storms, widespread droughts, and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps; when some climate scientists are warning that global climate change may spin out of control with disastrous consequences unless major changes are soon made; when a recent report indicated that our oceans may be virtually devoid of fish by 2050; when species of plants and animals are disappearing at the fastest rate in history; when it is projected that half of the world's people will live in areas chronically short of water by 2050; it is essential that the Jewish community fulfill our mandate to be a “light unto the nations” and lead efforts to address these critical issues.

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

JVNA urges rabbis and other Jewish leaders to make Jews aware of how animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and pursue peace.

We are eager to have respectful, public dialogues/debates with Jewish leaders on “Should Jews Be Vegetarians?”

We urge you to cover this story and will be happy to provide further information. Additional material about these issues can be found at We will be happy to provide complimentary copies of our new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD to you and to rabbis and other religious leaders who will contact us ( We will be pleased to offer guidance on the use of the movie and other materials.. The entire movie can be viewed at the web site Additional information about the movie is also available at this web site.

Very truly yours,

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America


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

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

SNIP [Since these mandates have been given several times in the past.]

We should honor our commitments to 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 maintains that committed Jews (and others) should be at the forefront of efforts to sharply reduce or eliminate the consumption of animal products, and that Jewish leaders, including editors of Jewish publications, should be encouraging people to consider plant-based diets.

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8. Israel Faces Severe Water Shortage

Panel to probe Israel's water crisis

Published: 07/28/2008

[We should stress that an animal-based diet requires as much as 14 times as much water, mainly for irrigating feed crops, as a vegan diet.]

A Knesset committee agreed to establish a state commission of inquiry into Israel's water crisis.

The Knesset State Control Committee said Monday it would set up the commission to investigate why the recommendations of professionals and government decisions were ignored. It will be charged as well with making recommendations for both the short and long term to ensure an adequate water supply.

Israel's main source of fresh water, the Sea of Galilee, earlier this month reached its bottom red line, beyond which pumping water can cause irreversible damage. Experts have predicted it will reach its black line, beyond which pumping is impossible, by December.

Minister of National Infrastructure Benjamin Ben-Eliezer strongly supported establishing the commission, Israel's business daily Globes reported.

"Not only do I not object to the establishment of the commission to examine the state's failure in the supply of desalinated water," he said, "I insist that the commission should be established and explain to everyone how a coterie of Ministry of Finance officials, however talented they may be, are capable of bringing misery to an entire nation."

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9. 2007 Nobel Prize Winner Asserts: Less Meat, Less Heat!

On Saturday, Aug 30, 19h, Rachendra Pachauri, Nobel peace winner in 2007 and head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will talk [spoke, by now] about the impact of meat consumption on global warming. Accoring to FAO, the production of meat is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, it is high time to put this topic even higher on the agenda! It will be the first time Dr. Pachauri will extensively address this issue.

Location: University of Ghent, Blandijnberg 2 (Auditorium D).

This lecture is an initiative of EVA (the Flemish vegetarian society), in collaboration with WWF, Greenpeace,

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10. Resolution on Global Warming

My resolution below was brought up but, incredibly, voted down, at the recent World Vegetarian Congress in Dresden Germany. Suggestions re getting it on society's agenda very welcome.


Whereas global warming is arguably the biggest social, political economic, moral, and environmental problem facing our planet and its inhabitants; and

Whereas there are almost daily reports regarding record heat, wildfires, an increase in the number and severity of storms, droughts, the melting of glaciers, permafrost, and polar ice caps, rising sea levels, flooding, endangered species, spreading diseases, shrinking lakes, submerged islands, and environmental refugees; and

Whereas, while a small number of individuals argue against global warming, there is a scientific and environmental consensus - among all major scientific and environmental organizations, journals, and magazines, and all peer-reviewed scholarly articles - that global warming is real, serious, worsening, and caused by human activity; and

Whereas the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its Fourth Assessment Report in February 2007, which was researched and written by about 2,500 climate scientists over the past six years and vetted by over 130 governments, carefully delineates clear trends and potentially catastrophic consequences associated with climate change, warning of the possibility of irreversible change, unless we make concerted efforts to counter global warming; and

Whereas several leading experts, including James Hansen of NASA and physicist Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous living scientist, as well as Al Gore, warn that global climate change may reach a 'tipping point' and spiral out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, if current conditions continue; and

Whereas a recent 700-page British government report, authored by a former chief economist for the World Bank, projects losses of up to 20% of world gross domestic product by 2050, unless 1% of current world domestic product is devoted to combating global climate change; and

Whereas the US Pentagon states that global warming is a larger threat than even terrorism, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has said that climate change needs to be taken as seriously as war and, further, that “changes in our environment and the resulting upheavals from droughts to inundated coastal areas to loss of arable land are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict,” and a 2007 report by eleven retired US admirals and generals indicated that refugees fleeing droughts, floods, storms and wildfires caused by global warming make instability, violence , terrorism and war more likely; and

Whereas the November 2006 390-page report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), entitled “Livestock's Long Shadow”. states that animal-based agriculture causes approximately 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, Compared to all of the cars, trucks, planes, ships and other means of transportation combined (!3.5%); and

Whereas that UN report projects that the number of farmed animals will double in the next 50 years, and that increase would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions that will negate the effects of many positive changes, making it impossible to reach the reductions in overall greenhouse gas emissions that experts feel is necessary to avoid the worse effects of global climate change; and

Whereas animal based-diets also contribute to an epidemic of diseases, the mistreatment of billions of animals on factory farms, water shortages, many environmental threats and other negative effects;

The International Vegetarian Congress resolves:

To urge its member societies and individuals to make it a priority to work to increase awareness of the severe threats of global warming and other environmental problems, and the urgency of a major switch toward vegetarian, and preferably vegan, diets to reduce these threats.

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11. A Jewish Response to Current Environmental Threats

A Renewable Light Unto the Nations

July 23, 2008

by Yosef Israel Abramowitz

The convenient truth about the Jewish people is that when we put our minds and capital to work, we can make miracles happen. There is no more noble cause than saving humanity itself, ensuring that God's covenant not to wipe out the planet with rising waters will be - in some small measure - because of our actions.

Saving the earth itself from global warming, and the billions of people and animals on it, is not just environmentalism. It is global survival. Of the trillions of cosmic opportunities for life to flourish, this third rock from the sun may be the only expression, the only experiment, to grace the universe with the possibility of collective moral choice.

Watching Al Gore's movie with Arab and Jewish students at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, on the kibbutz where I live, put into context this challenge. Are Arabs and Jews going to keep fighting on the deck of the sinking Titanic? Or will a greater vision for humanity transcend immediate conflicts?

As Jews, we must transform ourselves from the misunderstood Light Unto the Nations, as Isaiah beckoned, to a Renewable Light Unto the Nations. Our first fundamental challenge is to ensure that the Jewish state, which is home to seven million people, becomes carbon neutral. Unfortunately, the government's stated goal is for only 10 percent of Israel's energy by 2020 to be generated by renewables, primarily solar. This is unacceptable. The European Union, most of whose member countries have half the sunshine of Israel, has set a goal of 20 percent renewables by 2020.

If Israel sets a goal of 40 percent renewables by 2020, it would capture the imagination of our youth, entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists, and financiers. It would cast Israel not only as a responsible nation but also as a shining example of what can be accomplished by coordinated global action.

There is plenty of sunshine and land in the Negev and Arava deserts to power this revolution. We need, though, the political will of world Jewry. Linking UJC and Keren Hayesod allocations to Israel's compliance with at least a 20 percent renewables goal would send a powerful message to Israel's leadership, as well as to the next generation of Jews. Such linkage should be accompanied by a World Jewish Action Plan that offers Jews and Jewish institutions worldwide carbon offset opportunities.

Imagine that each year on Tu B'shvat, Jewish families and institutions calculate their carbon footprint and then invest in efforts in the Jewish state to offset that footprint. For example, planting trees in Israel has long been a global Jewish effort. And although forests breathe in the carbon dioxide, which is a powerful carbon offset activity, the majority of trees planted up until now are pine trees, which throw off acidic needles. After a century, the pine forests essentially poison their own roots and die. Future plantings should emphasize Mediterranean Oak and other trees that will work better with the Israeli ecosystems.

Every synagogue, JCC, school, and institution should figure out its footprint, put solar panels on its own roof - with great new naming opportunities - and also set aside funds to invest in Israeli renewable science centers or companies. Furthermore, Partnership 2000 communities (created between Israeli and world Jewish communities) could adopt mirror strategies. When the solar panels are named in Boston, a similar array can be named in Haifa, Boston's sister city. Jewish buildings worldwide and Israeli homes and buildings should adopt green building codes, for which they can have the privilege of hanging on their doorpost a green mezuzah that certifies to the world that the building complies with best environmental practices.

Israel must renounce nuclear power as an option and challenge others in the region to do the same. The Middle East must become a nuclear-energy-free zone. We live in an age of accurate long-range missiles and of daring terrorism. The planet, and especially the Middle East, does not need any radioactive power targets. Nuclear energy is the power of war; solar energy is the power of peace. By taking the nuclear energy option off Israel's table, Israel can offer her neighbors a regional solar energy solution. When raised with a minister of one of Israel's neighbors, he responded: If you help us make solar energy more economical than nuclear [energy], we will give up our nuclear energy exploration program. For the sake of Israel's immediate security, it is time for global Jewish political muscle to be flexed to promote solar and other renewables throughout Israel and the Middle East.

Israel, as a public face of world Jewry and Jewish values, must not only declare herself a responsible member of the world community when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions but also provide leadership on this front. It is notable that major accomplishments in this field - such as plans for electric cars and Israeli-built solar thermal plants in California - so far have come only from private industry. The truth is that today there is no commercial solar energy in the Jewish state. And the plans for renewables in Israel do not reflect the aspirations or potential of the Jewish people. What would Isaiah say?

Yosef Israel Abramowitz serves as president of Global Sun Partners and the Arava Power Company. He currently lives on Kibbutz Ketura with his wife and five children. Yossi is executive editor of Sh'ma. He blogs daily at and can be reached at This article is reprinted with permission from Sh'ma June 2008 (, as part of a collection of essays on Judaism and the environment.

Russell Cohen
Mostly blogging here:

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12. NY Times Op-Ed Article Condemns Factory Farming of Animals

A Farm Boy Reflects (“… the tide of history is moving toward the protection of animal rights, … Someday, vegetarianism may even be the norm.”)

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13. New Environmental Bill Passed in Israel

Knesset Passes Ban on Plastic Bags, 'Polluter-Pays' Bill

by Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel

The Knesset plenum passed on Wednesday the first reading of a series of new environmental laws, aimed at reducing pollution and protecting Israel's natural resources. Along with new, tougher administrative sanctions against corporate polluters, the legislature approved a new law banning stores from giving away free plastic shopping bags.

The plastic bag bill prohibits stores, including supermarkets, from giving away the familiar double-handled plastic bags used to carry products home. The ban, under discussion for months, finally passed the first stage of approval, and it awaits two more readings until it is enacted as a law.

Under the new bill proposed by MKs Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu party) and Dov Khenin (Hadash), stores would be permitted to sell bio-degradable bags at the cash register. The ban on free bags would not apply to the smaller bags used to collect produce, which customers would be able to continue to take for free.

This bag bill is a weaker version of a proposed ban on all distribution and sale of the bags.

"We know the Israeli publiche moment they'll have to pay for the bag either they'll take just one or they won't take any at all," said MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.The bill also calls on the Environmental Protection Ministry to oversee that all such bags that businesses sell be biodegradable.

In addition to the law on plastic bags, the Knesset approved a new set of penalties for existing environmental laws, including a tougher schedule of sanctions against businesses and organizations found to be illegal polluters.

The harsher penalties introduced under the so-called "polluter-pays" law would hit corporate polluters with administrative sanctions up to NIS 2.4 million, require polluters to pay for environmental restoration, and impose a fine equal to the economic advantage accrued by the polluter in a particular instance of violation.

The polluter-pays law would also update laws, originally implemented by the British Mandate in 1936, that enforce the protection of beaches and forests. A law prohibiting the uprooting of trees, for instance, will now carry a penalty of almost NIS 50,000. MK Khenin, along with MK Michael Melchior (Labor), proposed the new pollution law as leaders of an environmental faction of 19 Knesset members.

"The polluter-pays law effectively tackles the basic problem of environmental hazards. Up until now, economic interests in Israel made it worthwhile financially to pollute the environment. The new law now makes environmental pollution economically disadvantageous," said Khenin.

Melchior added that "by attacking the pocketbooks of polluting companies, we can arrive at a situation where our earth, water and air will be cleaner."

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14. Interesting Approach to Spreading the Jewish Vegetarian Message:

Message from vegetarian activist Sarah Kudinsky:

Hi Richard, How are you doing? Just want to pass on an interesting tidbit, in case it hasn't come to your attention. A lot of synagogues or something like have an “Ask the Rabbi” form. Wouldn't it be great if they got many questions asking what they are doing to stop global warming, which threatens all life on the planet. And then tell them about "A Sacred Duty."

Great idea, Sarah, and I hope many readers will do this. We should certainly challenge the rabbis re the many ways that animal-based diets threaten individuals and the environment and violate at least 6 basic Jewish teachings. And, many “Ask the Rabbi” contacts can be made through an Internet search.

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15. HSUS Initiates Web Site as part of its “All Creatures Great and Small” Initiative to Reduce Animal Abuses on Factory Farms

Please visit, and check out the Jewish section. Suggestions very welcome as changes still can be made. Thanks. JVNA has been an active advisor for this valuable initiative.

Endorsement of the campaign by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa: “I wholeheartedly endorse the campaign of HSUS. It is a basic value of our Jewish Religion and tradition to refrain from 'Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim', or to refrain from inflicting pain and suffering on any living creature, Amen. Our faith requires us to follow the ways of the Lord and as we read in Psalms 145:9 - 'The Lord is good to all and his compassion extends to all his works," we know that every animal is certainly included in the term 'His works.' He has made all that is alive and He is the source of all life. Let us try to follow His ways and be compassionate to every living creature.”

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16. Update On a Shrinking Dead Sea

As Dead Sea shrinks, concerns for future grow

The Dead Sea's rapid retreat has made a mockery of signs warning of the dangers of deep water and left beaches like this one high and dry.

By Uriel Heilman Published: 08/03/2008 JTA

EIN GEDI, Israel (JTA) -- The beach at the Ein Gedi Spa at the Dead Sea would seem like an ideal place for a little R&R amid the frenzy of modern Israel.

Set in the quiet of the desert, it has stunning views of Jordan's mountains and its therapeutic waters reputedly do wonders for the complexion.

There's only one problem at this beach: The sea is gone.

In its place are empty lifeguard towers and abandoned beach umbrellas lodged in the parched earth that make a mockery of the Dead Sea's quiet retreat.

The sea actually still exists, but it's smaller, shallower and much more distant than it once was -- some 160 feet from the original beach built at Ein Gedi. The Dead Sea is shrinking because nearly every source of water that feeds into this iconic tourist destination has been cut off, diverted or polluted over the last half century.

“This is a completely man-made disaster,” says Gidon Bromberg, the Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an international environmental group. “There is nothing natural about this.”

A tram now shuttles visitors from the abandoned beach at Ein Gedi to the new beach, which sits at more than 1,300 feet below sea level. Thirty years ago this beach was submerged under water. In 10 years it likely will be dry, too, and the visitors' ramp again will have to be extended to reach the sea.

By 2025, the sea is expected to be at 1,440 feet below sea level.

The shrinking of the Dead Sea has become an issue of grave concern for environmentalists, industries that produce Dead Sea-related products and Israel's tourism sector, which worries that the visitors who come here from all over the world will disappear along with the sea.

To environmentalists, the shrinking of the sea is an environmental disaster that left unchecked could devastate the region in the coming decades.

The sea's retreat already has spawned thousands of dangerous sinkholes. Created by retreating groundwater washing away salt deposits that had supported a surface layer of sand, the sinkholes have decimated beaches, nature reserves and agricultural fields in the area.

Future development along the northern rim of the sea has been suspended indefinitely, and the sinkholes have taken a toll on the area's roads. Route 90, the Israeli highway that runs north-south along the Dead Sea's western shore, has had to be rebuilt several times because of sinkholes opening up in its path.

In the meantime, the shifting groundwater has wreaked havoc with the natural oases and springs near the sea. Some natural habitats have been destroyed, and with them the feeding grounds of indigenous wildlife. Ornithologists say the annual migration of birds to this area -- the third-largest migration in the world -- has begun to taper off.

Perhaps most significantly for the people who live in the region, the economic consequences of the sea's retreat have been staggering for agriculture and tourism.

“This has cost us more than $25 million since 1995, when the sinkholes started opening up,” Merav Ayalon, a spokeswoman for Kibbutz Ein Gedi, the largest Israeli town at the Dead Sea, said.

The kibbutz has had to close its resort village -- though it still operates guest houses -- abandon its groves of date palms and forego any expansion plans because it is virtually locked in now by mountains or unsafe, shifting ground.

Farther south, at the cluster of hotels on the Israeli side of the sea, hotels built decades ago along the Dead Sea's shores have preserved their beaches only thanks to an artificial pool of sea water. The pool, which is connected to the Dead Sea, is maintained by Dead Sea Works, the massive mineral extraction plant whose operations have accelerated the sea's disappearance through wholesale evaporation of water.

If not for the artificial pool, the hotels would be in the desert, since the southern portion of the Dead Sea no longer exists. Though visitors cannot tell that the hotels' beaches are artificially maintained, hoteliers say they fear potential tourists are deterred from coming to the region because they think the sea's retreat has left the hotels high and dry.

“Tourists from abroad don't know exactly where the sea is located and where the sinkholes are, so they don't come as much anymore,” said Avi Levy, who used to be the general manager of the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea but now works at the franchise's hotel in Tel Aviv. “Also, I think, there is antagonism that we are allowing such a valuable site as the Dead Sea to be destroyed.”

Agricultural industries in Israel, Jordan and Syria siphon water from the rivers that used to feed into the Dead Sea, diverting the water flow for agricultural use. This, along with the dumping of sewage by these countries and the Palestinian Authority, has turned the Jordan River, the sea's main tributary, from the voluminous flow described in the Bible to a muddy, polluted dribble that doesn't even reach the Dead Sea anymore during the summer months.

In addition, companies like Dead Sea Works are removing water from the sea at a rate of about 150 million cubic meters per year to get at the lucrative minerals beneath the water. The minerals are used to produce chemical products for export such as potash and magnesium chloride.

Potash can be used to make glass, soap and fertilizer, and magnesium chloride can be used in the manufacture of foodstuffs and roadway deicing products.

The work of these companies has turned what once was the southern portion of the sea into a massive industrial site.

At the time of Israel's founding in 1948, about 1.4 billion cubic meters of water per year flowed into the Dead Sea. That total has shrunk to 100 million cubic meters, much of it polluted. Today the only fresh water the sea gets is from underground springs and rainwater. With inadequate fresh water, the sea has become more salty and oleaginous.

Scientists estimate that the Dead Sea needs at least 650 million cubic meters of water per year in order to stabilize over the next two decades.

Short of a major change in water-use policy, which environmentalists say is imperative, the Dead Sea will continue to shrink at its current rate of 3.2 to 3.5 feet per year until it reaches an equilibrium in 100 to 200 years at some 1,800 feet below sea level, experts say.

There are two main ideas for stabilizing the Dead Sea.

Environmentalists want to restore flow to the sea from the Jordan River. But that would require a sharp reduction in the use of Jordan River water for agricultural and domestic consumption, as well as cooperation between the Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and Jordanians. At this point, neither seems likely.

The other idea is to construct a canal to bring salt water to the Dead Sea from the Red Sea, some 125 miles to the south. Championed by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli real estate magnate Isaac Tshuva, among others, this plan envisions the construction of up to 200,000 new hotel rooms and the transformation of the desert along the channel's route into an Israeli-Jordanian “peace valley.”

Notwithstanding the enormous financial costs of such an enterprise -- $3 billion to $5 billion -- scientists say bringing salt water to a sea that heretofore has been fed only by fresh water has unknown risks.

“A decision like this cannot be made without checking the ecological impact on the environment,” said Noam Goldstein, project manager at Dead Sea Works, which has made a fortune extracting minerals like potash, table salt and bromide from the Dead Sea. “It's possible that with a canal the sea will turn brown or red. It's possible it will stink because of the introduction of new chemical and biological substances into the water.”

The World Bank is conducting a $14 million study into the practicalities of the channel, dubbed the Red-to-Dead Canal.

For the time being, no solution to the problem of the Dead Sea has moved beyond the review stage. Meanwhile, with the Holy Land facing its worst drought in 80 years, the sea continues to disappear.

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