Today is the first anniversary of the premiere of A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE PLANET. So, I thought it might be a good time to pause and assess where we stand and consider material we can use to continue our efforts to get vegetarianism, environmental awareness and activism and related issues onto the Jewish and other agendas. Please stay tuned for strategy ideas and a consideration of plans re the future of JVNA in future messages.
And please use the material in this special message to help promote vegetarianism. Thanks.
This special message/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:
1. Update on A SACRED DUTY
2. Thanks So Much to So Many
3. Our Most Important Argument
4. Important Considerations Re Promoting Vegetarianism
5. Article about A SACRED DUTY
6. Blurbs for A SACRED DUTY
7. Letter for Challenging Rabbis
8. Valuable Supplementary Material for Promoting Vegetarianism
Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.
[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]
Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.
As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.
1. Update on A SACRED DUTY
As indicated above, today is the first anniversary of the premiere of A SACRED at the Israel Center in Jerusalem on November 12, 2007. So many positive things have happened since then. We have distributed almost 20,000 DVDs to a wide variety of people, including rabbis, JCC directors, Hillel directors, religious studies professors, environmentalists, vegetarians , animal rights activists and many more people. There have been over 13,000 hits for the movie on You Tube. The movie has received much acclaim. (Please see the blurbs below). The complete movie, including versions with subtitles in Hebrew and other languages, can be seen at ASacredDuty.com.
We plan to continue actively promoting the movie in the next year.
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2. Thanks So Much to So Many
I am so grateful to many people who have been so helpful re A SACRED DUTY and other JVNA outreach efforts.
Lionel Friedberg, multi-award-winning producer, director, writer and cinematographer, who spent countless hours producing A SACRED DUTY as a labor of love and dedication, accepting no professional fee. Without his splendid efforts, the documentary would never have been produced.
Lionel's wife Diana Friedberg, a professional editor, who also took no professional fee for her excellent contributions toward the production of A SACRED DUTY.
Our very dedicated secretary/treasurer John Diamond, who, along with his wife Donna, have distributed many thousands of DVDs to many people throughout the United States and many other countries, helping to fuel a grass roots effort that builds momentum daily. John is also doing a splendid job of keeping the financial and other JVNA records in order and up-to-date.
Our award winning publicist Susan Tellem, along with her dedicated staff, for treating our relationship as not just a job, but also a cause, and for working diligently to get our messages out;
NALITH for their generous grants that were invaluable in enabling us to produce and distribute so many DVDs of A SACRED DUTY.
While they deserve FAR more recognition, below are, in alphabetical order, a list of people who have been extremely helpful. I am sure I will be leaving some people out, for which I apologize in advance. If you have been inadvertently, please let me know so I can include you in a supplementary list soon.
Your efforts are GREATLY appreciated:
Zel and Reuben Allen
Daniela (from Romania)
Rabbi Adam Frank
Alex Hershaft and others at the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)
Israel, and Eva Mossman
Prof. Joe Regenstein
Rabbi David Rosen
Rabbi Dovid Sears
Rabbi Barry Silver
Peter Singer (of Jerusalem)
Charles Stahler and others at the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG)
Rabbi Yoel Weishaus
Many thanks to all of these dedicated volunteers. Because of your superb efforts, our grass roots campaign is doing great and building momentum every day.
For those I have accidentally overlooked, please accept my apology and let me know, so that I can include you in a supplementary list.
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3. Our Most Important Argument
I believe our most important argument for vegetarianism is that the world is heading toward an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats and that a major shift toward vegetarianism is an essential part of the response. I think it is essential that we spread this message as widely as possible. More re this in the next section.
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4. Important Considerations Re Promoting Vegetarianism
There has been an extremely positive response to A SACRED DUTY and I have been amazed at the dedication of many people who are doing great work in seeing that the documentary is widely viewed.
There is still much resistance and denial on the part of non-vegetarians, so we still have much work to do in order to get the major changes that we want and are very necessary if we are to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe that the world is rapidly approaching.
Jewish vegetarians have an extremely strong case in arguing that Jewish teachings are most consistent with vegetarianism. There is increasing evidence that animal-based diets are connected to many critical problems facing the world today. Hence, a switch toward vegetarianism is both a societal imperative and a Jewish imperative. Unfortunately, in spite of these factors, the Jewish community seems generally content with the status quo. In order to make changes, we should be aggressive (though respectful and courteous) in getting our message out to people, especially religious leaders. Our documentary A SACRED DUTY provides an excellent tool for getting our message out to many more people.
Below is a summary of our basic case for vegetarianism:
1) We have an extremely powerful case for vegetarianism based on the fact that the realities of animal-based diets and agriculture are very inconsistent with basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue peace and non-violence, and.
2) Most Jews, including most rabbis and other Jewish scholars and leaders, seem to be ignoring these contradictions. We must use A SACRED DUTY and other means to launch a major campaign to break through the current ignorance, apathy and denial.
3) The world is threatened as perhaps never before in terms of global warming, destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, soil erosion and depletion, loss of biodiversity, severe storms, flooding, droughts, water shortages, and many other "modern plagues".
4) Modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes significantly to all of these environmental threats, but this is seldom discussed.
Our diets have tremendous impacts. They can be connected to virtually all the major problems that face the world today: global warming; pollution; world hunger; consumption of water, energy, and other resources; destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats; huge budget deficits (related to soaring health costs associated with an epidemic of degenerative diseases); the threat of widespread epidemics due to antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing organisms (related to
indiscriminate, widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed; the potential for war (wasteful use of resources such as oil leads to potential scarcities that make violence and war more likely).
The 2006 UN Food and Agricultural Organization report that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than all the world's means of transportation combined and has many other negative environmental impacts, gives us a very valuable tool for promoting vegetarianism.
5) Because of the above factors, and many more, a shift toward vegetarianism is increasingly a societal imperative, as well as a spiritual imperative.
6) JVNA involves a relatively small group of (mainly) Jews, generally without the strong support of most rabbis and Torah scholars, who are challenging the establishment on the issue of vegetarianism. We are doing so, not by criticizing Jewish teachings or by urging changes in the nature of Judaism. We are, instead, asserting that the highest Jewish values point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet today. We are advocating that Jews should put our highest teachings into practice by becoming
vegetarians. We are buttressed by the many Torah teachings that point toward vegetarianism, the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, one of the great Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century and the first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel, and the fact that several present and past chief rabbis are or were vegetarians.
We recognize that a switch toward vegetarian diets is essential for the survival of the world and the revitalization of Judaism. Though still a relatively small minority, we take comfort from Henry Thoreau's statement: "One person in the right makes a majority of one."
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5. Article about A SACRED DUTY
[The article is preceded by sample messages that you may adapt to try to get more people to see A SACRED DUTY.]
Shalom recipients of A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD,
Recent talks by Al Gore, James Hansen of NASA, the director of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change and others have pointed out that we have very little time to make the changes necessary to avert an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming. Their messages are reinforced by recent dramatic examples of global warming, including the major flooding in several Midwestern US states, the unprecedented number of wildfires in California, droughts in Israel, Australia and many other countries and other problems associated with global warming.
Yet, the Jewish community, like most others, has still not made responding to global warming a major priority, and there are still many people who do not realize how great a role animal-based agriculture plays in greenhouse gas emissions.
Hence, it is essential that we do as much as possible to get these messages out, and our highly acclaimed documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD can be extremely effective in helping do this.
I am hoping that many of you receiving this message will help by contacting your local rabbis and other religious leaders, yeshivas and other schools, JCCs and other community centers, educators, environmentalists, politicians and other influential people, and tell them that we are offering a complimentary DVD which they can get by contacting us (president@JewishVeg.com) or by visiting ASacredDuty.com. You can also tell them that they can view the entire movie (including versione with subtitles in Hebrew and other languages) and get further information about it at that same web site.
Your personal communication can make a major difference as many of our wonderful volunteers are finding out.
If you prefer, you can use the wonders of the internet to look up synagogues, Hillels, JCCs, rabbis, other Jewish groups, etc., nationally, and send individual messages to email addresses that you find.
The point is that we are dealing with perhaps today's greatest moral challenge, today's greatest threat to humanity, and we have a very powerful message and a wonderful, highly acclaimed documentary that we are freely trying to share as widely as possible.
So, please help out as much as you can, even if it is as little as an hour.
It is arguably the most important thing that each of us can do for future generations.
A sample message that you can adapt to various audiences is below.
Sample message that you can adapt and email:
I would like to offer you a complimentary DVD with our recently released documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD, if you have not received one yet. It has a strong, unique, universal message re global warming and other environmental threats, health issues, the treatment of animals and much more, and has the potential of moving our imperiled planet to a sustainable path. I think it would make an excellent program, in showing the relevance of eternal religious values to current environmental threats.
Please see the article below for more information about the movie.
The movie is receiving a very favorable response (please see the blurbs under the article below).
If you are interested in receiving a DVD, please email your mailing address to me. If you would like more than one free DVD, to share with others, please let me know.
The movie may also be seen on the internet at:
www.ASacredDuty.com . There is also much background material, including questions and answers about the movie at that web site.
Many thanks, and best wishes,
President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
NEW DOCUMENTARY APPLIES JEWISH VALUES TO ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH, HUMANE ISSUES
Richard H. Schwartz
Because the world is heading rapidly toward an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) has produced a documentary, A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD, to address these threats from a positive Jewish perspective. JVNA will send a free copy to anyone who will help arrange a screening or help promote the movie in some other way.
Almost daily there are reports of severe droughts, floods, storms or wildfires, of the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps and other indicators of global warming. It is frightening that, while these effects are due to an increase in temperature of less than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group composed of hundreds of the world's climate scientists, is projecting an increase of 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years. Even more ominous is that some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global warming may reach a tipping point and spiral out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes are soon made. Israel is especially vulnerable to global climate change, in terms of reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from a rising Mediterranean Sea.
A SACRED DUTY is a Jewish response to these realities. It reminds us that it is our sacred duty to become aware of current threats and our responsibility to apply Jewish teachings to how we obtain our food, use natural resources, and live among other creatures whom God created. It offers simple, practical measures for reducing our impact on the planet, including “an inconvenient truth” that even Al Gore has not yet acknowledged.
Produced by the highly acclaimed, multi-award-winning film maker, Lionel Friedberg, A SACRED DUTY reinforces the messages in Al Gore's AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and Leonardo di Caprio's, THE ELEVENTH HOUR about the dangers of global warming. However, it goes beyond these films, by showing how religious responses can make a major difference and why a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of efforts to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats. It also challenges people to consider the many moral issues related to our diets, including Torah teachings on how animals are treated on factory farms and the effects on human health and the environment.
Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, A SACRED DUTY speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie's universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as biblical teachings, Israel, the environment, health, nutrition, vegetarianism, hunger and resource usage. The movie may be said to be like Levy's Jewish Rye bread - you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it.
The documentary features interviews with leading Israeli and American environmental, health, vegetarian and animal rights activists as well as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular leaders.
Interviewees include: Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa; Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, Chief Scientist: Israel Environmental Ministry and many other rabbis and Jewish leaders and activists.
Biblical passages are read by the acclaimed Jewish star of Broadway and screen Theodore Bikel
A SACRED DUTY and the many activities being planned around it have the potential to help move our imperiled world toward a sustainable path. But only if the movie is widely viewed and discussed.
So, please order your FREE copy and please consider taking one or more of the following actions after viewing the movie: have viewings for family, neighbors and friends; try to schedule showings at a local school, a synagogue and/or other houses of worship, a community center or other communal site, etc.; share the DVD with local rabbis and other religious leaders, teachers, politicians and other local influential people.
You can request a free DVD to share by sending your name and mailing address to JVNA's secretary/treasurer John Diamond (email@example.com). If you feel that you can profitably use more than one DVD, just let John know, with a brief description of how you plan to use them. Additional information about the movie may be found at www.asacredduty.com.
JVNA plans to build a major campaign around the movie to get tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the world) to become a central focus in Jewish life today, with a shift toward plant-based diets as an essential part of the changes that can help move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path. If you would like to be involved in the campaign or have suggestions, please contact Richard Schwartz at President@JewishVeg.com.
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6. Blurbs for A SACRED DUTY
We at CLAL believe that if Judaism is going to be taken seriously by American Jews and for that matter by all Americans, Jewish wisdom needs to contribute to and to add value to the debates at the center of our culture and politics. This documentary - whether or not one agrees with every detail - is an important contribution to one of the critical public policy conversations facing this country and a serious example of taking Jewish wisdom public. Produced at a high quality, this documentary reminds us that it is our sacred duty to become aware of current threats and our responsibility to apply Jewish teachings to how we obtain our food, use natural resources, and live among other creatures whom God created. Not only does it offer simple, practical measures for reducing our impact on the planet, it shows how authentic religious responses melded with science can make a major difference in our efforts to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats. It also challenges people to consider the many moral issues related to our diets, including Torah teachings on how animals are treated on factory farms and the effects on human health and the environment.
Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, A Sacred Duty speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. We are honored that JVNA has made this gift possible.
Rabbi Irwin Kula
President CLAL (a Jewish think tank)
CLAL sent DVDs to 2,000 rabbis and other Jewish leaders who have connections to the group
A Sacred Duty should be mandated viewing for all people on planet Earth. Great job!
Howard F. Lyman, the Mad Cowboy
Former fourth generation cattle rancher who is now a leading vegetarian activist
“A Sacred Duty” is a tour de force. Anyone who watches with an open heart and an open mind will leave the theater deeply moved and called to action.
--Bruce Friedrich, Vice-President, PETA.
A Sacred Duty melds modern science with Jewish religious teachings to make a compelling case for vegetarianism that conscientious viewers will find hard to resist. A cheekier title might have been “What Would Moses Eat Today?” in the face of catastrophic global warming and environmental degradation, world hunger and needless violence to billions of helpless animals every year. I hope A Sacred Duty will help redefine kosher for the 21st century Jew, for vegetarianism - a diet infused with kindness and blessedly free of bloodshed - is our Biblical root (“behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed”) and our moral destiny (“and the wolf shall dwell with the lamb”).
Syd Baumel, writer and animal activist, publisher of eatkind.net
I can't find the words to tell you how deeply I was moved by A Sacred Duty. I've seen similar factory farming footage for decades, but in the context of this extraordinary film, it was particularly compelling….very moving. Poignantly written, beautifully filmed and perfectly executed, it was enlightening without being admonishing. A truly monumental film not only for those of the Jewish faith, but for the animals. Another, very subtle impression was the fact that you were able to bring together representatives from all corners of the Jewish faith. While just by nature of their categories, there are things that separate them, their words around this topic had great unison, sounding as though they came from one voice. From the first scene to the final word, this film is absolutely brilliant! Thank you, Lionel, Richard, and all who were involved, for the legacy of this contribution to our planet, its people and its animals.
Manager of Multifaith Outreach/Animals & Religion
Best Friends Animal Society
A Sacred Duty makes a crystal clear argument for taking action to end factory farming. How could any person of faith and conviction remain indifferent after seeing this film? Humane Society Animals & Religion was created out of the belief that religious people can do much to end the current state of industrial animal agriculture in this country. At a time when people are searching for ways to apply their spirituality to their daily lives, what better cause than ethical, mindful, compassionate food choices?
Christine Gutleben, Director, Animals & Religion, The
Humane Society of the United States
A SACRED DUTY is a wake-up call for Jews and all others who care about the fate of our planet. A deep love for Earth, for humanity, and for our animal cousins shines through it. This documentary shows how compassionate dietary choices can unite Jews and other people of faith in taking action to rescue and heal our precious, imperiled earth.
Gracia Fay Ellwood
Editor, THE PEACEABLE TABLE
A Quaker Online Journal
"I would love to see a film like this viewed by every religious/spiritual group in the world. Through this film, the golden rule takes on new meaning as we extend our definition of "Others" to include all life. What a powerful invitation to actually bring our lives into alignment with our values."
Rae Sikora, Anthropologist, Co-founder of the Center for Compassionate Living and the International Institute for Humane Education, and Founder/Director of Simply Enough (www.simplyenough.com)
A SACRED DUTY is beautiful and poetic, inspiring and optimistic, good in all possible senses. The image of the tear shedding cow was so moving, that I couldn't restrain myself and burst out crying! The quotations from Tanach [the Jewish scriptures] were very wisely selected and inserted in well-suited places. Congratulations for all the team who prepared the movie. Keep on assuring a good distribution of it!
Luiza CAROL - writer, Israeli delegate of TEVA (Tutmonda Esperantista Vegetarana Asocio) (World Association of Esperantist Vegetarians)
Even knowing the issues and arguments, being a long-term environmentalist and vegetarian, I was taken in by the beauty and power of this remarkable film. A Sacred Duty is a must see and a must do, so that we and our children may live. I have already shared the film with rabbis and others and am in the process of scheduling screenings at my synagogue, other synagogues, the Jewish Community Center, and my local vegetarian society.-
--Dan Brook, Ph.D.
(The Vegetarian Mitzvah)
I enjoyed the video so much that I am planning to teach two courses on Tikun Olam next semester: one for a 4 part adult ed series and another for a 12 part high school program. Keep up the great work.
Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg
My gut feeling is that because of the major impression this video will make on the world the battle to save the lives of billions of animals
has just turned in favor of the animals.
In my opinion this is a "A MAJOR MASTERPIECE" and officially marks the real beginning of the end of animal factory farms and slaughterhouses
throughout the world.
I cannot imagine any rational person in the world, no matter what his or her religious or spiritual beliefs may be, who will watch this video and not be extremely moved and strongly persuaded to stop eating animal flesh.
Now that I have watched the film "A Sacred Duty" for the second time my gut instincts tell me the battle to reach the goal of shutting down animal factory farms and slaughterhouses is now clearly and really within reach, within a much shorter period of time then anyone thought possible.
You only have to watch the film to understand and agree with my conclusion.
In my opinion, soon to be shared by millions of people, the film A Sacred Duty is the most brilliant, intelligent, thought provoking, and heart wrenching film ever produced for the benefit of humans, farm animals, the earth, and the earth's atmosphere.
In only "one hour" because of the quality, the content, and the magnificent presentation, the film "A Sacred Duty" will reach out and grasp you in your heart and soul.
The quality of the content and the presentation is off the charts. You will be left with a feeling of exhilaration because you will realize the solutions to solving many of the worlds most serious problems is now clearly within reach.
The one hour long documentary film -- A Sacred Duty -- (Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal The World) must be viewed by a large number of people as soon as possible.
This MAJOR MASTERPIECE will go a long way in reaching the goal of emancipating all farm animals from the jaws of animal factory farms and
slaughterhouses. (FOR REAL)
Freeing billions of Gods precious creatures from completely unnecessary torture and murder is "no longer a pipe dream."
Because A Sacred Duty is such a powerful and convincing presentation it has the potential of persuading a large number of people throughout the world to become vegetarians or vegans soon. At least 90% of the people that initially watch the DVD will probably be extremely happy to promote it any way they can. For this important reason the DVD needs to be provided to many government leaders in every country. Several copies of A Sacred Duty should be provided to every high school, college, and church in the world, as well as a large number of newspapers. The video should be viewed by every man, woman, and mature child in the world.
Arthur Poletti, Author
A Sacred Duty is exquisitely beautiful & heartbreakingly horrific, edifying from its perspective of assuming responsibility & certainly inspires commitment to tikkun olam - I congradulate you on a profoundly holy work, Lionel. Have heard lots about your splendid talent so was expecting the film to be quite incredible but - wow!
Santa Barbara Community College
Response from JVNA advisor Steve Schuster:
I received my copy of the “Sacred Duty” DVD yesterday. My wife and I, along with my two youngest children (Sam and Jacob, 15 and 12) screened the movie last night. My wife has been a vegetarian since the age of 8, and the boys have never knowingly eaten meat of any kind (I gave up red meat in 1992, fowl in 2001, and seafood in 2004). My 18 year old son is a lifelong vegetarian, and my 20 year old daughter vacillates (depending on the eating habits of her boyfriend of the moment…).
All four of us were deeply moved by the film. The impact of the material is unquestionably powerful from any perspective. We agreed in our discussion afterwards that we did not want anything to do with food whose source we could not verify as cruelty free. This morning, we discarded all the eggs and cheese in our refrigerator and replaced everything with locally farmed products whose sources we could actually visit and see with our own eyes.
I surely hope the publicity efforts will result in a large viewing audience. My entire family thanks you for your personal efforts to shift the world away from meat-based diets.
Steve Schuster, CEO
Rainier Communications - "Technology's Most Credible Voice"
Response from JVNA advisor and Israeli vegetarian activist Mark Feffer:
My review: The film gives a great Torah-spiritual rational for going vegetarian. A human and humane, Divine and appetizing vegetarian smorgasbord. For people of all spiritual and not so spiritual persuasions. A kiddush Hashem [sanctification of G-d's Name.].
Greetings from Bombay.
I immediately saw it and am deciding to show it to an appropriate audience during my talks on vegetarianism. Off and on I am invited to give talks and will surely promote it.
Two days ago I have mailed a letter to your USA address expressing my sincere thanks.
I must congratulate the entire team for all their efforts in producing this DVD. On our side we will do our best to promote it.
Many thanks once again for your efforts and for sending the DVD.
With kind regards,
Yours for a vegetarian world,
Hiren N. Kara
I just received my copy of Sacred Duty. This movie is an outstanding achievement and is an historic achievement for the Jewish community. I will share my review of the particulars. I believe one of the strengths of the movie are the variety of the interviews. Another is the Torah readings in both English and Hebrew. What I really like is the case we make that Kosher is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for food production and consumption because there are also mandates to be kind to animals, to care for our health, and not to waste environmental resources.
I hope that we will follow up this landmark film with efforts to help those motivated by Sacred Duty to take steps in the direction of vegetarianism once people are motivated with a Sacred Duty website. Your books, Judaism and Vegetarianism and Judaism and Global survival should be promoted for those who want to understand the case and the imperative more fully. Roberta Kalechofsky's books should also be promoted, especially her cookbooks which show how easy and delicious following a vegetarian diet can be.
Please accept my continued appreciation for the significant difference you and so many others are making.
Last night it was quiet enough for a group of us to sit and watch the video. We thought it was worth watching twice through! I am quite impressed by the beauty of the images and the breadth of representation from a range of Jewish perspectives.
Susan Beckerman, who is very active in the Reconstructionist movement and in West End Synagogue
I watched "A Sacred Duty" yesterday. "Watched" is too passive a word to describe the experience I had engaging with this documentary, which galvanized me to become a more outspoken and more effective environmental and animal rights activist - and, of equal importance, brought me closer to Judaism. The interviews in the film with Jewish leaders were a balm to my soul and gave me greater hope than I have felt in a very long time not only about the future of creation, but about the future of Judaism. I shall share the copies I received of the DVD as widely as I possibly can, and with the greatest of passion.
Thank you so much for producing this film. G-d bless you.
-Jampa Napthali Williams (author)
A Sacred Duty is very moving, intelligent and inspiring.
I wish every cultural group, religious and secular, could persuade its community to live consciously and responsibly on this planet. A Sacred Duty attempts to do just that for the Jewish community - and the result is a deeply inspiring film with universal appeal.
If ever we humans needed compassion and justice as our guides, this is the time. 'Business as usual' is unsustainable. Denial makes us participants in horrific suffering and death. In an elegantly reasoned way, A Sacred Duty shows how it is within our power as individuals to turn things around and thereby save ourselves, our fellow animals, and our beautiful planet.
I wish the film great success !
producer/director (The Animals Film)
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7. Letter for Challenging Rabbis
Suggestions on the draft letter (below) to rabbis very welcome. Thanks.
We are writing to you because, [consistent with recent RCA resolutions on the environment,] you have the potential to make a tremendous difference in efforts to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path, to improve the health of the Jewish people and to show the relevance of Judaism's eternal teachings to today's crises.
There are three reasons why we think it is essential that you become involved in response to this message:
1) The world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, and a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of the necessary response to avoid disaster.
2) There is an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other chronic, degenerative diseases afflicting Jews and others, and a shift toward vegetarian diets would sharply reduce these diseases.
3) The production and consumption of meat and other animal products sharply contradict basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and seek and pursue peace.
[To keep the main message relatively short, material supporting these three major points has been put as a supplement immediately after this letter.]
Because of the three major points above, points that are generally not being considered in the Jewish community, we are asking you to help get these issues onto the Jewish agenda. This would be a tremendous kiddush HaShem, by reducing the epidemic of disease in the Jewish community (and other communities), alleviating many of the critical environmental threats to the sustainability of the planet, and showing that basic Jewish values can play a role in the solution of current societal problems. To paraphrase Megilat Esther, perhaps you reached your present position for just such a purpose.
As b'nei nevi'im, with a mandate to be "a light onto the nations" and G-d's witnesses, can we remain silent when so many basic Jewish values are being violated, while so many Jews and others suffer needlessly from diseases that can be prevented and while present policies are leading the world to an unsustainable future?
Please join our respectful campaign to make Jews more aware of the many benefits of plant-based diets and the many ways that animal-based agriculture and diets deviate from basic Jewish values. It is becoming increasingly clear that vegetarianism is not only an important personal choice, but that it is a societal imperative as
well as a spiritual imperative for Jews.
Further information about these issues can be found at JewishVeg.com. We will provide a complimentary copy of our new documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD if you contact us (president@JewishVeg.com) and indicate that you consider using it as part of an effort to educate others about the issues. The entire movie can be seen and further information about it can be found at ASacredDuty.com.
Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz
President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
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8. Valuable Supplementary Material for Promoting Vegetarianism
a. World imperiled by global warming and other environmental threats and animal-based agriculture is a major factor
Global warming goes way beyond “an inconvenient truth.” We are overheating our planet to alarming levels with potentially catastrophic consequences. 2006 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. and the 12 hottest years on record have occurred since 1994. Think of an overheated car, an overcooked dinner, or someone sick with a fever. Now imagine that on a planetary scale.
Global warming is perhaps the biggest social, political economic, and environmental problem facing our planet and its inhabitants. People are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about global warming, due to frequent reports of 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, acidification of the oceans, changes in wind direction, endangered species, spreading diseases, shrinking lakes, submerged islands, and environmental refugees. We may be standing at a precipice.
There is no doubt that humanity is threatened as perhaps never before and major changes have to occur to put our imperiled planet on a sustainable path - and soon. Even though 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 or exacerbated by human activity. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report in February 2007, which was researched and written by about 2,500 climate scientists over six years and vetted by over 130 governments. The Report carefully delineates clear trends and catastrophic consequences associated with climate change, warning of the possibility of severe and irreversible change, unless we make concerted efforts to counter global warming. The IPCC makes it plain that the current and projected climate change is not simply “natural variation”, but “very likely” (meaning at least 90%) the result of human activity. Even Time Magazine (and the Brookings Institution among many others) has declared the “case closed” on the problem of global warming, with only the solutions to still debate.
Several leading experts, including James Hansen of NASA and physicist Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous living scientist, as well as Al Gore and others, warn that global climate change may reach a 'tipping point' and spiral out of control, with disastrous consequences, if current conditions continue. 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. Other economic studies have projected even worse scenarios. It therefore should not be surprising that the Pentagon states that global warming is a larger threat than even terrorism.
While the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, 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), according to a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report. Making the situation even worse, that same report indicates that 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
Israel is especially threatened by global warming. A 2007 report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense indicated that global warming may cause an average temperature increase of 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a decrease in rainfall of up to 30 percent, many severe storms and a rising Mediterranean Sea that would cause major flooding and damage ports, power plants and other infrastructure.
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.
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 free 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 we 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.
b. Epidemic of diseases
Animal-centered diets are contributing to an epidemic of heart disease, several types of cancer and other diseases in the Jewish and other communities;
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN DIET AND HEALTH.
Excerpt from my book “Judaism and Vegetarianism”
Comprehensive coverage of health issues and their relation to diet may be found in The Power of Your Plate by Neal D. Barnard, M. D., McDougall`s Medicine: A Challenging Second Opinion by John McDougall, M. D., and MegaHealth by Marc Sorensen, Ed. D. Graphs and charts connecting nutrition to health and illness can be found in the The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism by William Harris, M. D. These books provide many primary sources from established medical journals. The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM; www.pcrm.org) has documented information about the relations between diet and disease. The tremendously important message that is documented in these sources is that vegetarian diets can help prevent, and in some cases reverse, a wide variety of degenerative diseases and medical problems that have been strongly linked to the consumption of animal products, including: arthritis; asthma; breast cancer; colon cancer; constipation; diabetes; diverticulosis; gallstones; heart disease; hemorrhoids; hypertension; hypoglycemia; impotence; kidney disease; obesity; osteoporosis; peptic ulcers; prostate cancer; salmonellosis; and strokes.
Readers are urged to consult the sources mentioned above and other sources in the annotated Bibliography for more information on health issues. Additional information on nutrition and health appears later in some of the questions and answers in Chapter 8. w
Because of the abundance of documented evidence in these books and other sources, and because of space limitations, this book does not focus on dietary connections to each disease. Rather it focuses on issues not generally discussed, including:
1) The position on nutrition and health of the American Dietetic Association;
2) The Cornell/China/Oxford Study, perhaps the largest epidemiological study in history;
3) Studies led by Dean Ornish, M.D. that show that heart disease may be reversed without surgery or medical drugs;
4) A book by a veteran breast cancer surgeon that considers many scientific studies to show that t 4he risk of contracting breast cancer (and, by implication, other diseases) can be sharply reduced;
5) The negative health effects of the overuse of antibiotics in medicine and in animal feed.
Position of The American Dietetic Association:
The following information from the "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets" (Journal of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), November, 1997, Volume 97, Number 11) indicates that a well planned vegetarian diet is not only nutritionally adequate, but that it can reduce the risk of many diseases. A summary of their position follows:
Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hype rtension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. Vegetarian diets, like all diets, need to be planned appropriately to be nutritionally adequate.
Their position statement is:
It is the position of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
Among the many other positive statements the ADA makes about connections between plant-based diets and health are the following (they cite appropriate peer-reviewed scientific articles in each case):
1) Studies indicate that vegetarians often have lower morbidity and mortality rates from several chronic degenerative diseases than do non-vegetarians. Although non-dietary factors, including physical activity and abstinence from smoking and alcohol, may play a role, diet is clearly a contributing factor.
2) Vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits because of their lower saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein content and often higher concentration of folate (which reduces serum homocysteine levels), antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, and phytochemicals.
3) Not only is mortality from coronary artery disease lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, but vegetarian diets have also been successful as part of comprehensive health programs to reverse severe coronary artery disease.
4) Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of hypertension than non- vegetarians.
5) Type 2 diabetes mellitus is much less likely to be a cause of death in vegetarians than non-vegetarians.
6) Incidence of lung and colorectal cancer is lower in vegetarians than in non- vegetarians. Reduced colorectal cancer risk is associated with increased consumption of fiber, vegetables, and fruit.
7) Å Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids if a variety of plant foods are consumed and energy needs are met.
In view of all of the material in this chapter and many well-documented books, it would seem that the numerous halachic rules prohibiting dangerous activities should be extended to include a mandate reducing the ingestion of meat to a minimal level, and there should be a recommendation that those who continue to eat small amoun Tts of kosher meat, possibly as an interim step, should only use organically raised meat from animals not raised under cruel "factory farm" conditions. Such an extension by leading rabbinic authorities of our time, with proper publicity, would save many lives and improve the health and life expectancy of the Jewish people and many others.
c. Claim that the production and consumption of animal products violate six basic Jewish teachings
Material from the chapter on vegetarianism in my book “Judaism and Global Survival”:
This chapter addresses a widely accepted aspect of modern life that contradicts many Jewish teachings and harms people, communities, and the planet -- the mass production and widespread consumption of meat. It will illustrate how high meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today 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, 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, 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.
Plant-based diets are most consistent with basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.
Because of all of the above and much more, including that billions of animals are severely mistreated on factory farms, we respectfully urge you to help get vegetarianism and related issues onto the Jewish agenda. This would help move our imperiled world to a sustainable path and help revitalize Judaism by showing the relevance of Judaism's eternal teachings to today's crises.
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.
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