May 21, 2009

5/10/2009 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Happy Mothers Day

2. Happy Lag B'omer

3. Shavuot and Vegetarianism

4. New Review of “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World” Published

5. Revised Article “Thou Shalt Not Eat Meat”

6. Can We Build on Article “Thou Shalt Not Smoke”?

7. Background Information For Veggie Pride Parade (Sunday, May 17 in Lower Manhattan)/Please Join Me There

8. Negative Effects of Animal Grazing

9. Study Says Warming Poses Peril to Asia

10. Is Climate Change Judaism's Newest Challenge?

11. Jewish Groups Proposing Seven Year Plan on Climate Change and Sustainability

12. Blog Considers Causes of Swine Flu Outbreak

13. “Their Lives, Our Voices” Animal Advocacy Conference Scheduled

14. Steps Taken to “Green” Jerusalem

15. Complimentary DVD on Infectious Disease Threats Offered by Expert Michael Gregor, MD

16. Jewish International Educational Event Kallah09 Scheduled/“A Sacred Duty” to be Shown

17. EU Legalizes Kosher Slaughter, Pro-Animal Groups Want Ban

18. Canfei Nesharim Offers Synagogues Free Environmental Resources and Training

19. Forward Forum of Rabbis Considers Lessons of the Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

20. My Compilation of Many Rabbinic Quotes on Vegetarianism

21. Eco-Kosher Jews have Taste For Vegetarian Food

22. Mexicans Blame Industrial Pig Farms For Many Problems

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. Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to ALL the mothers on this list.

Just by chance, yesterday's Torah reading indicates that an animal may not be slain in the sight of the animal's mother (Leviticus 12:28), since the pain of the mother in such a case is very great. The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides (the Rambam) comments: “There is no difference in this case between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings., since the love and tenderness of the mother for her young ones is not produced by reasoning but by feeling, and this quality exists not only in humans but in most living beings.” However, on modern factory farms, dairy cows are artificially impregnated annually so that they will be able to continually give milk, and the calves are taken away shortly after birth, although this causes great anguish to the mothers and the calves.

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2. Happy Lag B'omer

Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, starts on Monday evening. It commemorates the ending of a plague that killed many of Rabbi Akiva's students. For an article on vegetarian connections to Lag B'Omer by Dr. Dan Brook and me, please visit the holiday section at

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3. Shavuot and Vegetarianism

Since Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, we should stress the many Torah teachings that point to vegetarianism. My article “Shavuot and Vegetarianism” can be found in the festival section at

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4. New Review of “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World” Published

Please feel free to forward this review. It was posted by EVANA (the European Vegetarian and Animal News Alliance).

A Sacred Duty - A Documentary Review

Review in BellaOnline “The Voice of Women”

Lisa Pinkus
BellaOnline's Judaism editor:

Conversations around the topics of environmental concerns, health and sustainability, and the ecological future of our world often lead me to a deeper contemplation of our purpose here on Earth.

It is time - no matter who you are or what you believe in - to begin to consider the bigger picture. In a world focused on immediate gratification, accumulation and thinking of only the present moment, we are neglecting the far greater responsibility to the future survival of our world and all those in it. It is time we become accountable for the actions we take and how our actions make their impact on the world around us.

Lately, I've trained my children to use only one paper towel when drying their hands in public restrooms; we wrap birthday presents in recycled bags from the grocery store; and we are trying to purchase more locally grown foods. Little steps can make a huge difference - the primary one being the effect they have on our children's view of the world and how they care for it.

The more you learn, the more frightening it can become. However, increasing our knowledge is critical from this point forward. The field of ecological sustainability is not something new. The Torah is rampant with mandates on how to care for the Earth, our bodies and the animals in it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to view a documentary called A Sacred Duty, produced by multi-award-winning producer/director, writer and cinematographer Lionel Friedberg and edited by professional editor Diana Friedberg. The documentary is an hour long and can be viewed on the website of The Jewish Vegetarians of North America. Whether you are an environmentalist, a vegetarian, or neither - this documentary is a worthwhile view that will educate, inform and raise questions in your mind.

Ethics, morality and Torah Law. These are three of the explanations given for the imperative to take better care of our world and ourselves as demonstrated by A Sacred Duty.

What more can I be doing? What are our Torah responsibilities in regard to caring for the Earth? Is it truly G-d's plan that we should all be vegetarians? How does the way I carry out my life impact the rest of the world? Am I really that important in the grand scheme of things?

A Sacred Duty begins in Israel, a tiny piece of land, which is - amazingly - a reflection of ecosystems found throughout the world. Pairing scientific evidence with Judaism's ancient law, this documentary reveals how we are failing our G-d given responsibility to protect the Earth and all that is in it.

The concrete facts tell us that 18% of greenhouse gases come from livestock agriculture. Less land is needed to feed millions on a soy/vegetarian- based diet than is used to raise the cattle that feed far fewer people. With a world population where 15% of people are undernourished, one begins to wonder how we ended up here in the first place.

Was it because of Noah and Jews who said they needed more than fruits and vegetables to sustain them? How did the Jewish people - especially traditionally observant Jewish people - arrive at a place where we are disregarding G-d's requests to care for the land, the people and the animals? Is this not the basis for ecological sustainability and “green” living that has become so popular in our culture today?

A Sacred Duty makes the insinuation that we are disregarding essential Jewish tenets to satisfy our own selfish desires. And, from what I gathered while watching this movie, there are several reasons to at least explore the concept of vegetarianism, the notion of ecological sustainability and the Torah Laws connected to caring for ourselves, for animals, and for the world.

The first being that these principles are mandates from G-d. They are just as important as any other mitzvahs we are asked to observe. The documentary covers several of them such as Bal Taschit, a prohibition against waste; Tzaar Ba'alei Hayyim, a prohibition against causing animals unnecessary pain; and, of course, implied throughout, is tikkun olam, protecting and repairing our world.

Further, the future of our world is at stake if we do not contemplate the consequences of our current way of life - each and every one of us. Whether you are religiously observant or not, future generations cannot exist if we destroy and use up all that we have.

Let the humanitarian in everyone arise. If we are able to take simple steps to ensure that most people in this world receive the proper nutrition and to significantly reduce greenhouse gases and other “bad effects” that are destroying our planet, why wouldn't we do it?

A Sacred Duty is a great - and frightening - place to start. This film is filled with hard facts and religious principles to convince the viewer of his or her responsible stewardship required as a caretaker in this world. From Israel to a global view of the world, you will be provoked, concerned and motivated to make some change - even if it is a small one.

The end of the documentary is a bit horrific with repulsive images that may just convince some of you to contemplate vegetarianism. While it is difficult to watch the inhumane treatment of some of these animals, I understand the need to show it. What we don't ask, we don't know. If we don't know - how are we able to make informed decisions?

Complimentary DVDs can be requested at the websites below.

Related Links:
Jewish Vegetarians of America []
A Sacred Duty []

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5. Revised Article “Thou Shalt Not Eat Meat”

Please feel free to share this article with others. It was written to try to start dialogs on the issues, but, as usual, the issues are generally being ignored by the Jewish community (and others). Thanks.

Thou Shalt Not Eat Meat
Richard H. Schwartz

Thou shalt not eat meat? Have I gone completely crazy? Am I not aware that the Torah gives people permission to eat meat and goes into detail in discussing which animals are permitted to be eaten and which are not? And that the Talmud has much material on the laws of kashrut related to the preparation and consumption of meat? And that various types of flesh products have been strongly associated with Sabbath and festival celebrations?

Yes, but I still think that it is necessary, actually essential, to argue this case because our modern meat-centered dietary culture is doing great harm to Jews, Israel and, indeed, the entire world and is inconsistent with several important Jewish values.

The world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, to which animal-based agriculture is a major contributor. Pikuach nefesh (the mandate to do whatever is necessary to save a human life) is arguably Judaism's most important mitzvah, because it overrides all other mitzvot, except those forbidding murder, idol worship and sexual immorality, which are not applicable to the issues under consideration. It is especially important today that we pay attention to this mandate because we are dealing with the possibility of saving not just one life, but all of humanity.

Please consider:

* There are almost daily reports of the effects of global climate change, including severe heat waves, storms, droughts, floods and wildfires, and the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps.

* While these effects are due to an increase of less than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group composed of the world's leading climate scientists, projects an increase of from 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years, which would result in an unparalleled disaster for humanity..

*Some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global climate change may spin out of control within a few years with extreme consequences, unless major changes are soon made.

* Israel is especially threatened by global warming. It is now experiencing the worst drought in its history, and the reduced rainfall the last few years has so diminished the level of the Sea of Galilee that the pumping of water from it had to be stopped. In 2007 a report by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense projected that if current trends continue, Israel will experience major heat waves, storms and floods, a decrease in average rainfall of 20 to 30 percent and an inundation of the coastal plain where most Israelis live by a rising Mediterranean Sea.

* According to a 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than all the cars, ships, planes and other means of transportation combined (18% in CO2 equivalents vs. 13.5%, and some reports indicate that the gap is even greater), and this difference will sharply increase because the number of farmed animals is projected to double in 50 years, if present trends continue. Hence, without a major societal shift to plant-based diets, it will be impossible to obtain the greenhouse gas emissions that climate experts think are essential to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

* Animal-centered agriculture also causes other serious environmental problems, including soil erosion and depletion, the rapid extinction of species, air and water pollution, and the destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs and other valuable habitats. An animal-based diet requires up to 14 times as much water as a vegan diet.

The many negative effects of animal-based diets was well summed up by the editors of World watch magazine in their July/August 2004 issue: "The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future. Deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease."

We have recently seen an example of that “spread of disease” as the close confinement of many farmed animals in very unsanitary conditions has resulted in a pandemic of swine flu, the latest example of diseases resulting from the massive factory farming of animals.

A second major reason that Jews should avoid eating meat is that high meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today conflict with at least six basic Jewish teachings:

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.

We could say "dayenu" after each of the arguments above, because each 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.

This view is reinforced by some statements by Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland. He believes that even if eating meat is considered a mitzvah, which he doesn't, it would be a mitzvah haba'ah b'aveirah (a mitzvah based on transgressions). He asserts that “the current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means,” and that “as it is halachically prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious vegetarian alternatives are readily available, meat consumption has become halachically unjustifiable.”

Finally, the view that Jews should not eat meat is reinforced by an extension of an article, “Thou Shalt Not Smoke,” by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, an Orthodox psychiatrist, scholar and author. His strong arguments based on health reasons are also applicable to eating meat and, as indicated above, there are many additional reasons for not eating meat.

Rabbi Twerski concludes, “Cigarette smoking causes disease and death. 'Those who have the capacity to eliminate a wrong and do not do so bear the responsibility for its consequences.' [His emphasis.] These are harsh words, but they are not mine. They are the words of the Talmud, Tractate Shabbos 54b.” Since the eating of meat not only “causes disease and death,” but also greatly harms billions of animals, contributes significantly to global warming and many other environmental threats, uses water, energy, land and other resources very inefficiently and contributes to widespread hunger, his conclusion is even more applicable to the consumption of meat.

For many years I have argued that Jews have a choice in their diets, but that choice should consider the negative effects of animal-based diets on Jewish teachings, such as those mentioned above. Unfortunately, this has had less impact than I would like, as the world moves increasingly toward a catastrophe beyond anything since the great flood in the time of Noah. Hence, while it may initially seem very foreign to many Jews, I think it is consistent with Judaism and essential to argue that “Thou shalt not eat meat.” Taking this assertion seriously and acting upon it is essential to moving our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

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6. Can We Build on Article “Thou Shalt Not Smoke”?Thou Shalt Not Smoke
By Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D.
Jewish Action (magazine of the Orthodox Union)

[This article was published many years ago. The health arguments against smoking are also very relevant to the eating of meat, and there are many additional reasons for vegetarianism. Rabbi Twerski is a very highly respected philosopher and prolific author. Including his article in this newsletter in no way implies his endorsement of vegetarianism.]


In Deuteronomy 4:16, we read, “Be extremely protective of your lives,” and in 4:9, there is a similar expression, “Guard your life.” Consequently, the Rambam [Maimonides] devotes the entire Chapter Eleven of the laws pertaining to murder and the protection of life to the fact that a person may not subject himself to danger, nor do anything that is harmful to his health. This is binding Torah law, and there is no dispensation from it.

I cannot understand, I really cannot, how people who claim to be observant of Torah, who will not drink milk that has not been supervised, who will not eat anything but the strictest glatt, and who do not carry on Shabbos where there is an authentic eruv because they are meticulous about a minority opinion - can allow themselves to smoke cigarettes when it has been established beyond a shadow of doubt that cigarettes are poisonous and have many destructive effects on the body.

Many cigarette manufacturers no longer dispute this, but they say that a person has a right to his own body, and that the companies have complied with the law by providing the warning of harm; therefore, if a person wants to have the pleasure of smoking, he is at liberty to do to his body whatever he wishes.

This is not true for the Torah-observant Jew. Halachah states clearly and emphatically that your body is not your own to do with as you please, It is absolutely forbidden to inflict any injury on your body.

I cannot understand how religious leaders stand by and say nothing. We can no longer hide behind statements such as, “One does not make a rabbinic decree by which the majority of people cannot abide.” This is not a rabbinic decree. This is authentic Torah law. With the overwhelming evidence on the danger of smoking now available, we can no longer invoke such statements as “God protects the fools.”

Aside from the devastation that smoking causes to the smoker's body, it has also been proven that smoking in someone else's presence injures that other person. That other person does not have the prerogative of saying, “it is alright for you to harm me.” The Torah does not give a person the right to waive his health and life. The one who inflicts the harm and the one who allows it to be inflicted are both in the wrong.

Hundreds of thousands of people who do not have the Torah requirement have quit smoking. There is no way that a Torah Jew can say, “It's too bad. I can't do it.” What would we say if a person wee to claim, “I can't close my store on Shabbos. It's too hard …”? We would say, “That is not an option.” The same must be said in regard to smoking.

It is nothing less than horrifying to see young students in a yeshiva poisoning themselves with cigarettes. They are at an age when it is much easier to quit this habit than after it has been ingrained for 30 or more years, and it is unconscionable that they are permitted to smoke. Rabbis and teachers who smoke are setting a terrible example.

It is incumbent on all religious leaders, rabbis and roshei yeshiva to put a stop to this flagrant violation of Torah. It is easier to do things as a group, and quitting smoking en masse will facilitate is for everyone.

I call upon responsible Jewish leaders to get together and state definitively and unequivocally, ”Smoking must stop. As of this day, no one in our yeshiva is permitted to smoke, on or off premises.” With an unyielding, unanimous approach, the scourge of death and devastation can be eradicated with one blow. Rabbis must take a similar stand with their congregations. We must have the courage to do what we know is right.

Cigarette smoking causes disease and death. “Those who have the capacity to eliminate a wrong and do not do so bear the responsibility for its consequences.” These are harsh words, but they are not mine. They are the words of the Talmud, Tractate Shabbos 54b.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, founder and Medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center, Aliquippa, PA, is one of the country's leading experts on alcohol and drug rehabilitation. He has written and published many books.

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7. Background Information For Veggie Pride Parade (Sunday, May 17 in Lower Manhattan)/Please Join Me There

As I have indicated in previous JVNA newsletters, I am scheduled to speak at this event and I plan to take part in the march and be at a JVNA table during the talks and hand out many DVDs at the event. I would love to meet any of you who will in the area on May 17. Locations and times can be found in the URLs below. Volunteers to help will also be very welcome. Thanks.

Forwarded message from event coordinator and VNA advisor Pamela Rice, who deserves much credit for her dedicated efforts in organizing this second annual event:

Dear Richard:

Following are the two Web pages that give people all the pertinent information:

Press release:

Program guide

Click on box with smiley face to download PDF of the program guide.


Best regards,
Pamela Rice

ps: And for your table, please read the following carefully

pps: Thank you so much for your support. I truly appreciate it!

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8. Negative Effects of Animal Grazing

Forwarded message from Gilbert Schwartz, Director of Volunteer Programs, Compassionate Action for Animals: he-answer/

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9. Study Says Warming Poses Peril to Asia

Published: April 26, 2009

With diminished rice harvests, seawater seeping into aquifers and islands vanishing into rising oceans, Southeast Asia will be among the regions worst affected by global warming, according to a report scheduled for release on Monday by the Asian Development Bank.

The rise in sea levels may force the sprawling archipelago of Indonesia to redraw its sea boundaries, the report said.

All these changes will occur progressively over the next century, the bank estimated, giving countries time to improve their flood control systems, upgrade their irrigation networks and take measures to prevent forest fires, which the report predicts will become more common.

“Our modeling shows that sea levels will rise up to 70 centimeters,” or about 28 inches, said Juzhong Zhuang, an economist at the bank and one of the authors of the report. “That will force the relocation of many millions of people.”

Brackish water seeping into the water table in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is already a growing problem, the report says.

Some of the 92 outermost small islands that serve as a baseline for the claims of coastal waters by Indonesia could disappear, according to the report.


In cities like Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta, which are already stiflingly hot for several months of the year, average temperatures in 2100 could be nine degrees hotter, the report says, using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“If that's the case, the cities will be like an oven,” Mr. Zhuang said.

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10. Is Climate Change Judaism's Newest Challenge?

The Jewish people's new challenge - climate change


Jerusalem Post April 10, 2009

Can Judaism provide a solution to global climate change? Jews have tackled many challenges over the past millennia, but none quite as titanic as this.

This week, 55 select experts in a variety of fields kicked off their first session in Jerusalem, with the aim of drawing up what has been called a "Seven Year Plan for the Jewish People on Climate Change and Sustainability."

The initiative is being spearheaded by the New York-based Jewish environmental organization, Hazon ("vision"), and the Israel-based Jewish Climate Initiative (JCI).

The goal is to have a plan with accompanying educational materials and strategy in place by September 2015, when the next shmita cycle starts and, according to Jewish law, all agricultural activity is prohibited.

"If we don't move the world even a little bit within seven years, then it probably won't be moved. Think of the Titanic trying to avoid the iceberg. We need to start now," JCI head Dr. Michael Kagan told The Jerusalem Post.

"What do we as a people and an ancient religion have to contribute to the worldecological challenge? We're a small people yet we've had tremendous influence throughout history."

The first meeting was held on Sunday, ahead of Wednesday's Birkat Hahama, the Blessing of the Sun said every 28 years. It was the first of three meetings to brainstorm on the issue, and was attended by top scientists, bus iness people, environmentalists, policy makers, rabbis and educators.

The two next meetings will be held in New York and in London. In between, special working groups will tackle each section of the document separately.

A final draft is to be presented at Windsor Castle in November at a meeting of the United Nations-affiliated Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), along with plans from 11 other world faiths.

That meeting could certainly have an impact on the much-heralded conference of world leaders scheduled for Copenhagen in December to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol for reducing emissions.

ARC, a British NGO with ties to the royal family, had been tasked by the UN to organize the unique project involving 12 major religions.

Representatives of each religion have been set the task of drafting a seven-year plan on climate change and sustainability.

ARC believes that the world's religions have something unique to add to the discussion and can motivate billions of people to face one of the most serious crises the world has ever known.

Hazon's director, Nigel Savage, and JCI's Rabbi Julian Sinclair were assigned by the ARC to produce a draft document and then pull together the separate brainstorming groups to turn the draft into a strategic blueprint.

Hazon, the biggest Jewish environmental organization in the United States laid much of the groundwork for the project over the past decade, Savage said.

The initiative is just taking its first steps, participants said after Sunday's meeting. There is still a lot that needs to be figured out, they acknowledged.

Judaism has two unique aspects that make it different from other religions. Firstly, it is no central authority like the Catholic Church. Secondly, the people and the religion have a state - Israel.

"The conference on Sunday revealed how hard it is to figure out how to get it to work more effectively," Savage said Tuesday, "But it clarified that the goals and vision have to differ vis-à-vis Israel and the Diaspora.

"Israel and the Jewish people are only a small part of the whole. We can't fix the world, but we have to do our part," he continued.

"That said, Israel and the Diaspora are two different things. Israel is a sovereign state with an environmental movement. We need to further strengthen it and provide support for it from amongst US and UK Jews," Savage said.

"In the Diaspora, we need to focus on a three-by-three grid. Education, action, and advocacy along one axis, and individual, family/institution, and the wider community along the other. We need to move forward on all nine boxes, but encourage people to move forward in one or two," he said.

Theory aside, Sunday's meeting in Jerusalem focused on specific elements in Judaism that might be useful to the climate change debate, Kagan said.

"Shabbat is all about conservation and awareness. We started to think about how we could translate Shabbat principles into everyday life," Kagan said, arguing that but there were certainly lessons to be learned.

Kagan added: "They say religion and belief are supposed to be motivators - I'm not sure that's true. Does anyone listen to [and obey] religious proclamations? Perhaps we are more open to the idea that God gave Earth to the people to take care of it."

In addition to running JCI, Kagan is the author of the Holistic Haggadah and has a cleantech startup called Algaenesis, which focuses on using algae for health products and biofuel purposes.

Jeremy Benstein, deputy director of Heschel Center - an NGO working in Israel towards the molding of strong leadership and the promotion of environmental education - pointed to a few areas where Judaism specifically had something to offer.

"We've managed to convince most of the world to take a respite from production on the Sabbath, but we've yet to really convince people to take a break from consumption as well," said Benstein, who has written extensively on the connection between Judaism and sustainability.

A draft document prepared for Sunday's meeting quoted the exposition on the issue by Rabbi Steven Greenberg, who teaches at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) in New York.

"We Jews have done a pretty good job in delivering nine and a half out of the Ten Commandments to the world," Greenberg was quoted as saying.

"The half that we have delivered is the side of Shabbat that is about employment; the universal right to have one day off work each week. The half that we haven't is the part of Shabbat that is about refraining from shopping, driving, flying - the part that deals with our relationship to the created world. We need to deliver that half of the Shabbat commandment to the world now."

Benstein offered the notion that a sliding scale, such as Maimonides' eight levels of charity, could be especially appropriate to encourage individual action on climate change.

"There would be an entry level, but there would always be more to strive for," he offered.

"Judaism is a legalistic religion. That's what you need when dealing with climate change. We know a lot about following the commandments. In this case, the commandments would be changing your light bulbs [to compact fluorescents], separating your garbage, etc," said Benstein, the author of The Way into Judaism and the Environment.

"How do you take an as yet unwritten compelling document and get it to the leaders of the Jewish people?" Benstein asked. "While one could probably name 40 to 50 really influential Jews, most of them are not active in environmental issues. We need to figure out how to get this document to them to pass it on."

Arava Power Company President Yosef Abramowitz offered a slight modification to the draft document's energy-independence goals.

"It's all well and good to say that Israel should be energy independent by 2050. However, we need interim goals," Abramowitz said.

"The next Birkat Hahama is in 28 years, which also happens to be the Jubilee year. So let's aim for 50 percent energy independence based on renewables by then."

"This is really a chance for us to determine whether Judaism still has anything relevant to offer the world or whether our role in history is done," Abramowitz declared.

Savage also picked up on the Birkat Hahama theme.

"The next one is April 8, 2037. The question is: What will the world look like then? And what role will we have played in making it a better place?" he asked.

Other featured speakers included Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, BrightSource Energy-Luz2 Energy founder Arnold Goldman, the head of Tel Aviv University's Porter School for Environmental Studies, Prof. Pinhas Alpert; the Heschel Center for Environmental Leadership and Learning's director Dr. Eilon Schwartz and Beit Av founder Rabbi Dov Berkovitz.

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11. Jewish Groups Proposing Seven Year Plan on Climate Change and Sustainability

Climate of Change

A Seven Year Plan for the Jewish People on Climate Change and Sustainability

Posted: 08 Apr 2009 01:50 AM PDT

This past Sunday, 53 of Israel's top scientists, business people, environmentalists, policy makers, Rabbis and educators met in Jerusalem, to develop a “Seven Year Plan for the Jewish People on Climate Change and Sustainability.” The plan, commissioned by the United Nations-affiliated Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), will be presented at Windsor Castle this coming November, along with like-plans from 11 other world faiths. The meeting was held this week, to honor the Birkat Hahama, the once-in-twenty-eight years Blessing of the Sun, which we said this (Wednesday) morning.

Jewish Climate Initiative's Rabbi Julian Sinclair and Hazon's Nigel Savage put together the first draft of “the plan,” and Sunday's meeting presented the first opportunity for feedback, and the furthering of ideas. Among the participants were Green Movement-Meimad's Alon Tal, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Naomi Tsur, founder of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, Dr. Eilon Schwartz and Professor Pinhas Alpert, head of Tel Aviv University's Porter School of Environmental Studies.

It was a fantastic day- incredible to be in a room full of so many talented people, all who've accomplished so much in their respective fields. We'll be posting some great videos of the day's events in the near future. JCI and Hazon hope to “Kick-Off” the Seven Year Plan, at an international conference this coming Tu B'Shevat, with the help of Sunday's guests- We'll keep you posted on our progress!

Until then, Jewish Climate Initiative and Climate of Change wish you a Pesach full of happiness, peace, family and freedom- Chag Sameach… and a happy Birkat Hahama!

For us, Birkat Hahama has been a process of thinking about how we have used, and how we will use, the blessings of Creation. We hope your Birkat Hahama is/was meaningful, as well.

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12. Blog Considers Causes of Swine Flu Outbreak

Forwarded message:

I have just posted a new blog about the likely cause of the Swine Flu outbreak...

Please read it, and also forward to your networks and spread the word any way you can. Shout it from the rooftops if you feel so inclined :)

This is important information and everyone should know about it.

I was actually shocked to find out about the environmentally destructive extremes to which this company has gone in the name of profiting from animal slavery.

Thanks for reading.


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13. “Their Lives, Our Voices” Animal Advocacy Conference Scheduled

Forwarded message:

As a sponsor, would JVNA be able to promote Their Lives, Our Voices in your e-newsletter and website? You can find all the details here,, or check what is written below (condensed, for space considerations).


Join activists from all around the country this summer at the second annual Midwestern animal advocacy conference, "Their Lives, Our Voices", June 12-14, 2009. Hosted by Compassionate Action for Animals, this conference will take place in Minneapolis at the beautiful Hubert Humphrey Conference Center, located in a charming, veg-friendly, walking neighborhood.

Their Lives, Our Voices is an inclusive, high-quality, affordable, and hands-on conference focused on empowering advocates in their efforts to help farmed animals. This event is accessible to all animal advocates, showcasing diverse topics and perspectives within our movement. Networking and attendee participation are vital to TLOV's success, so please come and help make this an exceptional event,

Our all-star line-up of featured speakers includes Tom Regan (The Case for Animal Rights), Lorri Bauston (founder of Animal Acres), pattrice jones (Aftershock), Kenneth Williams (vegan bodybuilder and host of Undercover TV), Victoria Moran (Love-Powered Diet), Hillary Rettig (The Lifelong Activist), Norm Phelps (The Longest Struggle), Mark Hawthorne (Striking at the Roots), Erin E. Williams (Why Animals Matter), Steven Kaufman (Christian Vegetarian Association), Erica Meier (Compassion Over Killing), Jack Norris (Vegan Outreach), Jack Norris (Vegan Outreach), Nathan Runkle (Mercy for Animals), Rae Sikora (Plant Peace Daily), and Freeman Wicklund (Mercy for Animals) and many more!

The early-bird price is $15 for students and low-income individuals, $30 for everyone else. Both rates will increase by $15 on Friday, May 22. This includes four full vegan meals plus snacks! We also have low-cost housing options. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Please visit our website for information on travel scholarships and discounts for volunteering.

Visit our website now to learn more about the event and to register at this special price!

Gilbert Schwartz
Director of Volunteer Programs
Compassionate Action for Animals

14. Steps Taken to “Green” Jerusalem

Jerusalem of Gold Goes 'Green'

by Hana Levi

Thanks to Rabbi Dovid Sears, JVNA advisor and author of “The Vision of Eden: Animal welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism” for forwarding this item from the Israeli publication Arutz Sheva:

Jerusalem of Gold will "go green" over the next 20 years in the first municipal plan for the city has since 1959. The six-point proposal, to be presented Tuesday to the Interior Ministry's Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee by Mayor Nir Barkat, will focus on "greening" the city, and "green construction."

The plan calls for the use of solar panels, water recycling equipment, "green" roofing and other material for construction of public, commercial, in dustrial, residential and hotel buildings. A team of city architects and engineers will work together on the project with local and international experts in the field.

Barkat stressed that although he has adjusted the plan to reflect his own "vision", it did not originate with him. A team of 25 architects and engineers worked on the plan throughout the past two administrations of then-Mayors Ehud Olmert and Uri Lupolianski.

"Since entering office, we have worked diligently to adjust the planning that was already in process in order to reflect our vision to stop the negative migration of residents from the city and to accelerate economic development in the coming years," Barkat said.

The new Master Plan also includes six major priorities that will become the new focus for municipal development:

Affordable housing for young people

The goal is to enable residents as well as college and university students to buy or rent apartments in the capital with the goal of remaining in Jerusalem. "The intention is that parts of large building projects will be designated as residential for affordable housing," Barkat said in a statement.

Developing neighborhoods in the eastern section of the city

Infrastructure will be standardized and an additional 13,550 housing units are to be built in eastern neighborhoods, plus 10,000 more allocated for construction by 2030. Most of the new apartments are to be built in Jabel Mukabar (2,500 units) and Beit Hanina-Shuafat (2,500 units), with the rest divided up between Tel Adesa (2,000 units), A-Tur (1,500 units) and the central area of the eastern end of the city (750 units).

Creating five new city parks, open areas and urban nature areas

The plan calls for five metropolitan parks surrounding the city in a green strip that allows for a variety of leisure and recreational activities, including: extreme sports, picnic areas, a lake, hiking trails, and others. In addition, 43 kilometers of bicycle trails are planned for the open areas around the city. The plan defines a hierarchy of open areas at different levels in the city. The plan defines metropolitan parks (16,000 dunams), municipal parks (7,000 dunams), quarter parks (1,000 dunams) , neighborhood parks (1,600 dunams) and neighborhood gardens (2,300 dunams). This plan provides a wide variety of activity and usage of open areas for all the different residents of the city, in the residential, business and recreational areas.

Tourist complexes

Four areas have been targeted for development of tourism, culture and leisure-oriented activities, which will require the installation of appropriate infrastructure. The areas which city officials believe will "encourage significant growth of tourism" include the Old City and the basin surrounding it, the city center, the neighborhood of Ein Kerem, and the Armon HaNatziv ridge and Lifta neighborhood.

Conservation and preservation of historic buildings

"The plan affixes the borders of the historical city to include the neighborhoods and buildings built until 1948," according to the statement. "Through this, the city conserves its cultural and touristic assets." Simultaneously, a new survey will be carried out to update the conservation index, which will later be published.

Hi-tech complexes, employment and industry

The city hopes to attract companies and institutions that will provide 150,000 new jobs in the fields of hi-tech, higher education, bio-tech and other areas. Four new industrial zones will be built towards this goal. Furthermore, the use of the Givat Shaul industrial area will be expanded to include technical colleges and job training centers for the hareidi religious community.

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15. Complimentary DVD on Infectious Disease Threats Offered by Expert Michael Gregor, MD

Forwarded message from Michael Gregor, MD:

Dear Friends,

Thanks to the kind generosity of the Sheepdrove Trust, they are offering to send copies of my DVD on emerging infectious diseases to folks that send them a SASE:

Michael Greger, M.D.
Director, Public Health and Animal Agriculture
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L St., N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
direct line: (202) 676-2361
fax: (202) 676-2372

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16. Jewish International Educational Event Kallah09 Scheduled/“A Sacred Duty” to be Shown

13th International ALEPH Kallah!
June 29 -- July 5, 2009
Ohio Wesleyan University _ (near) Columbus, OH

[If you would like to represent JVNA at this conference and/or other upcoming relevant events, please let me know. Thanks.]

This summer, don't miss the opportunity to experience an amazing week of engaging classes, powerful prayer, deep text study, and the opportunity to meet and connect with Jews coming together from all over the world.....

At Kallah, you'll find...

* Over 45 fabulous courses offered by internationally known teachers
* World Class Children's Programming
(Teen Wilderness Program; Kids Kallah, Choir & Toddler Program)
* Healing Center (Massage, Acupuncture, Spiritual Direction, & more!)
* Music! Music! & More Music! (Sing in choirs, or just enjoy entertainment from the best Jewish musicians around!
* Kesher Leadership Program for Young Adults
* Bookstore & Judaica Gallery

Forward this message to a friend
Register Before
May 15
(to avoid late fee)

Register Online!

Don't let finances stop you!

Take advantage of our discounts, as well as our extensive Work Study Program where you may "earn & learn" to supplement your Kallah fees.

In addition, young adults can take advantage of our Kesher Program which provides scholarship opportunities.

For More Information, or to download the brochure, check out our website:

To request a paper brochure, contact:

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17. EU Legalizes Kosher Slaughter, Pro-Animal Groups Want Ban

Iyar 13, 5769, 07 May 09 01:55
by by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

[While JVNA supports the end of all slaughter of animals for food, we oppose efforts to single out Jewish ritual slaughter (shechita) for special criticism.]

The European Union Parliament on Wednesday voted to legalize kosher slaughtering, which has been outlawed by six countries -- but a critical vote next month will determine if EU countries can effectively get around the approval by demanding pre-stunning, which violates Jewish dietary laws.

The European Jewish Congress and conference of European Jewish Rabbis lobbied heavily for the bill and defeated efforts by animal rights groups to ban kosher slaughtering, which demands swift death to the animal by use of a sharp knife at the throat.

Animal rights groups have claimed the method is cruel and have succeeded in banning kosher slaughtering in Latvia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania. Switzerland allows the method for poultry but not for other animals.

Rabbi Michael Melchior, former chief rabbi of Norway and currently an Israeli Knesset Member, has said that kosher slaughter is actually more humane than the practices in slaughterhouses. "The Torah forbids cruelty to animals, and the shechitah [slaughter] process ensures that the animal loses consciousness immediately," he explained. "We have been dealing with this issue for many years, and there are many scientific studies that back us up."

The EU vote “represents the first time that 'shechita' has been recognized as a legitimate form of animal slaughter by any European institution," said Henry Grunwald, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Chairman of Shechita EU, which also fought for the new legislation.

The crucial vote on pre-stunning worries European Jews. "The [proposed] regulation must not be drafted to allow governments in Europe to threaten our culture and our freedom to observe our religion," said Philip Carmel of the Conference of European Rabbis. Serge Cwajgenbaum, Secretary General of the European Jewish Congress, added that “the Jewish community takes seriously the issues of human rights and the humane treatment of animals.”

The anti-kosher slaughtering bills have been viewed as anti-Semitic by many Jews in Europe, where Hitler banned the method as one of his first steps against Jews.

When Holland called kosher slaughtering "cruel" in 2003 but allowed Jews to continue using the method, Rabbi Melchior responded, "They simply don't want foreigners, and they don't want Jews. I won't say this is the only motivation, but it's certainly no coincidence that one of the first things Nazi Germany forbade was kosher slaughter.”

Attempts by Swiss Jews to lift its 100-year-old ban on kosher slaughtering caused an anti-Semitic backlash. In Sweden, there have been attempts to forbid circumcision, a Jewish law that has bound Jews for 3,500 years.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, has said that anti-Semitic politicians “aid and abet” animal right activists. “What other issues of animal rights have they engaged in to prohibit cruelty? When they begin and end with kosher slaughter, that's when it becomes suspect,” he stated.

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18. Canfei Nesharim Offers Synagogues Free Environmental Resources and Training

Forward message from Canfei Nesharim (Wings of Eagles, an Orthodo x Jewish environmental group):

[Kol hakavod (kudos) to Canfei Nesharim's director Evonne Marzouk for being chosen by the NY Jewish Week as one of 36 Jewish leaders under 36 years of age who are making a very positive impact. More on this below.]


Join Our New Synagogues' Pilot!
Get Free Resources and Training from Canfei Nesharim

Canfei Nesharim is committed to providing inspiring educational resources to engage synagogues and their members in learning and acting together to protect our environment. Since January 2008, Canfei Nesharim has been working directly with seven Orthodox communities who have implemented a series of Torah-based environmental programs in their communities over the last year.

In partnership with these lay leaders, Canfei Nesharim has designed and launched a full year-long series of programs on the environment related to themes in the Jewish year, including the Three Weeks (precaution), Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret (water), Chanukah (energy), Tu b'Shevat (appreciation for nature), Purim/Pesach (reducing waste), and the Omer (relationship to the land). The launch of this program was featured on the front page of the Washington Jewish Week in July 2008; for the full text, click here. []

We are now recruiting communities to participate in the Second Phase of the pilot, which will take place from June 2009-May 2010. The pilot offers the synagogue the opportunity to explore the relevance of the Torah to a modern issue of great importance, with high-quality, free resources from Canfei Nesharim. Synagogues may apply by sending a few paragraphs describing their community and their readiness to participate in the pilot. [More information at]

For more information about the pilot, and application instructions, including details to help you consider whether your synagogue is ready to participate, please visit our Synagogues Pilot Website. Applications are due June 1, 2009.
# # #

P.S. Like what you see? You can always make a difference by supporting our work. Thanks for your generosity!

Exciting News!
Canfei Nesharim Executive Director Chosen in New York Jewish Week List of 36 Under 36!

The May 5 issue of the New York Jewish Week featured a list of 36 "forward-thinking young people who are helping to remake the Jewish community." We're proud that Evonne Marzouk, our Executive Director, made the list! Mazel tov to Evonne and to all those who have supported our mission and made this recognition possible! To read the full article about Evonne, visit:

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19. Forward Forum of Rabbis Considers Lessons of the Postville Slaughterhouse Issue

Post-Postville: A Year After the Raid, Lessons Learned mpaign=May+15%2c+2009+_+tdedi&utm_term=READ+MORE

Post-Postville: A Forum

By Shmuel Herzfeld, Sybil Sanchez, Avi Shafran, Menachem Genack, Joan Nathan, Jill Jacobs, Jane Ramsey, Stephen G. Bloom

To mark the first anniversary of the massive federal immigration raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa, we [the Forward] asked a diverse group of contributors to reflect on what this episode has taught us about immigration, labor, kosher food and Jewish communal values.

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20. My Compilation of Many Rabbinic Quotes on Vegetarianism

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21. Eco-Kosher Jews have Taste For Vegetarian Food

Los Angeles times article:,0,6255961.story

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22. Mexicans Blame Industrial Pig Farms For Many Problems

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