September 30, 2009

9/29/2009 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Best Wishes for a Joyous Sukkot

2. Jewish Climate Campaign Pledge

3. Talk on Protecting Waterways of Israel and Neighbors Scheduled

4. Help Get A SACRED DUTY shown on Your Local TV Channel

5. Israeli Conservative Jews Join Fight Against Kapparot

6. Israeli Chief Rabbi Speaks Out Against Cruelty During the Kapparot Ritual

7. JVNA Advisor Videotapes Recent Kapparot Ceremonies

8. Blog on Kapparot

9. National Public Radio Has a Segment on Kapparot

10. Temperature Increase Projections Worsen

11. Ecokosher Entering the Mainstream?

12. Article Considers the Ethics of Meat

13. Article Urges that Money Rather Than Chickens Be Used for Kapparot Ritual

14. More Climate Change-Related Articles

15. Israeli Vegetarian Activist Biking in Support of Children With Disabilities

16. New Podcast Has JVNA Vice President Noam Mohr Discussing Animal-Based Agriculture’s Connections to Climate Change

17. Paul Krugman Op-Ed Article on Urgency of Climate Change Responses

18. Two Great Power Points Relate Meat-Eating to Global Climate Change

19. Northern Ice Melting Accelerating

20. Article Presents Jewish Case for Vegetarianism/My Posting

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. Best Wishes for a Joyous Sukkot

The joyous harvest festival of Sukkot begins Friday evening at sundown. My article on “Sukkot and Vegetarianism” is in the festivals section at Please use the material in that articles and other related material for talking points. Thanks.

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2. Jewish Climate Campaign Pledge

[I signed, and I urge you to do so also.]

Jewish Climate Campaign Pledge

The Pledge

people have signed so far

The task at hand is to rally Jewish communities worldwide to make a difference on climate change in a way that strengthens Jewish life and helps make a better world for all.

On November 2nd 2009 The Alliance for Religions and Conservation is hosting a program for the world's faiths to present their plans for generational change in the face of climate change. ARC has asked Hazon to manage the program for the Jewish faith, and the result is this campaign.

The medium-term goal is that by September 2015, six years from now (at the end of the next sabbatical year in the Jewish calendar), Jewish communities worldwide will have integrated sustainability into the fabric of all that they do.

In the short-term, the UN Climate Change Conference takes place this December in Copenhagen.

The intent of the Jewish Climate Change Campaign is that it be simple enough that a person can immediately sign the pledge and take one or two specific actions, yet substantive enough that it sets in motion serious change over a six-year period.

By the time of the Copenhagen Conference we hope to have galvanized worldwide support. Jewish institutions will be able to utilize this energy to integrate environmental education, action and advocacy over the following years.

YES: I believe that the Jewish People can and should play a distinct role in responding to climate change and fostering sustainability between now and September 2015 (the end of the next 7-year sabbatical cycle in the Jewish calendar);

YES: I call on all Jewish organizations, small and large, to create Green Teams that will draw up seven-year goals to effect change and specific steps to get started this year;

YES: I believe we must integrate education, action and advocacy. So I commit every month to learn more about the environment and about Jewish teachings on sustainability; to act by making more sustainable choices; and to advocate for generational change by speaking up to friends, family members, colleagues and opinion-leaders;

YES: I'll write to my elected representatives "I call on you and our government to build a more sustainable global economy; to support the creation of green jobs; to prioritize protecting vulnerable populations; and to ensure that the UN Climate Change Conference creates the strongest possible framework to ameliorate climate change."

YES: I hope 600,000[1] Jewish people join me in signing this pledge. Please add my name to the list.

Sign the pledge

[1] Why 600,000? It's a large number; and in Jewish tradition there's a special blessing if 600,000 people come together. But what's most important is that this be a really large number of people - to make plain to Jewish leaders and the wider world that Jewish people care strongly about these issues.

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3. Talk on Protecting Waterways of Israel and Neighbors Scheduled

Protecting Water at the Grassroots: Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians Working Together

Monday, October 26, at 6:00 pm at Hadassah, 50 West 58th Street, New York, NY

Gidon Bromberg is a former NIF Law Fellow and the founder of Friends of the Earth-Middle East. Hear about the environmental challenges Israel and the region face, and the opportunities to promote cooperation at a community level to advance sustainable development and create necessary conditions for lasting peace.

This event is presented by the Sierra Club, New York City Group, and is co-sponsored by Friends of the Earth-Middle East, Hadassah, Hazon, and the New Israel Fund.

RSVP for this event online or call us at 212-613-4400.

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4. Help Get A SACRED DUTY shown on Your Local TV Channel

A Sacred Duty” was recently shown on MNN1 channel 34 in Manhattan.

Please contact your local community TV stations and ask if they would show the movie. We would be happy to provide complimentary DVDs. Thanks.

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5. Israeli Conservative Jews Join Fight Against Kapparot

This is just one example (several more are below) of what seems to be a trend toward using money rather than chickens for the kapparot ritual. Hopefully, the momentum will continue next year.

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6. Israeli Chief Rabbi Speaks Out Against Cruelty During the Kapparot Ritual,7340,L-3780402,00.html

The Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger indicated that he plans to issue a rabbinic paper re kapparot. Some time ago he issued a decision that Israel should not import furs from China where animals are skinned alive. So he seems sensitive to animal issues. I met with him a few years ago and I hope to do so again. I think he should be asked to issue a responsa (rabbinic response to a question) on vegetarianism. Suggestions welcome. Thanks.

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7. JVNA Advisor Videotapes Recent Kapparot Ceremonies

Rina Deych’s video about kapparot in Crown Heights

Kudos to Rina for her courageous work challenging practitioners of kapparot with chickens to switch to the use of money.

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8. Blog on Kapparot

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9. National Public Radio Has a Segment on Kapparot

Kudos to Orthodox rabbi Shlomo Segal for speaking out for the application of Judaism’s compassionate teachings on animals.

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10. Temperature Increase Projections Worsen

Why our efforts are increasingly important:

New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast Of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, September 25, 2009

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

The new overview of global warming research, aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report's scientific findings, said the significant global temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

"We don't want to go there," said Corell, who collaborated with climate researchers at the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute, Massachusetts-based Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do the analysis. The team has revised its estimates since the U.N. report went to press and has posted the most recent figures at

The group took the upper-range targets of nearly 200 nations' climate policies -- including U.S. cuts that would reduce domestic emissions 73 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, along with the European Union's pledge to reduce its emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 --and found that even under that optimistic scenario, the average global temperature is likely to warm by 6.3 degrees.

World leaders at the July Group of 20 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, pledged in a joint statement that they would adopt policies to prevent global temperature from climbing more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit: "We recognize the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed two degrees C."

Corell, who has shared these findings with the Obama administration as well as climate policymakers in China, noted that global carbon emissions are still rising. "It's accelerating," he said. "We're not going in the right direction."

Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, told reporters at the National Press Club on Thursday that the report aims to update the IPCC's 2007 findings to reflect both new physical evidence and a more sophisticated understanding of how Earth systems work.

"With every day that passes, the underlying trends that science has provided is . . . of such a dramatic nature that shying away from a major agreement in Copenhagen will probably be unforgivable if you look back in history at this moment," Steiner said. He noted that since 2000 alone, the average rate of melting at 30 glaciers in nine mountain ranges has doubled compared with the rate during the previous two decades.

"These are not things that are in dispute in terms of data," he said. "They are actually physically measurable."

Other findings include the fact that sea level might rise by as much as six feet by 2100 instead of 1.5 feet, as the IPCC had projected, and the Arctic may experience a sea-ice summer by 2030, rather than by the end of the century.

While the administration is pressing this week for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies as part of the current G-20 summit in Pittsburgh -- and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told reporters Thursday that world leaders appear open to such a proposal -- activists such as director Bill McKibben said politicians worldwide are not taking aggressive enough steps to address climate change.

"Here's where we are: The political system is not producing at the moment a result which has anything to do with what the science is telling us," said McKibben, whose group aims to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, well below the 450 ppm target that leaders of the Group of 20 major nations have embraced.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-sponsor of the House-passed climate bill that researchers included as part of their new temperature analysis, said, "As sobering as this report is, it is not the worst-case scenario. That would be if the world does nothing and allows heat-trapping pollution to continue to spew unchecked into the atmosphere."

Michael MacCracken, one of the scientific reviewers for the IPCC and a contributor to the UNEP report, said that if developed nations cut their emissions by half and the developing countries continued on their current path, or vice versa, the world would still experience a temperature increase of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050.

"We face a situation where basically everybody has to do everything they can," MacCracken said.

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11. Ecokosher Entering the Mainstream?

Thanks to rabbi Arthur Waskow (and JVNA advisor Arthur Poletti) for forwarding this article:

From today's front page of the Phila Inquirer -- our daily metropolitan newspaper.

Shalom, salaam, shantih --- peace, Arthur

'Ecokosher' is finding a place at the table

New dietary standards commit to treating workers, animals, and Earth with care.

By Dianna Marder

Inquirer Staff Writer

[Unfortunately, vegetarianism is not even mentioned in this article. Too radical? We have to keep sending articles and letters and spreading our message in more creative ways.]

For centuries, rabbis have taught that the kitchen table is an altar.

By this they mean that drawing food from the Earth, preparing it for the table, and eating it is part of a covenant with God - an understanding that we must not defile the Earth or ourselves.

But a growing number of Jews are questioning whether the traditional Jewish dietary laws go far enough and are spawning a national, distinctly Jewish, food movement, with roots in Philadelphia, known as ecokosher.

"The kosher laws actually have nothing to do with sustainable agriculture, treating workers fairly, protecting the air and the water - any of that," says Robin Rifkin, a member of Kol Ami Congregation in Elkins Park. "And that's what we're concerned about."

A small but increasing number of Jews across the usual denominational lines of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform are feeling an obligation to confront these ethical issues in a variety of ways.

And, in a revolutionary effort, like-minded Jews nationwide are launching a new uber-kosher symbol that could appear on food products as early as next year - a symbol of ethical responsibility demonstrating a manufacturer's commitment to treating workers, animals, and the Earth with care.

"The emphasis now is on what it really means for a particular food to be fit to eat," says Mark Kaplan, a Reform Jew who does not keep kosher but who helped Rifkin start a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program with weekly produce deliveries from local farms to their synagogue in Elkins Park.

Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood hopes to form a CSA with its neighbor Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi David Straus recently told his congregants that they face a moral and spiritual responsibility to be proper stewards of the environment - an idea he calls eco-theology.

As the Jewish community marks the new year 5770 with a 24-hour fast that begins at sunset, the People of the Book are sounding more like the People of the Land.

Rooted in the '70s

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi coined the term ecokosher - building on the significance of Jewish dietary laws - in the 1970s. A quirky rabbi who started his career as an ultra-Orthodox, he had become versed in Jewish mysticism, the American Indian Shundahai Network, and Chinese feng shui by the time he retired to Boulder, Colo.

All that only served to make him more respected, and now Rabbi Arthur Waskow carries on at the Shalom Center in Mount Airy, bringing spiritual-based ecological teachings to the masses.

The message has resonated much more widely in recent years as it has played off the secular fresh-food movement heralded by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food).

Estimating the size of the Jewish food movement is nearly impossible, Waskow says. But it is likely to expand on or after Oct. 24, which is designated worldwide as Climate-Healing Sabbath, a day of prayer and education devoted to ecological issues on the day the Torah portion concerns Noah and the flood.

That event, too, is Philadelphia-centric, as the idea sprang from the Germantown Jewish Center on Lincoln Drive. [Actually sprang from The Shalom Center; Rabbi Leonard Gordon of GJC took it into the Conservative movement and got it endorsed by them. -- AW] [Actually, it really started with JVNA, but I am happy to have larger groups spearheading the effort.]

In recent years, ecokosher thinking has sprouted at least a half-dozen national programs, among them the Jewish Farm School in West Philadelphia, which has classes for adults and Philadelphia schools on organic gardening and sustainability.

Some people in the movement are members of synagogues and some are not, Waskow says. But all seem to agree that the adage "you are what you eat" has never been more accurate, more essential, or more in need of a faith-based perspective.

Shamu Fenyvesi Sadeh, director of Adamah, a three-month Jewish farming fellowship in Connecticut for college grads, says food and agriculture are entry points, "a gateway to Jewish values."

That's the driving force, too, behind Hazon, which hosts an annual Jewish food conference and a blog called "The Jew and the Carrot" (, and supports CSA programs.

John Edgar belongs to the Hazon-affiliated CSA at Temple Kol Ami, which is in its third year. (CSAs - in which members prepay for the growing season and get weekly baskets of fruits and vegetables from a local farm - help ensure survival for small farms.)

Every Thursday evening, Edgar, with his 2-year-old son, William, in tow, collects his share. One week, his baskets are filled with corn, tomatoes, and spaghetti squash; another week, carrots, beets, red peppers, and lettuce.

While this CSA sees itself as part of the Jewish food movement, it does not necessarily promote keeping kosher. And Edgar, who is pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Elkins Park, is proof that one need not be Jewish to join.

Founded by Kol Ami members Kaplan, Rifkin, and Shelley Chamberlain, this CSA distributes recipes in weekly newsletters, holds cooking demonstrations on the use of unusual vegetables, and hosts free education sessions.

"These [ecokosher] issues are relevant to us as Jews because so much of our heritage is based on the fact that Jews were originally farmers and shepherds," Rifkin says. "So many of our holidays are based on the agricultural season."

'Shield of Justice'

The most tangible and perhaps controversial element to come out of the Jewish food movement was revealed Sept. 9. It is a seal of ethical responsibility - a Magen Tzedek, which translates as "Shield of Justice" - for kosher products that meet additional standards of workplace and environmental responsibility.

Project developer Rabbi Morris Allen of Mendota Heights, Minn., says he was motivated by the May 2008 raid on the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant, in Postville, Iowa, where federal officials found that untrained illegal immigrants made up almost half the workforce.

Technically, kosher certification refers to how meat is slaughtered and prepared and has nothing to do with workplace practices. Still, Postville was an embarrassment.

Shira Dicker, a spokeswoman for the Magen Tzedek project, calls it "the God-Housekeeping Seal of Approval." The symbol is a stylized Star of David, designed "not to look too Jewishy."

Thousands of non-Jews buy kosher products. Some do so because they are Muslims, Buddhists, or vegetarians; have food allergies; or, in an era of E. coli and salmonella outbreaks, have come to trust a kosher symbol on a product more than, perhaps, FDA or USDA approval. Others buy unintentionally, because, in the $225 billion kosher-food business, even Coke and Oreos are kosher-certified.

The Magen Tzedek project is in its infancy; guidelines were released Sept. 9, and it is unclear how many companies will apply for approval.

Still, Nati Passow, founder of the Jewish Farm School, says this effort and others are necessary:

"We need to raise the level of awareness in the Jewish community and beyond to issues of food justice."

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12. Article Considers the Ethics of Meat

Thanks to Australian animal rights activist for forwarding this interesting article:

This is a good little article by Ari Solomon, based on the ethics of meat.


Recently I've heard some perplexing criticisms of veganism. They go something like this: vegans are extremists, vegans are so preachy, veganism is like some fanatical religion, veganism is a cult.. There obviously is some misunderstanding going on and I'd like to try and stamp out this issue once and for all. I realize I can't possibly speak for all vegans, but this is how I see it:

First of all, veganism is clearly not some religion or cult. There is no Church of Vegan. Veganism is a philosophy. Donald Watson first coined the term "vegan" in 1944. This was how he defined it:

The word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude -- as far as is possible and practical -- all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, nowadays people become vegan for all different reasons. They might go vegan because of health reasons, or perhaps they've read that animal agriculture is the number one cause of global warming. But, if someone is an ethical vegan, that means they've chosen to open their mind and heart to the suffering of animals. They want to alleviate unnecessary suffering where they can. (There are actually some people who feel that unless you go vegan for ethical reasons that you're not really "vegan", but that's a whole other story.)

Here's where things get interesting. While many of us may feel a certain attachment to the food we eat (cheese, anyone?), there is actually no human dietary requirement for animal foods. It's true. You don't need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to live.

In fact, Dr. Colin Campbell, who conducted the foremost study on human nutrition for over 40 years, detailed in his book The China Study how a vegan diet is actually better suited for optimal human health. This means that people eat animals not because they have to, but because they want to. Now, of course I'm not talking about people who live in countries where food is scarce and they'll die unless they eat animal foods. I'm talking about you and me. People who shop at the supermarket where tofu, beans, rice, grains, fruits and vegetables are mere feet from meat, dairy and eggs. We have a choice.

In case you're not up to speed, over 98% of all meat, dairy, and eggs produced in the US comes from factory farms. The conditions in these places are truly horrendous. Animals are crammed in spaces so tight they can't turn around. They literally go insane, lying around all day and night in their own feces. They never see sunlight, have their beaks, horns and genitals cut off (without anesthetic) and are horribly abused by stressed and desensitized farm workers. We kill 10 billion animals for "food" a year in this country, that's over 27 million animals a day. Most of those animals are birds, and all poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits... yes, rabbits are considered poultry under the law) are excluded from the barely enforced Humane Slaughter Act.

Now, before you start at me with some "humane meat" "happy meat" bullshit please take note that all animals, whether they are raised in the nastiest of factory farms or grass-fed, free-range, blah blah blah, are all sent to the same slaughterhouses. That's right, your organic steer is being sent to the same hell as a downer cow and will meet the same ghastly end. If you are a "humane meat" consumer, please take a moment and meditate on the whole concept of humane killing... bloody, fearful, struggling, screaming, despairing humane killing. It's never pretty and it certainly isn't "humane."

There is a video making rounds on YouTube that shows a lone cow shaking in terror as she contemplates walking down the kill chute. She walks forward, then back. Animals can hear and smell the violence and death that awaits them. Their last moments are ones of abject horror and suffering. If you wouldn't condemn your dog or cat to such a fate, how can you pay for others do it to these poor animals?

So. When a vegan is talking to a meat-eater about these issues, he or she is not "preaching", "trying to convert", or any such thing. We're not telling you what to eat. We're telling you what you're eating.

Since animals can't speak a language humans can understand (though I think the screams and terrified moans that fill slaughterhouses should be pretty much universal -- all living beings want to live) it's up to us to tell their stories and inform people of the suffering that goes on conveniently out of the public eye.

If, as a meat-eater, being exposed to this reality bothers you, it is not the fault of the vegan. Lashing out or making up endless excuses doesn't change the stark scientific fact that animals are suffering because of our taste buds. Your neatly packaged chicken breast, all wrapped in pristine plastic, was once part of an animal that felt fear and pain. It's called responsibility and culpability, and we're all to blame.

Now, you may try to argue that eating animals is a matter of personal opinion or choice, but again I'd have to disagree -- this is not about your opinion versus my opinion, this is about animal suffering. You can't discuss your "personal choice" of eating animals while leaving animals completely out of the conversation.

Think of it this way, if you were walking down the street and saw someone beating their dog, would you try to do something to stop it? The same principle applies here. Since eating animal foods is a question of want and like versus need, killing a sentient being, when there is absolutely no need -- except for someone's pleasure -- becomes simply unnecessary and merciless.

And if we say we care about cruelty to animals then it's time we start caring about all animals. Yes, dogs and cats are companion animals but in terms of suffering our canine and feline friends feel the same as a pig, cow, chicken, lamb, or turkey. To pick and choose species in terms of whose pain we care about is incredibly hypocritical and inconsistent. Sorry, but if you're eating veal parmigiana or turkey sandwiches, you don't really care about animals. You may care about dogs and cats but you certainly don't care about birds and baby cows.

So, who's the real extremist? The person who tries to stop unnecessary suffering by cutting out animal products, or the person who says, "I like the way that tastes, so a sentient being needs suffer and die?"

Who's the real fundamentalist? The person who simply speaks the truth about where food comes from, or the person who knowingly chooses to ignore it, listening only to the falsehoods of the meat and dairy clergy? Isn't the latter more akin to choosing to believe the earth is 5,000 years old despite clear evidence to the contrary?

The reality is that veganism couldn't be more different from religion. While religion is based on faith, veganism is based on facts. Animal suffering is not some ethereal concept, it's very real.

All animals deserve to be free from unnecessary pain, fear, and suffering at the hands of humans. How can anything less claim to be humane? Do I want more people to go vegan, is that why I talk and write about it? Of course, but it has nothing to do with me or some group that I belong to. It has to do with the animals who suffer everyday so that we can eat them, wear them, and do whatever we want to them simply because we can.

Veganism is the practical response to a social injustice. Instead of vegangelical, the word should be veganlogical.

Read more at:


Philip Wollen OAM

The Winsome Constance Kindness Trust


Venture Capital for Good Causes

Telephone (613) 98221662

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13. Article Urges that Money Rather Than Chickens Be Used for Kapparot Ritual

Yom Kippur

September 25, 2009

Why Chickens Should Be Eliminated From Kapparot Ceremonies


Kapparot is a ceremony preceding Yom Kippur in which many Orthodox Jews, especially in the Hasidic world, swing chickens around their heads while reciting a chant about transferring their sins symbolically onto the bird: “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement. This rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace.”

The chickens are then slaughtered and may be given to the poor. The idea is that when practitioners swing chickens slated for slaughter, they’re supposed to regard the slaughter of the bird as a substitute for the punishment that God in “strict justice” would mete out to them instead of mercy. Rather than the sinner, the innocent chicken suffers “strict justice.” This idea of the role of the chicken contradicts assertions that chickens used in Kapparot ceremonies are treated with compassion.

Documentation of Kapparot ceremonies shows that the birds are seldom if ever treated humanely. On the contrary, prior to the ceremony, the chickens are packed in crates, often for days without food, water or shelter. Birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when the ceremony was over. Practitioners often stand around chatting with fellow observers while holding a chicken with the wings pulled painfully backward and the legs dangling, as if the bird were an inanimate object instead of living, feeling being.

This way of holding chickens is painful and potentially injurious to them. It is particularly painful given that the main types of chickens used in Kapparot ceremonies are young “broiler” chickens about six weeks old. These birds have been bred to grow many times faster and larger than normal chickens. As a result, they are susceptible to painful joint degeneration, crippling lameness, and heart attacks reflecting genetic infirmities incurred in the quest for meat production. In his paper “Pain in Birds,” Dr. Michael Gentle cites the “widespread nature of chronic orthopaedic disease in domestic poultry,” and Dr. John Webster, professor of animal husbandry in the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science, points out that these birds “have grown too heavy for their limbs and/or become so distorted in shape as to impose unnatural stresses on their joints.”

Shown pictures of chickens being held with their wings pulled back by Kapparot practitioners, Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, wrote that “holding a domestic fowl with the wings pinned back as shown will be painful. It will be extremely painful if the bird is held in this position for some minutes.” Dr. Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, observed that “the manner in which the man is holding the chicken, with the wings pulled back, puts the chicken at risk for ligament and tendon injury, possibly even bone fracture.”

Opponents of the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies point out that their use is not required by the Torah or the Talmud. Most Kapparot observers swing money for charity as a gesture of atonement, repentance, and goodwill. Swinging money in a handkerchief, which maintains the tradition of giving charity to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur, which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

In the 16th century, a Code was devised to offer practical guidance in the application of Written and Oral Laws. This Code, known as the Shulchan Aruch, is considered authoritative within Orthodox circles. In it, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim - the mandate not to cause unnecessary pain to any living creature - is affirmed: “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non-Jew.” In other words, the concept of tzaar baalei chaim includes a need not only to avoid causing pain to animals, but also to show them compassion.

For these reasons, we urge Jews and others who care about animals to disperse the kindness message in Jewish teachings that encourage compassion for animals. We urge that Kapparot observers use money instead of chickens, and that rabbis incorporate the cruel facts about the use of chickens in Kapparot ceremonies, and how to have a compassionate ceremony, into their Rosh Hashanah sermons. While reducing the suffering of the chickens is possible, genuinely compassionate treatment of the birds is not compatible with their use in these rituals, which do not require them. Even in communities where religious traditions are strong, customs can evolve to a higher standard of justice and compassion for all of God’s creatures, and this is what opponents of using chickens in Kapparot ceremonies are asking for.

Karen Davis, PhD is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. For more information, visit

Rob Eshman


Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

(213) 368-1661 ext 108

3580 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1510

Los Angeles, CA 90010

Serving a community of 600,000, The Jewish Journal is the largest Jewish weekly outside New York City. Our award-winning paper reaches over 150,000 educated, involved and affluent readers each week. The Journal is LA's only Jewish newspaper. No other Jewish institution reaches so many Los Angeles Jews on a weekly basis.

The Journal's is the web hub for Jewish LA with more monthly users than any other Jewish news web site in the world; its GodBlog was selected by The Times of London as “one of the best religion blogs in the world.” The GodBlog won Best Independent Blog from the Los Angeles Press Club in 2008.

The Journal also publishes Jewish Family magazine, reaching 45,000 Jews in the affluent West and Conejo Valleys.

The Journal is an independent not-for-profit publication, unaffiliated with any movement or institution.

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14. More Climate Change-Related Article

As flood waters continue to ravage Georgia
, the U.S. Geological Survey is calling the natural disaster a "once in 500 years flood." Vice President Biden will travel to Georgia today to help coordinate a federal response with local and state leaders.

A new study by climate researchers reports that the planet is likely to warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if global leaders fulfill their most ambitious pledges on carbon reduction. Robert Correll, one of the researchers who conducted the study, said that "we're not going in the right direction" on reducing carbon emissions quickly enough.

New Mexico's largest utility, PNM, yesterday announced that it was dropping out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the group's refusal to support climate change legislation. "[W]e have decided that we can be most productive by working with organizations that share our view on the need for thoughtful, reasonable climate change legislation," said PNM in a statement.

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15. Israeli Vegetarian Activist Biking in Support of Children With Disabilities

Forwarded message from JVNA advisor Shaya Kelter:

Pre-Yom Kippur 2009

For a child suffering from serious injury or debilitating illness, performing ordinary activities are like climbing high mountains. Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem provides devoted care and innovative treatments that help the children to reach ever higher.

Alyn Hospital does not receive government funding to pay for the special treatments so critical to the children such as pet therapy, individual computer programs for each child and medical clowns. The budgetary gap is made up by contributions of generous donors.

I have witnessed amazing rehabilitation. An adolescent fell from a cliff in a climbing accident and was told he would never walk again. 4 years later he walked out on his own two feet. Two years ago he married. Last year I met him carrying his newborn child.

I invite you to help me help these children by sponsoring me in the 500 km Wheels of Love (WOL) 2009 charity bike ride Nov. 1-5 in any amount. Gift are tax deductible in the U.S., Canada, Israel and other countries. Payment modes below:

*Credit card: for Israeli donors and for U.S. donors

Type in as Rider name Steven (Shaya) Kelter.

*Call in NY (212) 869-8085 and in Israel 02-649-4235.

*Checks should be made out to American Friends of Alyn Hospital or in Israel, to Alyn Hospital, and mailed to my office:

Steven (Shaya) Kelter
9 Diskin St. Villa 11A
96440 Jerusalem Israel

On behalf of the children of Alyn Hospital, thank you very much! May you be blessed!


Steven “Shaya” Kelter, “Wheels of Love 2009” Rider

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16. New Podcast Has JVNA Vice President Noam Mohr Discussing Animal-Based Agriculture’s Connections to Climate Change

09/23/09: New Global Warming Strategy with Noam Mohr LISTEN

Noam Mohr is a physicist at Queens College with degrees from Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. He has worked on global warming campaigns for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and EarthSave International, publishing a number of reports on climate change including A New Global Warming Strategy, Flirting with Disaster, Pumping Up the Price, and Storm War.

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17. Paul Krugman Op-Ed Article on Urgency of Climate Change Responses

A very insightful September 28, 2009 article:

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18. Two Great Power Points Relate Meat-Eating to Global Climate Change

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19. Northern Ice Melting Accelerating

NASA data: Greenland, Antarctic ice melt worsening

By SETH BORENSTEIN (AP Science Writer)

From Associated Press

September 23, 2009 1:00 PM EDT

WASHINGTON - New satellite information shows that ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica continue to shrink faster than scientists thought and in some places are already in runaway melt mode.

British scientists for the first time calculated changes in the height of the vulnerable but massive ice sheets and found them especially worse at their edges. That's where warmer water eats away from below. In some parts of Antarctica, ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003, according to a paper published online Thursday in the journal Nature.

Some of those areas are about a mile thick, so they've still got plenty of ice to burn through. But the drop in thickness is speeding up. In parts of Antarctica, the yearly rate of thinning from 2003 to 2007 is 50 percent higher than it was from 1995 to 2003.

These new measurements, based on 50 million laser readings from a NASA satellite, confirm what some of the more pessimistic scientists thought: The melting along the crucial edges of the two major ice sheets is accelerating and is in a self-feeding loop. The more the ice melts, the more water surrounds and eats away at the remaining ice.

"To some extent it's a runaway effect. The question is how far will it run?" said the study's lead author, Hamish Pritchard of the British Antarctic Survey. "It's more widespread than we previously thought."

The study doesn't answer the crucial question of how much this worsening melt will add to projections of sea level rise from man-made global warming. Some scientists have previously estimated that steady melting of the two ice sheets will add about 3 feet, maybe more, to sea levels by the end of the century. But the ice sheets are so big it would probably take hundreds of years for them to completely disappear.

As scientists watch ice shelves retreat or just plain collapse, some thought the problem could slow or be temporary. The latest measurements eliminate "the most optimistic view," said Penn State University professor Richard Alley, who wasn't part of the study.

The research found that 81 of the 111 Greenland glaciers surveyed are thinning at an accelerating, self-feeding pace.

The key problem is not heat in the air, but the water near the ice sheets, Pritchard said. The water is not just warmer but its circulation is also adding to the melt.

"It is alarming," said Jason Box of Ohio State University, who also wasn't part of the study.

Worsening data, including this report, keep proving "that we're underestimating" how sensitive the ice sheets are to changes, he said.

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20. Article Presents Jewish Case for Vegetarianism/My Posting

Judaism and Vegetarianism

September 28th, 2009

In recognition of Yom Kippur, a solemn day of moral reflection in Judaism, we repost this article from September 2008, on vegetarianism and Jewish moral values. Comments on the original article can be found here.

There are many excellent reasons to adopt a vegetarian diet. By not eating meat one helps to discourage the cruel treatment of cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals on factory farms and the wasteful diversion of grain crops for consumption by farmed animals rather than by poor humans. One also helps to improve the environment, insofar as factory farms are major sources of water and air pollution, including gasses that contribute to global warming. And by not eating meat one helps oneself, since a vegetarian diet is far healthier for humans than a diet based on meat.

In recent decades, increasing numbers of people in North America, Europe, and Israel have been moved by considerations like these to become vegetarians. Among vegetarians who are Jewish, some have been led to their decision by their own faith. They have come to view vegetarianism not merely as a choice that is good for animals, the environment, and themselves but also as an expression of Jewish values, especially the values of compassion toward animals, avoidance of waste, and the preservation of health. Indeed, many prominent rabbis from Orthodox and Conservative as well as Reform congregations have used these and other principles to argue that meat eating is inconsistent with Jewish dietary law (kashrut). For example, Rabbi David Rosen, the former of chief rabbi of Ireland, argues that the conditions of animals raised for their meat on factory farms and the risks to human health posed by a meat-based diet render meat eating “halachically [according to Jewish law] unacceptable.”

This article briefly summarizes the main “Jewish reasons to go vegetarian,” as described in the essay “A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism,” by Aaron Gross, M.T.S., Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D., and Jay Levine, M.D. The essay is published by PETA.

Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chayim

The principle of tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, which prohibits the cruel treatment of animals, including the infliction of unnecessary suffering on them, is recognized as a fundamental mitzvah (commandment) of the Torah. Although the specific actions it forbids have been a matter of interpretation, many recent scholars have held that any reasonable understanding of the principle must rule out modern methods of factory farming, which involve animal suffering on a scale unimaginable to ancient rabbis. It also seems clearly at odds with scriptural passages that compare God’s kind treatment of humans with human kindness toward animals (Psalms 23:1—3) and with the Jewish principle of imitatio dei, or the ethical emulation of God. As a “Good Shepherd,” God would not treat humans in the way humans treat animals on factory farms.

Bal Tashchit

Vegetarianism is supported by the principle of bal tashchit, or the avoidance of wasting or destroying something of value. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a meaning for this principle if it does not apply to the incredible waste of grain crops and land and water resources involved in the industrial-scale production of meat. This system is massively inefficient, since vastly more people could be fed by the grain crops now consumed by beef cattle than can be fed by the beef cattle themselves. The diversion of grain crops to animal agriculture has decreased the supply, and therefore raised the price, of grains available for human consumption and thereby contributed to a world food crisis in which hundreds of millions of people face daily hunger or starvation.

Preserving health

The Torah’s mandate to preserve health logically dictates that believing Jews should avoid smoking. And yet dietary factors, including the consumption of animal fats and meat, account for a greater proportion of cancer cases in the United States than smoking does. The adoption of vegetarianism is also consistent with the traditional Jewish approach to medicine, which emphasizes preventing disease over curing it. As the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides observed: “The ability of a physician to prevent illness is a greater proof of his skill than his ability to cure someone who is already ill.”

Eden, the messianic era, and human dominion over animals

Many scholars have found additional support for vegetarianism in the fact that the Hebrew Bible clearly portrays the paradise of Eden and the redemption following the coming of the Messiah as not involving the eating of meat. Thus, they argue, God originally intended for humans to be vegetarian.

The covenant between Noah and God as portrayed in Genesis did allow humans to eat meat. But, according to this view, this represented only a grudging concession on the part of God, who saw “how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth” (6:12). The many commandments regarding meat eating and animal sacrifice that follow, including the prohibition against eating “flesh with its life-blood in it” (9:4), are not an endorsement of meat eating but a means of curtailing and regulating what by then had become an entrenched practice. As the Jewish scholar Jacob Milgrom pointed out, the sacrificial system described in Leviticus functions to limit the number of animals killed and to expiate the guilt that humans incur by killing. In truth, in the Torah meat eating is linked with degeneracy and corruption and is not portrayed as an ideal. It is noteworthy in this connection that the kashrut does not restrict the eating of plant food except when it is contaminated with animal products and that there are specific blessings for bread, fruit, wine, and vegetables but not for meat.

Finally, although God granted humans “dominion” over animals in Genesis, he certainly did not have in mind a dominion of exploitation, torture, and enslavement, as now exists in the system of modern factory farming. As Abraham Kook, the first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel, observed:

No intelligent, thinking person could suppose that when the Torah instructs humankind to dominate … it means the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to fulfill his personal whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Torah would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is ‘good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works’ (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, ‘The world shall be built upon kindness’ (Psalms 89:3).


My posting in response to this article:

Kudos on this wonderful article.

As president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I believe it is time for the Jewish community to address the many moral issues related to animal-based diets - they arguably violate many Jewish teachings as the article indicates.

We respectfully challenge any rabbi or Jewish scholar to a respectful dialogue/debate on "Should Jews be Vegetarians?"

With the world heading rapidly to an unprecedented climate catastrophe, as evidenced by recent meltings of glaciers and polar ice caps and severe floods, heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfires, it is essential that everything possible be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is sheer insanity to keep raising over 60 billion animals worldwide for slaughter annually.A UN FAO report in 2006 indicated that animal-based agriculture emits 18 percent of greenhouse emission in CO2 equivalents, more than all the means of transportation combined (13.5 percent). The sustainability of the planet depends on a major shift to plant-based diets. More info at and in our documentary "A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World" at

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