September 18, 2010

9/14/2010 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

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

1. Best Wishes for a Meaningful, Transformative Yom Kippur and a Joyous Sukkot

2. I Ask Your Forgiveness Before Yom Kippur

3. Article About the Ritual of Kapparot

4. Recent News Reports About Kapparot

4a. Jerusalem Post Article on Kapparot Includes My Comments

5. Green Israel Summit 4: Green Renewal Shabbat

6. Update on the Possible Fur Ban in Israel

7. Response to My Being a Guest on “Animals Today Radio”

8. Intel Israel Goes Green and Wins Gold

9. Muslims Go Green for Ramadan

10. Cowboy Worship Endangers Wildlife

11. A Rare Medium, Well Done/A Chance to Help[ Spread Vegetarian Messages

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 Meaningful, Transformative Yom Kippur and a Joyous Sukkot

Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Friday evening. May all who will be fasting have an meaningful fast and may the holiday be the start of a very positive period for everyone. Please see my article on “Vegetarianism and Yom Kippur” in the festival section at

Since Sukkot starts just a few days after Yom Kippur, I wish you also now a joyous Sukkot. My article, “Sukkot and Vegetarianism” is also at the festival section of

Please feel free to share these and my other articles as widely as you wish. Thanks.

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2. I Ask Your Forgiveness Before Yom Kippur

Judaism teaches that acts of repentance, prayer and charity can result in God’s forgiveness for sins between human beings and God, but that one must ask people you offended for forgiveness for acts against them. So, I ask your forgiveness for anything that I may have written or done in the past year that may have offended you. It was certainly not intentional.

I forgive anyone who may have unintentionally offended me during the past year.

In the words of an anonymous source:

“I hereby forgive whoever has hurt me,
Whoever has done ma any wrong,
Whether deliberately or on purpose,
Whether by word or by deed.
May no one be punished on my account.
AS I forgive and pardon fully
Those who have done me wrong,
May those whom I have harmed
Forgive and pardon me
Whether I acted deliberately or by accident,
Whether by word or by deed.
With God’s help, may I not willingly
Repeat the wrongs that I have committed.”

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3. Article About the Ritual of Kapparot


By Richard Schwartz and Yonassan Gershom

Every year, before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), some Jews perform the ceremony of kapparot. The following, in question and answer format, is a discussion of the ritual and its relation to the treatment of animals.

What is kapparot [in Ashkenazic Hebrew or Yiddish, kapporos or shluggen kapporos]?

Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. Some Jews practice it shortly before Yom Kippur. First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms 107:10, 14, and 17-21, and Job 33:23-24 are recited; then a rooster (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is held above the person's head and swung or waved in a circle three times, while the following is spoken: "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 hope is that the fowl, which is then donated to the poor for food, will expiate any misfortune that might otherwise occur to the one who has taken part in the ritual, in punishment for his or her sins.

What is the history of this rite?

Kapparot is not mentioned in the Torah or in the Talmud. The custom is first discussed by Jewish scholars in the ninth century. They explain that since the Hebrew word gever means both "man" and "rooster," punishment of the bird can be substituted for that of a person.

However, according to the Encyclopedia Judaica (Volume 10, pages 756-757), several prominent Jewish scholars strongly opposed kapparot during the Middle Ages. Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Aderet, one of the foremost Jewish scholars during the 13th century, considered it a heathen superstition. This opinion was shared by the Ramban (Nachmanides) and Rabbi Joseph Caro, a major codifier of Jewish law, who called it "a foolish custom" that Jews should avoid. These rabbis all felt that kapporot was a pagan custom that had mistakenly made its way into Jewish practice, perhaps because when Jews lived among pagans this rite seemed like a korban (sacrifice) to some extent

However, the Kabbalists (led by mystics such as Rabbi Isaac Luria and Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz) perceived in this custom mystical significance. Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (major 16th century scholar, known as the RaMA), whose glosses on the Shulchan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) are authoritative for all Jews of Eastern European descent, also endorsed the custom of kapparot as valid and proper. This greatly enhanced the popularity of the kapparot ritual down to the present day. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, also practiced kapporot, and most Hasidic communities are still in favor of keeping the custom as part of their traditions. Some Jews also feel that, although this is not officially a sacrifice, it keeps the concept of sacrifice alive in preparation for the rebuilding of the Temple.

Why did some Jewish commentators oppose kapparot?

Some Jewish leaders felt that people would misunderstand the significance of the ritual. The belief that the ceremony of kapparot can transfer a person's sins to a bird, and that his or her sins would then be completely eradicated, is contrary to Jewish teachings. For, if the ritual could remove a person's sins, what would be the need for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement? What would be the need for soul-searching and repentance?

The Mishneh Brurah, an eminent contemporary commentary on Rabbi Joseph Caro's classical codification of Jewish law, written by the respected Chofetz Chaim at the beginning of the 20th century, explains the significance of the ritual. Although he did not outrightly forbid it, the Chofetz Chaim stressed that a person cannot obtain purity from sin, and thus obtain higher levels of perfection, without repenting. Through God's mercy, we are given the Divine gift of repentance, so that we might abandon our corrupt ways, thereby being spared from the death that we deserve for our violation of the Divine law. By substituting the death of a fowl, one will (hopefully) be reminded of our mortality and appreciate God's mercy in not killing us for our sins, and thereby be stirred to repentance. By no means, however, does the ritual and the slaughter of the bird itself eradicate one's misdeeds, even though the bird is donated to the poor.

What are more recent objections to this ceremony?

In the past, when Jews lived in rural areas and raised their own chickens, it was a very simple matter to choose a hen or rooster from a local flock for this ritual. Nowadays, however, most Jews are urban, and the chickens must be trucked in over great distances, often crammed into cages on open trucks exposed to the weather, and sometimes without adequate food or water. The birds may also suffer while they are being handled for sale. In some places in Israel and the United States, chickens are sold on street corners for this ceremony, and not every merchant takes proper care of his chickens during this period. The birds are frequently cooped up in baskets, and some merchants neglect to give them sufficient food or water.

Although Rabbi Isaac Luria supported this ritual in his day, he was also against the unnecessary suffering of animals. In Shivchei Ha-Ari, there is a story of him telling a student that he had lost his place in the World to Come for failing to feed and water his chickens properly. The cries of those suffering chickens were canceling out all the prayers and Torah learning of that student. This is based on the general principle that one cannot commit a sin – in this case, cruelty to animals – in order to do a mitzvah.

In addition, it should be noted that in some recent cases in New York City, the meat was not actually given to the poor, but simply discarded in the trash at the site of the ceremony, because there was no time to properly kasher and distribute it. This is a violation of ba’al tashchit, the principle that we should not waste or needlessly destroy things. Again, one cannot do a sin in order to fulfill a mitzvah. 
So we must ask ourselves, what is the spiritual impact of this ceremony in modern times? Does the suffering of the chickens outweigh any benefit that might be derived from it? While the Jewish tradition is filled with concepts, prayers, and actions during the Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur period that relate to the importance of rachamim(compassion and sensitivity), the message of kapparot to those who take part and those who view it (including children) may be just the opposite. In some cases, they may learn a lesson of insensitivity to the suffering and feelings of other living creatures.

How should Jews who are concerned about the treatment of animals respond to this issue?

Jews who are concerned about the treatment of animals should try to engage courteously and respectfully with Jews who perform kapparot using chickens. It should be recognized that they are performing what they regard as an important religious act. Shouting slogans like “meat is murder” or accusing them of being “barbaric” or “medieval” will be ineffective and only serves to arouse hostility. Traditional communities resent “outsiders” telling them what is “wrong” with their cultures. In order to dialogue with religious people, one must be willing to meet them respectfully within their own worldview. Here are some of the points that can be respectfully brought up:

There is a substitute kapparot ceremony that is widely practiced by many Torah-observant Jews. Money, perhaps equal to the monetary value of the fowl, is substituted for the rooster or hen. The money is put into a handkerchief which the person swings three times around his or her head while reciting a modified version of the prayer: "This money shall go to charity, and I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace." This is based on the statement in the Torah that people who lived too far from Jerusalem to bring their tithes in animals or produce could “turn it into money” and bring that instead. (Deut. 14:24-26) By substituting money for a fowl in kapporot, the heightened sense of repentance can be kept, and perhaps even enhanced, since no bird has to lose its life or suffer for our sake. This substitution, which maintains the tradition of giving charity (the substituted money) to the poor, has been endorsed by many rabbis and is mentioned in many prayer books, including the Artscroll Siddur, which is used in many Orthodox synagogues.

2. We should attempt to increase the knowledge of Jews with regard to Judaism's beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:

Moshe Rabbenu, (our great teacher, Moses) and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the Jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals, when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Abraham's servant Eliezer.

Many Torah laws involve proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and a weak animal together. Animals, as well as people, must be permitted to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this Sabbath rest for animals as well as people is indicated by the fact that it is included in the Ten Commandments. We also recite it every Sabbath morning as part of the Kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates God's concern for animals, for "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalms 145:9). And there is a mitzvah-precept in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps Proverbs 12:10 best summarizes the Jewish attitude toward animals: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal." In summary, the Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chaim, any unnecessary pain to living creatures, even psychological pain. This principle is based on the Torah itself, and takes precedence over rabbinical decrees or folk customs.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the Jewish view on treatment of animals: “Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.” (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)

3. It can therefore be argued that one way that Jews can accomplish repentance and other goals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is by moving away from the unnecessary exploitation of animals. For many of the values of this holiday period are more consistent with practicing mercy toward all of God's creatures:

Prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for God’s compassion during the coming year are most consistent with acts of kindness to both other people and animals. The following story reinforces this idea: Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox Rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve to chant the sacred Kol Nidre Prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be late or absent on this very holy day. They sent out a search party to look for him. After much time, their rabbi was found in the barn of a Christian neighbor. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of his neighbor's calves, lost and tangled in the brush. Seeing that the animal was in distress, he freed it and led it home through many fields and over many hills. This act of mercy represented the rabbi's prayers on that Yom Kippur evening.

(b) Consistent with Rosh Hashanah as a time when Jews are to "awaken from slumber" and mend our ways, using money for the kapparot ritual shows that we are putting Torah teachings about compassion into practice.

(c) Acts of kindness and charity are consistent with God’s "delighting in life" on Rosh Hashanah, since, unlike the kapparot ceremony using chickens, they don’t involve the possible cruel treatment and death of animals.

4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should remind others that kapparot is not biblically or talmudically ordained (as is tsa'ar ba'alei chaim), that the custom arose at a later period in Jewish history, that it has been rejected by many Jewish sages, and that the important goal of increasing our sensitivity to the importance of repentance and charity can be accomplished as well, and perhaps better, by substituting money for a bird.

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4. Recent News Reports About Kapparot

Good news: an important Israeli rabbi strongly urges that money, rather than chickens be used for the Kapparot ritual.

JTA article on the issue:

"Kapparot rite is foul, leading rabbi says":

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4a. Jerusalem Post Article on Kapparot Includes My Comments

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5. Green Israel Summit 4: Green Renewal Shabbat

Forwarded message from Green Zionist chair David Krantz:

As we read about the Biblical flood and the renewal of the earth on Shabbat Noach, we will learn how to renew ourselves and the environment. Celebrate Shabbat Noach with stories, lectures and discussions in a welcoming, pluralistic setting. Explore the Jewish back-to-the-land

movement and what Zionism means today. Learn about energy conservation, population growth, suburban sprawl, Negev preservation, and environmentalism during a time of war. Meet other young Jewish environmentalists from across North America. Green Israel Summit (GIS) 4 is run by the Green Zionist Alliance and co-sponsored by COEJL: The

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the American Zionist Movement and Hazon.

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6. Update on the Possible Fur Ban in Israel

Forwarded message:

Hello all!

If you want to halt in the torture and murder of mammals in the fur trade: the time is NOW, AGAIN:

Please show your support for the bill for a total ban on fur trade.

This influential bill is being put into jeopardy by the extreme lobbying of the fur industry and the Religious parties. Our imperative appeal to the Israeli Knesset is to make evident that the global voice is against the cruel fur trade and supports this vital bill. Tell Minister Yakov Margi that he should not be lead by a greed motivated industry, which is acting out under the reality of a worldwide growing awareness against the fur trade.

The animals need your voice now!

For more information:

Please send a letter today showing your support of this bill and that passage of this ban is vital to the innocent animals in the fur trade and to worldwide public opinion of Israel!

Please send your letter to Minister Yakov Margi: ,

972 2- 5311308 Fax

972 2- 5311101 Phone number

Please also put in copy:

MK Menachem Ben Eliezer Mozes:

MK Haim Amsalem:

Here is a sample letter, that you can use, or you could add lines of you own or use it as a guide to write.

Dear _____________

I am writing to you not only to voice my support and loyalty for the bill to ban the fur trade; but also to tell you that I am keeping up with each and every development on this important bill, introduced by MK Ronit Tirosh.

I know of the unethical political games. These tactics are incomprehensible!

In view of all the facts; the ban will save hundreds of millions of innocent animals that are living in horrendous conditions only to be massacred (even skinned alive) and all only for nonessential fashion items and status symbols.

Israel would be setting an enlightened precedent and the world, both in the public venue and the governmental level would be viewed as a moral and compassionate nation. It would be the best public relations move that Israel took in resent history.

In addition, you would be honestly fulfilling your obligation by representing the majority of the Israeli population.

Followers of ultra-orthodox should logically be leading this compassionate law that is 100% in compliance with the Jewish religion’s stance on “Tzar Baale Lahaim” (empathy and mercy for all creatures) and the requirement of modesty, even though you have been promised an exemption.

The Israeli bill to ban fur trade is an important advancement in humanity for mankind and Israel and I give my total support to the bill and the International Anti Fur Coalition.

If the ban is voted in, then Israel becomes a world precedent and Israel becomes a global leader in compassion over commerce.

Please do the humane thing and aid the bill to ban fur trade and by taking this important action immediately; Israel becomes a light unto the nations.


[Your Name]

[Your Address]

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7. Response to My Being a Guest on “Animals Today Radio”

Message from the show’s producer and interviewer Dr. Lori Kirshner:


I want to thank you very much for being my guest on Animals Today.

You were fantastic!! The hour was very well received!! I have received numerous emails from listeners stating how much they enjoyed the topic; and enjoyed listening and learning from you.

I am giving your website out to those that want to learn more about the subject matter.

You were an absolute pleasure to speak to.

Thank you for educating the community about the importance of vegetarianism!! I wish there were more religious authorities that opened their minds a bit more and not allow 'tradition' to play such an over riding role - especially when it comes to the well being of the environment and other living creatures.


This interview and my other previous interviews can be heard at the podcast section at

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8. Intel Israel Goes Green and Wins Gold

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9. Muslims Go Green for Ramadan


c. 2010 Religion News Service

JERUSALEM (RNS) When Mohammad Rabah prays during the holy month of Ramadan, he makes a special effort to conserve water during ritual purifications.

When his family breaks the monthlong sunrise-to-sunset fast, Rabah tries to consume healthy food grown close to his home in the northern Israeli town of Um El Fahem.

Rabah, the director of his region's environmental equality unit for the Arab sector, aspires to live the way he asks others to live: mindful of the environment.

In 2008, with help from the Israeli government, Rabah organized a conference aimed at helping imams -- Muslim spiritual leaders -- improve the environment in their communities.

Rabah created and distributed educational materials, including CDs with quotes from the Quran, Islam's holiest book, which underscore the importance of moderation, conservation and environmentalism. The imams, in turn, shared the materials with their faithful.

The initiative has expanded into monthly meetings, and just before Ramadan began this August nearly 80 imams gathered to discuss how best to maximize environmental responsibility during this holiest of Muslim holidays.

During the past two or three years, Muslim environmental activists in many parts of the world have made a concerted effort to encourage their fellow Muslims to embrace "green" practices, especially during Ramadan.

Like Catholics who forgo gas-guzzling vehicles during Lent, and Jews who use sustainable products while cleaning for Passover, Muslims are promoting ways to be kind to the environment, just as the Quran commands.

Muslim texts overflow with phrases that resonate with environmentalists.

"The Quran tells Muslims to `eat and drink, but waste not by excess,"' Rabah said, "and the Prophet Mohammed said it is forbidden to waste water while doing `wudu' -- the Islamic ritual ablution -- `even if one lives near a river."'

Even so, the modern-day emphasis on "greening" Ramadan is quite new, said Arwa Aburawa, an England-based journalist and blogger who specializes in Muslim environmentalism.

"The fact that there is an entire month dedicated to moderation and limiting waste is a pretty amazing thing, and its green principles are hard to ignore: eat less, waste less and remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves. These principles are at the center of the green movement."

While moderation is at the very core of Ramadan, "there are probably a lot of Muslims out there who are living greener lives during Ramadan but who don't necessarily make the link" between their religious observance and mainstream environmentalism," Aburawa said.

What's new, Aburawa noted, "is that a younger generation of Muslims are recognizing that link and are articulating it a lot clearer to the wider green community."

In Chicago, Muslims of all ages have welcomed the realization that Ramadan and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand.

In 2009, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago launched a `green Ramadan' campaign among its 63 member organizations.

This year, the council published a "Green Ramadan Resource Pack" that includes suggestions on how to use earth-friendly paper products, save water and safely recycle appliances.

"Our lives are becoming full of excesses and indulgences," Zaher Sahloul, chairperson of the council, told reporters during the unveiling of the resource pack. "We use fasting in Ramadan to cap our eating, our drinking and our impulses, so why do we not use it to protect our planet?"

The response has been heartening, said Feras Abdelrahman, the council's youth and civic engagement coordinator. "About 15 of our organizations have so far formally adopted `green' practices during Ramadan."

The campaign encourages Muslims to prepare smaller portions of food to lessen waste, to consume less meat and to purchase locally harvested food whenever possible, not only to reduce their carbon footprint but also to support local farmers. It also urges the use of water filters instead of bottled water, and low-energy light bulbs and appliances, and to install recycling bins wherever people congregate.

Last year, several of the council's member organizations encouraged recycling, carpooling to and from the mosque, and utilized e-fliers instead of paper.

In a similar vein, the website offers tips for "ethical eating" during Ramadan that include a recommendation to buy meat from animals treated in a humane way; and fair-trade products through a trading partnership that offers farmers a fair price.

In Muslim towns and cities in Israel, Friends of the Earth Middle East will distribute fliers toward the end of Ramadan next month (Sept.) asking Muslims to discard animal carcasses at specially prepared dump sites so the bones can be disposed of properly, and in order to minimize odors and the risk of disease, said Gidon Bromberg, the organization's director.

Taleb Al-Harithi, a Palestinian environmentalist and director of the Palestine Peace Society, said the Middle East, with its scarce natural resources and strong religious faith, is the ideal place to apply religious principles to safeguard the planet.

"In Egypt, in the time of the pharaohs, it was a sin to spit into the Nile. Even if 99 percent of the people do good for the environment, and only 1 percent does bad, the environment is tainted," Al-Harithi said.

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10. Cowboy Worship Endangers Wildlife

Forward message from author and vegetarian activist Mike Hudak:

Ranching, as American as apple pie and as favorably regarded as motherhood, has dominated America's western landscape since the 1860s. Less known is that ranching has remade that landscape into an environmentally degraded shadow of its former grandeur. One measure of that degradation is that livestock grazing is the fourth major cause of species endangerment and the second major cause of endangerment of plant species. Another measure is that livestock grazing has damaged 80 percent of the streams and riparian ecosystems in arid regions of America's West.

So how did ranching, ranchers, and cowboys come to be so admired despite all the environmental damage they cause? I explain that contradiction in a presentation about the development and cultural impact of what's called the "Cowboy Myth," a concoction of the entertainment and advertising industries that draws upon the mystique of the American frontier and significantly contributes to the creation myth of the American identity.

Why should we care about the Cowboy Myth? Because it's a significant obstacle to enacting federal laws that would make western ranching less harmful to the environment.

For my free presentation: "The Cowboy Myth: Its Creation and Influence in the United States"

Please contact:

Mike Hudak, PhD


Ph: 607-240-5225

For information about my work, see my websites: and

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11. A Rare Medium, Well Done/A Chance to Help[ Spread Vegetarian Messages

Forwarded message:

It has been estimated that if Americans ate one vegetarian meal a week -- just one meal -- the environmental impact would be equivalent to taking 5 million cars off the road. As we know, our small individual choices have a great cumulative influence on our personal and planetary health. In this spirit, there is a new grassroots initiative to contribute to the cultural conversation of our omnivorous society. In a light-hearted, playful presentation of ideas, the Vegtoons animated series advocates for less meat consumption and encourages plant-based diets. Over ten 2-minute episodes,the Vegtoons series explores a host of issues, concerns and assumptions surrounding the vegetarian lifestyle -- ranging from the foods that vegetarians eat, to health and ethics, to relationships with family and loved ones.

Animation has a unique capacity to distill complex concepts in a palatable, non-threatening form. It has the potential to communicate across a spectrum of age, culture and literacy. The series is being designed and animated by Cartoon Saloon, which was Oscar-nominated recently for Best Animated Feature ("The Secret of Kells"). It is produced by Greg Singer, who has worked in the executive story/development offices of DreamWorks Feature Animation and Cartoon Network, among other studios.

Because this is a grassroots initiative, funding is the limiting ingredient to move forward with production. We need sponsors to help in the realization of this innovative outreach campaign. For interested parties, there are promotional and investment opportunities. Tax-deductible contributions are also possible. More information may be found at ''. Thank you for your generous support

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