Summary of my key activities to promote veganism during the two years I have been living in Israel
I would like to update you on some of the things I have been doing to promote veganism in the now two years that I have been living in Israel, with the hope that it might inspire others to take similar actions. With many of the areas of my involvement I have added a suggestion of how it could be applied more widely to break through the current widespread denial, apathy, misinformation, and resistance and help get veganism and related issues onto the Jewish agenda.I am sorry that this message is very long but I hope the examples and suggestions I include make it worth reading, at least partly. Thanks.
1. I registered for an online course, “Food and Faith,” given by Chabad, the Lubavitich chasidic organization to see how they would treat the course title connections. Unfortunately there was no attempt to consider vegetarianism, let alone veganism, and issues like health, the treatment of animals, the environment, climate change, hunger, and other veg-related issues were treated very little or not at all. As a student in the class, I submitted several messages complimenting Chabad and the instructor for giving such a course but respectfully asking why the ethical and halachic problems associated with animal-based diets were being ignored, especially when the production and consumption of meat and other animal products are contributing to an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish community, to climate change and other environmental threats to humanity, to widespread mistreatment of farmed animals, and other violations of basic Jewish teachings. There was no response from the teacher of the course and just one other student gave a weak response and then did not respond to my rejoinder.
What is the lesson here and how might we build on it? Despite he fact that Chabad has many very learned Orthodox rabbis who are frequently sending out Torah messages, none was able or willing to address my respectful challenges. The bottom line is that we have a VERY strong, unassailable case, and the vast majority of rabbis, although commendably very committed to Judaism and its preservation and spread, are generally ignoring our arguments. The veg/animal rights communities can, I believe, gain much by respectfully challenging rabbis and other influential Jews to apply Jewish values to their diets as they do with other aspects of their lives and put veganism and related issues onto their Jewish agendas. There are many “Ask the Rabbi” websites online and this is just one of many ways we can be involved in raising the issues.
2. I have had a letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post published almost once a month, which is their limit. Many have promoted veganism.
Since I am limited to how often I can send letters, I have been collaborating with others to have letters sent. Just yesterday, August 7, 2018, the following letter appeared:
Averting a catastrophe
After reading “Europe deals with massive heatwave” and “Study sees dramatic rise in heat wave deaths by 2080” (Aug 4), I am wondering why averting a climate catastrophe isn’t a major focus today. It seems that there are almost daily reports of severe heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and other effects of climate change, so it is time to end business as usual and to make major changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As a vegan in Israel, the country with the highest percentage of vegans, I want to stress that shifts to vegan diets would have a major positive impact. A 2006 UN Food and Agriculture report indicated that the livestock sector emits more greenhouse gases, in CO2 equivalents, than all the means of transportation worldwide combined. More recent studies have reinforced this conclusion.
Given that there are now many delicious, nutritious vegan dishes, and that the production and consumption of meat and other animal products has negative health effects and massively mistreats farm animals, I urge my fellow Israelis to shift to vegan diets. It would be very positive for your health and that of our precious planet.
Since the letters section is reportedly among the most popular sections of a newspaper, I believe we could gain much with a letter-writing campaign. I plan to post many of my letters on the Internet, organised by topic, with the hope that this will be helpful to others. This could get our key arguments to many more people and reinforce them often.
3. I have arranged to have the then-Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), (now renamed Jewish Veg)-sponsored, acclaimed, award-winning, very pro-vegan and animal rights, one-hour video, “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World,” shown at the 450 resident retirement center where i now live in Israel and also at the Israeli Jewish Veg Center.
With that in mind I recently viewed the video after many years of not doing so, and I was reminded of how powerful the video is. The film premiered in Israel and later in the US in late 2007, and I think it is more relevant than ever in view of the recent widespread record heat waves and other recent climate events and the increased interest in veganism and animal rights. If you have not seen the video or only saw it many years ago I suggest you take a look at it on You Tube or by visiting www.ASacredDuty.com. While at that website you can view the wide variety of extremely favorable blurbs and reviews of the video.. JVNA gave away many thousands of the videos but there is a whole new audience for it, as evidenced by the fact that none of the 40 vegans on a recent vegan Birthright tour had heard of it. So, please consider how this powerful video can help in the promotion of veganism and please let encourage others to see it and perhaps help arrange a screening.
4. There is a monthly page in the weekly Jerusalem Post called, “3 Ladies, 3 Lottes,” in which a Jewish-related question is responded to by 3 ladies, one secular, one modern-Orthodox, and one ultra-Orthodox. I submitted a question about whether or not Jews should be vegetarians and even vegans, and that is to be addressed the next time this section appears, probably in late August. I also submitted a question about Jews being activist in addressing climate change and I received a response that they are considering the possibility of addressing this in a future issue.
I hope others will look for such special features in their local publications and submit questions and comments. Publication are always on the lookout for material to fill their pages.
5. About every two months there is a special supplement to the Jerusalem Post on “Healthy Living for Seniors.” The last issue included my article, “Prevention: the Jewish Approach to Health.” It can be read at http://jewcology.org/2018/07/prevention-the-jewish-approach-to-health/ . The next issue is to have my article about the health benefits of veg diets. And the editor has asked me to submit additional articles, and I plan to do so.
6. I have made the third addition of my book, “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” freely available at www.JewishVeg.org/schwartz . Almost all of the 40 vegan Birthright members I spoke to were not aware of my book, so there is a large new potential audience for reading it and I believe that it would influence most people who read it. So, please consider making people aware that they can freely read the book at that website. Thanks.
7. At the website mentioned in item 6, I also have over 250 articles, mostly on vegetarianism, veganism, animal rights, environmental sustainability, and related issues. I have an article relating vegetarianism/veganism to ALL the Jewish festivals. How can we use this wide variety of material to promote veganism? I am happy to have others build on my articles for additional articles. Please also let others know about these articles and encourage them to use them to promote veganism and to build on them.
8. Because of the increasing evidence that the world is heading toward a climate catastrophe, I have been stressing that shifts toward veganism are essential to efforts to avert a climate catastrophe. My article stressing this, “Climate Change: An Existential Threat to Israel, the US, and the World,” was published in the Jerusalem Post. It can be read at http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Climate-change-An-existential-threat-to-Israel-the-US-and-the-world-489556 .
To help increase awareness of climate threats, I have been working with American-born Orthox rabbi Yonatan Neril, founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. In conjunction with two interfaith conferences in Jerusalem on climate change I drafted a statement on climate change that was signed by 43 Israeli Orthodox rabbis and 34 Israeli Masorti/Conservative rabbis so far. I plan to try to add to that list and to add a list of Israeli Reform rabbis in conjunction with future conferences that Rabbi Neril organizes.
9. Largely because I have found much denial in the Jewish community about veganism and climate change, I wrote my recently published hard cover book, “Who Stole My Religion: Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Panet. It argues that Jews should play leading roles in efforts to avert a climate catastrophe and other potential environmental disasters. The entire book can be freely read at http://jewcology.org/2017/02/the-complete-text-of-my-latest-book-who-stole-my-religion-revitalising-judaism-and-applying-jewish-values-to-help-heal-our-imperilled-planetplease-share/ .
Please feel free to share all or any part of this message. Many thanks.
Comments and suggestions are always welcome.