Member since 2011

Richard Schwartz

Featured Causes: Judaism and Vegetarianism, climate change


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Vegetarian Week Analysis: How Our Food Choices Can Help Avert a Climate Catastrophe

There is good news and bad news. Unfortunately, the bad news is extremely bad, perhaps the most inconvenient truth one can imagine: the world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe. This is the view of science academies worldwide and of over 97% of climate scientists. Global temperatures have been rising. The 12 warmest years since temperature records have been kept in 1880 have occurred since 1998. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer ...


Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Vegetarianism

There are many connections that can be made between vegetarianism and the joyous Jewish festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly), and Simchat Torah: 1. Sukkot commemorates the 40 years when the ancient Israelites lived in the wilderness in frail huts and were sustained by manna. According to Isaac Arama (1420-1494), author of Akedat Yitzchak, and others, the manna was God's ...


Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism

There are many connections that can be made between the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and vegetarianism: 1. On Yom Kippur, Jews pray to the "Living God", the "King Who delights in life," that they should be remembered for life, and inscribed in the "Book of Life" for the New Year. Yet, typical animal-based diets have been linked to heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases, ...


Why Perform a Rite That Kills Chickens as a Way to Seek God’s Compassion?

During the ten-day period starting on Rosh Hashanah and ending on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, Jews seek God's compassion and ask for forgiveness for transgressions during the previous year so that they will have a happy, healthy, peaceful year. Yet, many Jews perform the rite of kapparot (in Ashkenazic Hebrew kappores or in Yiddish, shluggen kappores) in the days before Yom Kippur, a ritual that involves the killing of chickens. Kapparot is a ...


Rosh Hashanah and Vegetarianism

Rosh Hashanah is the time when Jews take stock of their lives and consider new beginnings. Perhaps the most significant and meaningful change that Jews should consider this year is a shift away from diets that have been having devastating effects on human health and the health of our increasingly imperiled planet. While many Jews seem to feel that the holiday's celebration can be enhanced by the consumption of chopped liver, gefilte fish, chicken ...


An Overlooked Mitzvah: Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chaim/A New Year for Animals Message

While tsa'ar ba'alei chaim (the mandate not to cause "sorrow to living creatures") is a Torah prohibition, many religious Jews seem to be unaware of it or to not consider it of any great importance. Some examples reinforce this assertion: • Upon reading an article about my efforts to get Jewish teachings on animals onto the Jewish agenda, a member of my modern Orthodox congregation was incredulous. "What? Jews should be ...


Polish Shechita Ban Ignores Key Factors

The recent Polish government ban of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) overlooks some important considerations. First, it ignores the many problems related to stunning, their preferred method of slaughter. These are thoroughly covered in the book, "Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry," by Gail Eisnitz. Through many interviews with slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors, she ...


Restoring and Transforming the Ancient New Year for Animals

Another Jewish holiday? Don't we have enough already? Not according to Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), of which I am president emeritus. We are working with a coalition of Jewish groups and individuals to restore and transform the ancient and largely forgotten Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana L'Ma'aser BeHeima (New Year's Day for Tithing Animals for sacrifices when the Jerusalem Temple stood) into a day devoted to increasing awareness of ...


How Should Jews React to the Polish Ban on Shechita?

Recently the Polish government banned the practice of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter). How should Jews react? Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), of which I am President Emeritus, is against all slaughter, but we object when shechita is signaled out for criticism or is banned. Shechita was designed to minimize pain, but even if it is carried out with a minimum of pain, the many months during which animals are mistreated on factory farms ...


Restoring the New Year for Animals

Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month before Rosh Hashanah, begins a month when the shofar is blown at weekday morning services (except on Shabbat), and Jews are to examine our deeds and consider how to align our lives more with Jewish values. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Rosh Chodesh Elul was a New Year for Animals, a day devoted to tithing for animal sacrifices. After the second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, there was no longer a ...


Tisha B’Av and Vegetarianism

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av: 1. Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. Today the entire world is threatened by climate change, and modern intensive livestock agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 2. In Megilat Eichah (Lamentations), which is read on Tisha B'Av, the prophet Jeremiah warned ...


RELATING TISHA B’AV TO TODAY’S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISES

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year on July 15-16, reminds us that over 2,000 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, with the result that the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the first of many negative things that occurred on that day, including the destruction of the second Temple as well. Today there are many "Jeremiahs" warning us that now it is the entire world that is ...


Tnuva Admission of Inherent Animal Abuses Should Get Dietary Issues Onto the Jewish Agenda

Pauline Dubkin Yearwood and Richard Schwartz "Slaughtering by its very nature causes the animals great suffering." Who said this? A vegan activist or someone from an animal rights group? That’s what you'd think, but prepare to be shocked: The statement was made by a major Israeli dairy and meat producer, Tnuva. The company is currently the defendant in two independent class action suits related to the ...


Do Torah Teachings Justify Animal Exploitation?

DO TORAH TEACHINGS JUSTIFY ANIMAL EXPLOITATION? Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. Many apologists for the exploitation of animals seek justification in scripture, but their presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important Torah verses that, when properly conceived, actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals. The first misunderstanding is that the Torah teaching that humans are granted ...


A Fictional Dialogue on Shavuot Night About Vegetarianism

Richard Schwartz For many years Danny Shapiro looked forward to staying up all night at his synagogue with his friends on the first night of Shavuot, hearing talks about and discussing Torah teachings. This year he especially anticipated this annual commemoration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, because Rabbi Greenberg would be meeting with Danny and other college students for an hour at 3 AM to answer any questions on ...


Shavuot and Vegetarianism

Shavuot and Vegetarianism By Richard H. Schwartz There are many connections between vegetarianism and the important Jewish festival of Shavuot: 1. Shavuot is described as "z'man matan Toratenu" (the season of the giving of our law (the Torah)). It is this Torah that has in its very first chapter God's original, strictly vegetarian, dietary regimen: "And God said: 'Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is on the face of all ...


A Shavuot Message: Applying Torah Values To Our Diets

A Shavuot Message: Applying Torah Values To Our Diets By Richard H. Schwartz Since Shavuot is z'man matan Torateinu (the commemoration of the giving of the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai), many dedicated religious Jews admirably stay up the entire first night of Shavuot to hear talks about and discuss Torah teachings. Among these Torah teachings are that Jews should preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, ...


Some Jewish Environmental Thoughts for Earth Day

Some Jewish Environmental Thoughts for Earth Day Richard H. Schwartz And the Lord God took the man [Adam] and put him into the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.--Genesis 2:15 The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God’s earth, and everything on it [must be seen] as God’s creation, and [animals recognized as] your fellow ...


Lag B’Omer and Vegetarianism

Lag B’Omer & Vegetarianism: Making Every Day Count Daniel Brook & Richard H. Schwartz Lag B’Omer, which begins after sundown on Saturday, April 27 in 2013, is considered a minor Jewish holiday, but even a minor holiday provides valuable lessons and is worth celebrating. A great way to celebrate Lag B’Omer is through vegetarianism, as Lag B’Omer has many vegetarian connections. Lag B’Omer represe...


Jewish Teachings on the Environment (Part 1)

Jewish Teachings on the Environment (Part 1) by Richard Schwartz With Earth Day approaching (April 22), it is a good time to consider some of Judaism’s powerful teachings on the environment. Some people argue that humankind has been given a license to exploit the earth and its creatures, because God gave us “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis ...