Jewcology Blogs


The Making of a Jewish Activist: My Biography From My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

I am a ba’al t’shuvah – meaning “one who has returned” – a Jew who started practicing Judaism late in life. I did not grow up in a religious family, and I did not receive a yeshiva education as observant Jewish children generally do today. Most of my current Jewish learning comes not from formal education, but from extensive reading and conversations with Jews from many different backgrounds, plus Torah classes and lectures over the past few decades. Like most Jewish boys growing up in New York during the 1940s, I went to a Talmud Torah school a ...

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Summary and Conclusions Chapter of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

In this hour we, the living [post-Holocaust Jews], are “the people of Israel.” The tasks begun by the patriarchs and prophets and continued by their descendants are now entrusted to us. We are either the last Jews or those who will hand over the entire past to generations to come. We will either forfeit or enrich the legacy of ages. – Abraham Joshua Heschel (The Earth is the Lord’s), 107 ------------------------- What A Wonderful Path Judaism Is!  Judaism proclaims a God who is the Creator of all life, whose attributes of kindness, compassion, ...

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How Can We Revitalise Judaism: Chapter 15 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

Little does contemporary religion ask of man. It is ready to offer comfort; it has no courage to challenge. It is ready to offer edification; it has no courage to break the idols, to shatter callousness. The trouble is that religion has become “religion” – institution, dogma, ritual. It is no longer an event. Its acceptance involves neither risk nor strain. – Abraham Joshua Heschel183 We must cultivate a sense of injustice, impatience with vulgarity, a capacity for moral indignation, a will to readjust society itself when it becomes complacent and ...

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How Can Prayer Inspire Activism? Chapter 14 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

  Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, and falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel180 -------------- Based on Rabbi Heschel’s challenging statement above, prayers should help transform people and inspire them to actively strive to create a more humane, compassionate, just, peaceful, and ...

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Should Jews be Vegetarians, or Even Vegans, Chapter 13 of MY Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every fruit tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food...” – Genesis 1:29 The dietary laws are designed to teach us compassion and to lead us gently to vegetarianism. – Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self-discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and ...

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Judaism and Animal Rights- Chapter 12 of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

JUDAISM AND ANIMAL RIGHTS There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to cuts, blows, and beating as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul. – Rabbi ...

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Should Jews Be Environmental Activists?

This is chapter 11 of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperilled Planet" 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 creatures — to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their ...

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Is Judaism a Radical Religion?

There are no words in the world more knowing, more disclosing, and more indispensable. Words both stern and graceful, heart-rending and healing. A truth so universal – Elohim [God] is One. A thought so consoling – He is with us in distress. A responsibility so overwhelming – His Name can be desecrated. A map of time – from creation to redemption. Guideposts along the way: The Seventh Day; An offering – contrition of the heart. A utopia – would that all people were prophets. The insight – man lives by his faithfulness, his home is in time, and his ...

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The Political Shift of Orthodox Jews to the Right and Its Effects

This is chapter 2 of my book, "Who Stole My Relgion?" There is no precedent, whether in the European experience or Israel, for the nasty political and ideological writing that has become standard fare in U.S. fervently Orthodox publications, particularly the stream of vituperation directed against the Obama administration and the collateral adoption of far right positions....I believe that the embrace of right-wing attitudes is a factor in the high rate of attrition among younger Orthodox, a rate that dwarfs any gains achieved through outreach....In view of the ...

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Who Stole My Religion?

Note: This is chapter one of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? I am a Jew because the faith of Israel [Judaism] demands no abdication of my mind. I am a Jew because the faith of Israel asks every possible sacrifice of my soul. I am a Jew because in all places where there are tears and suffering the Jew weeps. I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of despair is heard the Jew hopes. I am a Jew because the message of Israel is the most ancient and the most modern. I am a Jew because Israel’s promise is a universal promise. I am a Jew because for ...

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Preface to “Who Stole My Religion?” by Richard H. Schwartz

In this hour we, the living [post-Holocaust Jews], are “the people of Israel.” The tasks begun by the patriarchs and prophets and continued by their descendants are now entrusted to us. We are either the last Jews or those who will hand over the entire past to generations to come. We will either forfeit or enrich the legacy of ages. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel1 On some positions, Cowardice asks the question “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question “Is it popular?” But Conscience ...

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Passover: How to improve your health and our world

  Richard Schwartz makes the connection between a vegetarian (vegan) diet and how it fits with the meaning of Passover in these 3 essays. 1. Freeing Ourselves at Passover From Diets That Hurt Us and the Planet Jews commendably go to extraordinary lengths before and during Passover to avoid certain foods, in keeping with Torah mitzvot. But at the same time, many continue eating other foods that, by Torah standards, are hardly ideal. Read more... 2. Applying Passover Messages Can Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet There are many Passover-related ...

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Freeing Ourselves at Passover From Diets That Hurt Us and the Planet

Jews commendably go to extraordinary lengths before and during Passover to avoid certain foods, in keeping with Torah mitzvot. But at the same time, many continue eating other foods that, by Torah standards, are hardly ideal. On Passover, Jews are prohibited from eating, owning, or otherwise benefiting from chometz, foods such as breads, cakes, and cereals, that are made from one of the five grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oats) that ferment from contact with liquid. These prohibitions are based on several Torah verses and are observed with great care by ...

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Applying Passover Messages Can Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet

There are many Passover-related messages that can be applied to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path: 1. Today's environmental threats can be compared in many ways to the Biblical ten plagues: * When we consider the threats to our land, water, and air, we can easily enumerate ten modern "plagues". For example: (1) climate change; (2) depletion of the ozone layer; (3) destruction of tropical rain forests; (4) acid rain; (5) soil erosion and depletion; (6) loss of biodiversity; (7) water pollution; (8) air pollution; (9) an increase of severity of ...

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Passover and Vegetarianism or Veganism

Passover and vegetarianism or veganism? Can they be related? After all, what is a seder without gefilte fish, chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken, and other meats? And what about the shank bone to commemorate the paschal sacrifice? And doesn't Jewish law mandate that Jews eat meat to rejoice on Passover and other Jewish festivals? An increasing number of Jews are turning to vegetarianism and veganism and are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian or vegan Passovers, while being consistent with Jewish teachings. Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to ...

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Where Were You When the World Was Ravaged? by Dr. Adriane Leveen

If you take our roles as God’s agents on this planet seriously, march. If you are losing sleep because of the world in which our children and our children’s children must live, march. March against those who should know better. March for common sense. We can stop this!

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Returning to Natural Wisdom, Expanding Our Love (appeared in EJP, 3/3/17)

In the depth of winter, when the stark lines of bare tree branches are etched against a gray sky, it feels like each tree has pulled away from its neighbor, shrinking into itself, saving its energy to survive the cold season. We are also seeing that same reflex toward isolation in our society and country. To continue reading click here.    

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A Vegan Purimshpiel

Reb Henna taught: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Clearly, the chicken. How do we know this? We learn from Megillat Esther that when Mordecai asked Esther to go before King Ahashveros to plead for the Jewish people, she was ‘chicken,’ fearing for her life. Only when Mordecai ‘egged’ her on, telling her that perhaps she was enabled to be queen for just this EGGcelent purpose, did she muster the courage and ‘scrambled’ to appear before the king.” Reb Roosta said, “Speaking of birds, I heard that a Heavenly voice once announced: ‘A Robin ...

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The Complete Text of My Latest Book, “Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperilled Planet”/Please Share

I am posting the complete text of my book, because I want to start as many respectful dialogues on the key issues as I can, with the hope that this will help revitalise Judaism and also help shift our imperilled planet onto a sustainable path. ---------------------- WHO STOLE MY RELIGION? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet By Richard H. Schwartz with Rabbi Yonassan Gershom and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz 1 Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to ...

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Purim and Vegetarianism

There are many connections between vegetarianism and the Jewish festival of Purim: 1. According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Achashverus. She was thus able to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret. 2. During Purim it is a mitzvah to give "mat'not evyonim" (added charity to poor and hungry people). In contrast to these acts of sharing and compassion, animal-based diets involve the feeding of over 70 percent of the grain in the United States ...

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