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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on animals.


Blogs

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 custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms ...

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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 soup, and roast chicken, there are many inconsistencies between the values of Rosh Hashanah and the realities of animal...

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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 concerned about animals?" she exclaimed. • Some years ago, I was at a Sukkot gathering at which there ...

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Earth Etude for 1 Elul – Restoring The New Year for Animals

by Richard H. Schwartz Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month before Rosh Hashanah, when the shofar is blown at weekday morning services (except on Shabbat), and Jews are to examine their deeds and consider how to align their 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 need for this holiday and today very few Jews ...

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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 carefully documents in gut wrenching, chilling detail the widespread, unspeakable torture and death at U.S. slaughterhouses ...

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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 Judaism's beautiful teachings on compassion to animals. These teachings include: (1) “God's compassion is over all His ...

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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 should be considered. People who think that other methods of slaughter are more humane than shechita should read ...

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Do Animals Go to Heaven? Reflecting on Our Relationship to Non-Human Life

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven? When we ask such a question or “Do animals have souls?” what are we are really saying? We are revealing a deeper existential and theological question about how human beings relate to other living creatures. No one can know the actual reality of the afterlife, but what we believe about it says something about what we believe about life. Our ideas about animal “souls” is, therefore, really about whether humans are unique among living creatures and determining the spiritual distance or ontological gap between humans and ...

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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 need for this holiday and today very few Jews have heard of it. Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) is working ...

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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 the Jewish people of the need to change their unjust ways in order to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. Today, climate ...

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Should Jews Be Prohibited from Consuming Today’s Dairy Products?

Any vegan will tell you that dairy products are unfit for human consumption. The anti-dairy position stands on at least three very sturdy legs: animal welfare, personal health, and logic. In brief, dairy cows are continuously subjected to horrendous treatment in today’s factory farms, dairy products are inherently unhealthy, and it is logically insane for humans to be consuming something that is designed to turn a 50-pound calf into a 500-pound cow. Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, much admired by The Beet-Eating Heeb Now Shmuly ...

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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 mistreatment of animals at its Beit She'an slaughterhouse, where it produces meat under the name Adom Adom. The ...

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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 dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26) gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. However, Jewish tradition ...

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The Pearlstone Apprenticeship Experience

The opportunity to live and work in an immersive Jewish community first drew me to the Pearlstone Center in the winter of 2012. When a few months later conversation about creating a seven month immersive experience began to percolate I was ecstatic about the opportunity to be a part of making it come to life. Today Pearlstone’s Integrated Sustainability Apprenticeship is seven weeks into its inaugural season, and hosts eight fantastic apprentices who are transforming our farm, retreat center and the broader Jewish community whom we have the pleasure of ...

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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 Judaism that they brought up. Danny had recently become a vegetarian and had done a lot of background reading on Jewish ...

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Does The Bible/Torah Condone Meat Eating? Take a Closer Look at Genesis 9:3

Torah-literate carnivores cling tenaciously to a slender verse in the Book of Genesis to justify their consumption of animal flesh. Genesis 9:3 is the Biblical invitation to a Texas buffet. It plainly states, “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat.” The Beet-Eating Heeb cannot pretend that this verse doesn’t exist. In fact, faithful readers of his blog will tell you that he has never, ever stated that Judaism or Christianity prohibits meat eating. But he is not afraid to address Genesis 9:3 head-on – and show that carnivores ...

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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 the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed - to you it shall be for food'" (Genesis 1:29). ...

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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, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue peace. By becoming vegetarians, and ...

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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 represents the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, the 49 days from the second day of Passover and Shavuot, reminding us of the ...

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Animal & Human Relationships

Two years ago, we deicded to add goats to our farm for milk production and also for the educational value they could bring to visitors. We started by buying two does, which Elan picked by spending a significant amount of time at the breeders, and taking home the two friendliest goats there. We kept them and brought them up to weight, and then we bred them to get them milking. When they delivered, they delivered three boys and one girl. Which raised the question, what should we do with the boys? The two options were: sell them for meat, or raise them as ...

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