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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology intended for use in intended to support Communities of Practice.


Blogs

For many years I have believed that my religion, Judaism, has been stolen. Why? Because Judaism has powerful messages on peace, justice, compassion, sharing, and environmental sustainability that can help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Yet, most Orthodox Jews, while doing many  commendable things, are in denial about climate change and other environmental threats and are increasingly supporting politicians who promote benefits for the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations, at the expense of average Americans. I ...

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Respectfully Turning the Tables When Challenged by Jewish Non-Vegetarians

Vegetarians and vegans, especially those who have recently changed their diets, are generally on the defensive. They must deal with many questions from nn-vegetarians. Those who eat meat have the support of society, and thus they never consider the consequences of their diet. It is vegetarians who are asked to explain the reasons for their diet, rather than those who support the cruel treatment and unnecessary slaughter of animals that an animal-centered diet requires. Perhaps there are times when vegetarians (and vegans) should take the offensive in conversat...

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Questions That Can be Discussed at Tu Bishvat Seders and Suggested Answers

by Richard Schwartz ~ It is hoped that the questions below will be helpful to people leading Tu Bishvat seders as a way to increase audience participation. Suggested responses are given following the questions. Suggestions for additional questions & answers are welcome. 1. What is the origin of Tu Bishvat? 2. Where is Tu Bishvat mentioned in the Tanach? 3. Why are we considering trees, fruits, and nature in the middle of the winter? 4. Why was the 15th of Shvat singled out for special consideration? 5. What was the dispute between Hillel and Shammai ab...

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The Magic of Emergence

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is an old adage, but it could be one of the most important keys to a healthy, meaningful life. People yearn to be a part of something. When we are a part of something, we feel whole. When we see how things connect and relate to form a whole, they make sense and resonate: they come alive. In 1973 I arrived at Camp Swig, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Big Basin, California as a shy 15 year old kid from Hawai`i. My parents were New York Jewish intellectuals who moved to Hawai`i when I was a baby. They wanted nothing more ...

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Please Help in this Important Effort That Can Avert a Climate Catastrophe and Help Shift Our Imperiled Planet Onto a Sustainable Path

There is increasing evidence that the world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe. An exaggeration? Please consider: 2017 was the third warmest year since temperature records were kept in 1880 and this follows three consecutive years of worldwide temperature records, In 2017 there were three category 3 or 4 hurricanes, three extreme wildfires in California, followed by a major mudslide there,and other severe climate events in many of the world’s areas. Climate experts are predicting even more severe climate events as temperatures keep rising. Points that ...

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Proposal for an Interfaith Conference on Climate Change in Jerusalem

Proposal for Interfaith Conference on Climate Change in Jerusalem Need Statement For decades, conflict and turmoil in the Middle East have gripped the world and made the region an epicenter of international focus and concern. At this time, some wonder whether Jerusalem can be a source of anything but violence and hatred fueled by religious extremists. In this region’s persistent unrest, many attempts have been made to bring the two sides together. Most of the attempts focus on the differences between the sides and work toward resolving these differences. Yet the ...

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The Case Against Eating Fish

There are standard questions that vegetarians are often asked. Perhaps the most frequent one is, "How do you get enough protein?" Another common question is, "Do you eat fish?" Many people, including some who call themselves vegetarians, think fish are less capable of suffering than mammals and birds. These would-be vegetarians may avoid eating mammals and birds while continuing to eat fish, sometimes arguing that the problems associated with the production and consumption of other animal products don't apply to fish. After all, they reason: fish aren't raised in the ...

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Ten ideas For Creating a Vegetarian/Vegan World

Please note that whenever the word vegetarianism is used below it implies vegetarianism or veganism, and that veganism is the ideal. ------------------ In spite of the increasing need for a shift toward vegetarianism to counteract the present epidemic of diseases and the many environmental threats caused by the production and consumption of animal products, progress has been relatively slow. it is time for a consideration of new strategies to promote vegetarianism more effectively. The ten ideas suggested below are designed to start a dialogue that will ...

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Please Consider Organising a Tu B’Shvat Seder or Encouraging Others to Do So

by Richard Schwartz ~Tu B’Shvat, the 15th day in the Hebrew month of Shvat, the ‘New Year for Trees, January 30-31 in 2018, has been increasingly popular, with more and more Tu B’Shvat Seders held annually, especially in Israel. It is important that vegetarian and vegan Jews organize such Seders, encourage rabbis and other Jewish leaders to conduct them, and/or attend Seders that are scheduled by others. Here are several reasons why: Tu B’Shvat is a completely vegetarian, actually vegan, holiday, featuring mainly fruits, along with other vegan foods. So, ...

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Some Challenging Questions

I believe there is always a need to consider if we are doing all we can to apply our Jewish teachings toward creating a better world. This can help avoid  complacency and self-satisfaction. Therefore I would like to pose some respectful questions (aimed at least as much at me as at anyone else). * What would the prophets say about our society today? about Judaism in our time? about Synagogue activities? * Why so few dreams of a better world based on the application of Jewish values? * Are we segregating God In our synagogues? If ...

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Imagining a Vegan World

The late Senator Robert Kennedy often stated: "Some see things as they are and ask why, I dream of things that have never been and ask why not?" Yes, why not? Why not a vegetarian world? Or, even better, since we are dreaming, why not a vegan world? When one considers all the negatives related to the current widespread production and consumption of animal products, it is hard to believe that so few people have seen the importance of shifting to such a world. What would a vegan world be like? It would be a world with far healthier people. There are numerous ...

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Veganism’s Essential Role In Preventing an Unprecedented Global Catastrophe

This article was originally written in 2009 and has been updated in 2017, with conditions in 2017 far worse than in 2009. Synopsis: The world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global climate change and other environmental threats, and a major societal shift to plant-based (vegan) diets is an essential part of the necessary responses to avoid that catastrophe. Since methane emitted by farmed animals is in the atmosphere for less than 20 years and is 72 to 105 times as potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide during that time, reducing the ...

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Vegetarianism/Veganism and the Jewish Dietary (Kosher) Laws

Since Judaism is a religion that speaks to all aspects of life, it has much to say about one of life's most commonplace activities, eating. The Jewish dietary laws, also known as the laws of kashrut or kosher laws are extremely important in Judaism. They regulate virtually every aspect of eating for members of the Jewish community (the only dietary law given to non-Jews is to not eat a limb from a living animal). Kashrut includes: (1) which foods may be eaten (although God's initial intention was that people should be vegetarians (Genesis 1:29), permission was later ...

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My Response to a Negative Review of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

Below is my response to a review of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values t Halp Heal Our Imperilled Planet" by Rabbi Natan Slifkin (“The Zoo Rabbi”), with my comments interspersed (in bold font). Material starts below. Several weeks ago, in a post entitled "How Frum Is Your Food?", I lamented how the Orthodox Jewish community (and particularly the ultra-Orthodox community) pays very little attention to animal welfare, especially in comparison to the enormous emphasis on stringency with kashrut. This is a major reason ...

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Frequently Asked Questions on Jewish Teachings on Animal Sacrifices and the Messianic Period

1. If God wanted us to have vegetarian diets and not harm animals, why were the Biblical sacrificial services established? During the time of Moses, it was the general practice among all nations to worship by means of sacrifice. There were many associated idolatrous practices. The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides stated that God did not command the Israelites to give up and discontinue all these manners of service because "to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used," For this reason, ...

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Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) Related to Judaism and Animal Treatment

There has recently been much interest in animal issues, especially related to diet, animal experimentation, and the wearing of fur. What should be the reaction of Jews to this subject? The following, in question and answer form, provides some background, and perhaps will help begin a respectful dialogue on this increasingly important topic. 1. What does Judaism teach about the proper treatment of animals? Judaism teaches that we are forbidden to be cruel to animals and that we must treat them with compassion. Since animals are part of God's creation, people have ...

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Frequently Asked Questions About Judaism and Vegetarianism

1. What is Jewish about vegetarianism and veganism? Note that when the word vegetarianism is used below it implies both vegetarianism and veganism. he word vegetarian implies both vegetarian and vegan. All the reasons for becoming vegetarian can be connected to important Jewish values. These include taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, helping hungry people, and seeking and pursuing peace. As later responses indicate, many teachings in the Torah, the Talmud, and other sacred Jewish texts can ...

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Jewish Teachings on Hunger and Diet

This is factsheet five of a series of five factsheets related to Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ---------------- A. Jewish Teachings About Reducing Hunger On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, while Jews are fasting and praying for a good year, we read in the haftorah the words of the Prophet Isaiah that fasting and prayers are not sufficient; we must work to end oppression and provide food for needy people: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the ...

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Factsheet on Judaism and Resource Conservation

This is Factsheet four of a series of five fact sheets on Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ------------------ A. Jewish Teachings on Resource Conservation The prohibition against wasting or unnecessarily destroying anything of value, bal tashchit, ("thou shalt not destroy") is based on the following Torah statement: "When you shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy (lo tashchit) the trees thereof by wielding an ax against them; for you may eat of them but you shall not cut them down; for is the ...

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Factsheet on Jewish Environmental Teachings

This is the third factsheet in a series of five A. Jewish Environmental Teachings The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. (Psalm 24:10 The Talmudic sages assert that people's role is to enhance the world as "co-partners of God in the work of creation."(Shabbat 7a) They indicate great concern about preserving the environment and preventing pollution. They state: "It is forbidden to live in a town which has no garden or greenery" (Kiddushin 66a). Threshing floors had to be placed far enough from a town so that it would not be dirtied by chaff carried by ...

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