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A Dialogue Between a Jewish Vegetarian Activist and a Rabbi

  For a long time, I have been trying to start a respectful dialogue in the Jewish community. Because I have had very little success, I am presenting the fictional dialogue below. I hope that many readers will use it as the basis of similar dialogues with local rabbis, educators, and community leaders. Jewish Vegetarian Activist: Shalom rabbi. Rabbi: Shalom. Good to see you. JVA: Rabbi, I have been meaning to speak to you for some time about an issue, but I have hesitated because I know how busy you are, but I think this issue is very important. ...

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Eighteen Reasons Jews Think They Should Not Be Vegetarians (and Why They Are Wrong)

1) The Torah teaches that humans are granted dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), giving us a warrant to treat animals in any way we wish. Response: Jewish tradition interprets "dominion" as guardianship, or stewardship: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. Dominion does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs. In "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," Rav Kook states: "There can be no doubt in the ...

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Judaism’s Mission Today

What a wonderful path Judaism is! Judaism worships a God who is the Father of all humanity, Whose attributes of kindness, mercy, compassion, and justice are to serve as examples for all our actions. Judaism teaches that every person is created in God's image and therefore is of supreme value. Judaism asserts that people are to be co-workers with God in preserving and improving the earth. We are to be stewards of the world's resources and to see that God's bounties are used for the benefit of all. Nothing that has value can be wasted or destroyed unnecessarily. ...

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Should Jews Be Vegetarians? – a Debate

Richard H.Schwartz, PhD's debate with Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, which appeared years ago in the Jerusalem Report ========== Introduction: In addition to its benefits for health, animals, and the environment, vegetarianism may be  called for by some of Judaism's most cherished tenets. Is it time to reconsider our dietary traditions? Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbinic Coordinator of the Kashrut Division of the Orthodox Union in New York, debates Richard H. Schwartz, author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and Professor Emeritus at the College of Staten Island. ...

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Sukkot and Vegetarianism

by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. ~The Sukkot holiday, including Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, is known as the "Season of Rejoicing", because people's worries about the success of the harvest are over. Since one must be in good health in order to fully rejoice, the many health benefits of vegetarian diets and the knowledge that such diets are less harmful than animal-based diets to the environment, hungry people, and animals are factors that can enhance rejoicing. There are many other connections that can be made between vegetarianism and these joyous Jewish festiva...

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The Custom of Kappparot (Kaporus) in the Jewish Tradition

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom is co-author of this article. Every year, before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), some Jews perform the ceremony of kapparot. The following, in question and answer format, is a discussion of the ritual and its relation to the treatment of animals. What is kapparot [in Ashkenazic Hebrew or Yiddish, kapporos or shluggen kapporos]? Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl (or a substitute object—as discussed below). First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms 107:10, 14, and 17-21, and Job ...

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Why Perform a Rite that Involves Killing 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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Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism and Veganism

by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. ~Yom Kippur, the culmination of the Aseret Y’mei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance) that begins on Rosh Hashanah, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. On this day, Jews refrain completely from food and water and spend many hours in synagogues, examining their deeds, vowing to repent for past transgressions, and seeking God’s blessings for a coming year of good health and positive outcomes. Yet, after Yom Kippur, most Jews return to animal-based diets that are arguably inconsistent with the values of Yom Kippur and Judaism in ...

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Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Health

The material below is a slightly modified version of chapter 3 from the 3rd edition of my book, "Judaism and Vegetarianism," which was published in 2001 by Lantern Publications. "You may not rob yourself of your life nor cause your body the slightest injury....Only if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for the spirit’s activity....Therefore you should avoid everything which might possibly impair your health....And the law asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding danger to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions".—...

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Rosh Hashanah Message: Is God’s ‘Very Good’ World Approaching an Unprecedented Climate Catastrophe? Richard H. Schwartz Rosh Hashanah commemorates God’s creation of the world. The “Ten Days of Repentance” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is a period to evaluate our deeds and to do teshuvah (repentance) for cases where we have missed the mark. Sukkot is a holiday in which we leave our fine houses and live in temporary shelters (sukkahs) to commemorate our ancestors journey in the wilderness. Hence, the upcoming weeks provide an excellent time to consider ...

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Inconsistencies Between Animal-Based Diets and Rosh Hashanah-Related Teachings

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-cente...

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Rosh Hashanah: A Time to Start Shifting Our Imperiled Planet Onto a Sustainable Path

Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the creation of the world, is a good time to assess how we are doing in fulfilling our mandated role of being co-workers with God in preserving the environment. When God created the world, He was able to say, "It is very good." (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in harmony as God had planned, the waters were clean, and the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today? What must God think when the rain God provided to nourish our crops is often acid rain, due to the many chemicals emitted into the air by industries and ...

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An Acclaimed Documentary That Can Help Save the World”

Our planet is imperiled as perhaps never before by climate change and other environmental threats. It is urgent that steps be taken immediately to avoid the unprecedented catastrophe toward which the world is rapidly heading. Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), now named Jewish Veg, has produced a major documentary about how Jewish teachings can help address current environmental crises. While this one-hour documentary -- entitled "A SACRED DUTY: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World" -- is especially suitable for synagogues, temples, JCCs, Jewish ...

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Hurricane Harvey Should Be a Wake-up Call to the Urgency of Working to Avert a Climate Catastrophe

The catastrophic effects of Hurricane and now Tropical Storm Harvey should be the latest and strongest of wakeup-calls to the fact that the world is heading toward a climate catastrophe. Of course there have always been severe storms, but we have now had three (Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey) in 13 years, whereas in the past they may have happened once in 100 years or more. There are three important climate change factors that are making storms more severe, and they are all increasing: 1. Warmer air holds more moisture; 2. the seas have ...

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Update on the Major Effort to Restore and Transform the Ancient New Year for Animals

In an effort to restore the ancient New Year for Animals and to transform it into a day devoted to increasing awareness of Judaism's teachings on compassion to animals and how far current realities are from these teachings, the message below has been sent to many rabbis and other influential Jews. please help by sharing the message widely. Many thanks. ----------- Dear Rabbi, Please let us know if you are willing to sign the message below that encourages the restoration of the ancient New Year for Animals and its transformation into a day devoted to increasing ...

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Ten Reasons for Restoring and Transforming the Ancient New Year for Animals

A coalition of Jewish groups (list in formation at the end of this article) have supported efforts 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) into a day devoted to considering how to improve our relationships with animals. The holiday occurs on the first day of the month of Elul and was initially devoted to counting domesticated animals intended for sacrificial offerings (Mishna, Seder Moed, Tractate Rosh Hashana 1:1). Below are ten reasons why renewing this holiday ...

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What People Are Saying About “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal the World,” a Powerful One-Hour Documentary on Jewish Teachings on the Environment and Vegetarianism

What People Are Saying about A Sacred Duty "We at CLAL believe that if Judaism is going to be taken seriously by American Jews and for that matter by all Americans, Jewish wisdom needs to contribute to and to add value to the debates at the center of our culture and politics. This documentary - whether or not one agrees with every detail - is an important contribution to one of the critical public policy conversations facing this country and a serious example of taking Jewish wisdom public. Produced at a high quality, this ...

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Links to the video of the Jerusalem inter-religious forum on climate change, and related material

Below are Links to various aspects related to a July 26 inter-religious climate change forum/press conference at the Jerusalem Press Club on July 26, 2017. Video of the complete event https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbMJM6aTWts&feature=youtu.be 2. Statement on climate change and the list of 37 Israeli Orthodox rabbis who signed it http://www.jewishecoseminars.com/statement-by-israel-orthodox-rabbis-on-the-climate-crisis/ 3. Articles about the climate change forum and press conference, with some discussion or mention of the statement signed by the ...

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Aytzim (Ecological Judaism) is Back—Let’s reconnect!

It’s a mystery--we lost our Aytzim facebook page and all our facebook friends. So we will be sending out new invites to like our page. In case you have forgotten, we are all about the environment—saving our world. And these days, it has become more important than ever. Aytzim is the umbrella organization of: Green Zionist Alliance, Jewcology.org, EcoJews, and Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth. Aytzim means “trees” and here’s a little about the other organizations in our product grove: Green Zionist Alliance—Since its founding in 2001, the ...

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A Tisha B’Av Message: Will We Again Fail To Heed the Warnings?

Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) which we commemorate this year (2017) on July 31 - August 1, reminds us that over 2,000 years ago Jews failed to heed the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah about the importance of changing their ways, 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 no prophets like Jeremiah to issue warnings, but we are getting increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists that now it is not ...

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