Plans for activities for restoring the ancient Jewish New Year for Animals and transforming it into a day devoted to improving conditions for animals.
I am working with other Jewish veg activists to organize many events in an historic, potentially transformative initiative to restore the ancient New Year for Animals and to transform it into a day devoted to increasing awareness of Jewish teachings about compassion to animals and how far current realities are from these teachings. The events will also consider how animal-based diets and agriculture seriously violate basic Jewish teachings about preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, helping hungry people, and pursuing peace, and why shifts to veganism are especially important today.
We want to help add to Jewish history, restoring this ancient holiday, stressing Judaism’s compassionate teachings, and helping to shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. As Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” And, as anthropologist Margaret Mead expressed it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
As the French writer Victor Hugo stated, “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Well, the idea of renewing the ancient New Year for Animals and building a campaign around it to promote veganism and create a better world has come. Let us not miss this precious opportunity to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.
I am scheduled to lead the following four events:
- A Zoom teach-in with key Israeli rabbis and veg activists on August 8 at 1 PM US eastern time (8 PM Israeli time). The link to register is https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc5OxTx23HCoAlaeaWINjSjHwBQFU2Z5VS6-qpM_AaQr-luSw/viewform
- A session on August 9 at Protea hills, my retirement village in Shoresh, Israel, with participants reading Jewish quotations about animals that that I have gathered (3:30 PM, Israeli time).
- A Zoom teach-in on August 9 with key US rabbis and veg activists at 11 AM US eastern time (6 PM Israeli time); The link to register is https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeZNI8VCM69QOeUp1QjDNRntlXhjV2AoQksDFLpDvOkvLtIQg/viewform
- A Zoom session on August 9 with participants reading Jewish quotations about animals from many I have gathered (1:30 PM, US eastern time, 8:30 PM, Israeli time). The link to register is
The Zoom events will be recorded and widely shared on social media and in other ways.
A VERY nice article about the initiative was in the ‘In Jerusalem’ section of the Jerusalem Post last year. It.can be read at https://www.jpost.com/judaism/renewing-the-ancient-new-year-for-animals-with-a-vegan-spind-638482
An article about this year’s planned activities, “A new year for animals?” Is in the current (August 9) issue of the Jerusalem report.
- A link to a recent article that shows how serious climate threats are and why initiatives, such as this one, to increase awareness of the threats, are increasingly important. There have been many more recent articles about the many recent severe climate events.
- Links to my 4 articles online on the initiative, including one that provides ten reasons for restoring and transforming the ancient holiday. at www.JewishVeg.com/schwartz
- A link to MANY Jewish quotations about animals and related issues and quotations about how animals are treated today.
- Material from New Year for Animals pioneer Aharon Varady about the initiative
- A list of speakers who have agreed to speak at the Israeli and US teach-ins so far. Suggestions for more possible speakers are very welcome.
- A list of Jewish organizations that support this initiative. Suggestions for additions to this list are welcome.
- A list of rabbis who support this initiative. Suggestions for possible increases for this list are also welcome.
- A list of Jewish leaders and activists who support the initiative. Suggestions for additions to this list are also welcome.
- A list of supporting statements from rabbis. I will try to also add to this list.
Suggestions are always welcome,
1. A recent wake-up call to the urgency of doing everything possible to avert a climate catastrophe
2. Below are links to my four articles about efforts to renew and transform the ancient Jewish New Year for Animals:
- Animal rights and Jewish law: restoring and transforming an ancient holiday
- An Audacious Initiative to Restore the Ancient New Year for Animals
- Top Ten Reasons for Restoring and Transforming the Ancient New Year for Animals
- An Overlooked Mitzvah: Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chaim
The links may be freely shared and the articles may be circulated and republished.
3. Link to MANY Jewish quotations about animals and related issues
4. Material from New Year for Animals pioneer Aharon Varady about the initiative
Here is the resource page for Rosh Hahanah la-Behemah prayers and ritual activities at the Open Siddur Project:
For the Wikipedia article on Rosh haShanah la-Behemah, find:
For my sourcesheet on Rosh haShanah la-Behemah at Sefaria, find:
5. List of speakers so far
Israeli teach-in speakerl[For introduction} Richard Schwartz, PhD, president emeritus of Jewish Veg: author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and “Vegan Revolution: Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism.
Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland; leading advocate of Jewish veganism;
president for Israel of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society; American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Inter-religious Affairs.
Alon Tal, MK, leading Israeli environmentalist; author of “Pollution in the Promised Land,” founder of the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense and the Arava Instittev for Environmental Studies
Rabbi Gabriel Coussens: MD,, a psychiatrist, family therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner, homeopath, and medical researcher,; author of 13 books; an ecological leader, mystic visionary, physician of the soul, and founder of the Holistic Liberation Way and the Tree of Life Foundation, and a researcher on healing type 2 diabetes, depression, and manic depression naturally.
Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D., Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at HUC-JIR’s Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem; author of several Judaica books and co-editor of T’fillat HaAdam, the Israeli Refom siddur (2020).
Rabbi Akiva Gersh, a worker in the field of Jewish and Israeli education, including Jewish environmental education, for 20 years; he shares teachings about Judaism and veganism online through his “Vegan Rabbi” social media accounts.
Yael Shemesh, Prof., Bible Department, Bar-Ilan University; Israel; Director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism
Rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair, consultant to Israeli hi-tech startup companies; Jewish scholar whose book on Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s great work on shmita, Shabbat Ha’aretz will be published in September 2021
Yossi Wolfson, coordinator of the Israeli Jewish Vegetarian Society; a long time Israeli animal rights activist.
Miriam Maisel, MD, family medical practitioner, with emphasis on nutrition and lifestyle author of peer-reviewed articles on nutritional connections to health.
Noam Bedein, founder and director of the “Dead Sea Revivaal Project.” He frequently speaks about the Dead Sea, and his work has been recognized by CNN, national Geographic magazine and the UAE Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Adit Romano, co-founder of Freedom Farm Sanctuary
US teach-in speakers[For introduction] Richard Schwartz, president emeritus of Jewish Veg: author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and “Vegan Revolution:Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism..
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of the Shalom Center; author of many Judaica books; long time social justice and environmental activist
Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, founder and director of Shomrei Adamah, Guardians of the Earth; author and editor of Judaica environmental books
Aharon Varady, pioneer in renewing the New Year for Animals; founding director of the Open Siddur Project.
Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg, PhD, creator and director of the website neohasid.org, which teaches eco-Torah, new liturgy, and Hasidic melody; author of Kabbalah and Ecology: God’s Image in the More-Than-Human World.
Lionel Friedberg, multi-award winning producer, director, screenwriter, and cinematographer; producer of the video, “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help save the World.”
Lisa Levinson, director of In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign; co-founder an director of Interfaith Vegan Coalition; co-founder of Public Eye: Artists for Animals, to teach compassion for animals through the arts
Jonathan Wolf , founding president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, now
renamed Jewish Veg; long-time veg, environmental, peace and social justice activist.
David Krantz, founder and president of Aytzim, Ecological Judaism, which has several subgroups, including Jewcology.org, the Green Zionist Alliance, EcoJews, Jews of the Earth, and Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth.
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan, director of Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North
Lewis Regenstein, Author of “Replenish The Earth: A History of Organized Religion’s Treatment of Animals and Nature–Including the Bible’s Message of Conservation and Kindness toward Animals;” Longtime animal rights and environmental activist.
Rabbi Barry Silver, congregational rabbi at L’Dor Va-Dor since 1996, stressing interfaith harmony, rational Judaism and social action; founder of Cosmic Judaism, which merges Judaism and science; he adapts rock music.
Becky O’Brien, Director of Food and Climate for Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability.
Alex Hershaft, animal rights pioneer and long time activist; founder and long-time president of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)
Devorah Brous, urban farmer, educator, and herbalist. founding Executive Director of Netiya., trained extensively in conflict transformation, facilitation, and non-violent communication.
6 Jewish organizations that support this initiative so far:
Animals Now, formerly Anonymous for Animal Rights (Animals-Now.org)
Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, Parent organization of: EcoJews, Green Zionist Alliance, Jewcology.org, Jews of the Earth, Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth (aytzim.org)
Bread and Torah Project (BreadandTorah.org)
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL). coejl.org
Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (www.chai-online.org)
Green Zionist Alliance (https://aytzim.org/greenisrael)
Hakol Chai (www.chai.org.il)
Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, the largest faith-based environmental organization in North America. (hazon.org)
Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature (www.icpanonline.org.p4.hostingprod.com/home)
Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (interfaithsustain.com)
Jews For Animal Rights (www.micahbooks.com)
Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JewishVeg.org)
Jewish Vegetarian Society of Israel. (ginger.org.il)
Jewish Vegetarian Society of the UK. (www.jvs.org.uk)
Jews of the Earth (aytzim.org/jote)
Shamayim Institute: Promoting Jewish Veganism & Animal Welfare (www.shamayimvaretz.org)
Shomrei Breishit: Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth (aytzim.org)
Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center (www.treeoflife.nu/)
Vegetarian Mitzvah (www.brook.com/jveg)
Yashar: The Institute for Jewish activism (website under construction).
7. Rabbis who support this initiative so far
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, Staff Chaplain, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Rabbi Lester Bronstein is immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis; rabbi of Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, New York since 1989; on the board of T’ruah: A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
Rabbi Howard A Cohen, Congregation Shirat Hayam in Marshfield MA; creator and director of Burning Bush Adventures, a program that combined wilderness travel with Judaism for 30 years; deputy chief and chaplain of the Bennington Fire Department for the past 20 years.
Rabbi Michael Cohen, teacher of Bible and the Environment at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; teacher of courses on Conflict Resolution and the Bible at Bennington College.
Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, M.D., Director of Tree of Life Foundation and
author of Torah as a Guide to Enlightenment
Rabbi Yehoshua Engelman, psychoanalyst
Rabbi Ariel Edery, Beth Shalom, Cary NC
Rabbi Adam Frank, Israeli Masorti teacher and lecturer,
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, writer and activist; author of Kapporus Then and Now: Toward a More Compassionate Tradition,” blogger at “Notes from a Jewish Thoreau.”
Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President,The Schechter Institutes, INC.,Jerusalem, author of many articles on Torah teachings.
Rabbi Irving (Yitz ) Greenberg, former President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; author of The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays
Rabbi David Mivasair, Ahavat Olam Synagogue, emeritus, Vancouver, British Columbia
Rabbi Linda Motzkin, co-director of the Bread and Torah project
Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Israel
Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, University Synagogue, Irvine, CA
Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland: KSG, CBE, International Co-President, Religions for Peace; Member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Commission for Dialogue with Religions; former Chief Rabbi of Ireland
Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein, co-director of the Bread and Torah project
Rabbi Amy Sapowith, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn, VA
Rabbi Sid Schwartz, Founding Rabbi, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda, MD. Author, Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future.
Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg, PhD, creator and director of the website neohasid.org, which teaches eco-Torah, new liturgy, and Hasidic melody; author of Kabbalah and Ecology: God’s Image in the More-Than-Human World.
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, director emeritus of Interfaith Council of Metropolitan,
Rabbi Yedidya (Julian) Sinclair, consultant to Israeli hi-tech startup companies; Jewish scholar whose book on Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s great work on
shmita, Shabbat Ha’aretz will be published in September 2021
Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Spiritual Leader, Temple Hesed; Executive Director,
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center; author of many Judaica
Rabbi David Wolpe, Temple Sinai, Los Angeles; author of many Judaica books and articles in the Jewish Week and the Jerusalem Post.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder and director of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute
Promoting Jewish Veganism & Animal Welfare; author of over a dozen books
on Jewish values and ethics
Rabbi Rain Zohav, Director, JOTE- Jews of the Earth, a project of Aytzim
8. Organizational leaders and other influential Jews who support this initiative
Syd Baumel, former editor of The Aquarian, a forum for shedding light on the path
to personal fulfillment
Lara Balsam, Director of UK-based Jewish Vegetarian Society
Beth Bdrkowitz, Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion, Barnard College.
Jeremy Benstein, The Heschel Sustainability Center, Tel Aviv, Israel; author of The
Way Into Judaism and the Environment
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan, director of Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America.
Lionel Friedberg, multiaward-winning cinematographer, producer, editor, and writer, producer of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.”
A. J. Frost, Senior Director of Operations/Assistant to the President & Dean of Valley Beit Midrash
Alex Hershaft, founder and director of the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM)
Roberta Kalechofsky, PhD, author or editor of many books, including Jewish Vegetarianism, Rabbis and Vegetarianism, and Judaism and Animal Rights; founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights
Lori Kirshner, President of Advancing the Interests of Animals (AIA), which she founded in 2001; host of Animals Today, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast
Einat Kramer, Director of Teva Ivri; on the steering committees of Siach, Life and Environment, Mirkam Network for Mixed Religious and Secular Communities, The Beit Midrash Network, and Panim
David Krantz, President of Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, which has several subgroups, including Jewcology and the Green Zionist Alliance.
Miriam Maisel, MD, family practitioner, with emphasis on nutrition and lifestyle; author of peer-reviewed articles relating nutrition to health.
Nina Natelson, founder and director of Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI)
Becky O’Brien, director for food and climate for Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability
Lewis Regenstein, author of “Commandments of Compassion: Jewish Teachings on Protecting the Planet and Its Creatures,” Replenish the Earth, and other writings on Judaism and animals
Sahar Riemer, a leader of the Israeli animal rights organization Animals Today
Nigel S. Savage, long time president & CEO of Hazon: The Jewish Lab for Sustainability, the largest faith-based environmental organization in North America.
Richard Schwartz, PhD, president emeritus of Jewish Veg; author of Judaism and vegetarianism
Yael Shemesh, Prof., Bible Department, Bar-Ilan University; Israel
Director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Center for the Study of Women in Judaism
Peter Spiegel, Vice President and Secretary of Advancing the Interests of Animals (AIA); producer and co-host of the radio show Animals Today,.
Isaac Thomas, Founder and CEO of Vegan Nation
Jeffrey Tucker, director of Florida chapter of Earth Save
Aharon Varady, community planner & Jewish educator; founding director, the Open Siddur Project
Jonathan Wolf, founder of Jewish Vegetarians of North America; co-founder of L’Olam: The Jewish Environmental Network; executive director of Yashar: The Institute for Jewish Activism.
Yossi Wolfson, coordinator of the Israeli Jewish Vegetarian Society
9. Messages of support from rabbis
The Maharal (Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague) wrote that “Love of all creatures is also the love of the Holy One, Blessed be He; for when one loves the Holy One, it is impossible not to love His creatures. The opposite is also true. If one hates His creatures, it is impossible to (truly) love He who created them” (Netivot Olam, 1)
Accordingly, the idea to develop the “ New Year for Animals” from its original limited reference, to become a day for raising awareness of human responsibility for animal welfare, is in fact nothing less than an initiative to enhance our love of the Creator Himself, and is a sanctification of the Divine Name. Rabbi David Rosen KSG, CBE, International Co-President, Religions for Peace; Member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Commission for Dialogue with Religions; former Chief rabbi of Ireland.
It is a beautiful idea to renew/revive a classic day – Rosh Hashanah for counting and giving ma’aser behayma – which lost its actual function with the destruction of the Temple and the Exile. Your contemporary application of this attention in the form of addressing humanity’s relationship to animal life – and the widespread mistreatment of food animals and environmental abuse in today’s economy, marked by industrial farming and animal husbandry – is inspired. I wish you great success in this project because it would have a morally positive effect on our treatment of animals and the planet -as well as bring great benefits to human health in switching to a healthier diet and life enhancement eating. In this way, your project fulfills and advances the central mitzvah of the Torah: choose life. Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; author of The Jewish way: Living the Holidays
The Jewish tradition mandates that we are stewards of all God’s creation. In our day we are increasingly sensitized to suffering of those living creatures in our care; this initiative helps us to recognize our obligation to animals and so helps us be more fully human. Rabbi David Wolpe, Temple Sinai, Los Angeles
Transforming this holiday, which was originally a time to tithe one’s flocks, into a day to focus on the treatment of animals on modern farms, would provide an excellent educational opportunity. Unlike our farmer/herder ancestors who had daily contact with animals, modern Jews are often completely out of touch with where their food comes from, or how it is produced. Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, writer and activist; his blog “Notes from a Jewish Thoreau” is at http://rooster613.blogspot.com/
It is a great joy that we should reactivate a day to honor the holy relationship between the human and animal worlds, as per Genesis 1:29 and 1:30, where all of the animal and human species will be restored to a vegan way of life …. and with that a new level of peace will unfold on the planet. This is something to bring about and celebrate. Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, M.D. Director of Tree of Life Foundation and author of Torah as a Guide to Enlightenment.
I applaud this initiative and effort to bring to fruition the awareness that Jewish tradition expects of humanity toward the animal kingdom. Rabbi Adam Frank, Israeli Masorti rabbi and teacher
By setting aside only one day—a single day—a year to focus on the undervalued significance that animals have in our lives allows us to reflect on the enormity and beauty of God’s creation. A single day each year empowers us to look into our core and go back to the Garden of Eden, the one locale where human and animal resided side by side, where one side didn’t dominate the other for gain. In this way, we return to the vision of Paradise, where all are treated with equality, respect, and dignity. That is the way of Torah. That is the way of Creation. That is way of the Divine. We should hear the call and celebrate the Animal, just as God intended. Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder and director of Shamayim v’Aretz; author of over a dozen books on Jewish values and ethics.
As the human species – Homo not-always-sapiens — turns our attention after a long and disastrous blind spot to the other species that are part of the great ecosystem of Temple Earth, restoring Rosh Chodesh Elul as the New Year for Animals will help us refocus on all the many Names of all the many beings that make up Shmei Rabbah – the Great Name. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, PhD, director, The Shalom Center.
Messaages of support from Jewish veg leaders
In our lifetimes, we have seen the renewal of the medieval custom of the Tu B’Shvat Seder, celebrating trees and fruits and nature and the Land of Israel. Now is the time to similarly create new ceremonies for marking Rosh Hodesh Elul, named in the Mishna as one of the four New Years in the Jewish year [along with Rosh Hashana, Rosh Hodesh Nissan, and Tu B’shvat], specifically the one for tithing and other laws as they apply to animals. We can use this day to remember and rededicate ourselves to ending the cruelties of factory farming, to recognize the benefits which animals bring into the world, to honor our pets, and to remind ourselves that all animals are Divine creatures possessing independent integrity, whom we are prohibited by Jewish law from torturing or mistreating, and who were not created for our exploitation. Jonathan Wolf, a leader since the 1970s in the revival of the Seder Leil Tu B’Shvat; founder in 1975 of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America; currently executive director of YASHAR: the Institute for Jewish Activism