Member since 2011

Richard Schwartz

Featured Causes: Judaism and Vegetarianism, climate change


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Frequently Asked Questions About Animal Sacrifices

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 ...


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 ...


Why Jews Should Oppose Ag-Gag Laws


The current widespread mistreatment of animals in the food industry, especially on factory farms, is inconsistent with Judaism’s ethic of compassion for animals. Nevertheless, most Jews are eating foods that entail animal abuse in almost all major phases of animal agriculture. In addition to institutionalized abuses that are integral to the raising of animals for food, many undercover videos have revealed sadistic mistreatment of animals by workers. ...


Book Review of “A Plate of Resistance: Vegetarianism as a Response to World Violence”

A Plate of Resistance: Vegetarianism as a Response to World Violence By Helene Defossez; translated from the French by Katie Chabriere: illustrated by Marc Defossez; New York: Lantern Books, 2014 Reviewed by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. A Plate of Resistance is a very welcome addition to the rapidly growing number of books on vegetarianism and veganism. The book is relatively slim – only 141 pages, including a foreword, preface, bibliography, ...


Lessons From Trees: a Tu Bishvat Message

Some of my most important lessons in life I learned from Jewish verses about trees. From the following I learned that I should be an environmental activist, working to help preserve the world: In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: "See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt ...


For Tu Bishvat: Quotations from Jewish Sources about Trees

Since Tu Bishvat is considered the "birthday for trees," a time when trees are to be judged regarding their fate for the coming year, I hope the following Jewish quotations about trees and fruits will be helpful for celebrations of this increasingly popular holiday. 1. And God said: "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit -- to you it shall be for food." ...


WHY IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT? THOUGHTS ON TU BISHVAT

One of the highlights of the Passover Seder is the recitation of the four questions that consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Many questions are also appropriate for Tu Bishvat, which starts on Wednesday evening, January 15 in 2014, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other days of the year. While four cups of red wine (or grape juice) are drunk at the Passover Seder, the ...


Creating a Jewish Vegetarian Consciousness

Based on my over 30 years of promoting vegetarianism and veganism in the Jewish community and beyond, I believe that it is essential that there be a major shift to plant-based diets to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Jews can and should play a major role in accomplishing this goal. As indicated in my article below, a major societal shift by Jews (and others) to veg diets is essential to efforts to avert a looming climate ...


Is Fur a Jewish Issue?

Jewish worshipers chant every Sabbath morning, "The soul of every living being shall praise God’s name" (Nishmat kol chai t’varech et shim’chah). Yet, some come to synagogue during winter months wearing coats that required the cruel treatment of some of those living beings whose souls, we declare, praise God. Should Jews wear fur? Several factors should be considered: 1. What does the Jewish tradition teach about the treatment of animals? 2. ...


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. If you do, please let me know how it turns out. Thanks. Jewish Vegetarian Activist: Shalom rabbi.. Rabbi: Shalom. Good to see you. JVA: Rabbi, I have been ...


Thanksgivukah: Giving Thanks for Miracles

Dan Brook & Richard H. Schwartz For the first time since 1888 and then not again for about 78,000 years (!), Chanukah and American Thanksgiving coincide this year on Thursday, November 28. Some are calling it Thanksgivukah. Some are calling it another miracle! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it's always been an integral part of Jewish and American history, spirituality, and politics. Without ...


Will Scandal at Israeli Slaughterhouse Change Jews’ Diets?

"We will not tolerate giving kashrus supervision to a factory that ignores animal cruelty issues." This statement by the recently elected Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, along with his promise to look into the kashrus status of facilities where abuses of animals occur, has the potential to greatly change the ways that animals are raised and slaughtered, as well as the eating habits of Jews. Chief Rabbi Lau expressed his outrage and ...


Chanukah and Vegetarianism

Jews can enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet. Here are eight reasons, one for each night of Chanukah: 1. Chanukah represents the triumph of non-conformity. The Maccabees stuck to their inner beliefs, rather than conforming to external pressure. They were ...


Vegetarian Week Analysis: How Our Food Choices Can Help Avert a Climate Catastrophe

There is good news and bad news. Unfortunately, the bad news is extremely bad, perhaps the most inconvenient truth one can imagine: the world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe. This is the view of science academies worldwide and of over 97% of climate scientists. Global temperatures have been rising. The 12 warmest years since temperature records have been kept in 1880 have occurred since 1998. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer ...


Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Vegetarianism

There are many connections that can be made between vegetarianism and the joyous Jewish festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly), and Simchat Torah: 1. Sukkot commemorates the 40 years when the ancient Israelites lived in the wilderness in frail huts and were sustained by manna. According to Isaac Arama (1420-1494), author of Akedat Yitzchak, and others, the manna was God's ...


Yom Kippur and Vegetarianism

There are many connections that can be made between the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and vegetarianism: 1. On Yom Kippur, Jews pray to the "Living God", the "King Who delights in life," that they should be remembered for life, and inscribed in the "Book of Life" for the New Year. Yet, typical animal-based diets have been linked to heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases, ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...