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Coalition of Jewish Groups Reviving Ancient Jewish Holiday for Animals

NEW YORK CITY (July 24, 2012) -- A coalition of Jewish groups is reviving the ancient Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana La B'heimot (New Year's Day for Livestock Animals) as a day devoted to considering our relationships with animals. The holiday occurs on the first day of the month of Elul and was initially devoted to counting domesticated animals for sacrificial offerings.

"Just as Tu Bishvat, a day intended for tithing fruit trees for Temple offerings, was reclaimed in the 17th Century by mystics as a day for healing the natural world on which our lives depend, it is important that Rosh Hashana La B'heimot become a day devoted to increasing awareness of Judaism's powerful teachings on compassion to animals," said Richard Schwartz, president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America.

"These teachings are all the more important and relevant today in light of the horrible ways in which animals are treated on modern factory farms," Schwartz added.

The first of Elul this year starts at sundown on Saturday, Aug. 18, and ends at sunset on Sunday, Aug. 19.

Vegetarian seders to observe the holiday will be held on Aug. 19 in New York City at the Caravan of Dreams restaurant and at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT.

"I applaud this initiative and effort to bring to fruition the awareness that Jewish tradition expects of humanity toward the animal kingdom," said Rabbi Adam Frank of Congregation Moreshet Yisrael in Jerusalem.

The coalition believes that restoring this holiday is especially important because Jewish teachings have much to say about protecting human health and protecting the environment. Obesity, diabetes and other diseases stem largely from animal-based diets, and livestock agriculture is a significant contributor to the problems of global warming, deforestation, and water pollution.

The supporting groups also believe that a proper restoration and transformation of Rosh Hashana La B'heimot will connect Jewish teachings to today's important issues, will reinforce the compassionate values of Judaism, and will provide a meaningful avenue of Jewish engagement for young Jews in particular.

Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles said, "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."

"Restoring this holiday will 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," said Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, former President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.


Jewish Vegetarians of North America

The Shamayim V'Aretz Institute

International Jewish Vegetarian Society

Jews For Animal Rights

Concern for Helping Animals in Israel

Hakol Chai

Green Zionist Alliance

Adamah at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center

The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature


L'OLAM: Committee on Judaism and Ecology

Jewish Environmental Network

Institute for Jewish Activism