Resolution on Judaism and Dietary Concerns


(1) Judaism mandates that people be very careful about preserving their health and their lives (v'nishmartem me'ad l'nafshotechem, Deut. 4:15), but the typical American high-fat, high-cholesterol animal-centered diet has been linked to the three most frequent American killers -- heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer -- and other degenerative diseases, and a former U. S. Surgeon General has stated that 68% of diseases in this country are diet related; and

(1a) largely as a result of these diseases, total health care costs in the United States have soared from $80 billion in 1970 (6% of the national GNP) to $ 1,060 billion in 1994 (14% of the national GNP) and is projected to reach $1,700 billion by the end of the century (18% of the national GNP), and this growth has been far greater than any other component of the federal budget; and

(1b) largely as a result of soaring medical costs, the U. S. national debt this year is projected to hit $5 trillion, 5 times its value in 1980, and this represents almost $20,000 for every person in the United States; and

(1c) the recent debates related to the proposed balance budget amendment indicate that the federal debt is likely to continue to grow, with economists predicting deficits of about $200 billion per year for the next few years, followed by even higher annual deficits; and

(1d) President Clinton and many other political leaders and economists have concluded that our nation's economic problems cannot be solved unless medical costs are contained; and

(1e) medical expenditures related to the standard American meat-based diet are having other extremely negative economic effects for individuals and governments, as cuts severely impinge in many areas, including public schools, hospitals, social welfare facilities, crime prevention, and parks; and

(1f) continued fiscal difficulties at the local, state, and national levels threaten many Jewish social service programs and continued economic aid to Israel; and

(2) Judaism stresses that we are to share our bread with hungry people, but over 70% of the grain consumed in the United States and 2/3rd of the grain exported by the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as 20 million people (primarily children) die annually from hunger and its effects; and

(3) Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" and that we are to be partners with God in preserving the world, but animal-centered diets and the current factory farming associated with it have major negative ecological effects, including soil erosion and depletion, water and air pollution related to the production and use of pesticides, fertilizer, and other chemical inputs, the destruction of tropical rainforests and other habitats, and potential global warming through the destruction of forests to create land for grazing and the production of feedcrops, and the emission of large amounts of methane during the digestive process of cattle; and

(4) Judaism mandates that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (bal tashchit, Deut. 20:19,20), but livestock agriculture requires up to 20 times as much land and 10 times as much energy and water as the production of vegetarian foods, as well as vast amounts of pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources; and

(5) Judaism emphasizes compassion for animals (tsa'ar ba'alei chayim), but animals are raised for food today under cruel conditions, in crowded, confined cells, denied fresh air, exercise, and any emotional stimulation, and fed and injected with chemicals and hormones; and

(5a) Mahatma Gandhi has stated that "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated", but over 7 billion animals are slaughtered every year in the United States, after suffering horribly, until the butcher's knife ends their agony; and

(6) Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, but animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war; and

(7) over 1700 of the world's scientists, including 104 Nobel laureates in scientific fields, have signed a "Scientists Warning To Humanity", which states that major changes are necessary if civilization is to move away from its present unsustainable path; and

(8) the powerful meat, dairy, and egg lobbies have promoted food habits that have been linked to many degenerative diseases (for example, the "Basic Four Food Groups" that these groups strongly supported for many years involves up to 50% animal products in the diet); and

(8a) the pharmaceutical industry and other lobbies have stressed cures for diseases rather than preventive approaches through dietary and other lifestyle changes; and

(8c) many people in the Jewish community (and other communities) base their dietary choices on myths that are part of the conventional wisdom; for example, (1) it is commonly believed that large amounts of protein are necessary for a nutritious diet, but recent research has shown that about 5% of calories as protein (the amount in a human mother's milk, compared to 48% in a rat's mother's milk) is adequate and that it is virtually impossible to get insufficient protein on a well-balanced plant-based diet, and (2) it is commonly believed that large amounts of calcium are necessary in order to avoid osteoporosis, but recent medical research has shown that countries such as the United States and Scandinavian countries, where people consume the highest amounts of dairy products, have the highest rates of osteoporosis, and other countries, such as China, where the people are largely lactose intolerant, have low rates of osteoporosis (the culprit has been found to be the consumption of large amounts of animal protein, which drain calcium from the body as part of the excretion process); and

(9) the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine has been actively promoting their "New Four Food Groups", composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as the best way to improve the health of the American people, and their proposal that the U. S. Department of Agriculture modify their nutrition guidelines so that it is based on their "New Four Food Groups" has been endorsed by 24 prestigious physicians; and

(10) God's first dietary law was vegetarian (Genesis 1:29), and this is agreed to by the most highly respected Torah commentators, including Rashi, the Rambam, and the Ramban; and

(11) according to the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple, Jews need not eat meat in order to rejoice on festivals; and

(12) Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, stated that in the Messianic period people will again be vegetarians, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...the lion shall eat straw like the ox ... and none shall hurt nor destroy in all of God's holy mountain"; and

(13) the realization of Judaism's vision and the welfare and survival of the world require more than ever that Jews be "a light unto the nations", with regard to such issues as ecology, human health, world hunger, conservation of resources, treatment of animals, and this can best be carried out through vegetarian diets; and

(14) for too long the Jewish community has generally paid insufficient attention to ways in which meat-based diets deviate from basic Jewish teachings and threaten human health, hungry people worldwide, and our environmental future; and

(15) our actions based on the above considerations would be an important step in showing that Jews are still compassionate children of compassionate parents, and that Jewish values can result in actions necessary for the improvement of individuals and society; and hence



(1) To set up a committee to look more deeply into the above considerations from a positive Jewish perspective;

(2) to sharply reduce or eliminate animal products at events sponsored by the Synagogue and Synagogue-related groups;

(3) to take steps to educate members of our congregation as well as the entire Jewish community about realities and moral issues related to typical American diets, and the ways that plant-centered diets reflect and embody central Jewish values;

(4) to prominently display in a suitable location nutritional information about the food served at the Synagogue;

(5) to convey this resolution to other synagogues and other Jewish groups, so that they can consider it and also take appropriate actions if they so desire;

(6) to encourage rabbis to explore these issues, and to pursue them with their congregations, students, colleagues, and families;

(7) to encourage principals of geshivas, day schools, and Talmud Torahs to see that these issues are included in their curricula;

(8) to encourage Jewish groups to refrain from serving meat at communal functions;

(9) to encourage Jewish families to celebrate their simchas with vegetarian meals;

(10). to encourage directors of Jewish camps to see that vegetarian options are available at all meals;

(11) to encourage the Jewish media to give extensive coverage to the many moral issues related to our diets;

(12) to evaluate progress toward these goals periodically and to consider ways to improve our efforts.

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