For Immediate Release:
August 9, 2004
Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)         Phone: (718) 761-5876

New York —Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) today released affidavits from five leading rabbis asserting that vegetarian and vegan diets are not just consistent with Judaism -- they are more consistent with Judaic ethics than animal-based diets. The five rabbis, whose statements are below, are:

*  Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa and Chancellor of the Ariel  United Israel Institutes in Jerusalem;

*  Rabbi David Rosen: International Director of Interreligious Affairs  of the American Jewish Committee and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland.

*  Rabbi Dovid Sears: Author of The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism anddirector of the Breslov Center, Brooklyn, New York;

*  Rabbi Everett Gendler: Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanuel in Lowell, Massachusetts and Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.

* Rabbi Barry  L. Schwartz: Rabbi of Congregation M’Kor Shalom in  Cherry Hill, New Jersey and member of the Environmental Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

In his affidavit, Rabbi David Rosen stated:”Under present day conditions in modern society involving, on the one hand, so much damage and danger as well as cruelty in the consumption of animals, and on the other, the possibilities to have a healthy balanced diet without meat, perhaps as never before it is apparent that the consumption of animal flesh has become halachically (i.e. according to the values of Jewish jurisprudence) unjustifiable.”

In his affidavit, Rabbi Dovid Sears cited relevant teachings of Rabbis Yosef Albo, Yitzchal arama, Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz, and Avraham Yitzchal HaKohen Kook, as the basis of his statement: “Based on this trend in rabbinic thought, it may be said that there is a legitimate basis in the Jewish religion for vegetarianism as a more ‘spiritual’ diet.”

The five rabbis’ statements supported a federal lawsuit by three Jewish inmates at Rikers Island who claimed their constitutional rights were violated by prison officials' refusal to provide them a balanced vegan diet, which the inmates claim their religious beliefs require. In a lawsuit filed on July 3, 2003, the three inmates who are serving jail sentences on Rikers Island assert "animal-based diets ... are in conflict with Jewish mandates to preserve human health and attend to the welfare of animals." The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, claimed that repeated denials of requests by inmates Joshua Schwartz, Jennifer Greenberg, and Benjamin Persky to be served vegan meals (without meat, dairy products, or eggs) “have prevented plaintiffs from practicing their sincerely held ethical, moral and religious beliefs, thereby causing severe and continuing physical, psychological and emotional harm." The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case on technical grounds, but the rabbinic affidavits are still very significant.

     JVNA urges Jews to apply Jewish values to their diets, and urges Jewish groups to put the many moral issues related to the production and consumption of food on the Jewish agenda.

     Further information about JVNA can be found at, including over 100 articles on vegetarian issues by Richard Schwartz at JVNA is offering a complimentary copy of the book “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and a related tape cassette to rabbis and other Jewish leaders who will  consider using it as background for a synagogue or other Jewish program.

Below are the five rabbinic certifications in support of the plaintiffs in the Rikers Island vegans case, plus the certification of Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA). Additional certifications, which arrived  too late to be used for the trial, can be provided upon request.       


Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, declares under penalty of perjury that:

1.            I have been a vegetarian from birth and I am a patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society.  I currently reside In Haifa, Israel.
2. I graduated in 1947 from Rabbi Kook's Universal Yeshiva in Jerusalem and was ordained a rabbi by the late Chief Rabbi Herzog.
3. .From 1948 to 1953, I was chaplain in the Israeli Defense Forces and Chief
Chaplain of the Israeli Air Forces (1952-53).
4.            My many positions include Chief Rabbi of Haifa (since 1975);  President of the Harry Fischel Institute for Research in Jewish Law and Seminary for Rabbis and Rabbinical Judges; member of the City Council of Jerusalem; Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem (1965-75);  and Chancellor of the Ariel  United Israel Institutes (since 1973).
5.   In 1999 I received an Honorary Doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.
6.            As a life-long vegetarian, I am very happy to affirm that vegetarianism is very consistent with Judaism.
7.            My late father, the saintly Nazir of Jerusalem, and his teacher, the saintly first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Issac Hakohen Kook, were also vegetarians.
8.            Hence I strongly support the efforts of Joshua Schwartz, Jennifer Greenberg and Benjamin Persky, currently inmates at Riker’s Island prison, to receive well-balanced vegan meals in order to carry out their religious convictions.

I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and correct.  

Dated: Haifa, Israel
July ___,  2003                

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen,        :                   



Rabbi David Rosen declares under penalty of perjury that:

1. I was Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1979 to 1985.
2.I completed my advanced rabbinic studies in Israel where I received my rabbinic ordination in 1971.
3.In addition to military service in the armed corps of the Israeli  Defense Forces (IDF), I served as chaplain in the Western Sinai.
4. I am Honorary President of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society for Israel.
5. I and my family currently live in Jerusalem where I serve as International Director of Interreligious Affairs  of the American Jewish Committee.
6. I was formerly Dean of the Sapir Jewish Heritage Centre in Jerusalem and Professor at the Jerusalem Center for Near East Studies on Mt. Scopus.
7. I am President of the International Council of Christians and Jews and President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, an all-encompassing world inter-faith body,
8.I was also a negotiator of the accord that established full relations between the Vatican and Israel.
9.            I,  my wife, and two daughters have been vegetarians for many years, and we not only consider this diet completely compatible with our practice of Orthodox Judaism, but we believe that all Jews should be vegetarians -- preferably even vegans --  and that this would be far better for our endangered planet.
10.         The Biblical representation of the Garden of Eden is one in which humans are vegans and the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook of the Holy Land (as notable other Jewish thinkers in other ages) envisaged the Messianic Age as a vegetarian era on the basis of the Biblical vision.
11.         Meat eating today - more than ever before - is harmful in a variety of ways. Conversely, we are able to personally enhance well being for ourselves, our society, and our environment through maintaining a vegetarian diet.
12.         Under present day conditions in modern society involving, on the one hand, so much damage and danger as well as cruelty in the consumption of animals, and on the other, the possibilities to have a healthy balanced diet without meat, perhaps as never before it is apparent that the consumption of animal flesh has become halachically (i.e. according to the values of Jewish jurisprudence) unjustifiable.
13.         I wrote the foreword to the 3rd edition of “Judaism and Vegetarianism” by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. Because I think that it is essential that vegetarianism be seriously considered by all Jews, in it I wrote that I hope that this major publication will not only adorn the bookshelf of many a Jewish home, but will also become a guide to an ever-increasing movement of Jews toward vegetarianism, born out of sincere religious conviction rooted in our most sublime teachings.
14.         Those who seek to live in accordance with the most sublime values of Judaism will find Richard Schwartz's book an inspiration and guide for an authentic modern Jewish life that fulfills the important Jewish injunction to "turn from evil and do that which is good, seek peace and pursue it."
15.         I agree with Dr. Schwartz’s argument that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to take care of our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue a more peaceful world, and hence that vegetarianism, and preferably veganism, is the ideal diet for Jews and everyone else today.
16. I also agree that a switch toward vegetarianism, and preferably veganism, is a societal imperative today, because of the many negative environmental, economic, and other effects of animal-based diets.
17. Based on the above, I strongly support the right of the plaintiffs to have nutritious vegan meals.

I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and correct.  

Dated:          Jerusalem, Israel
July ___, 2003                                                      __________________________________________________________



Rabbi David Sears certifies under penalty of perjury that:

1.  As Director of the Breslov Center, a Jewish educational outreach program based in Brooklyn, New York, I have come in contact with many spiritually searching men and women who have adopted vegetarianism as a more healthy and humane diet. The question they inevitably ask is: Does Judaism endorse this dietary choice?
2. In response to this question, I have written a lengthy anthology of Jewish teachings entitled The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism, published by Orot, which should be available in several weeks.
3.  The book acknowledges that Judaism does not impose vegetarianism on its faith community; rather, the kosher laws permit us, within certain restrictions, to eat of certain types of meat and animal products. Nevertheless, several major rabbinic thinkers have espoused philosophical views that support vegetarianism: Rabbi Yosef Albo and Rabbi Yitzchak Arama among the medieval authorities, as well as 20th century visionary Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook. An important biblical commentator of the 17th century, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz of Prague, also deserves mention for his pointed criticism of meat eating. Their ideas as they pertain to vegetarianism may be summarized briefly as follows:

Rabbi Yosef Albo
4.  In his classic presentation of rabbinic doctrine, Sefer HaIkkarim ("Book of Fundamentals"), Rav Yosef Albo (1380‑1444) defines animal slaughter and meat eating as an intermediate phase in the spiritual evolution of humankind. The use of animals to serve human needs, he contends, leads man to recognize the superiority of his moral stature and its attendant responsibilities; however, when at last man overcomes his lower nature and actualizes his innate spiritual essence, there will be no further reason to eat meat. Thus, the Messianic Age will be marked by a return to the vegetarianism of Eden.

Rabbi Yitzchak Arama
5.  In his Torah commentary Akeidas Yitzchak ("The Binding of Isaac"), Rabbi Yitzchak Arama (1430‑1494) declares vegetarianism to be the ideal human diet. This is why in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate only vegetarian foods, as did Moses and the Generation of the Wilderness, who were sustained each day by Manna from heaven. Manna was the ideal food: it required minimal effort in its acquisition or preparation, possessed all tastes, and was the most spiritually refined food conceivable, having been directly provided by God.
6.  Referring to ancient religious traditions that have affirmed vegetarianism, he adds a striking statement: "From time immemorial, men of spiritual attainment, possessed of divine wisdom and removed from worldly desires… refrained from consuming the flesh of animals." This suggests that vegetarianism once may have played a greater role in Jewish pietism than we know today.

Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz
7.  In his homiletical Torah commentary Kli Yakar ("A Precious Vessel"), Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Lunshitz (d. 1619), like Rav Albo, observes that the grudging tone of the Torah's permission to slaughter animals reflects tacit disapproval of a debased craving. Animal slaughter is only justified as a component of the rites of the Holy Temple (which themselves are meant to restore the innocence and peace of the vegetarian Edenic state). The restrictions that disallow an animal to be killed or injured through trapping, as well as the complex laws of shechita and the subsequent preparation of meat, were given in order to deter the Jewish people from this morally inferior manner of conduct. At the very least, concludes the Kli Yakar, one should indulge such desires infrequently.  

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook

8.  The main work of Rav Kook (1865‑1935) that deals with vegetarianism is Chazon HaTzimchonut V'HaShalom ("A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace") edited by his saintly and erudite disciple, Rabbi Dovid Cohen (also known as the "Nazir" of Jerusalem). This tract has been a favorite of Jewish vegetarians since its first publication in the early 1900s, because it acknowledges the legitimacy of the moral sensitivities underlying ethical vegetarianism.
9.  Why did Rav Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre‑State Israel, concern himself with such a long neglected issue? A major thread that runs through Rav Kook's thought is a teleological principle also found in the works of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (whose thought exerted a major influence on Rav Kook). From this vantage point, the Messianic Age is not only a political goal achieved by the cumulative religious efforts of the Jewish people - it is a spiritual paradigm that illuminates the exile from without, and, in so doing, increases the momentum of the redemption, particularly as the End of Days draws near. In Rav Kook's conception, Zionism (at that time a fledgling movement to bring about the return of the Jewish people to their national homeland) was understood to be a Messianic undertaking. A corollary of this utopian vision was the resurgence of interest in vegetarianism as the "Messianic diet," recalling the mystical kinship between humans and animals that characterized the Garden of Eden, and anticipating the enlightened future world order.
10. Based on this trend in rabbinic thought, it may be said that there is a legitimate basis in the Jewish religion for vegetarianism as a more "spiritual" diet. Other voices in the tradition may disagree, but the pro-vegetarian viewpoint has attracted many followers and cannot be disregarded. A number of prominent rabbis have practiced and continue to practice vegetarianism, including Rav Shear Yashuv Cohen, presently Chief Rabbi of Haifa and a major figure in the rabbinic world.
11. Therefore, I endorse the request of the Jewish inmates of Riker's Island to receive vegetarian meals as a legitimate expression of their religious values and practice.
I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
July 10, 2003                   

                                                                      ______________________________ RABBI DAVID SEARS

Rabbi Everett Gendler declares under penalty of perjury that:

1. I am Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanuel in Lowell, Massachusetts and Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, where I served for nearly twenty years as Jewish Chaplain.
2. For reasons of religious and ethical conviction, I began following a vegetarian diet some forty years ago while serving as a Herbert H. Lehman Fellow in Ethics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and have followed such a diet ever since.
3. While Judaism does not require vegetarianism of those who practice it, Judaism does have an honored place within the tradition for those who are vegetarians.  
4. The original Biblical diet prescribed for humans was purely vegetarian (see Genesis 1:29-30); throughout Jewish history there have been many pious Jews who observed such a diet, and such notable religious thinkers as the late Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Kook, of blessed memory, advocated such a diet.
5.            It is also the case that increasing numbers of young observant Jews today follow a vegetarian or vegan diet as a principled part of their Jewish religious practice.  For nearly twenty years, while I was at Phillips Academy, I was actively involved in assuring that Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, Hindus, Buddhists, and many other young spiritual seekers among the student body, had access at the Cafeteria to vegetarian or vegan meals.  Over the decades their numbers increased strikingly.
6.            I do not necessarily condone the actions of Joshua Schwartz, Jennifer Greenberg and Benjamin Persky, which led to their sentencing.  However, I would earnestly request that the Department of Correction make provisions for vegan food to be served to these inmates based on their ethical and religious beliefs.  Such a step would be an appropriate recognition of vegetarianism and veganism as widely-practiced Jewish dietary disciplines today.  It would also reflect great credit upon the Department of Correction in moving one step beyond the current practice of Kosher and Halal diets for inmates, thus extending to all inmates respect for their religiously or philosophically based dietary practices.

I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and
Dated:          Great Barrington, Massachusetts
July 9, 2003           



Rabbi Barry  L. Schwartz declares under penalty of perjury that:

1. I am the Rabbi of Congregation M’Kor Shalom located at 850 Evesham Road in  Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
2. I have been a Rabbi for approximately 20 years.  My congregation consists of approximately 1000 Jewish families who live in and around the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area.
3. For over 20 years I have been vegetarian.  I have three children and have raised them as vegetarians since birth.  I consider my vegetarianism part and parcel of my practice of Judaism.  I personally believe that maintaining a vegetarian diet is the ideal expression of the laws of Kashrut  (Jewish dietary mandates).  Some have even referred to vegetarianism as a “messianic kashrut.”
4.  I serve on the Environmental Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), a nationwide body of reformed rabbis, and authored a formal resolution  that CCAR adopt a the practice of serving vegetarian meals at all regional gatherings.  This resolution has been placed on the official CCAR agenda and is being discussed at all organizational levels.
5. Jewish law recognizes three general levels of practice.  That which is forbidden, that which is acceptable and that which is ideal or holy.  The fact that Judaism permits humane slaughter of animals for consumption does not preclude individuals from aspiring to the higher ideal of reverence for all life by declining to eat meat.  Veganism can be seen as the purest form of this reverence for life.
6. In the Torah, one finds a solid basis for vegetarianism. For example, in Genesis1:29 we are told that God’s initial intention was for people to be vegetarians. The story of the Garden of Eden can be understood to be a metaphor for suggesting an ideal state.  Only in the aftermath of the story of Noah, when humanity had morally and spiritually degenerated, was a concession made to people’s weaknesses, and the consumption of animal flesh was permitted (Genesis 9:3).
7. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, the first Ashkenazic Cheif Rabbi of pre-State Israel taught that permission to eat meat was only temporary and that when people returned to vegetarian diets, we will be closer to the return of the messiah.

I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and


Dated:          New York, New York
July ___, 2003                                                ____________________________

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT                                                                

BENJAMIN PERSKY,                                                                                                  :                  


                                                                                                              Plaintiffs,                              :          CERTIFICATION OF
-against-                                     :         Ph.D.

MARTIN F. HORN, Commissioner of the New York City        :        

Department of Correction,                                                                                 :         


                                                                                                              Defendants.                                    :        


Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., declares under penalty of perjury that:

1.  I am President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, College of Staten Island at 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314.
2. I am author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival, as well as over 100 articles concerning Judaism and vegetarianism. See, for example, Schwartz, 18 Reasons Jews Shouldn’t Be Vegetarians (And Why They’re Wrong), TIKKUN, May/June 2003, at 80, attached hereto and incorporated as Exhibit A.
3. The facts stated herein are within my own area of expertise.  I am competent to testify to these facts and will do so if called as a witness.
4. Vegetarianism is consistent with the teachings of Judaism as modern animal agriculture and the consumption of meat is in conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:
5. While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.
6. While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher consumers -- are raised on "factory farms" where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.
7. While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord's" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.
8. While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of food, land, water, energy, and other resources.
9. While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter (it takes about 9 pounds of grain to produce one pound of edible beef), while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.
10. While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.
11. In view of these important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, contrasted with the harm that animal-centered diets do in each of these areas, committed Jews (and others) should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.     
12.  While any of the arguments above constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and the consumption of meat that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet, combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.
I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements made by me are true and correct.  

Dated:          Staten Island,  New York
July ___,  2003                



Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and "Mathematics and Global Survival," and over 130 articles at
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
and Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
Associate Producer of A SACRED DUTY (
Director of Veg Climate Alliance (