Applying Jewish Values to Help
Heal the World
is the main message of the movie?
movie stresses three major themes:
The world is imperiled as possibly never before by
global warming and many other environmental threats.
Many examples of environmental problems in Israel
and worldwide are shown.
Judaism has teachings that provide a powerful basis
for responding to current environmental threats. Examples
of groups in Israel and the US applying these values
A shift toward vegetarianism is an essential part
of the necessary response to global warming and other
environmental threats. All the reasons for Jews (and
others) to be vegetarians are carefully considered.
produced the movie?
documentary was produced by the highly acclaimed,
multi-award-winning documentarian, Lionel Friedberg.
His background in cinematography includes 18 feature
film credits as Director of Photography. He has worked
all over the world on both dramatic and non-fiction
productions. For the past 30 years, he has supervised,
produced, written and directed documentaries, reality,
investigative report and educational programs, and
has garnered many rewards, which include: A Primetime
Emmy, a National Emmy, the American Association for
the Advancement of Science 'Westinghouse' Award for
Science Programming, three Columbus and three Golden
Eagles for Best Documentaries, and various awards
as a dramatic and episodic TV director.
the movie's release tied to any campaign?
are planning to build a massive, unprecedented campaign
around movie showings to help shift our imperiled
world to a sustainable path, help revitalize Judaism
and get vegetarianism and related issues onto the
Jewish and other agendas.
plan to use our many contacts in the vegetarian, animal
rights, Jewish and other communities and the increasing
awareness of current environmental and health crises
to challenge all societal groups to make the major
changes necessary to move our imperiled planet to
a sustainable path, including a shift toward plant-based
in late November, we would like the movie to premiere
in as many JCCs, synagogues, Jewish schools, meetings
of Jewish organizations, etc., as possible. We plan
to provide free DVDs to people who will help set up
such events and see that they get widespread media
coverage and a sizable attendance, including rabbis,
educators and other key people in the Jewish community
and other communities. We will also strive to arrange
showings for other religious audiences and for general
What other steps will be taken to further that campaign?
build on and magnify the publicity related to the
movie premieres, we are also planning the following:
A press release announcing the movie's release that
will be sent to the Jewish media, the religious media
and other media contacts.
A major letter writing campaign building on the themes
of the movie.
Ads in major Jewish newspapers discussing the nature
of present threats, why Jews should be involved, the
importance of a shift toward vegetarianism and information
about the movie and how people can order it.
Hiring a PR person who can get me and possibly others
on many radio and TV programs over a three month period.
I have a good person who got me on 30-40 programs
several years ago as part of a grant I received from
NALITH, but if you have any suggestions re this, please
let me know.
Sending out free DVDs to rabbis and other key members
of the Jewish community and other communities. We
are planning to produce 10,000 DVDs.
Trying to get blurbs from key rabbis and key vegetarian
activists that we would use to help promote the movie.
Challenging rabbis to respectful email discussions/debates
on "Should Jews Be Vegetarians?" We will
also try to arrange debates on "Should Religious
People Be Vegetarians?" and "Should People
Be Vegetarians?" to try to reach wider audiences.
Challenging the media to stop generally ignoring the
messages we are presenting re the major threats to
humanity, the failure of the Jewish community to adequately
respond and the necessity for major dietary shifts
in response to current threats.
these and more steps (suggestions very welcome), we
aim to do nothing less than change the consciousness
of Jews and others re the threats facing all of humanity
and the entire creation, vegetarianism, the need to
respond to current environmental threats and much
more. We have great potential and your help in promoting
the movie and our messages will be extremely important.
Will the movie result in people leaving the theater
feeling overwhelmed and hopeless?
the movie deals with very weighty and serious issues,
it ends on a positive and optimistic note, using a
collage of dramatic images and inspiring music, to
encourage viewers to consider how they can play their
part in helping to heal the planet and improve their
the movie shows the Israeli university-based environmental
group Green Course discussing responses to environmental
threats and discusses the â€œgreeningâ€
of two American synagogues, so viewers are shown some
What showings are already scheduled?
The world premiere will be at the Orthodox Union's
Israel Center in Jerusalem on the evening of Monday,
November 12, as part of an all-day program I am organizing
on global warming and other environmental threats
to Israel. The event will be very well publicized
through the weekly Torah Tidbits that is distributed
at synagogues throughout Israel and through the many
contacts that the sponsoring group â€œRoot
and Branchâ€ has. I also plan to let my
many Israeli vegetarian and environmental contacts
know. Of course, all of the Israeli media will be
invited. I and others have some very valuable contacts
in the media. I plan to invite Rabbi Shear Yashuv
Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa, and Rabbi
David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland (both of
whom have prominent parts in the movie), to speak.
I think this can be a very valuable initial event
that can get very valuable media coverage. I hope
that the Israeli college environmental group "Green
Course" (which is also part of the movie) will
set up a showing soon after at an Israeli college
and invite its many members.
The US premiere will be at the Staten Island JCC on
Tuesday evening, November 20, as part of their already
scheduled Jewish film festival. I believe that the
religion editor of the Staten Island Advance would
attend and write an article about the event (she has
written about my vegetarian and environmental efforts
several times in the past). I would encourage her
to send her article to the Religious News Service,
which would provide the possibility of coverage on
religious papers throughout the country. Of course
other members of the Jewish and secular media would
also be invited, as would local rabbis, educators,
politicians, etc. The SI JCC has some valuable media
contacts so that should help.
the world really so seriously threatened?
you know, the modern world is threatened as never
before by climate change and other environmental crises.
Recent articles have pointed out Israel's special
vulnerabilities to global climate change, in terms
of reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from
a rising Mediterranean sea. Key climate scientists,
including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that we
may reach a tipping point within a decade after which
global warming will spiral out of control, with disastrous
consequences -- unless major changes are soon made.
Recent reports, including the landmark "Livestock's
Long Shadow," by the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization, have highlighted the major contributions
of animal-based agriculture to the crisis our planet
faces. It is therefore urgent and more timely than
ever that the message of "A Sacred Duty"
-- with its emphasis on the urgent need for a global
shift to plant-based eating and agriculture -- be
widely spread and heeded.
How will the movie be distributed?
a non-profit organization, JVNA will make the movie
available completely free of charge to religious groups,
educational institutions, the media and others that
might be interested in it.
has been the general response of the Jewish community
(and other communities) to the issues raised in the
in spite of the severity of the global environmental
crisis and Judaism's powerful teachings on environmental
stewardship, the Jewish establishment largely continues
to ignore the issue. The most recent example of this
was the outrageous Halachic Seudah of the Orthodox
Union and the failure of the Jewish community and
the media to pay attention to our protest demonstration.
"A Sacred Duty" must be completed as professionally
as possible so we can employ it to end this state
does the movie make a strong argument for vegetarianism?
Sacred Duty" makes a very strong case for vegetarianism
from a Jewish perspective by dramatically showing
that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic
Jewish mandates to preserve our health and the environment,
to treat animals with compassion and to feed the hungry.
These are strong "buttons" to push, and
in the format of our passionate, professionally made
film they can influence thousands of Jews (and other
viewers) to choose a more compassionate diet.
all the arguments for vegetarianism are fully presented,
"A Sacred Duty" includes especially challenging
coverage of the mistreatment of animals on factory
farms, thanks to the powerful footage provided to
us by animal rights groups. Again, these are "buttons"
that can transform (and save) lives.
are some of the key people interviewed in the movie?
movie includes interviews with leading vegetarians,
animal rights activists, environmentalists and health
professionals in both the United States and Israel.
Among the interview subjects that we have been fortunate
to have in the movie are:
Shear Yashuv Cohen -- Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa
and a life-long vegetarian
Rabbi David Rosen -- Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - A Breslov Chassid and author
Jonathan Wolf - Founder and first president of Jewish
Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Roberta Kalechofsky - Founder and director of Jews
Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications; author, editor
Richard H. Schwartz - Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism
and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Rabbi Michael Cohen - Director of the Green Zionist
Alliance (GZA) and a teacher at the Arava Institute
Rabbi Adam Frank - Rabbi of the largest Conservative
synagogue in Israel
Rabbi Warren Stone, Chairman of the Central Conference
of Reform Rabbis' Environmental Committee
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, a Reconstructionist rabbi
who is also an environmental activist
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - A leading author and physician
who specializes in natural healing
Rabbi Simchah Roth - Rabbi of a Conservative synagogue
in Herzilia, Israel
Alon Tal - Leading Israeli environmentalist; founder
of the Israel Union for Environmental defense; author
of Pollution in a Promised Land.
Samuel Chayen - Israeli environmental activist
Raanan Boral - Environmental expert for the Society
of Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)
Yael Cohen Paran - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli
student-based environmental group.
Yair Cohen - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli
student environmental group.
Yael Ukeles - Israeli environmentalist
Eli Groner - Teacher of environmental studies at the
Is the movie of interest only to Jews?
it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, "A
Sacred Duty" speaks to people everywhere about
the ethics of our relationship to the natural world
in which we live. The movie's universal message will
appeal to anyone interested in such topics as Judaism,
Israel, vegetarianism, the environment, health, nutrition,
hunger and resource usage.
movie may be said to be like Levy's jewish Rye bread
- you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it.
important is Israel in the movie?
a model of what is wrong with planet Earth due to
human activities, A Sacred Duty hones in on the land
of the Bible, on Eretz Yisrael itself. Israel is fraught
with environmental problems that never make the headlines.
Rivers are dirty; the Dead Sea is drying up; air pollution
in metropolitan areas kill thousands every year. There
is progress in these fields, but that too never makes
the headlines. The movie will shed light on many of
these issues while considering the environmental threats
faced by the planet as a whole. Again, there is much
interest by Jews and non-Jews alike in "the Holy
Land" and its future.
"a sacred duty"?
movie reminds us that, as Jews, it is our sacred duty
to become aware of these realities. As Jews, it is
our responsibility to apply the teachings of the Torah
to how we obtain our food, tap into the resources
of the environment, and live among the many creatures
that God created alongside us. Since this is really
a universal duty for all human beings, A Sacred Duty
will challenge and inspire non-Jews as well.
the movie more of interest to certain types of Jews,
such as religious Jews, secular Jews, etc.
movie represents the thinking of Israelis and Americans,
with interviews drawn from the Orthodox, Conservative,
Reform, Reconstructionist and secular segments of
modern-day society in both Israel and the US. It conveys
a truly broad-based message.
to A Sacred Duty
are many quotations in the movie from the Torah
and other Jewish sacred texts, including the Talmud,
since these texts are full of lessons and laws prescribing
how we should live mercifully, efficiently, compassionately,
and remain responsible custodians of this magnificent,
yet highly imperiled world that God has bequeathed
powerful and challenging, "A Sacred Duty"
does not issue decrees or lecture its audience.
It offers information on a wide variety of sensitive
issues and food for thought. The net effect is a
very positive message for all age groups.
The movie spells out how contemporary diets, lifestyles
and agricultural practices are playing havoc with
the environment, contributing to problems like global
warming, endangering human health, and adversely
affecting the myriad creatures that share our planet.
Needless to say, this is a subject that resonates
with many, many people today.