An Interview with a Member of the Jewish Veg Advisory Council
The Jewish Veg Spotlight Shines On ...
Stewart Rose, co-founder and vice president of Vegetarians of Washington, is passionate about showing the world that plant-based eating is healthy and possible for everyone.
His inspiration comes directly from Jewish texts and his mission is deeply inspired by Jewish values. This April, Stewart will help execute the Seattle VegFest, one of the largest VegFests in the country.
His work focuses on educating the public about the importance of shifting to a plant-based lifestyle. He does this through a variety of avenues, especially through influencing the medical community. Jewish Veg will be tabling at the Seattle VegFest in April.
Make sure to stop by our table, get involved, and of course - make sure to say hello to Stewart!
Jewish Veg: What is the mission of the “Vegetarians of Washington” and what is your involvement in the organization?
Stewart: Our mission is to help improve the health and well-being of people and the world we live in, both by encouraging mainstream Americans to discover the advantages and pleasures of vegetarian food, and by providing support and service to the vegetarian community.
I am the co-founder and Vice President of Vegetarians of Washington. It was founded 17 years ago. Every year, our major event is a VegFest, one of the largest in the country. Vegetarians of Washington is a society; we educate and we advocate. We don’t hold protests or civil disobedience, rather we do outreach and public education. We see the key to vegan outreach as accessing the mainstream.
I co-write articles with the President of Vegetarians of Washington. We not only publish articles and run VegFest, but we also give classes on why and how to become a vegan. You can take classes on how to fix a car and sew a dress, but there are no classes offered on how to go vegan. So, we started offering them.
Vegetarians of Washington has essential four pillars: health, animals, environment, and religion.
Jewish Veg: What got you started on your veg journey? How long was it and what led you to give up animal products?
Stewart: My wife and I became vegan over 37 years ago on the day we were married. While we were engaged, we wanted to make the change, but in those times things were different.
Once we had our own home, we were inspired to finally make such an important change. The impetus however, was actually from reading the Torah together. We used to do this every Shabbat morning.
The original reason we went vegan was because of our study of Judaism. However over time, we discovered that it was an important change to make for the environment and for health reasons.
While reading Genesis, we read a verse that said all beasts and the birds were given a living soul. We had read this many times, but it didn’t click. But one day when we were reading it together, we looked at each other and said, “...so animals have souls, and we aren’t supposed to kill.” It was in that moment that we realized we needed to stop eating animals.
Jewish Veg: You have written multiple books about veganism including one that we sell, “In Pursuit of Great Food, A Plant-Based Shopping Guide.” What was the inspiration behind this book?
Stewart: The inspiration behind the book was my experience helping people transition to veganism. Many people are unfamiliar with ingredients. People just stand in absolute shock at the grocery store and don’t know what to do.
This is a book that you take with you to the supermarket. It explains everything: hidden animal ingredients, kosher labels, and all kinds of other things.
These days, there are a lot of options and it can be quite confusing. If you empower someone to have this book in their hands, they can look up all of their questions right then and there and then buy the vegan option.
Jewish Veg: I hear that you are working with medical schools to introduce plant-based curricula. Can you tell us about this exciting project?
Stewart: Our goal is to get doctors to prescribe a vegan diet to their patients. Vegetarians of Washington has been holding an annual medical seminar with vegan doctors. This happens during Veg Fest.
We have the support of the University of Washington School of Medicine. In fact, they send an email to every student in the medical school recommending that all students come to our seminar.
I also give lectures to resident physicians. A few months ago I was reading a treatment protocol in a large medical journal, and it didn’t mention a plant-based diet as a treatment for diabetes. I wrote a piece and sure enough the journal published my article. Then, I got an invitation to write a full-length article about Type 2 Diabetes. That was published in a November issue. I now have seven more requests from seven different medical journals on seven different subjects.
This year’s vegan medical seminar is co-sponsored by the Washington State Medical Association, and it can be taken for Continuing Education credits, authorized by the American Medical Association. Vegetarians of Washington publishes articles on Crohn's disease, cataracts, pregnancy, gallstones, and more. There is no shortage of information about how to combat disease with a plant-based diet from us.
Jewish Veg: What is the connection for you between Judaism and veganism?
Stewart: In addition to the Torah passage I referred to above plus God’s original intention being for us to eat a plant-based diet, there are so many other Jewish values and texts that can be called on that ask us to be vegan.
The slaughterhouse is one of the most abusive places for workers in the whole country. Supporting such practices contradicts multiple Jewish ethics: harming people, causing pain to animals, and destroying our environment.
Veganism is consistent with major tenants of Judaism. There is no mandate to eat meat. Nowhere does it say that you must eat animals. It says you can, but nowhere does it say you have to. I feel that the public doesn’t understand the hechsher. Just because something is kosher, does not mean that an animal had a good life. When you go vegan, everybody wins. You live a longer life, the animals live … everyone is gaining something major from this.