In 1998, the Jewish Vegetarians of North America launched a major campaign involving sending a special issue of their newsletter to 3,650 North American Congregational rabbis.
Below is (1) an introduction to the special issue, (2) a press release about the campaign, followed by (3) the letter and its many signers.
We received some good media coversge, but very few responses from rabbis. Hence, the need to seek better approaches.
Comments and suggestions re the material below would be most welcome.
RABBIS' SPECIAL EDITION (INTRODUCTION)
Welcome to this special edition of the Jewish Vegetarian Newsletter which is being sent to 3,500 rabbis throughout the United States! It contains a letter to the rabbis; an article that discussess "What Diet Does God Prefer for Humans?"; and 5 fact sheets that suggest contradictions between basic Jewish values and the realities of the production and consumption of meat in the areas of: health, treatment of animals, ecology, use of resources, and hunger.
Why this special issue at this time? It has been said that nothing is as irresistable as an idea whose time has come. We believe that the time has come to consider the many moral issues related to our diets. Can we continue to ignore the epidemic of degenerative diseases directly connected to animal-based diets that is afflicting the Jewish community and others? Can we continue to ignore the incredibly cruel ways in which animals are raised on factory farms today? In the face of increasing evidence of environmental threats such as global warming and the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, dangers to resources such as water, air, energy, and soil, and massive global hunger, can we ignore the major impacts that modern intensive livestock agriculture has in each of these areas? Can we turn away from the millions of people who are starving at the same time that increased meat production wastes land and other resources that could be used to feed the hungry?
We know and appreciate how dedicated the rabbis receiving this newsletter are to helping Jews practice our religion. We believe that it has now become an imperative for Jews to be aware of the facts provideded in this newsletter, and to use this information in considering the possibility of reducing or eliminating their consumption of meat and other animal products.
To members of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America and others receiving this newsletter, we urge you to help us by contacting your local rabbis and other influential Jewish leaders and urging them to help start a respectful dialog on the connections between Jewish teachings and dietary realities, and by informing your local media contacts about our campaign to put these issues on the Jewish agenda.
Comments and suggestions on material in this newsletter are very welcome. Thank you and a happy and blessed new year to everyone.
The Jewish Vegetarians of North America - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - NEWS RELEASE
CONTACT: Professor Richard Schwartz firstname.lastname@example.org phone: (718) 982-3621 fax: (718) 982-3631. ------------------------------------------------------------------ BROAD JEWISH COALITION LAUNCHES MAJOR CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE JEWS' DIETS
New York City, September 2 - A wide-ranging coalition of Jewish medical, spiritual, and activist leaders - including rabbis from all branches of Judaism - is urging all congregational rabbis in the United States and Canada to share with their congregants the ways in which the medical, environmental, and moral realities of high meat diets are incompatible with at least five basic Jewish mandates.
The coalition, under the leadership of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA; 6938 Reliance Road, Federalsburg, MD 21632), is sending a special issue of the Jewish Vegetarian Newsletter to 3,650 North American rabbis in early September. The Newsletter, which contains a letter to the rabbis seeking their support and involvement, inaugurates a major campaign to put issues related to diet on the Jewish agenda. Among the next steps are: radio and television appearances; articles and letters in Jewish publications; an Internet course on "Judaism and Vegetarianism"; booths at community events and fairs; an annual "Vegetarian Shabbat", scheduled for Parshat B'ha'alot'cha (when the Torah tells of the deaths of many Israelites after consuming quail flesh); and mailings sent to rabbis throughout the year connecting vegetarianism to the Jewish holidays.
The coalition cites many facts and rabbinic opinions that demonstrate how animal-based diets are incompatible with Jewish mandates to take care of our health, to treat animals with compassion, to help hungry people, to conserve natural resources, and to protect the environment, including:
- Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and current Dean of the Pinchas Sapir Center for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, has stated that: "As it is halachically (according to Jewish law) prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious vegetarian alternatives are easily available, meat consumption has become halachically unjustifiable."
- While a child dies of malnutrition or starvation somewhere in the world every 2.3 seconds and over a billion people are chronically undernourished, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States and almost 40% grown worldwide is fed to animals destined for slaughter.
- Each 4 oz. imported fast-food hamburger results in the destruction of 55 sq. feet of rainforest forever. This destruction contributes to the extinction of hundreds of species of plants and animals every year. Loss of such biodiversity threatens our ability to find life- saving medicines. Burning of rainforests to create grazing land releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming.
- Cruelty to animals in the livestock industry is so great that Rabbi David Rosen has also said that "the current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable."
- Overgrazing of animals raised for food erodes over 4 billion tons of topsoil in the U.S. each year, leading to droughts and flooding. Runoff from animal-based agriculture pollutes our water with nitrates and other chemicals, causing birth defects in humans and animals, and renders vast water resources undrinkable and dangerous.
For interviews, contact Dr. Richard Schwartz (contact information above). He can also provide contact information for medical, rabbinic, and activist spokespeople. ###
Here is the letter that was part of the special issue of the newsletter.
------------------------------------------------------ September 7, 1998 BS"D Dear Rabbi,
We are writing to share with you our serious concern about a widely accepted aspect of modern life which we believe contradicts Jewish teachings and harms us, our communities, and our planet: the mass production and widespread consumption of meat.
Along with a growing number of Jews, we believe that high meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today conflict with our tradition in at least five important areas:
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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 threats.
4) While Judaism mandates bal tash'chit, 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.
5) 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 8 to 12 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.
In view of these powerful Jewish mandates to preserve human health, care about the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, and help feed hungry people, and the extremely negative effects animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, we believe that committed Jews should sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.
We could say "dayenu" after any of the arguments above, because each constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice which should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, we think they make an even more compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.
We hope that you will consider and discuss with your congregants the ways that a meatless or low-meat diet would help bring about a world closer to the one envisioned by the Torah. A respectful dialogue about these concerns would also help revitalize modern Jewish life by demonstrating that our tradition can play an important role in solving modern problems.
We would be very pleased to receive your comments and suggestions and to work with you on these important issues. Enclosed is a page of suggested activities and contacts which we hope will be helpful to you. The enclosed fact sheets and the article, "What Diet Does God Prefer For Humans?" (from the Nishma Journal), provide further information.
Best wishes for a wonderful New Year, a Shanah Tovah that ushers in a period of greater commitment to the application of our rich heritage to the many critical problems that face our world.
Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph. D. Professor of Mathematics, College of Staten Island Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism and Judaism and Global Survival. email@example.com (718)982-3621 FAX: (718) 982-3631
OTHER SIGNERS (Affiliations are for identification purposes only):
Rabbi Raymond Apple Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia; Patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, London, England.
Rabbi Samuel Barth Dean, the Academy for Jewish Religion (A Pluralistic Rabbinical/Cantorial Seminary), New York, New York.
Rabbi Eliezer Diamond Assistant Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, New York.
Rabbi Gail Diamond Congregation Agudas Achim, Attleboro, Massachusetts
Rabbi Fred Dobb Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Rockville, Maryland
Rabbi Everett Gendler Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emanuel, Lowell, Massachusetts
Rabbi Shefa Gold Pathfinder for Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Rabbi Sidney J. Jacobs, D.D. President, Jacobs Ladder Publications
Rabbi David Lazar Kehilat Ya'ar Ramot, Jerusalem
Rabbi Rolando Matalon Congregation B'Nai Jeshurun, Manhattan, New York
Rabbi David Mivasair Or Shalom, Vancouver, B. C., Canada
Rabbi Marcia Prager ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal; P'Nai Or, Philadelphia; P'Nai Or, Princeton. Author of The Path of Blessing.
Rabbi David Rosen Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland; President, World Congress on Religion and Peace.
Rabbi Richard Schachet Valley Outreach Synagogue, Nevada.
Rabbi Amy R. Scheinerman Columbia, Maryland
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Valley Beth Shalom Congregation, California
Rabbi Rami Shapiro Rosh Yeshiva, the "Virtual Yeshiva" (www.rasheit.org)
Rabbi Daniel Siegel ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Rabbi Carla Theodore Executive Director, Witnesses for a Sustainable Economy (WISE)
Rabbi Noach Valley President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Rabbi Arthur Waskow Author of Down-To-Earth Judaism: Food, Money, Sex, and the Rest of Life, Godwrestling--Round 2, and several other books.
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg Congregation Jewish Community of Amherst, Massachusetts.
DOCTORS AND OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONALS Emanuel Bernstein, Ph.D. Psychologist, Adirondack Counseling, Saranac lake, New York
Murry Cohen, M.D. Former Chief of the Psychiatric Outpatient Department, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York; Co-chair of the Medical Research modernization Committee.
Marjorie Cramer, M.D., FACS Vice President, New England Anti-Vivisection Committee; Mohelet, Past president, Nat'l Organization of American Mohalim and Mohalot (NOAM).
Earon S. Davis, J.D., M.P.H. (Masters in Public Health)
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. Author of Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor's Guide to Conquering Disease.
Martin P. Goldman, M.D. Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine.
Emanuel Goldman, PH.D. Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, New Jersey Medical School.
Robert B. Hoffman, M.D. Peninsula Neurological Associates, Daly City, California.
Lawrence Jacobs, M.D, Director of the "Better Life Institute of Long Island".
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; Author of What Are We Feeding Our Kids?
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D. Ophthalmologist; Assistant Clinical Professor of Opthalmology at Case Western Reserve University; Vice-Chair of Medical Research Modernization Committee.
Michael Klaper, M.D. Author of Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple and Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet.
Jay Lavine, M.D. Educator in Preventive Nutrition and Jewish Medical Ethics
Reed Mangels, Ph.D., RD Nutrition Advisor, The Vegetarian Resource Group
Bobbi Pasternak R.N.C. (NurseBobbi on AOL.COM) Nurse; Host, America Online's Vegetarians Online
Rhoda Ruttenberg, M.D. Staff Psychiatrist, Commission on Mental Health Services of the District of Columbia.
Richard Weiskopf, M.D. Internal Medicine, Primary care Physician, Syracuse.
KEY JEWISH VEGETARIAN LEADERS AND ACTIVISTS
Aden Bar-Tura Assistant Director, International Jewish Vegetarian Society, Jerusalem Chapter
Batya Bauman Past President, Feminists for Animal Rights; Former Director of B'Nai B'rith's Adult Education Lecture/Program Services; Member. Founding Collective, Lilith Magazine.
Adam Jackson Chair of Board, International Jewish Vegetarian Society, London.
Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph. D. Publisher and General Editor, Micah Publications, Inc.; Author; Founder and president of JAR (Jews for Animal Rights)
Israel Mossman Coordinator, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Eva Mossman Editor, Jewish Vegetarian Newsletter
Nina Natelson Founder and Director of CHAI (Concern for Helping Animals in Israel)
Julie Rosenfield, Editor of the Jewish Vegetarian, International Jewish Vegetarian and Ecological Society, London, England.
Jeff Tucker Director of NALITH (Nature, Life, Truth, Health), a Non-profit Educational Foundation Promoting Vegetarianism and Organic Living.
Jonathan Wolf Founder and Chair of L'OLAM (Committee on Judaism & Ecology); Founding President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America.
Yossi Wolfson Coordinator of "Anonymous", Israel's largest animal rights group.
Steven Baer, BSCE Geologist; Civil Engineer
Aiton Birnbaum, Psy.D. Psychologist, K'far Yonah, Israel
David M. Crohn, Ph.D. Asst. Professor of Agricultural Engineering Department of Environmental Sciences University of California, Riverside
Aaron Gross Former Social Action Vice President of the North American Federation of Temple Youth: Former Senior Research Coordinator, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Steven J. Gross, Ph.D., ABBP Psychologist; Co-chair Humane Political Action Committee, Illinois.
Nina Moliver Certified Nutritionist and Macrobiotic Counselor, Boston
Alan Morinis D.Phil. (Oxford) Anthropologist; Author; Filmmaker; Coordinator of "Visions of the Earth", a multifaith environmental initiative.
Mark Nagurka, Ph.D.(MIT), Professional Engineer Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Marquette University.
Tom Salsberg, B.ED., M.A. Psychotherapist and Holistic Counsellor
Rhoda Sapon and Stanley M. Sapon Co-Founders and Co-directors of "The Maimonides Project", an Information and Resource Center for local hunger relief efforts, Rochester, NY. Stanley is also Emeritus Professor of Psycholinguistics, University of Rochester.
Kenneth Shapiro, Ph.D. Executive Director of Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, editor of Society and Animals, coeditor of Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Neal Shapiro, MMP (Master's in Marine Policy) Environmental Consultant; Former Researcher/ Cousteau Society
David Shneyer Director of the Am Kolel Judaic Resource Center and Maalot Seminary, Washington DC area; Musician; Cantor.
Robert Cohen Author of Milk: THe Deadly Poison; Executive Director of the Antidairy Coalition.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen Author of The Universal Jew; Director of the study-program, "Hazon - Our Universal Vision."
Erik Marcus Author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating
Murray Polner Author and Editor
Lewis Regenstein President, Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature; Author of Replenish the Earth; Columnist for the Jewish Georgian.
Deborah Tanzer, Ph.D. Psychologist; Author of Why Natural Childbirth? A Psychologist's Report on the Benefits To Mothers, Fathers, and Babies.
----------------------- Several present and past chief rabbis and other important spiritual leaders of Israel are or have been vegetarians. Among them are Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, current Chief Rabbi of Haifa, a lifelong vegetarian, and his late father, Rav David Cohen, the saintly Nazir of Jerusalem, and his brother-in-law, former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, the late Rav Shlomo Goren. ----------------------------
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