"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Vegetarian Schnitzel Outsells Chicken Schnitzel in Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports that vegetarian schnitzel outsells chicken schnitzel in Israel by a 3:2 ratio! Here are some highlights of the article:

Schnitzel is still a mainstay of the Israeli diet but consumers may be surprised to hear that sales of the vegetarian variety are surpassing the traditional breaded chicken breast in the frozen food section of supermarkets by a three-to-two margin even though only 10 percent of the population is vegetarian.

According to a report by the Gaon group's Credit Information Association Ltd. released Sunday, sales of prepared meat-substitute products grew 5% over the past 18 months, bringing annual volume to NIS 300 million - or 6,760 tons - per year. Sales of frozen chicken products grew only 4% to total NIS 200m. - or 6,000 tons per year.

The organization attributed the findings to a worldwide trend of increased consumption of health food, including soy products. More than half of the population eats ready-made, meat-substitute products regularly with children between the ages of four and 14 being the primary consumers.


The Video That Can Spur Action

Jewish Vegetarians of North America President Richard Schwartz recently spent several weeks in Israel with filmmaker Lionel Friedberg. Their goal is to make the definitive video about Judaism and vegetarianism and other related issues. Schwartz writes:
It will consider many powerful Jewish teachings about respect for all life, environmental stewardship, compassion for animals, and tikkun olam, and the negative effects of failing to adequately apply these teachings. It will powerfully show how Israel’s major environmental problems threaten Israel’s survival and the sustainability of the entire region. . . . Lionel and I strongly believe that the video will help greatly in getting vegetarianism and environmental stewardship onto the Jewish agenda.
Schwartz and Friedberg were quite busy interviewing key sources during their travels to the Holy Land--including quite a few rabbis and activists and even a doctor and a lawyer or two to impress your Jewish mother. They're not just making "Meet Your Meat" with Jewish buzzwords--they're getting a wide range of views to show how vital vegetarianism is on so many levels and how the commandment to minimize tza'ar ba'alei chayim is going unheeded in modern animal agriculture.

Frankly, this project has more potenetial than anything else I can think of to generate long overdue dialogue about vegetarianism and related issues within the Jewish community.

If you believe that these issues deserve to be discussed and wish to support this film, which will serve as such an impetus, then please help. You can e-mail Richard Schwartz at Rschw12345@aol.com with fundraising suggestions or if you can provide stock footage. But most importantly, funds are needed in order to make this video a reality. Donations can be sent to:
Jewish Vegetarians of North America
c/o Israel Mossman
6938 Reliance Rd.
Federalsburg, MD 21632
The organization could always use more funds, of course, but specifically note that your donation is for this project if that is indeed your intention. "Overall, we may need an additional $30,000 to $40,000, including money for the production and distribution of the video," Schwartz notes. "Any amount will be welcome and appreciated. Donations of $1,000 or more will be acknowledged in the credits at the end of the video."


My Letter in The Jewish Ledger

Last month, I posted a fantastic article from The Jewish Ledger about the mainsteam popularity of vegetarianism in the Jewish community. After I saw a couple of pro-vegetarian letters to the editor in a later issue, including this beaut from Josh Balk of the Humane Society of the United States' Factory-Farming Campaign, I didn't expect mine to get published. But then this week's issue came along:

Go Vegetarian

Kudos for highlighting how mainstream vegetarianism has become in the Jewish community and how consistent a humane, plant-based diet is with Jewish teaching. (“Kosher vegetarians,” Ledger, Nov. 11)

The key reason for Jews to go vegetarian is to stop supporting and perpetuating animals' unnecessary suffering (tsa'ar ba'alei chayim). On factory farms, sentient animals are debeaked, dehorned, tail-docked, and/or castrated, all without pain-killers. Egg-laying hens are confined five apiece to battery cages where they'd be unable to flap a wing if there were no other birds present, and veal calves are kept anemic and live in crates so narrow that they can't even turn around. These animals are devalued of life and deprived of basic welfare considerations.

As Jews, we must ask ourselves not what is barely acceptable, but what diet God prefers for mankind. When we have the choice to support institutionalized cruelty to God's creatures or to eliminate mass suffering, let us keep meat, eggs, and dairy products off our plates.

Michael Croland
Publisher, http://heebnvegan.blogspot.com


So Basic Even a High School Freshman Gets It

I just came across this Jewish Week article from last month called "Eat Your Vegetables!" by a freshman at a yeshiva high school in New Jersey. For a high school freshman, this kid really has the right idea!

Eat Your Vegetables!
Rachel Gross

The first things to meet the eye were pale blue linen tablecloths, with blue linen napkins to match and a fancy plate at each place setting. A clear, round glass vase was at the center of each carefully set, round table. All sorts of foods were there, from egg salad and rye bread to various platters of quiches.

This seudah, or festive or holiday meal, was just like any other — except that it was vegetarian.

As a devout vegetarian, just the idea of seeing other people eating animals can upset me. I feel animals do not deserve an untimely death. And besides, in terms of nutrition, anyone can survive without eating them.

Years ago, I became a vegetarian because ever since I could think on my own I have been against the eating of meat. It did not change my lifestyle much at all. I have friends who still forget that I’m vegetarian, but it was the best decision I ever made.

A vegetarian meal can, by all means, be considered a seudah. According to Rabbi Jeremy Lebowitz, dean of students at Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School of South River, N.J., “A seudah is constituted by a kztayit of lechem,” [minimal amount of bread] or an equivalent filling amount of mezonot [pastry or snack], where the kohen, “eats the mezonot, as one would eat bread.”

Rabbi Dovid Wadler, Moshe Aaron’s principal, agrees that a vegetarian meal can be considered a seudah, because all that makes a meal a seudah is if it’s special and if it pleases the person eating it.

Rabbi Avraham Krawiec, who teaches Gemara at Moshe Aaron, states that a Shabbat seudah is just kiddish wine, a h’motzi, and food that makes you full. If one does not like meat, then they should not eat it, he says, because if you’re not enjoying your food, then you’re not fulfilling a mitzvah of Shabbat.

In the book “Shabbat Zemer,” CHECK a festive meal including meat is mentioned, but the meat part does not have to apply these days. Then, it was more of a rarity. Now, it’s just something that you don’t eat all that often, or on a regular basis that should be put into that category.

Says Rabbi Krawiec: “Part of Shabbat is owning it, being festive, enjoying the meal, and if you’re not enjoying, you’re not fulfilling.” He says you honor the Shabbat by eating a meal.

Rabbi Lebowitz says that the reference in “Shabbat Zemer” is to “enjoying luxuries of which meat is a part. It has no true bearing on seudah.” Rabbi Wadler agrees that it simply had to do with rarities of that day; he says that a seudah is just “washing and eating foods that were prepared especially for” that time. In “Shabbat Zemer,” he says that the basar v’dagim (meat and fish) represented the special foods of that time.

Whenever attending a seudah containing meat, I would go around trying to find something that had not yet been contaminated by its neighboring foods. I would scrutinize every so-called vegetarian platter to find a serving fork from the fish in it or see if a careless child had accidentally spewed meat into it.

When it came time for speaking to the caterer for my bat mitzvah, I straight out said to my mother, long before we crossed the caterer’s threshold, “no meat.” She said that was fine, he could do dairy and pareve, on one condition: My mother wanted to serve fish. I feel that eating fish is just as wrong as consuming any animal. To me, anything that once had a face shouldn’t be eaten. Although the only thing I eat with eyes are potatoes, I humored my mother and comprised. I let her order fish, along with strictly vegetarian items, such as falafel.

Being a vegetarian is very rewarding. It gives you a guilt-free and pure life. Health benefits also include lower cholesterol, in my case, and it has been proven, according to Vegetarian Times that most vegetarians are somewhere around 14 pounds lighter than their average peers.

If you want to make a seudah enjoyable for all of your guests, and have them walk out smiling, my advice is to make it as vegetarian friendly as possible. There are endless possibilities for both a vegetarian and vegan (dairy free) meal. You will feel better after and a lot less weighed down. Also, by not buying the slaughtered animal, and buying the luscious eggplant parmesan to serve instead, you will make a huge difference and an impact on other people’s lives. Your vegetarian guests will thank you, whether directly or indirectly, and more positive feelings will flow towards you.

Vegetarianism is not only a practice, but a way of life, and a good vegetarian meal will leave you feeling satisfied and healthier.

Here’s my theory: If we were all vegetarians, and valued life, we would be a sharing society and the world would be a better place. Maybe there would even be less crime in a society where people showed a love for all forms of life.

Don’t think it’s impossible to create a vegetarian seudah. Let your guests see that meat isn’t necessary for the human body. There are better and healthier protein sources like nuts, legumes, and eggs and cheese, if you’re not a vegan.

For those interested in a light meal, breads, cheeses and salads can be put out, along with a falafel bar. Those in the mood for a heavier meal can help themselves to baked ziti and forms of vegetable lasagna, quiche, eggplant parmesan and vegetarian sloppy Joes.

According to each rabbi I contacted, there is no conflict between Judaism and vegetarianism whatsoever, besides for korbonot (ancient Temple sacrifices). So vegetarianism is permissible, and I highly recommend it in your next seudah.