"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)


Jewish Vegetarianism in Yiddish's Hey-Day

The Forward ran a fun piece last week about Jewish vegetarianism in the first half of the 20th century. Click here to read the article, titled "When Vegetarians Were Rare." Here is an excerpt:
Sated but not stuffed, the patrons of Schildkraut’s Vegetarian Restaurants and resorts might also feel virtuous, for there was nothing on the menu that might compromise either their vegetarianism or their kashrut. Although the chain lacked rabbinic endorsement, let alone rabbinic supervision, it prided itself on its attentiveness to the dietary laws. Quick to acknowledge that it did not advertise itself as a kosher establishment per se, “it is nevertheless a fact that [our restaurants] are 100 percent kosher in their service. We use no kind of animal fat. For frying, baking and shortening, we use the best creamery butter and also vegetable fats and oils. We are particularly careful to wash dishes and cutlery with vegetable soap only.”

The kosher consumer was not the only audience for the kind of vegetarian cuisine served up daily at Schildkraut’s. So, too, were the members of the Yidisher Vegetarian Society of New York, who believed in vegetarianism less as an exercise in gastronomy and more as a moral philosophy, a way of being in the world. “We have discarded the meat diet, because it is unethical, unesthetical [sic], unnatural and unscientific,” explained the organization’s secretary, Nathan Samuel Davis, in his 1952 collection of essays on vegetarianism, “Dos Koyl fun dem Vegetarier” (“The Voice of the Vegetarian”), adding that as Jews, “we are always on the side of all the oppressed classes and peoples.” . . .

A Yiddish song, “The Vegetarian Hymn,” rounded out the recipes, mission statements and eateries that made up the Jewish vegetarian milieu. “Blessed be he who has the courage not to eat meat, not to spill blood!” went the song. “Blessed be he whose humane heart protects every creature from pain and suffering.”
What's better than an article in the Forward about Jewish vegetarianism? A follow-up letter to the editor in this week's issue that keeps the conversation going and pushes it into the Jewish blogosphere! In a letter titled "Yiddish Vegetarians Congregate Online," New Yorker George Jochnowitz writes:
Jenna Weissman Joselit’s informative August 3 essay introduces us to the world of Yiddish-speaking vegetarians in the early 20th century (“When Vegetarians Were Rare”). That world still exists on the Internet.

A blog called “In Mol Araan,” meaning “Into the Mouth” in Yiddish, contains beautiful photographs, information about an enormous variety of food, and fascinating comments, approximately one-quarter in Yiddish and three-quarters in English.


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