"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)


Go Out Into Your Communities

I gave a presentation this evening about "Vegetarianism in the Jewish Tradition" at a local synagogue as part of its adult education series. I spent a good chunk of time talking about the role of vegetarianism in the Bible and the notion of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, and I also talked about what animals go through in modern factory farms and slaughterhoues. There were probably 15-20 people there, and the crowd really got it. I think they were much more prepared for the typical "here's what animals go through" shpiel after hearing a foundation on their own terms. I brought kosher falafel, pita, and tehini, which also went over big. It helped to show exactly what vegetarian eating means.

I highly recommend that Jewish vegetarian advocates take the message to their communities. Discussing these important issues Jewishly and as a community is so important, and I think giving a talk in synagogues, JCCs, and youth and student groups is a fantastic way to go. Jewish tradition provides much support for vegetarianism, so why should we support the horrors of modern animal agriculture? A half hour exploring that question goes a long way.

Preparing such a speech is not as difficult as it may seem. Read Richard Schwartz's Judaism and Vegetarianism for a wealth of information. Schwartz also cowrote a pamphlet called "The Jewish Case for Vegetarianism," which was very helpful. I also touched on some of the articles I've referred to in my blog and my general knowledge of animal rights issues. Really, that's a great starting point for giving a speech and starting a dialogue about vegetarianism in the Jewish community.


  • At 3/30/2006 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did you ask the Synagogue to speak there? I have tried to get into giving talks at the JCC and local Synagogues, but I havent been met with many people who are excited about the idea, strange since its California, land of the Vegans it seems. How would you suggest getting a foot in the door with local synagogues?

  • At 3/30/2006 8:35 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…

    I think the key to giving talks in your local Jewish community is to be a part of that community. I'm you're a member of a synagogue, then try to arrange a talk at your own shul. Go to community events (e.g., at the JCC) and make connections with the people who put on these events. Tell them about your background (not "I hold monthly demos outside KFC," but why these issues matter to you--as a Jew) and how you'd love to give a talk (for free, I would recommend) about these issues. I think Hillel groups on college campuses and Reform and Conservative synagogues are good places to consider; JCCs are hit or miss--but it's certainly worth trying.

    If you're doing it the first time, promote the event. Invite the local Jewish paper. And then if it goes well and more people hear about it, it should be easier to book other speaking gigs based on that foundation.

    I really appreciate the question! Feel free to contact me (mcroland@gmail.com) if you want to discuss this further. Veggie Jews (VeggieJews-owner@yahoogroups.com) is also a great resource for figuring out how to arrange such a talk--they're more experienced at it than I am. :-)

    Don't give up. Where there's a will, there's a way!

  • At 4/01/2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for the suggestions! Its a good thing I work at the JCC with Hillel, I should be able to pull something off... Providing I don't offend/piss everyone off at the vegan seder next week hah. Good luck with everything, hope you get some converts

  • At 4/01/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger heebnvegan said…


    Working at the JCC with Hillel. Now THAT is a connection. :-)

    Good luck not perturbing people at the seder! Sounds like a great opportunity to do quite the opposite, though. (I'd love to hear more about your vegan seder, either posting here or e-mailing me at mcroland@gmail.com.)

    And just my 2 cents on this: "Conversion" is not the right term to use in this context, except of course as a joke. :-)

  • At 4/02/2006 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Which of course, is what I meant it as. :)


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