“A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders … has been affirming vegetarianism
as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching.”
Rabbi Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog,
Former Chief Rabbi of
“We should make all our consumption as holy as possible…
The more we live as if this were the messianic age the closer we are to it.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro
“There is no question that the Torah’s ideal is vegetarianism.”
Rabbi Bonnie Koppell
“I see vegetarianism as a mitzvah.”
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
The mass production and consumption of meat contradicts many Jewish teachings
and Jewish values, gravely harming people, animals, communities, and the environment.
Consumption of animals – and the ways in which meat is produced today –
conflicts with Judaism in at least ten important ways.
Each way is important, each implies the others, and
all are necessary.
Table of Contents:
1. Personal Health & Safety
2. Compassion for Others
3. Protecting the World & Environmentalism
4. Conservation & Efficiency
5. Knowledge & Spirituality
6. Charity & Righteousness
7. Peace & Justice
8. Concern for the Community
9. Keeping Kashrut
10. Fighting Fascism
11. Myths & Realities Regarding Judaism & Vegetarianism
12. Bonus Quotes
14. Jewish Vegetarian Articles
15. Jewish Vegetarian Books
16. Jewish Vegetarian Cookbooks
17. Jewish Vegetarian Recipe Web Sites
18. Jewish Vegetarian Cooking Video
19. Jewish Vegetarian Videos
20. Related Jewish Organizations
21. Kosher Vegetarian Organizations
22. Miscellaneous Jewish Vegetarian Resources
23. Kosher Vegetarian Restaurants
24. Kosher Vegetarian Caterers
25. Free Vegetarian Starter Kits
1. Personal Health & Safety:
Health and the protection of life are repeatedly
emphasized, and even prioritized, in Jewish teachings. While Judaism teaches
that we should be very careful about sh’mirat
haguf, preserving our bodies and health, and pekuach nefesh,
protecting our lives at almost any cost, numerous scientific studies
have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease and heart attacks (the #1 cause of death in the U.S.), various
forms of cancer (e.g.,
lung, colon, breast, prostate, stomach, and pancreas) (the #2 cause of death),
stroke (the #3 cause of death), high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis,
aneurysms, rheumatoid arthritis, impotence, endometriosis, gallstones, gout, Alzheimer’s, and various other very serious ailments. About 2/3
of diseases in the
Further, since more than half of all antibiotics
in the U.S. are given to livestock (plus immense amounts of chemicals, steroids, hormones,
and other drugs),
resistant bacteria are increasing at an alarming rate, creating untreatable superbugs, like
The meat industry is unhealthy and unsafe. Eating meat is more dangerous and more destructive than even smoking cigarettes. A vegetarian diet (one that does not include any animals) or a vegan diet (one that does not include any animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs) can help prevent, and sometimes reverse, many of these health- and life-threatening conditions, while also protecting animals and the environment. “Since nutrition is the main determinant of health and the heart of preventive medicine”, according to Jay Levine, M.D., “becoming a vegetarian is the best way to fulfill these mandates” of preserving one’s health and avoiding things harmful to health. Dayeinu.
Take care of your lives… Guard yourselves most diligently.
A danger to health takes precedence over ritual obligations.
Talmud, Chulin 10a
“One must avoid that which harms the body and accustom oneself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger.”
Moses Maimonides (the Rambam), 12th century rabbi and physician, Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Deot 4:1
“It is forbidden to eat anything that leads to any disease.”
Lomzha Rav, Divrie Malchiel 2:53
“While treating sick people is certainly a Torah obligation, Judaism puts a priority on the prevention of disease.”
“All new infectious diseases of human beings to emerge in the past 20 years have had an animal source.”
“Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Albert Einstein, nominated to be the 2nd President of Israel
“As it is halachically prohibited to harm oneself and as healthy, nutritious vegetarian alternatives are easily available,
meat consumption has become halachically unjustifiable.”
2. Compassion for Others:
While Judaism forbids tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, and encourages people to be a mentsch, a good, kind, and compassionate person, most farm animals – including most certified organic, most so-called “free range”, and most animals raised for kosher and other consumers – are raised on “factory farms”, where they suffer in cramped, confined, and cruel places, and are often drugged, mutilated, raped, tortured, and denied fresh air, water, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, whether on Shabbat or any other day, before they are slaughtered on dis-assembly lines. Dayeinu.
Further, workers as well as animals are exploited in the production of meat and other animal products, yet Jewish tradition has various teachings against oshek, labor exploitation and types of stealing. Dayeinu.
Just as we were strangers in
In the Torah, Jacob, Moses, and David were all
shepherds who cared for animals. Moses is specifically praised for how he
showed compassion towards animals, such as a lamb, as well as people. Abraham
and Sarah were notorious for their hospitality and kindness toward others.
Rebecca was acceptable as a wife for Jacob based on the concern she showed for
animals, giving water to camels in addition to the thirsty person who asked for
it. Noah is considered righteous and he cares for the lives of his many
animals. In contrast, two hunters mentioned in the Torah, Nimrod and
Esau, are represented as villains. Further, according to legend, Rabbi
Vegetarianism is an easy and effective way of putting one’s values into action, practicing compassion with every meal, every day, thereby reducing pain, suffering, and death for those who can’t speak for or defend themselves. Dayeinu.
“Blessed is He who has mercy on the Earth; blessed is He who has mercy on the creatures.”
“It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature.
On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature.”
“Jews are rachmanin b’nei rachmanin [compassionate children of compassionate ancestors] and
one who is not compassionate cannot truly be a descendant of our father Abraham.”
“Those who have the capacity to eliminate a wrong and do not do so bear the responsibility for its consequences”.
Talmud, Shabbat 54b
“People should consider themselves, and the worms, and all creatures as friends in the universe,
for we are all created beings whose abilities are God-given.”
Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi
“It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of humananity.
On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else...
There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other animals.”
“In the killing of animals, there is cruelty.”
Rabbi Joseph Albo, Sefer
“To make animals suffer is forbidden by the Torah.”
Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of
“The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently [back] to vegetarianism.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat
“It’s hard for me to understand how any Jewish people, but particularly religious Jewish people,
who are talking in terms of compassion and love for God’s creation, at the same time can sit down and eat animals that have been slaughtered
and in most cases have been kept in disgustingly cruel conditions.”
“Being compassionate toward animal life is not just a matter of being responsible for animal life,
which we have very clearly laid down in the Torah, expounded by our sages,
but is a matter of imbuing ourselves with the right kind of values. If we are insensitive towards animal life, then we desensitize ourselves as human beings.
And therefore a truly sensitive human being, compassionate towards other human beings, should be compassionate towards animals.”
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature.”
Albert Einstein, nominated to be the 2nd President of Israel
“I am a vegetarian for health reasons - the health of the animal.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize laureate
3. Protecting the World & Environmentalism:
While Judaism teaches that we are to be shomrei adamah, partners in tikun olam, re-creating, preserving, and healing the world (Talmud, Shabbat 10a), mass production of meat contributes substantially to air and water pollution, overuse of chemicals and fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emission and global warming (what Rabbi Arthur Waskow calls “global scorching” and what many describe as possibly the biggest social, political, economic, environmental, and moral problem we face), the destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs, mangroves, and other habitats, soil erosion, deforestation, desertification, species extinction, loss of biodiversity, and various other forms of global environmental degradation. Vegetarianism is a form of eco-eating that protects the world. Dayeinu.
A spiritual view of the world recognizes the awesome power and beauty of creation, while it abhors destruction, embracing what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described as “radical amazement” in the presence of the divine. We are to be creators, not destroyers; holy, not profane; compassionate, not cruel; acting godly in imitation of the divine, not devilishly. Dayeinu.
Vegetarianism is more sustainable because vegetarians tread much more lightly on our precious but imperiled planet, thereby protecting the world and its inhabitants from unnecessary harm, while guarding it for future generations. Dayeinu.
“The environmental destruction caused by the animal-agriculture industry, by the amount of dung produced,
by the amount of sewage that gets poured into our waterways and our systems,
there’s no doubt that it’s damaging our world and it’s … in violation of the Jewish mandate to protect and observe and care for the Earth. …
We are ignoring things that are essential and that are critical to the character of Judaism, in order to meet our selfish desires and wants.”
“Those rabbis who really believe in tikkun olam should actively discourage their congregants from eating meat of any kind at any time for any reason.
That is possibly the greatest tikkun that we can try to do at this time in our history….
Rabbis, if you really believe in tikkun olam - stop eating meat and start pushing a vegetarian diet among your congregants.”
“The burning of gasoline and the raising of cattle are two of the most planet-scorching actions that we take.”
“There’s no doubt about it from an ecological point of view, simply even I’d say mathematical point of view,
vegetarianism is a much more calculated way to manage this world.
And there is indeed a direct ideological connection between responsible stewardship and vegetarianism.”
Samuel Chayen, Director of the Environment at Mifal Chayim
“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources.
If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms,
and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.
Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.”
“World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (November 1992),
signed by about 1700 scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences
“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage
now threatening the human future --- deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change,
biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.”
4. Conservation & Efficiency:
While Judaism teaches bal tashchit (concern for the environment, based on Deuteronomy 20:19, 20), that we should not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value (conservation), and that we should not use more than what is necessary to accomplish a purpose (efficiency), meat production requires the very wasteful use of land, topsoil, water, fossil fuels and other forms of energy, labor, grain, and other vital resources, in addition to various toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. For example, it can require approximately 78 calories of non-renewable fossil fuel for each calorie of protein obtained from factory-farmed beef, but only 2 calories of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of protein from soybeans. Dayeinu.
The meat industry is exceptionally wasteful, inefficient, costly, and destructive, even while better alternatives are plentiful, easily obtainable, and healthier for consumers, workers, animals, and our environment. The world and its inhabitants can’t afford animal-based diets. Dayeinu.
Vegetarianism preserves the resources necessary for life, as well as the healthy and sustainable conditions that support life, for this and future generations. Dayeinu.
"This is the way of pious and elevated people... they will not waste even a mustard seed,
and they are distressed at every ruination and spoilage they see, and if they are able to save,
they will save anything from destruction with all of their power...”
“Eating meat is not an ecologically efficient way to feed ourselves or the world.”
founder of Milk & Honey, a kosher vegetarian catering company
5. Knowledge & Spirituality:
Judaism often emphasizes the interplay between the thinking and the doing, highlighting the vital role of kavanah, spiritual intention and concentration, as a precondition for action. That is a motivation behind the blessings, of which there is none specifically over meat. As it says in the Shulchan Aruch, “It is not fitting to bless God over something which He created and which man has slain.” According to custom, meat-eating was permitted after the Flood of Noah as a temporary concession, with elaborate restrictions, to human weakness for those with a “lust for meat”. Unlike for grains, fruits, and vegetables, and much else, for instance, there is no special blessing over meat and no mitzvah to eat it. Roberta Kalechofsky, Ph.D. concurs, saying that “Judaism is so rich in blessings.… [yet] there’s no special blessing [over] meat, it’s just not there.” Dayeinu.
In our creation story, the term nefesh chayah, living being or living soul, is applied to people and animals. Eating meat can be considered a Chilul HaShem, a desecration of God’s name, due to the destruction of life and spirit entailed, while eating plants could be considered a Kiddush HaShem, a blessing and sanctification of God’s name, due to the protection of health and life of both animals and humans. We are said in the Talmud to be rachmanin b’nei rachmanin, compassionate children of compassionate ancestors, but only if we act so. And when we do, we can be a “light unto the nations” and a light unto ourselves. Dayeinu.
While some argue that “flesh” is necessary to properly enjoy Shabbat and our other holy days, we can follow the Baal Shem Tov (Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, founder of Chasidism), who said that “flesh” could be meant in the Biblical sense and that one could enjoy the physical touch of another living human being instead of the meat of a dead animal. For those who erroneously think it might be a mitzvah to eat meat during holy days, it is a mitzvah haba’ah al y’dei aveirah, a mitzvah that derives from a sin; it is the fruit of a poisonous tree, and therefore no mitzvah at all. Dayeinu.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Eleazar hid in a cave for thirteen years after Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was condemned to death by the Roman conquerors for speaking out against them, following the destruction of the Second Temple and the murders of Rabbi Akiva (c. 50-135 CE) and many of his students. They were sustained by their cave, a nearby carob tree, a local stream, and their studies of the Torah. Rabbi Shimon taught that our world and the unseen “higher” worlds are unified, as manifestations of the Divine Soul, and that the meaning of life is to reunify Creation with the source of Creation. He also affirmed that the “crown” of a good name is the most important thing and within the reach of everyone. Dayeinu.
It is also part of our teaching, from Hillel’s disagreement with Shamai over lighting of the menorah in the Talmud, that ma’alin bakodesh v’ayn moridim ,“in sacred matters we must increase holiness rather than decrease it”. Dayeinu.
Further, it is believed by Maimonides, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and other Chief Rabbis and Torah scholars that in the messianic age of the Third Temple, when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb… and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6-7), Temple sacrifices as well as all other food will be vegetarian. Dayeinu.
Vegetarians live closer to the messianic age in the present, while also hastening it for the world. As Rabbi Rami Shapiro reminds us, “Vegetarianism is central to holy living as Judaism has understood it for thousands of years.” Vegetarianism is a mitzvah, a sacred duty and good deed. Dayeinu.
“Aside from the cruelty, rage and fury in killing animals, and the fact that it teaches human beings the bad trait of shedding blood for naught;
eating the flesh even of select animals will yet give rise to a mean and insensitive soul.”
Rabbi Joseph Albo, c. 1380-1444
“The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses:
Eating meat is not essential to one’s nutrition; rather, it is a matter of gluttony, of filling one’s belly and of increasing one's lust.
Meat also gives rise in human beings to a cruel and evil temperament. ....
Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, did not tell Moses that He would give the Israelites meat, rather bread,
which is a fitting food and essential for the human temperament.”
Don Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508), commentary on Exodus 16:4
“It [eating meat] is an overall moral shortcoming of [hu]mankind, in that it does not promote good and lofty sentiments”
Rav Abraham Isaac ha-Cohen Kook (1865-1935), 1st Chief Rabbi of Pre-State Israel, Hazon ha-Tzimhonut ve-ha-Shalom me-Behinah Toranit
“There is no question that the Torah’s ideal is vegetarianism.”
“I am a vegetarian precisely because I am a believing Jew who strives to live in accordance with the ethical teachings of my heritage….
I believe that if you follow the most sublime and noble values in our tradition, in this day and age,
then there is an imperative to live a vegetarian lifestyle. … It is a halachic imperative.
Compassion for animals is a halachic imperative. And being responsible also for your environment and for your globe,
which also have ramifications coming out of the whole question of the meat industry and meat consumption, are all fundamental Jewish questions.
So I, simply put, am a vegetarian because I am a religious Jew.”
“There is plenty in the Torah that resonates with vegetarianism. God says to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,
‘I give you all these plants and fruits to eat.’ Eating meat doesn’t come up.
I find that the way I eat is in keeping with my Jewish practice…I don’t think Judaism tells you ‘you have to be a vegetarian’,
but there is a whole variety of clues in the literature that tell us it is a good thing.”
Rabbi David Small
“Vegetarianism is a response to today’s world... Meat-eating, like polygamy, fit into an earlier stage of human history.”
“And God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come,
and with every living thing that is with you—birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well—
all that have come out of the ark, every living thing on Earth…”
Genesis 9:8-10 (the first covenant in the Torah, which suggests that animals also have souls and rights as they are included in this covenant)
“I became a vegetarian … after serious studies of the book of Genesis, particularly the earliest chapters.”
“When you slaughter a creature, you slaughter God.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize laureate
While Judaism stresses the importance of tzedakah, that we be kind, assist the poor and weak, and share our food with the hungry, about 3/4 of major U.S. crops - e.g., corn, wheat, soybeans, oats, alfalfa - are fed to the tens of billions of animals destined to be slaughtered for meat, while millions of people worldwide die from hunger and its effects each year. Dayeinu.
About one billion poor people chronically suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and their debilitating effects, tens of thousands of them consequently dying each day, about one every few seconds, while millions of affluent people die from the ill effects of over-eating and over-consumption, primarily of animal products. Dayeinu.
way of the tzadik is the way of chesed (lovingkindness), compassion,
charity, and righteousness for all
living beings. Vegetarianism is a major form of tzedakah, on a daily basis, which can do as much for the giver as
the receiver. Dayeinu.
“Righteous people regard the lives of animals.”
“If a [person] aspires towards a righteous life, his [or her] first act
of abstinence is from injury to animals.”
Albert Einstein, nominated to be the 2nd President of Israel
“Tzedakah is equivalent to all the other religious precepts combined.”
Rabbi Assi, Talmud, Baba Batra 9a
7. Peace & Justice:
While Judaism repeatedly stresses that we must always seek and pursue shalom v’tzedek, peace and justice, and that moral degradation and violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets - especially by wasting valuable resources and desensitizing us to violence - help to perpetuate the widespread poverty, hunger, environmental destruction, and despair that lead to mass suffering, social insecurity, ethnic hostilities, violence, genocide, and war. Dayeinu.
Our sages note that the Hebrew words for bread (lechem) and for war (milchamah) come from the same root and are therefore related, since shortages of food and instances of wars are correlated, with each contributing to the other. Dayeinu.
Vegetarianism is a protest against injustices and the mitzvah of vegetarianism brings peace and justice to and through every meal and shares it with the world. Dayeinu.
“Seek peace, and pursue it”
“Justice, justice shall you pursue...”
“Thou shall not kill [murder]”
“He who kills an ox is as if he slew a person.”
“One who destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed an entire world,
and one who saves a single life is considered to have
saved an entire world.”
Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:5
“The sword comes into the world because of justice delayed, because of justice perverted,
and because of those who render wrong decisions.”
Pirkei Avot [Ethics of Our Sages]
“I think that eating meat or fish is a denial of all ideals, even of all religions.
How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy?
How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?
Every kind of killing seems to me savage and I find no justification for it.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize laureate
Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish author and Nobel Prize laureate
“Love peace, pursue peace, love all creatures...”
8. Concern for the Community:
Concern for the Jewish community (Klal Yisrael), as well as the wider community (Klal Ha’Olam), is integral to Jewish ethics and requires personal and communal responsibility. Eating meat endangers community members and endangers the world: Eating meat contributes to ill health, cruelty to animals and the hardening of the human heart (literally and figuratively), destruction of the environment, global warming, and the waste of precious resources, increased inequality and social divisions, hunger, injustice, and the potential for more violence, warfare, and genocide. Dayeinu.
Vegetarianism is an antidote to all of these unnecessary tragedies. Vegetarianism helps us to preserve and protect our health, environment, culture, community, society, and spirit l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. Judaism encourages us to be involved with the community and vegetarianism allows us to have a positive impact on the community with every meal. Dayeinu.
A shift toward vegetarianism can also be a major factor in the rededication and renewal of Judaism, as it would further demonstrate that Jewish values are not only relevant but essential to everyday personal life and global survival. Dayeinu.
“The fate of men and the fate of animals, they have one and the same fate.
As one dies, so does the other, and they all have the same spirit.”
“I don't want my food choices to condone the suffering that occurs in the animal food industry.
Judaism takes seriously the idea of personal responsibility.
Communal change for the better and improved societal ethical behavior starts with the individual.”
9. Keeping Kashrut:
The practice of kashrut, or keeping kosher, is the specific way of applying Jewish teachings and Jewish values to our consumption of food. Jews are called upon to eat consciously, to be compassionate and peaceful, and to bring our spirituality and ethics to the necessity of nutrition. Besides being life-sustaining, satisfying, and often joyous, eating is a holy act. Vegetarianism, as a form of eco-kashrut, is an easy way to keep kosher and to be more holy. Indeed, Rabbi Arthur Green states that “Vegetarianism [should be] a kashrut for our age.” Dayeinu.
“The laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew’s first preference should be a vegetarian meal.”
“Vegetarianism offers an ideal mode for preserving the religious and ethical values which kashrut was designed to concretize in human life.”
Rabbi Robert Gordis
“A higher form of being kosher is vegetarianism.”
Rabbi Daniel Jezer
“We should make all our consumption as holy as possible…
The more we live as if this were the messianic age the closer we are to it.”
“If we look at the way in which kosher meat is produced today, it is difficult to see any holiness there.”
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom
“In countries like the
“Mrs. Kalechofsky, all meat prepared for the commercial market, whether it’s kosher or not, comes from the same place. We just kill the animal different.”
Roberta Kalechofsky’s former butcher
“The laws of schechitah, the Jewish laws of kosher slaughter, are very specific. And they apply to the moment of slaughter.
They don’t apply to the conditions in which the animal is raised. They don’t apply to the method in which the animal is being restrained before the slaughter.
And they really don’t apply to anything that happens after the slaughter takes place.”
“Sadly, ‘kosher’ means nothing when it comes to how animals are treated on farms,
and the largest kosher slaughterhouse in North America was caught horribly abusing animals
—ripping the tracheas out of live cows’ throats and worse—and defending the abuse as kosher.”
“What may have once made sense, now can no longer be justified….
Let us realize today, in the vast majority of cases, ‘kosher meat’ is an oxymoron.”
“The current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means.”
“Kashrut becomes a snap when you are a vegetarian—kashrut is only hard if you eat milk and meat all of the time.”
Rabbi David Small
“By not eating meat, I am much more certain to never violate, even accidentally, the Biblical and rabbinic prohibitions concerning non-kosher meat.
The traditional production of kosher meat never envisioned mass slaughterhouses or factory farms.
It is questionable whether most meat or poultry produced in this country that is sold as kosher is actually in compliance with the traditional rules of kashrut
as well as the prohibition against cruelty to animals.”
“The simpler way [of maintaining kashrut], which is the better way in the eyes of the tradition, is to be vegetarian.”
Rabbi Michael Cohen
“I’m a vegetarian and I stay milchik all the time.”
“If you don’t eat meat, you are certainly kosher… And I believe that is what we should tell our fellow rabbis.”
Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief
10. Fighting Fascism:
Historically, and unfortunately still presently, Jews have been common targets of authoritarian, fascist, and genocidal policies and actions, whatever their names and places. Jewish ethics, Jewish values, and even the method of the Talmud (as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions), respects and protects minority opinions and minority groups. Dayeinu.
We Jews have too often been the victim of genocide
(including enslavement in
The livestock industry is a form of enslavement, torture, and genocide, while vegetarianism is a powerful way of actively yet non-violently opposing the daily and brutal outrage of meat production and consumption. Dayeinu.
“In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, “The Letter Writer”, Yiddish author and 1978 Nobel Prize laureate
“Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”
Theodor Adorno, Ph.D., Jewish philosopher
“The Nazis explicitly structured their industrial destruction of the Jews [and other peoples] on the model of animal slaughter.
This is not to compare the suffering of animals and humans, but shows that the way we treat animals is similar to the way the Nazis treated us.”
“The domestication/enslavement of animals was the model and inspiration for human slavery…
the breeding of domesticated animals led to eugenic measures as compulsory sterilization, euthanasia killings, and genocide, and…
the industrialized slaughter of cattle, pigs, sheep, and other animals paved the way, at least indirectly, for the Final Solution.”
“Just as the Nazis dehumanized the Jews in their propaganda and in the atrocities they committed,
the apologists for meat consumption and the exploitation of animals have stereotyped and degraded the animal kingdom for their own purposes,
declaring animals to be devoid of cognitive functioning and even of pain.”
“In the course of his development towards culture, man
acquired a dominating position over his fellow-creatures in the animal kingdom.
Not content with this supremacy, however, he began to place a gulf between his
nature and theirs. He denied the possession of reason to them, and to himself
he attributed an immortal soul, and made claims to a divine descent which
permitted him to annihilate the bond of community between him and the animal
Sigmund Freud, “A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis”
“No one can deny seriously, or for very long, that [people] do all they can in order to dissimulate this cruelty [of animal slaughter]
or to hide it from themselves, in order to organize on a global scale the forgetting or misunderstanding of this violence
that some would compare to the worst cases of genocide.”
Jacques Derrida, Jewish philosopher
“My ancestors did not belong to the hunters as much as to the hunted,
and the idea of attacking the descendants of those who were our comrades in misery goes against my grain.”
Heinrich Heine, Jewish writer
“Unless you believe in fascism - that might makes right - we do not have a right to harm others.”
Henry Spira, Kristallnacht survivor and animal rights advocate
“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, ethicist
“Hitler was not a vegetarian. Even if he had been, what difference would it make?
Does that negate the overwhelming evidence of harm caused by the consumption of meat?
Hitler loved art and music, should we all refrain from going to the museum or
[Instead of] ‘pass the meat’, I say: ‘Meat? I’ll pass’.”
Rabbi Hillel Norry
“The end user of a product knowingly derived by cruel means is a participant in the cruelty.”
Rabbi Adam Frank
“Modern, secular thinking allows for sentient creatures to be treated like inanimate objects, but Jewish tradition does not....
My decision to abstain from the consumption of animal products is an expression of my adherence to Jewish law,
and it expresses my disapproval and disdain for the cruel practices of the industry.”
Rabbi Adam Frank
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Elie Wiesel, Nobel
Peace Prize acceptance speech,
“There has been enough killing in the world.”
Rav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, Founding Dean of New York’s Mesivta Torah VoDaath, on why he became a vegetarian after the Holocaust
Clearly, Jewish values and meat consumption are in serious conflict.
In view of these ten important Jewish teachings and values, among others, to
(1) preserve human health, (2) have compassion for and attend to the welfare of animals,
(3) protect and repair the world, (4) conserve resources, (5) have deep spiritual intention,
(6) help feed the hungry and assist the weak, (7) pursue peace and justice,
(8) have concern for the community, (9) eat consciously, and (10) fight fascism
– and since meat production and consumption
violate each and all of these sacred and social responsibilities (mitzvot) –
we believe that Jews (and others) should eliminate (or sharply reduce) consumption of animals.
We need to end the modern plagues that damage us, our health, our spirits,
our communities, our society, the workers, the animals, and our environment.
The Vegetarian Mitzvah
“Don’t let your cravings delude you,
don’t become alienated,
don’t let your cravings become your gods,
don’t debase yourself to them.”
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, V’haya Im Shamoa
11. Myths & Realities Regarding Judaism & Vegetarianism:
Eighteen Reasons Jews
Think They Should Not Be Vegetarians (And Why They Are Wrong) by Richard H.
1) Myth: The Torah teaches that humans are granted dominion over animals (Genesis ), giving us a warrant to treat animals in any way we wish.
Reality: Jewish tradition interprets “dominion” as guardianship, or stewardship: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. Dominion does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs. In A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace, Rav Kook states: “There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is ‘good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works’ (Psalms 145:9).” This view is reinforced by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis ), He prescribed vegetarian foods as the diet for humans (Genesis ).
2) Myth: The Torah teaches that only people are created in the Divine Image, meaning that God places far less value on animals.
Response: While the Torah states that only human beings are created “in the Divine Image” (Genesis 5:1), animals are also God’s creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain. God is concerned that they are protected and treated with compassion and justice. In fact, the Jewish sages state that to be “created in the Divine Image”, means that people have the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion for all creatures. “As God is compassionate,” they teach, “so you should be compassionate.”
3) Myth: Inconsistent with Judaism, vegetarians elevate animals to a level equal to or greater than that of people.
Reality: Vegetarians’ concern for animals and their refusal to treat animals cruelly does not mean that vegetarians regard animals as being equal to people. There are many reasons for being vegetarian other than consideration for animals, including concerns about human health, ecological threats, and the plight of hungry people. Because humans are capable of imagination, rationality, empathy, compassion, and moral choice, we should strive to end the unbelievably cruel conditions under which farm animals are currently raised. This is an issue of sensitivity, not an assertion of equality with the animal kingdom.
4) Myth: Vegetarianism places greater priority on animal rights than on the many problems related to human welfare.
Reality: Vegetarian diets are not beneficial only to animals. They improve human health, help conserve food and other resources, and put less strain on endangered ecosystems. In view of the many threats related to today’s livestock agriculture (such as deforestation and global climate change), working to promote vegetarianism may be the most important action that one can take for global sustainability.
5) Myth: By putting vegetarian values ahead of Jewish teachings, vegetarians are, in effect, creating a new religion with values contrary to Jewish teachings.
Reality: Jewish vegetarians are not placing so-called “vegetarian values” above Torah principles but are challenging the Jewish community to apply Judaism’s splendid teachings at every level of our daily lives. Vegetarians argue that Jewish teachings that we must treat animals with compassion, guard our health, share with hungry people, protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek peace, are all best applied through vegetarian diets.
6) Myth: Jews must eat meat on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Jewish holidays).
Reality: According to the Talmud (T.B. Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the
7) Myth: The Torah mandated that Jews eat korban Pesach and other korbanot (sacrifices).
Reality: The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides believed that God permitted sacrifices as a concession to the common mode of worship in Biblical times. It was felt that had Moses not instituted the sacrifices, his mission would have failed and Judaism might have disappeared. The Jewish philosopher Abarbanel reinforced Maimonides’ position by citing a midrash (Rabbinic teaching) that indicates God tolerated the sacrifices because the Israelites had become accustomed to sacrifices in
8) Myth: Jews historically have had many problems with some animal rights groups, which have often opposed shechita (ritual slaughter) and advocated its abolishment.
Reality: Jews should consider switching to vegetarianism not because of the views of animal rights groups, whether they are hostile to Judaism or not, but because it is the diet most consistent with Jewish teachings. It is the Torah, not animal rights groups, which is the basis for observing how far current animal treatment has strayed from fundamental Jewish values. As Samson Raphael Hirsch stated: “Here you are faced with God’s teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.”
9) Myth: The restrictions of shechita minimize the pain to animals in the slaughtering process, and thus fulfill Jewish laws on proper treatment of animals.
Reality: This ignores the cruel treatment of animals on “factory farms” in the many months prior to slaughter. Can we ignore the force-feeding of huge amounts of grain to ducks and geese to produce foie gras, the removal of calves from their mothers shortly after birth to raise them for veal, the killing of over 250 million male chicks immediately after birth at egg-laying hatcheries in the U.S. annually, the placing of hens in cages so small that they can't raise even one wing, and the many other horrors of modern factory farming?
10) Myth: If Jews do not eat meat, they will be deprived of the opportunity to fulfill many mitzvot (commandments).
Reality: By not eating meat, Jews are actually fulfilling many mitzvot: showing compassion to animals, preserving health, conserving resources, helping to feed the hungry, and preserving the earth. And by abstaining from meat, Jews reduce the chance of accidentally violating several prohibitions of the Torah, such as mixing meat and milk, eating non-kosher animals, and eating forbidden fats or blood. There are other cases where Torah laws regulate things that God would prefer people not do at all. For example, God wishes people to live in peace, but he provides commandments relating to war, knowing that human beings will quarrel and seek victories over others. Similarly, the Torah laws that restrict taking female captives in wartime are a concession to human weakness. Indeed, the sages go to great lengths to deter people from taking advantage of such dispensations.
11) Myth: Judaism teaches that it is wrong not to take advantage of the pleasurable things that God has put on the earth. Since He put animals on the earth, and it is pleasurable to eat them, is it not wrong to refrain from eating meat?
Reality: Can eating meat be pleasurable to a sensitive person when he or she knows that, as a result, their health is endangered, grain is wasted, the environment is damaged, and animals are being cruelly treated? One can indulge in pleasure without doing harm to living creatures. There are many other cases in Judaism where actions that people may consider pleasurable are forbidden or discouraged - such as the use of tobacco, drinking liquor to excess, having sexual relations out of wedlock, and hunting.
12) Myth: A movement by Jews toward vegetarianism would lead to less emphasis on kashrut (dietary laws) and eventually a disregard of these laws.
Reality: Quite the contrary. In many ways, becoming a vegetarian makes it easier and less expensive to observe the laws of kashrut. This might attract many new adherents to keeping kosher, and eventually to other important Jewish practices. As a vegetarian, one need not be concerned with mixing milchigs (dairy products) with fleichigs (meat products), waiting three or six hours after eating meat before being allowed to eat dairy products, storing four complete sets of dishes (two for regular use and two for Passover use), extra silverware, pots, pans, etc., and many other considerations incumbent upon the non-vegetarian who wishes to observe kashrut.
13) Myth: If everyone became vegetarian, butchers, shochtim (slaughterers), and others dependent for a living on the consumption of meat would lack work.
Reality: There could be a shift from the production of animal products to that of nutritious vegetarian dishes. In
14) Myth: If everyone became vegetarian, animals would overrun the earth.
Reality: This concern is based on an insufficient understanding of animal behavior. For example, there are millions of turkeys around at Thanksgiving not because they want to help celebrate the holiday, but because farmers breed them for the dinner table. Dairy cows are artificially inseminated annually so that they will constantly produce milk. Before the establishment of modern intensive livestock agriculture, food supply and demand kept animal populations relatively steady. An end to the manipulation of animals’ reproductive tendencies to suit our needs would lead to a decrease, rather than an increase, in the number of animals. We are not overrun by animals that we do not eat, such as lions, elephants, and crocodiles.
15) Myth: Instead of advocating vegetarianism, we should alleviate the evils of factory farming so that animals are treated better, less grain is wasted, and less health-harming chemicals are used.
Reality: The breeding of animals is “big business”. Animals are raised the way they are today because it is very profitable. Improving conditions, as suggested by this assertion, would certainly be a step in the right direction, but it has been strongly resisted by the meat industry since it would greatly increase already high prices. Why not abstain from eating meat as a protest against present policies while trying to improve them? Even under the best of conditions, why take the life of a creature of God, “whose tender mercies are over all His creatures” (Psalms 145:9), when it is not necessary for proper nutrition?
16) Myth: One can work to improve conditions for animals without being a vegetarian.
Reality: Certainly, animal abuse is a widespread problem and there are many ways to improve conditions for animals. However, one should keep in mind that factory farming is the primary source of animal abuse in this country. According to
17) Myth: If vegetarian diets were best for health, doctors would recommend them.
Reality: Unfortunately, while doctors are devoted to the well-being of their patients, many lack information about the basic relationship between food and health, because nutrition is not sufficiently taught at most medical schools. Also, many patients are resistant to making dietary changes. The accepted approach today seems to be to prescribe medications first and, perhaps, recommend a diet change as an afterthought. However, there now seems to be increasing awareness on the part of doctors about the importance of proper nutrition, but the financial power of the beef and dairy lobbies and other groups who gain from the status quo prevents rapid changes.
18) Myth: I enjoy eating meat. Why should I give it up?
Reality: If one is solely motivated by what will bring pleasure, perhaps no answer to this question would be acceptable. But Judaism wishes us to be motivated by far more: doing mitzvot, performing good deeds and acts of charity, sanctifying ourselves in the realm of the permissible, helping to feed the hungry, pursuing justice and peace, etc. Even if one is primarily motivated by considerations of pleasure and convenience, the negative health effects of animal-centered diets should be taken into account. One cannot enjoy life when one is not in good health.
12. Bonus Quotes:
The Torah repeatedly refers to Israel as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8, 3:17; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27, 14:8; Deuteronomy 11:9, 26:9, 26:15, 27:3, 31:20; Baruch 1:20; and Ezekiel 20:15). God further describes Israel as a “garden land”, saying He brought His people there to “eat its goodly fruits” (Jeremiah 2:7).
Their cry for bread was reasonable, but not for meat, for one can do without it.”
Rashi (11th Century Rabbi and the Talmud commentator), commentary to Exodus 16:8
(after receiving and eating quail, over 12,000 Israelites died from a plague in a place known as the “Graves of Lust”)
“The Torah teaches a lesson in moral conduct, that people shall not eat meat unless they have a special craving for it…and [then] shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly.”
Talmud, Chulin 84a
“Be kind and compassionate to all creatures that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created in this world.
Neither beat nor inflict pain on any animal, beast, bird or insect.
Do not throw stones at a dog or a cat, nor should you kill flies or wasps.”
Sefer Chasidim [Book of the Pious]
“One does not ask for forgiveness of sins while wearing articles made from the skins of slaughtered animals.”
Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law, literally the Set Table]
“The enormity of challenges that we face, in terms of health, in terms of environmental impact, in terms of the waste of resources,
in terms of the way animals are treated today,
should all naturally lead a thinking sensitive Jew to question whether it is legitimate today…
to maintain a diet in which animals are being treated in a manner that contravenes halachic Jewish legal requirements,
in which we are treating ourselves in a manner that contravenes Jewish requirements,
in a manner that is insensitive towards the ramifications of our actions and our behavior towards other segments of society,
and where there are scandalous suffering of humanity that we could help alleviate if we were to follow a different diet.
So, all of these factors should make compelling arguments for any informed educated and responsible Jew to lead a vegetarian diet.”
“Perhaps the most powerful argument in favor of vegetarianism today more than ever before ... is the prohibition against ‘chillul HaShem’, the desecration of God’s name.
Surely it is precisely such a desecration when observant Jews eat animals produced under conditions of cruelty that flagrantly violate Jewish teachings and prohibitions...”
“I did not want to become a vegetarian. The world demanded that I be one."
“There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to cuts, blows, and beatings as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul, which has been subjected to him only for the fulfillment of humane and wise purposes ... Here you are faced with God’s teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal,
but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.”
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 60, Verses 415, 416)
“I am vegan because I cannot justify saying I believe in the values of social justice, human rights and caring for the environment
and continue to participate in something that is a core representation of exploitation and pain in the world.”
Boris Doan, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Student and Coordinator of ShalomVeg.com
"It appears that the first intention of the Maker was to have [people] live on a strictly vegetarian diet.
The very earliest periods of Jewish history are marked with humanitarian conduct towards the lower animal kingdom. ...
It is clearly established that the ancient
Hebrews knew, and perhaps were the first among [people] to know, that animals
feel and suffer pain."
Rabbi Simon Glazer
“It is not necessary for any human benefit to consume the flesh of animals.
In fact it is harmful to human health, destructive of the environment, and wasteful of valuable resources
that could be better used to feed the hungry and provide for the needy.
All of these are Torah values.”
“I grew repulsed by the idea of killing and eating animals, so I stopped.”
“The staples of life do not include meat.”
“My decision to abstain from the consumption of animal products is an expression of my adherence to Jewish law.”
“Even the Torah itself recognizes that eating meat is not an ideal thing for the human being.
It’s not the ideal diet for the human race.”
“Land, if it were used for growing, purely for growing food for vegetarian and vegan diets would feed many, many more people, and therefore for that reason also,
Judaism would say that in this modern age, this is something that we should very, very carefully consider.”
“‘I can’t change the whole world’ you can say. My answer to that is:
You’re right, but you certainly can personally change your whole world.”
Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg on vegetarianism
“We need to think about how the food we eat advances the values we hold.”
“Changing to a plant-based diet or, short of that, reducing our consumption of meat drastically is the most important way we can each directly contribute to repairing the ecosystem
upon which we depend for our survival as a species. The “inconvenient truth” is that meat-based diets are unhealthy and unsustainable for the planet.”
Rabbi Leah Sudran
“The primary and self-sufficient basis for mandatory Jewish vegetarianism is tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, the Torah principle of animal welfare.
A vegetarian lifestyle is supported by a variety of other Jewish mandates, including preservation of human health and the environment, conservation,
and potentially reducing starvation and armed conflict in lesser developed nations.”
“If we want the Earth to survive and if we want to greatly reduce the amount of hunger and starvation, and diseases related to hunger and starvation all over the world,
one of the most important things we can do is reduce or eliminate the consumption of meat. …
Jewish tradition and Jewish values want us to feed hungry people, want us to preserve and protect God’s natural world, want us to preserve and strengthen our own bodies,
and eating meat interferes with and reduces all of those possibilities.
If we want to care for the world and develop ourselves and help people in need, becoming vegetarian is a small thing that we can do that helps contribute to that,
and that symbolizes and expresses our concerns for those things.”
Jonathan Wolf, founder of JVNA
“You may love your individual dog, your individual bird, but animals are being slaughtered b y the billions… around the world for people who eat them.
So those animals don’t have such a good life. They’re not pampered pets, they are kept in cramped, unpleasant, unhealthful conditions
and when they’re shipped off to be slaughtered, they’re often exposed to terrible heat or terrible cold for days at a time. They live very unhappy, brutalized lives.”
Jonathan Wolf, founder of JVNA
“The [kashrut] rule of not being able to eat animals that eat other animals
is another strong argument for why humans themselves should not eat other animals.”
“Humans - who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals –
have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain.
A sharp distinction between humans and ‘animals’ is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear them, eat them
- without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret.”
“Put most simply, when I choose not to eat meat, I feel that I am choosing life over death.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated, winner of National Jewish Book Award
“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you
Franz Kafka, Jewish author (looking at fish in an aquarium)
“Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival
of life on Earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
“This is my protest against the conduct of the world. To be a vegetarian is to disagree—to disagree with the course of things today.
Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars—we must make a statement against these things.
Vegetarianism is my statement and I think it’s a strong one.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer
“’Meat’ is a euphemism. ‘Meat’ is a word we use to partially shield ourselves from the fact that we are eating a dead animal.”
Nigel Savage, founder of Hazon
“Scripture does not command the Israelite to eat meat.”
Rabbi Elijah Judah Schochet, Animal Life in Jewish Tradition
“Jewish tradition does not command carnivorous behavior.”
Rabbi J. David Bleich,
“Judaism emphasizes good deeds because nothing else can replace them.
To love justice and decency, to hate cruelty and to thirst for righteousness—that is the essence of the human task.”
“There is simply no spiritual defense in either the Western or Eastern religious traditions for eating meat.”
“Look into the heart of your religion’s teachings on compassion, and look into your own heart,
Put aside your old habits and selfish appetites, and be honest with yourself.
Animals are beings like us, sentient, conscious, and fully able to experience suffering and joy. They love life and fear death.
And yet every year we murder them by the billions for food that we do not need to live long, healthy lives.
Can we honestly call this holocaust anything but evil?
There is no way that people of faith can be true to the deepest values of their religion and still eat animal products.”
“The rabbis explain that meat-eating is a punishment to a Jew, not a reward.”
Janet Barkas, The Vegetable Passion
“It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it,
and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire.”
Solomon Efraim Lunchitz, author of K’lee Yakar
“Vegetarianism [i]s the logical next step after kashrut — the proper extension of the laws against cruelty to animals.”
Rabbi Everett Gendler
“I relate vegetarianism to Judaism in several ways…
the torture of animals and the suffering that they go through, to be raised on these large factory farms and then eaten is really forbidden by Judaism.”
Adam Stein, rabbinical student
“Keeping kosher is Judaism’s compromise with its ideal vegetarianism.
Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food.”
Dennis Praeger and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism
“The important Hebrew term nefesh chaya (“living soul”) was applied to animals as well as people (Genesis 1:21 and 1:24).
even made treaties with animals as well as with people (Genesis 9:9, 10; Hosea
Judaism has beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals.”
“Jewish values are served by a vegetarian diet, especially in view of the many problems related to factory-farming.
Rather than rejecting Torah values, Jewish vegetarians are challenging the Jewish community to apply precisely these values to their everyday diets.
We are respectfully challenging Jews to live up to Judaism’s splendid teachings.
It is not enough that a religion should have beautiful teachings; it is essential that these teachings be put into practice.”
“Rabbi Yochanan stated ‘Jerusalem was destroyed because the residents limited their decisions to the letter of the law of the Torah, and did not perform actions that would have gone beyond the letter of the law’ ('lifnim meshurat hadin') (Baba Metzia 30b). In the same way, perhaps, many people state that they eat meat because Jewish law does not forbid it. Vegetarians believe that in this time of factory farming, environmental threats, widespread hunger, and epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases, Jews should go beyond the strict letter of the law and move toward vegetarianism.”
“The great spiritual leader and first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Abraham Kook, famously wrote,
‘hayashan yithadesh, v’hehadash yitkadesh, the old shall be made new, and the new shall be made holy’.
In this spirit, the practice of eco-kashrut seeks to build upon the reverence for life that is central to Judaism’s dietary laws
by testing our consumption against the four-part test
of bal tashchit (excessive waste and environmental impact), tsa’ar ba’alei chayim (cruelty to animals), shmirat haguf (health) and oshek (labor exploitation).
All indicators point to a vegetarian diet as the highest expression of an eco-kashrut ethic.”
Rabbi Barry Schwartz
“Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...
Man's carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...
A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching.”
Rabbi Isaac Ha-Levi Herzog,
Former Chief Rabbi of
“The vegetarian mitzvah includes many of the other mitzvot, both religious and secular, in one.
As Hillel says: ‘Do not do unto others what is hateful unto you. All the rest is commentary’.
Vegetarianism offers respect to one’s body and spirit, to our community, to the animals, to workers, to our environment, and to the world,
thereby creating the conditions for healthy people, healthy spirits, healthy communities, and a healthy Earth to live in peace.
Do a mitzvah—choose vegetarian!”
“No other creature should lose the joy of living on our account.”
1945 Reconstructionist Prayer Book [Siddur]
“It is not your responsibility to complete the task [of perfecting the world],
but neither are you free from engaging in it.”
Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot [Ethics of Our Sages] 2:21
Make a mitzvah of every meal !
(According to Ben Azai in Pirkei Avot 4:2, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah” – one mitzvah leads to another!)
13. To learn more about Judaism & vegetarianism,
which contains over 150 articles, interviews, and entries on Judaism and vegetarianism,
who inspired the creation of this web site and to whom it is dedicated)
on a wide variety of topics and about all the Jewish holidays.
Humane Kosher is the PETA-sponsored Jewish vegetarian web site.
Also visit ShalomVeg.com, a “community for a compassionate world”, with its many resources.
These and other Jewish vegetarian links can be found at
14. Jewish vegetarian articles:
can be downloaded and read here (pdf)
or by calling (toll-free) 1-888-VEG-
To read or print a Jewish vegetarian leaflet,
For more on Jewish vegetarianism,
check out Jewish Vegetarianism – Theological Perspectives and
edited by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.
“Judaism and Vegetarianism” by Ted Altar.
“Jewish Philosophy of Vegetarianism” by Philip L Pick.
by Vasu Murti
by Rabbi Adam Frank.
“Ten Commandments Regarding Animals”, written by Dan Brook,
is published in Vegetarian News and on All-Creatures.org
written by Tami Bickley, was published in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.
was published in the Jewish World Review.
“No Meat Today”, on Jewish vegetarianism, written by Simon Rocker, is from the Jewish Chronicle.
“A Holocaust-Inspired Vegetarian”, written by Noam Mohr, is in the Jewish Journal (LA).
written by Naama Harel, is on Anonymous for Animal Rights.
is written by Rachel Gross, a first-year Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School student
“Passover and Veganism – A Great Complement” is by Jennye Laws-Woolf.
and the somewhat updated
is in the San Diego Jewish Journal.
Michael Green on “Why GM Food Isn’t Kosher”
VeggieJews maintains a web site and listserv to share news and views, to discuss and debate issues, to give and get advice, to exchange recipes and ideas, and to plan meetings and events in vegetarian restaurants and homes in a variety of cities.