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Comments by Yonassan Gershom - 4 May 2010

In Reference to: Say No to Sanctified Animal Abuse

I applaud your stand, but you would be more effective if you would FIRST educate yourself about the vegetarian movement within Judaism — which is large in both America and Israel, and which I, a Hasidic Jew, am an active part of. In fact, I am currently co-authoring a book with Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, the president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and a longtime friend, about this and other issues. Ironically, I was editing the chapter “Is Fur a Jewish Issue?” when I receives a copy of this article in my email, forwarded to me rr Dr. Schwartz.

I think it is important to remember that until the mid-20th century, it would have been impossible to maintain a vegetarian diet in many parts of the world, because of lack of transportation. India is a tropical climate, but what would people have eaten in Alaska or northern Russia in the middle of winter? For Eskimos, meat eating was indeed a necessity for survival. So it make sense that, rather than forbid meat, God permitted it so humans could survive, butb placed restrictions on what species could be eaten and how they were to be slaughtered. The sacrifices, by the way, were a way of sanctifying the process, much the same as the American Indian tribes (none of whom were ever vegetarians) respected the animals they ate. The word “sacrifice” comes from “sacred,” to make holy. (And, BTW, Jews have not performed ritual sacrifices for over 2000 years.)

While it is true that “necessity” allows us to lower the bar, it also allows us to RAISE the bar today. Now that it is possible to fly in fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world year round, and now that we understand about vitamins (which were not discovered until the last 1800s) and other nutritional needs, it is possible for humanity to evolve out of meat-eating. And we should.

But the kind of angry, vitriolic rhetoric in this article is not going to have any effect on the “semitic” communities, as you call us.

Especially since you jumped ship and, rather than work within your own Jewish community to educate people about vegetarian teachings in Judaism (admittely a very hard path), you took the easy way out and left, to attack Judaism from the sidelines. That will only serve to alienate the very people you want to educate. I strongly suggest you visit http://www.jewishveg.com and educate yourself, so that your argument will be grounded in legitimate Jewish teachings not self-hate.

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom