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Animals and Their Jewish Guardians

By Sandra Nathan on

Circuses sneak into towns to avoid them, celebrity chefs eliminate customary ingredients that offend them, hunters detest them, mass media denies them airtime, and lucrative corporate conglomerates dread their wrath. Recently, a number of fast food and mega grocery chains abruptly reconsidered tried-and-true purchase practices to appease them, and more than one U.S. jumbo meat processor modified long-standing production methods in order to quiet them. So, what do Jews have to do with them?

"Them" is the Animal Rights movement (ARM), embodied in a myriad of non-profit national and international organizations bearing a plethora of names; e.g., animal advocacy, animal protection, animal welfare, animal liberation, and so forth, or bearing the appellatives vegetarian or vegan. In sum total, the ARM boasts a membership numbering in the high millions. Prominent within this number is an impressive register of founders, leaders, authors, filmmakers, and celebrities who happen to be Jewish. Or do they happen to be animal advocates because they are Jewish?

Not withstanding the medley of titles or the irreducible varieties of modus operandi within ARM's individual groups, they share one significant common principle: that all creatures of planet Earth should be allowed to live free from terror, pain, and exploitation by human hand.

Time to Meet Your Meat, Like It Or Not -- Kosher Or Not

In 2004, Jews from every spectrum of Judaism discovered they had a great deal to do with at least one animal rights organization, like it or not.

The largest animal rights organization in the world, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), released an undercover investigative film which revealed violations of kosher slaughter at the largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the United States, Agriprocessors, Inc., located in Postville, Iowa. Postville is the tiny Iowan town to which the reputedly powerful New York Rubashkin family moved, along with a group of fellow Lubavitcher Jews, and where they opened a kosher slaughterhouse in 1987, as elucidated in Stephen G. Bloom's 2000 book, Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Interest in the adjustment of the predominantly Christian community to its sudden multiculturalism was wide-reaching, resulting in the airing of the PBS documentary, Postville: When Cultures Collide, and coverage in scores of international publications.

Consequent to the release of PETA's film, the door to industrialized kosher slaughter was unlocked for the public's view, divulging an instantaneous introduction to the harsh and dangerous world of industrial animal production and slaughter. Prompted by an explosion of information easily accessible through broadcast media, press, and Internet, a wave of troubling questions was unleashed, launching heated discourse within the American Jewish community.

Initially, the collective Jewish reaction to PETA's unsolicited invitation to "Meet Your Meat" conferred the impression of a strident groan: "Go away!" Instead, a steady torrent of unsettling articles flowed in the pages of Jewish and mainstream news publications. Worse yet, offensive topics crept into heretofore serene Shabbat supper conversation.

Further exacerbating the situation, in 2007 PETA distributed footage of similar instances of animal cruelty and violations of kashrut (dietary laws) recorded at Rubashkin's Gordon, Nebraska plant, Local Pride.

PETA's "video caveats" alluded to deep-seated problems, non-animal related, such as mistreatment of workers, unsafe working environment and the hiring of undocumented immigrants. Reaching a zenith in May 2008, PETA's assertions were recognized as legitimate enough for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct a raid on the Postville plant.

The Orthodox Union Kashrut Division, all but exhausted from the voracious defense of their previously unchallenged authority as Diaspora Jewry's predominant kashrut supervisor (a rewarding source of income), barely had time to catch a breath between PETA's disclosures and federal law enforcement intervention. The conspicuous chorus of Jewish voices springing from animal rights groups tweaked the curiosity of the Jewish community to delve into the phenomenon of a decidedly visible Jewish presence within the ARM.

Rooted in Ethics and Philosophy -- Animal Rights and the Jewish Presence

In 1824, midway in the booming development of the Industrial Revolution-which some argue is the time when human beings began to lose touch with the values our ancestors learned from animals -- a European Jew and inventor, Lewis Gompertz, met with a group of loyal friends in a London coffee house, "Old Slaughterers". It was a most unlikely named meeting place, considering their purpose: the formation of the first officially recognized animal welfare society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, later accredited by Queen Victoria as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The group published pamphlets and sermons on the topic and monitored the court's enforcement of a recently passed law, another first, which would facilitate certain humane requirements for animal protection, forbid common abuses of draft animals and cattle, and eventually abolish the vicious spectacle of "bear-baiting."

Near two centuries later, Gompertz stands as an icon to animal advocates. His essays remain an object of stimulating analyses at universities worldwide, in addition to his landmark book titled Moral Inquiries: On the Situation of Man and Brutes. In the nineteenth century, subject matter which probed man's evolving moral responsibility and advanced empathy for animals was considered seriously radical. Much of the material affronted his SPCA Christian colleagues as "unfavorable to Christianity," obliging Gompertz to part ways with his offended Christian allies and form his own group, the Animals' Friend Society.

The Holocaust Connection to Animal Suffering

Polish-born American Jewish author Isaac Bashevis Singer had no intention of being identified as an animal activist. Given the year, 1904, and place of his birth -- the village of Leoncin, mainly populated by Jews-firmly wedged beneath the iron thumb of the Russian Empire's repressive anti-Semitic policies, he undoubtedly had few plans other than a precarious hope for survival.

His family wanted him to become a rabbi, but school and the profession didn't suit him. Today, Singer's vast volumes of literary work speak to his genius. Throughout his texts, one cannot fail to discern his deeply felt kinship to animals, or detect his gentle, subtle counsel in the unfathomable mystery of the relationship between man and animal. A cow here, a lamb there, even the lowly mouse creeps into the story; typically, various animal species make an appearance in Singer's well-woven stories set in early twentieth century shtetls of Eastern Europe. Later Singer editions display the deft talent of Jewish artist and illustrator Maurice Sendak, complementing Singer's wry and clever entwinement of both human and beast's emotions.

In his short story, "The Slaughterer," Singer portrays the grief that an appointed slaughterer experienced trying to reconcile his compassion for animals with his job as shtetl shochet (kosher slaughterer). In "The Letter Writer," he wrote, "In relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka"-- a passage borrowed by Charles Patterson for the title of his provocative 2002 book dedicated exclusively to the noble laureate, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust.

Charles Patterson, Ph.D., while not Jewish, is a proficient Holocaust educator, editor, therapist, and authoritative author on anti-Semitism. His expertise is underpinned by degrees from not only Amherst College and Columbia University, but also the Yad Vashem Institute for Holocaust Education in Jerusalem. He explains why Singer figures so strongly in his book:

In many ways, it is more his book than mine. It's his vision, what he expressed in his stories, novels and interviews. As far as I'm concerned, he said it all. I merely came along and filled in the details.

Eternal Treblinka examines the origins of human supremacy, describes the emergence of industrialized slaughter of both animals and people, and concludes with profiles of Jewish and German animal advocates on both sides of the Holocaust. Daughter of Holocaust survivors and former attorney for PETA Lucy Rosen Kaplan writes in the foreword to Patterson's Eternal Treblinka:

Though my parents wished for me and my two sister's lives of light-heartedness, it was inevitable that we would be drawn by our empathy for their suffering to causes that attempt to uplift the downtrodden. When I came to understand that the oppression of non-humans on this Earth eclipses even the ordeal survived by my parents, my fate as an advocate for animals was sealed.

Patterson's chapter "Holocaust-Connected Animal Advocates" spotlights Eric Marcus, author of the blockbuster 2005 book Meat Market, which indicts intensive industrialized animal production and examines the abuses perpetrated by corporate agriculture.

Marcus says that he learned at a very early age that his grandfather perished in the Holocaust, at Auschwitz. "Without question, my family's background as Jews, and my knowledge about the Nazis' institutionalized slaughter made me a lot more sensitive." In response to the issues raised by PETA's kosher slaughterhouse videos, Marcus commented: "I regard kosher slaughter as it is practiced today as an absolute horror. To me, it's laughable that anyone could claim that something so brutal could be sanctioned by God."

Jewish Pioneers Forging the Pathway for Animal Rights

Eminent as the architect of the U.S. Animal Rights movement, Henry Spira fled Nazi-occupied Belgium with his parents. He led the first successful campaign to limit the use of animals in medical testing and pioneered early support for humane treatment of farm animals. Founding Animal Rights International in 1974, Spira lived his life in legendary exemplification of the Jewish axiom to avoid tsa'ar ba'alei chayyim (unnecessary animal suffering) until his death in 1998.

Spira brought to the Animal Rights movement an entire adult lifetime devoted to turning ethics into action. Active in New York's labor and Civil Rights movements, working as a free lance writer, Spira went south in 1956 to cover Martin Luther King's epic bus boycott (Montgomery, Alabama), later traveling with the Freedom Riders to cover King's Mississippi voter registration campaign.

No stranger to the downtrodden and broken, Spira nevertheless lamented that he was stunned by what he found in the essentially hidden world of animal exploitation: "The most defenseless of all the world's victims."

Spira attributes his entry to animal advocacy as a sort of clarion call, propelled, he said, "by the simple act of reading a book, Animal Liberation, written by Australian Jewish bioethicist and animal activist, Peter Singer." Singer memorialized his prodigy's remarkably successful activism techniques in his 1998 book, Ethics Into Action.

Peter Singer, celebrated as the most influential philosopher alive, founded the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University, Australia, and is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, among a bevy of academic positions. He virtually spearheaded the ARM with his 1975 publication, Animal Liberation, inspiring dramatic reforms in humane treatment for laboratory animals and livestock and energizing the vegetarian lifestyle trend.

Singer, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, remarked on his choice to become an ethicist and animal activist, "I've noticed that quite a lot of people in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak."

A Jewish Vision of Obligation and Compassion

Richard H. Schwartz, a modern Orthodox Jew, president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), co-founder of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians, and professor emeritus of mathematics at the College of Staten Island, is perhaps the world's leading authority on the teachings of Judaism in relation to humanity's obligation to show compassion for animals.

Schwartz says that his best-known book, Judaism and Vegetarianism, was the result of his examination of what Judaism says about diet, ecology, and the proper treatment of animals. Steeped in the tenets of Judaism, Schwartz's distinctive contributions to increasing public awareness about Jewish teachings concerning the ethical treatment of animals and vegetarianism have attracted people from a host of religions other than Judaism.

A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, a film produced for JVNA by multi-award-winning movie producer Lionel Friedberg, premiered November 2007 at the Orthodox Union's Israel Center, Jerusalem, followed by its U.S. debut at the Staten Island Jewish Community Center's Jewish Film Festival. Honing in on environmental threats facing Eretz Yisrael and the planet as a whole, "the movie makes a strong plea for compassion for those creatures whose plight is barely recognized in the media, and by and large ignored in the pulpit-the so-called ‘farm animals' destined for human consumption," according to JVNA's website.

Schwartz's writings and expertise on the subjects of vegetarianism and animal welfare serve as a pattern for like-minded societies in Israel. He holds advisory board positions in dozens of animal rights and vegetarian associations, including the earliest animal rights organization in Israel, CHAI, headed by Nina Natelson. CHAI was established 22 years ago, when animal advocacy in Israel scarcely existed.

Israel's leading animal rights group is Anonymous for Animal Rights. Why the unusual name? AAA responds: "Out of deep solidarity with the suffering of those sentient beings, without name or identity, who are imprisoned and subjected to systematic abuse in laboratories, circuses, municipal pounds-but above all, in factory farms. They are anonymous, and need our help."

Obviously, this sentiment is prevalent in Israel, given the rapid formations of animal advocacy groups and the quantity and zeal of participants. Israeli animal rights groups generally represent their stance as a refusal to stand by and watch animals swept from this good earth, from unnatural birth to brutal death, enduring unimaginable suffering, merely existing as things meant for profit.

Most Often "Killed" Messenger

With a two-million strong membership, PETA is the most recognized, and on a regular basis denigrated, animal rights organization in the world. Aside from its undercover videos, PETA's visual exhibition "Holocaust on Your Plate," comparing the abuse and torture of animals to the victims of the Holocaust, roused a volley of controversy that made the organization infamous in Jewish circles for "crossing the line."

According to a PETA representative who declined to be named, "A large proportion of our activists are from Jewish backgrounds. Judaism's unique sensibility to compassion for all creatures lends an immeasurable source of expertise and energy to our organization."

PETA youth outreach coordinator Matt Prescott, who is Jewish and has relatives who were extinguished in the Holocaust, defended the Holocaust presentation as a very appropriate comparison, actually conceived almost entirely by Jewish staff members and financially underwritten by an anonymous Jewish donor:

The miserable cramped quarters of miles and miles of steel and concrete factory warehouses in which billions of animals produced for food are starved, mutilated, alienated from all nature, ripped away from their mothers ... is the same suffering that Jews suffered in the Holocaust.

A notable Jewish voice bolstering PETA's allegations of Agriprocessors' animal cruelty was that of the luminary young author Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated). From a Jewish perspective, Foer's narration of PETA's video If This Is Kosher illuminated the misrepresentation of modern kosher slaughter, embarrassed and often infuriated contented kosher consumers, and cast doubts on Orthodox kosher certification:

Kosher slaughter is thought to be more strictly regulated than conventional slaughter, and the process is supposed to be less traumatic for animals. In reality, the animals slaughtered and sold as kosher products come from the same abusive factory farms as animals who are slaughtered conventionally. Despite the intention and spirit, there are no standards to make sure that kosher slaughter is any less cruel.

Jews Down and Dirty -- for Peta and the Animals

Constraining their work under a cloak of secrecy, undercover animal rights investigators fiercely guard their identities as they descend into the punishing belly of industrial animal production and slaughter. One married Jewish couple, "kosher keepers," vegans, and animal advocates Philip and Hannah Schein. disclosed their identities as PETA investigators in 2008.

With more than twenty undercover cases to their credit, including their infiltration of Agriprocessors, the Scheins have experienced every unsavory aspect of life as slaughterhouse employees.

At a particularly jolting assignment in a South American kosher slaughterhouse, the largest supplier of kosher beef imports to Israel and the United States, the Scheins witnessed the disreputable and highly disputed animal restraint method known as shackling and hoisting. Hannah Schein declared it "the worst thing I've seen in person," agreeing with Rabbi Adam Frank, spiritual leader of Congregation Moreshet Israel in Jerusalem, who stated, "This heinous and crude handling system is a vile abuse of animals."

Establishing Justice -- for Animals

Not all Jewish ARM leaders approve of PETA's comparison of the Holocaust and animal suffering. Roberta Kalechofsky, president and founder of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR), is an outspoken critic of "borrowing from one atrocity to raise moral concerns about another." Without minimizing the injustice of the sufferings of animals or her altogether committed work in animal advocacy, Kalechofsky clarifies her position in her book, Animal Suffering and the Holocaust: The Problem with Comparisons.

Despite Kalechofsky's disagreement with PETA's Holocaust comparison, she co-authored an essay with Richard Schwartz and other scholars, "A Case for Jewish Vegetarianism," reproduced as an educational pamphlet, customarily circulated in synagogues, hospitals and clubs.

JAR was founded on the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Kook's philosophy, "to establish justice for animals, to search for the claim of their rights from mankind, which are hidden in the moral psychic sensibility in the deeper layers of the Torah."

Kalechofsky, a repeated recipient of prestigious literary fellowships and awards and sought-after lecturer, heads Micah Publications, specializing in publishing animal rights and vegetarian literature. Included in Kalechofsky's repertoire of over 11 published books is a thin but persuasive book of prose, The 6th Day of Creation, in which she delineates contemporary research laboratories as "the moral subterranean world of animal experimentation."

Fluid with Jewish inflections, Kalechofsky's masterful language sweeps the reader to startling institutional settings in which unthinkable cruelty to animals is routine. The message is a rude awakening for a novice just stepping into the world of animal exploitation. For veteran animal activists it is brilliant, as this excerpt illustrates:

God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus,
Showing mercy to all your creatures, except these.
What world have we created beyond your reach?
In an evolution of thought, the prophet cried:
I care nothing for your sacrifices or experiments,
By the winds that loosened Isaiah's tongue
There are only four things that matter to God
Justice, mercy, holiness, and the majesty of His creation

Native Southern Jew -- Protector of Animals and Nature

Former CIA intelligence officer, writer, and 33-year veteran of animal protection work, Atlanta, GA, native Lewis Regenstein is president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature (ICPAN), an affiliate of he Humane Society of the United States. In addition to his dozens of national newspaper and magazine articles, Regenstein is the author of half a dozen books, including Replenish the Earth: A History of Organized Religion's Treatment of Animals and Nature.

Regenstein defines ICPAN's mission: "to instill in one of the nation's most powerful institutions-organized religion-a responsibility to speak out against the threats to the survival of our planet Earth. There is a wonderful, if largely forgotten, heritage of respect for nature and animals in our religious traditions."

Jewish Filmmakers -- Hell on Earth for Animals

Frederick Wiseman, arguably the most important American documentary filmmaker of the past three decades, is distinguished for his ability to capture the nuances of life as well as the ineffectiveness of bureaucracies such as mental institutions, labor organizations, hospitals, and educational systems. The PBS broadcast of Wiseman's 1974 film Primate, showing the destructive results of human curiosity inflicted on a colony of captive apes at the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta, was so contentious that viewers bombarded the stations with complaints, together with a bomb threat.

Wiseman's 1976 film Meat impassively chronicled the process of animal slaughter in a meatpacking facility, "where bleating animals are mercilessly reduced to stacks of neat plastic packages."

'The daring filmmaker's stark black and white films, critically acclaimed as "unflinchingly raw, fly-on-the-wall observation," stir the public's ire at having been subjected to undesirable lower realms of mankind's brutality.

From Israel, with Love -- for the Animals

Victor Schonfeld's vision for making his widely acclaimed 1982 documentary The Animals Film, was born in Israel.

Shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Schonfeld volunteered to work at Kibbutz Revadim, just north of the Negev desert:

I found myself crawling through sh-, under turkey nest-boxes to gather stray eggs, and enjoying it. The fact that the birds were confined indoors all their lives caused me only passing disquiet. Then, I was chosen for a special assignment in the hatchery.

From the oven-like incubators, trays of newly hatched fluff balls chirped cheerfully, a sea of yellow beings entered the world. As the manager left the room, he told me, in a matter of fact way, to toss any male chicks, as well as any females I judged too small, into the brimming dumpsters below, already full of masses of eggshells and very much alive chirping chicks who peered up at me - to be disposed of later. I had not been told. What kind of place was this?

I struggled to tell myself that it was OK. I never made it to the second tray. Tearing off my gloves, I had to get out of there. I stood and wept.

From this fateful encounter with the callous discarding of living animals, Schonfeld determined "to make documentaries for cinemas that would make the exploitation of animals a serious political issue."

Commenting on The Animals Film's current second release, Schonfeld offered his assessment of its significance in benefiting the lives of animals, twenty-five years later: "It remains an acutely resonant film. By looking at the fate of animals in a human-dominated world with an unblinking gaze, we see how our species is capable of inflicting immense suffering."

Daughter of the Tribe -- Tribe of Heart

Documentary film director Jenny Stein teamed up with her current partner, novelist and film director James LaVeck, in 1997. Together they founded the charitable organization Tribe of Heart -- "a pledge for thorough exploration of three questions: How to live at peace with others, how to live at peace with ourselves, and how to reconcile our lives with our deepest values." They have completed two award-winning films dealing with the humane treatment of animals: The Witness (2001) and Peaceable Kingdom (2004).

Stein opined on how being Jewish influenced her decision to craft films relating to social and moral issues of animal exploitation: "I didn't grow up in a religious family, though I do identify myself as ‘culturally' Jewish. For me, it's more the tragic history of the Holocaust that has colored my views on how animals are being exploited and abused today."

Stein offered a poignant and personal anecdote from her experience of attending a lecture and film, The Eternal Jew, a propaganda film used by Hitler to provoke hatred of Jews: "One key scene showed a cow being slaughtered by Jewish peasants-paid actors, made up to appear hideously ugly. They were all laughing and mocking the animal as he suffered, and slowly died. The presenter, a Dutch scholar, said that this scene, more than any others in the film, helped turn the German people against the Jews."

Stein and LaVeck are currently editing a much-anticipated epilogue to their film Peaceable Kingdom, titled The Journey Home.

Consciously Driven -- Cyberspace Jews Bearing Witness

The Internet, with some 1.5 billion subscribers worldwide, is particularly attractive to groups who can't seem to get a fair, unbiased report from commercial media. Thus, writes Animal Rights Online, "it was only natural that animal rights activists would turn to this media form to exchange unpolluted information, unstifled by profit driven, ratings-dependent commercial media." Center stage, a staggering number of gifted, charismatic Jewish animal rights activists utilize this "pure form" of media.

More often than not, Jewish animal rights activists contend that their motivation in dedicating their talents to end the suffering of animals is explicitly linked to the Holocaust. Brenda Shoss is president and founder of Kinship Circle, one of the top animal rights sites, with the instant capability of reaching out to millions of devoted activists. Shoss says:

The Holocaust was a recurring theme in my studies of dance and video compositions at Northwestern University.... I choreographed and danced a particular solo called "Chaiyah Shavour" (Hebrew for "Broken Lives"). I'll never forget the sense of foreboding as I leapt around the rim of the stage to escape my murderers. My anger and need to "fix" the injustice and horror of the Holocaust never left me. Today I see no difference between treating humans or animals as living trash. I must bear witness for the billions of hopeless, tortured eyes of animals betrayed by the human race.

The North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) was founded to communicate the actions, strategies and philosophy of the animal liberation movement to the media and the public:

Many actions are illegal under a current societal structure that fails to recognize the rights of non-human animals to live free of suffering, but validates and promotes the "right" of industries to do whatever they want to animals for profit and research. We try to provide a historical, social and philosophical context for an objective understanding of the nature and motivation of direct actions taken on behalf of captive animals.

Avant garde, revolutionary, radical-but listen to this gentle Jewish soul's entreaty for mercy for the animals of our world, from Lindy Green, NAALPO press officer:

If there is a high proportion of Jews in the animal rights movement, I might attribute it to the fact that we as a people have been relentlessly persecuted throughout the ages. As someone whose people were sent to the gas chambers in Nazi Germany, how can I turn my back on other sentient beings who are skinned alive, subjected to grisly and scientifically fraudulent experiments simply for being lost and homeless? It is morally and spiritually incumbent upon those who have survived a Holocaust to stand up and act for other beings placed outside the circle of moral compassion and beyond reach of effective defense?

In Defense of Animals -- Animal Guardian

Calm, sensitive, with a hefty dose of charming magnetism, veterinarian and Jewish born self-professed Zen Buddhist Dr. Elliot Katz presides over the prolific and newsworthy international organization In Defense of Animals (IDA). Katz founded IDA in 1983 shortly after animal advocacy groups contacted him to assist in remedying the appalling conditions at University of California, Berkley research animal facilities.

With a membership of 100,000 and offices throughout the United States, India, and Africa, IDA has expanded its mission, initiating revolutionary benefits for victimized animals. By educating and using non-violent civil disobedience to do everything from protesting dreadful "puppy mills," breaking up dog-fighting rings, and shutting down unscrupulous dog breeders to bringing to a standstill questionable scientific testing on animals, IDA's achievements corroborate the effectiveness of the group's "on the front lines" action; for instance: rescuing 180 beagle dogs scheduled for death in UC Davis Veterinary School's dissection labs; canceling cocaine addiction research on monkeys at NY University; halting the bone-breaking experiments on retired racing greyhounds by the U.S. Army; forcing the Coulston Foundation's animal research laboratory out of existence; re-homing animals trapped in disasters worldwide; and establishing an animal rescue sanctuary in Mississippi.

Ticked Off, Renegade Chabad -- A Darker Shade of Pale

That Shmarya! Shmarya Rosenberg-Scott Rosenberg to some. You either love him or hate him; hence, the mélange of adoration and disagreement posted on Failed Messiah fuels his successful site. Created in 2004 as an upshot to his "disillusionment with fellow Chabad-Lubavitch compatriots and rabbis by their refusal to acknowledge the endangered Black Jews of Ethiopia," Failed Messiah grabbed the attention of cyperspace Jews. Simultaneously, the flap at Agriprocessors unfolded. Owing to his unrestrained reports, his unconventional spin on the kosher scandal, his blunt cynicism vis-à-vis Chabad's response to allegations of inhumane treatment of animals and corruption, Rosenberg's notorious reputation rocketed-as his popularity soared.

Predictably, Rosenberg stays fired up and his copious subscribers are more than eager to jump in the heat, whether or not they are infuriated or pleased by his stimulus.

Heeb'n'vegan -- Vegan Voice in the Jewish Blogosphere

In 2004, Michael Croland, a young Conservative Jew and vegan, was a recipient of The Humane Society of the United States Student Genesis Award for his article concerning animal suffering at Agriprocessors, published in the Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh. Concurrently, he was compelled to start a Jewish blog, heebnvegan, (pronounced "heeb 'n' vegan"), a well-liked and "well-blogged" site inviting discussions and articles about animal protection issues. From a Jewish standpoint, Croland offered this statement regarding his views:

The more I get involved in animal rights activism, the more I feel in touch with my Jewish identity. Running a blog about Judaism and animal protection issues has demonstrated just how important-and consistent with Jewish teachings-it is for Jews to be vegetarian. Activism to "repair the world" (tikkun olam) is a commanding force in the lives of many Jews. That meshes with the Jewish ideal of minimizing tsa'ar ba'alei chayyim (unnecessary animal suffering). The suffering and inhumane treatment of the billions of farmed animals, both during their lives, and at slaughter, is an atrocity we shouldn't stand for."

Those Uncompromising Animal Rights Jews

"Uncompromising," a description commonly seen as a distinctive Jewish trait, offers a feasible explanation for the uncanny survival of Jews in the tumultuous theatre of Jewish history. Given the dramatic role Jews have played in the establishment of the ARM and the high percentage of Jews holding present day animal rights leadership positions, this distinctive Jewish characteristic is a plus point in sustaining a viable future for animal rights.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind -- Distant Cries for a Hand of Mercy

Separated by geography and lifestyle, few human beings connect physically or emotionally to the creatures from whom our food comes, or to the debt owed their powerless sacrifice for the marvels of pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures, cosmetics, and household products. Animal rights organizations have catapulted or, as suggested, forced the public to look at a sphere outside their comfort zone, an obviously cruel and harsh world wherein animals are undeniably lost from this good earth. The Jews introduced here would have this writer leave a message before you, underscored by their allegiance to the ARM-a vow to the animals, evocatively articulated in a poem by the Kinship Circle's Brenda Shoss:

Inside lightless stockades where metal bars define your earth
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In crates that contain you from endless pregnancy to nameless death
From your first and last walk down death's corridor
Toward a blood-splattered man who guides your quivering body into the blast of his stun gun...
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As you rock in the corner of your concrete world
Waiting for them to blind, burn and poison your exhausted body
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As you search for one familiar face in the desolate days before a gas chamber claims your anonymous life
When you seek the comfort of one set of arms
Your last tail wagged
Your last purr heard in a gray room with no windows

Sandra Nathan is an animal advocate and freelance journalist who lives on Alabama's Gulf Coast and is a contributing writer to The Deep South Jewish Voice newspaper, covering the southern states of AL, MS, LA, and the FL Panhandle.
Shalom Y'all!

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