Jewish Veg

Jewish Veg is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to encourage and help Jews to embrace plant-based diets as an expression of the Jewish values of compassion for animals, concern for health, and care for the environment. Jewish Veg was formerly called Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA).

The current executive director of Jewish Veg is Jeffrey Cohan, who has served since 2013. Under Cohan’s leadership, the organization has added professional staff, built a strong Board of Directors, and assembled impressive Rabbinic and Advisory councils.[1]

Jewish Veg’s Website is the most visited Website on the intersection of Judaism and veganism. It features plant-based versions of such traditional Jewish foods as challah, matzah ball soup and kugel.[2] They publish a monthly e-newsletter that can be subscribed to on their Website.[3] In 2015, Jewish Veg created a Veg Pledge campaign[4] to help people adopt plant-based diets. Pledge-takers have the option to be connected with a vegan mentor if they so choose.

Jewish Veg has forged partnerships with prominent Jewish organizations, including Hazon and Hillel International. Their highly esteemed speakers bureau gives numerous presentations in Jewish venues around the country.[5] One of their most prominent speakers is Dr. Alex Hershaft who is a holocaust survivor and the founder of the animal advocacy organization Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM).[6]

Jewish Veg produced their first speaking tour with Israeli vegan leader Ori Shavit in the Fall of 2015. Shavit visited 10 college campuses across the country to speak to Jewish students. In partnership with Hillel International, Jewish Veg will host another tour in the Spring of 2016.[7]

Jewish Veg currently has local chapters in Houston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. They are all-volunteer groups which are supported by staff at the national organization. The chapters serve to educate the local Jewish population about veganism and provide community for Jewish vegans.

The organization was originally called The Jewish Vegetarian Society of America and was founded in 1975 by Jonathan Wolf after a World Vegetarian Conference was held at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. It was affiliated with the Jewish Vegetarians of England. Wolf stated in 1980: "In a real sense, vegetarianism is the highest form of Judaism... Intrinsic values in Judaism -- compassion for animals, concern about world hunger and ecology -- are exemplified by vegetarianism." [8]

Wolf became the organization's first president. For many years, Rabbi Noach Valley was president. Richard H. Schwartz became president in 2003. He is currently president emeritus and serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. Schwartz's book, "Judaism and Vegetarianism," was published in 1982. He argues that Jewish mandates to protect human health, treat animals with compassion, preserve the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people, and pursue peace point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews today.[9]

A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, is Jewish Veg’s 2007 documentary on Judaism, vegetarianism, and the environment. It was directed by Lionel Friedberg. The film received numerous favorable reviews. Jewish Veg has made the entire film freely available on YouTube.[10]

See also


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