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EarthSave promotes a shift toward a healthy plant-based diet.
Vol 19 No. 1
February 2008

Jewish Vegetarians of North American Produces Documentary to Promote Vegetarianism

by Richard H. Schwartz

Because the world is heading rapidly toward an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats, Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) has produced a documentary, A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World, to address these threats from a positive Jewish perspective. JVNA will send a free copy to anyone who will help arrange a screening or help promote the movie in some other way.

Almost daily there are reports of severe droughts, floods, storms or wildfires, of the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps and other indicators of global warming. It is frightening that, while these effects are due to an increase in temperature of less than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group composed of hundreds of the world’s climate scientists, is projecting an increase of 3 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years. Even more ominous is that some climate scientists, including James Hansen of NASA, are warning that global warming may reach a tipping point and spiral out of control within a decade, with disastrous consequences, unless major changes are soon made. Israel is especially vulnerable to global climate change, in terms of reduced rainfall, severe storms and flooding from a rising Mediterranean Sea. A Sacred Duty is a Jewish response to these realities. It reminds us that it is our sacred duty to become aware of current threats and our responsibility to apply Jewish teachings to how we obtain our food, use natural resources, and live among other creatures whom God created. It offers simple, practical measures for reducing our impact on the planet, including “an inconvenient truth” that even Al Gore has not yet acknowledged.

Produced by the highly acclaimed, multi-award-winning film maker, Lionel Friedberg, A Sacred Duty reinforces the messages in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo di Caprio’s, The Eleventh Hour about the dangers of global warming. However, it goes beyond these films, by showing how religious responses can make a major difference and why a shift toward plant-based diets is an essential part of efforts to reduce global climate change and other environmental threats. It also challenges people to consider the many moral issues related to our diets, including Torah teachings on how animals are treated on factory farms and the effects on human health and the environment.

The documentary features interviews with leading Israeli and American environmental, health, vegetarian and animal rights activists as well as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and secular leaders. Interviewees include: Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa; Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, Chief Scientist: Israel Environmental Ministry and many other rabbis and Jewish leaders and activists.

Biblical passages are read by the acclaimed Jewish star of Broadway and screen Theodore Bikel Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, A Sacred Duty speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie’s universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as biblical teachings, Israel, the environment, health, nutrition, vegetarianism, hunger and resource usage. The movie may be said to be like Levy’s Jewish Rye bread - you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate it.

A Sacred Duty and the many activities being planned around it have the potential to help move our imperiled world toward a sustainable path. But only if the movie is widely viewed and discussed.

So, please order your FREE copy and please consider taking one or more of the following actions after viewing the movie: have viewings for family, neighbors and friends; try to schedule showings at a local school, a synagogue and/or other houses of worship, a community center or other communal site, etc.; share the DVD with local rabbis and other religious leaders, teachers, politicians and other local influential people. You can request a free DVD by sending your name and mailing address to JVNA’s secretary/treasurer John Diamond ( If you feel that you can profitably use more than one DVD, just let John know, with a brief description of how you plan to use them JVNA plans to build a major campaign around the movie to get tikkun olam (the repair and healing of the world) to become a central focus in Jewish life today, with a shift toward plant-based diets as an essential part of the changes that can help move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path. If you would like to be involved in the campaign or have suggestions, please contact Richard Schwartz at

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island, and author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” “Judaism and Global Survival,” and “Mathematics and Global Survival,” and over 130 articles at