Tel Aviv Tivoni

The ubiquitous “vegan friendly” sign at the Tel Aviv Vegan Fest

Tel Aviv, aptly called the global vegan (tivoni) capital of the world, is the hub of a culinary, social and consciousness movement that is sweeping Israel. Within the White City’s concrete jungle of bauhaus buildings, abutting glass and steel skyscrapers, is a city teeming with “vegan friendly” signs proudly affixed to businesses, from restaurants to markets to stores. The culinary and social atmosphere is decidedly one that gravitates towards conscious plant-based eating. The breadth of this fascinating Israeli social movement was evident at the city’s two day vegan fest that attracted a shocking 40,000 people (and yes, overwhelmingly Israelis). More people turned out for it than Eurovision the previous week. From labane to burgers, the throngs of Tel Avivians of all stripes lined up to eat from local restaurants, taste new Israeli vegan food brands and celebrate in an atmosphere that was decidedly positive, welcoming of everyone.

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Jewish Values and Veganism

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Many of my childhood food memories are of my grandmother and her holiday dishes. Standing by her side, she showed me how to roll the dough of mandelbrodt, properly fry a latke and make sweet noodle kugel. Conversations fluctuated between what would be cooked for the next meal and commentary about what was already bubbling on the stovetop or browning in the oven.

When I was ten years old, I told my parents that I did not want to eat animals and would henceforth be a vegetarian. Then, a few years ago, I decided to become vegan after I learned that the animals raised for egg and dairy products—even from local farmers—were eventually slaughtered when they stopped “producing.” With a vegan diet, out went most of my grandmother’s cooking. Continue reading

Israel’s Freedom Farm Sanctuary

Photo by Tamar Almog, courtesy of Freedom Farm Sanctuary.

I recently interviewed Adit Romano, co-founder of Freedom Farm the first farm animal sanctuary in Israel. The sanctuary’s educational mission is rooted in a place of non-judgment, love and compassion. Its approach is engaging people across the nation’s political, social, economic and religious boundaries.

Adit Romano is the co-founder of Freedom Farm Sanctuary, the first animal sanctuary in Israel. A vegetarian for 17 years, her unexpected journey to becoming a vegan and starting FFS began after watching a lecture by American activist Gary Yourofsky. The organization has secured land, acquired several animals that were intended for slaughter and attracted 2,000 volunteers and more than 400,000 social media followers. FFS educational mission is rooted in a place of non-judgment, love and compassion. Its approach is engaging people across the nation’s political, social, economic and religious boundaries. (This interview has been condensed and edited and was originally published on the Jewish Food Experience.)
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Re’eh: Meat and Poverty

Re'eh Ratatouille

Re’eh Ratatouille

In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, it is written, ‘I will eat meat,’ because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, according to every desire of your soul” (12:20).  Follows is a list of animals that cannot be consumed and the commandment not to cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

Further along in the Torah portion, it is written, “If there will be among you a needy person. . . you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother” (15:7).

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks teaches that, “It was through agriculture that the Torah pursued its religious and social programme. It has three fundamental elements. The first was the alleviation of poverty.”

In our current society, what is the connection between eating meat and people living in poverty? The people in the US who are raising animals for food consumption are needy people. Continue reading

Vayikra: Modern Sacrifices

Vaykira: lemon salt

Vaykira: lemon salt

As a vegetarian since the age of nine and an on-again, off-again vegan, I wrestled with this week’s parsha, Vayikra, which offers detailed instructions for animal sacrifices.  How do I understand sacrifices (and those who argue that these practices will return during the Messianic period) with my commitment to not eating or harming animals?

Rabbi Brad Artson puts the ancient practice into context. He writes in The Bedside Torah, “Our ancestors turned to animal sacrifice because they saw in it a way to express deep rage, feelings of inadequacy, and guilt. They could, through sacrifice of animals, see their own frailty, their own mortality, and their own bloodiness” (p. 169).

And, sacrifices still offer meaning to us in the 21st century. He explains, “in our age, a period of sanitized religion and everyday violence, the practice of our ancestors has something to teach. And so we read Sefer Va-Yikra, and learn to see our fears in the eyes of an animal going to the slaughter, in the cries of the victim of sacrifice” (p. 169). Continue reading