Judaism and Vegetarianism

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Library Journal
A vegetarian diet is not only consistent with Judaism but, argues Schwartz (emeritus, Coll. of Staten Island; Judaism and Global Survival), the diet best fitted to basic Jewish values. In this third edition of his 1982 and 1988 book (which includes updated scientific and medical references and a list of web sites), the author shows how Jewish beliefs in showing compassion toward animals, protecting human health, preserving the environment, conserving resources, sharing with hungry people, and pursuing peace are best served by vegetarianism. Throughout, the text is calm, fully documented, and very convincing. Schwartz includes biographies of famous Jewish vegetarians (among them, writers S.Y. Agnon and Isaac Bashevis Singer), "action-centered" ideas on how to promote vegetarianism, and typical questions and answers on Jewish and general issues regarding vegetarianism. A well-done treatise on a subject of increasing interest; highly recommended. Marcia Welsh, formerly with Guilford Free Lib., CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930051249
  • Publisher: Lantern Books NY
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 230
  • Sales rank: 807,491
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2002

    An unrefutable Torah Basis for a Vegan Diet

    A very well written book. It has something for everyone. Much of the suffering among animals and humans in this world could be alleviated simply by a vegan diet. If you are looking for a biblical reason to becoming a Vegan ..this book will help you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    Compassion and Responsibility

    I have read this book thoroughly, and I think it is the most informative, most complete and most readable book about vegetarianism I have ever read. The book is very well structured, the information given is presented clearly and is up to date. Since I am a vegan, I have paid extra attention to what is being said about veganism, and I found the author is objective, accurate and gives sound advice. The B12 issue is dealt with in a responsible manner and I think it is very wise to present the transition to vegetarianism and from there to veganism as a process of growth, where every step counts. The author gives many practical suggestions on how to make changes in your lifestyle without losing touch with family or friends and manages to be firm and friendly at the same time. These things alone make the book a purchase well worth the investment. For me, however, the particular merit of the book lies in the spiritual values that have inspired it. Reading the book from a non-Jewish perspective, what struck me most was that the author has chosen focal points which are relevant to people from all kinds of different backgrounds, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and people who are not religious in the 'traditional' sense. In short, all those who are concerned about the way we relate to our environment from a spiritual point of view. The first focal point is that ethical considerations are more important than habit, convenience, or tradition, and the second is that there will be a price to pay if we chose to ignore the ethical imperative to change our ways. There are many books explaining why it is better for your body to become a vegetarian; there are not many books explaining why it is better for your soul. Richard Schwartz makes the reader see how the themes of inclusion and compassion towards animals are woven all through the Torah. Having read theology at a fairly orthodox Christian college, I have often heard the argument that `since Man was created in the image of God, he was given dominion over all creation' as an excuse for the maltreatment of animals and their reduction to `meat-producing units¿. Guided by Richard Schwartz, we are shown that according to the Torah both man and beast are creatures of God, and that our being created in the image of God is not a given, but rather a potential; something to be brought into manifestation by following the pattern God has laid out for us, and that one of the qualities we must manifest is compassion. Instead of feeling very proud of ourselves and thinking that we are like God already, we should realise that we are asked to imitate God in love and concern for all living beings. Instead of 'dominion' we should read 'compassionate stewardship', and that is something else entirely. From the idea of our potential for goodness and compassion, the theme of responsibility is developed. The author shows us how we are responsible, in the sense of being accountable for the wrongs we do not try to stop. By means of the voice of Amos and other prophets he poignantly asks how we can be content and comfortable while others are in great distress, humans or non-humans. I feel that now Europe has recently been plagued by BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, and we have watched the horrors of what is happening every night on television, this question is more pressing than ever. How are we to answer for these things? That is one side of responsibility. The other side is that human beings are called to do justice, to liberate the oppressed, to care for every living being and that it is the way we act in this world, the choices we make and the goals we chose, which form our answer, our response, to God. For me, our human capacity to answer to this call is the basis of faith in a better future for all beings and Richard Schwartz¿s book has given me every reason not to give up believing. Human beings have the potential to be compassionate and just, and they can learn how to express these qualities. And

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2001

    A Thorough and Important Work

    Schwartz's treatment of vegetarianism and Judaism is remarkabley thorough. He approaches the topic from the multifaceted avenues of Jewish thinking: Torah, halakhah, values... it's all there. This book is a complete compendium on all the issues and argument pertaining to vegetarianism, concerning for animals, the environment, and more. Schwartz's style is highly readable. He is passionate about his topic, but not emotional. I highly recommend the book to everyone, and certainly for Jews who take our traditions seriously.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2001

    What you always wanted to know about vegetarianism

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt it was sequentially well oganized, clearly written, educational and inviting. Some publicatoins encouraging veganism or vegetarianism tend to lean toward superiority or scare tactics. However, the style of this author and text leaned more toward informative humility. I enjoyed the ways in which Dr. Schwartz established justifications and relationships between quotations and teachings from the Bible and/or the Torah in favor of a vegan/vegetarian life as they relate to: agribusiness, environmental destruction, human starvation, debilitating hunger-related diseases, heart disease and obesity, civil unrest, political/petrochemical devastation and disregard for life and, of course, the barbaric treatment of factory-farmed animals. All question and answer sections were absolutely wonderful. Those sections alone could be invaluable pamphlets that could address those 'Things you always wanted to know about vegetarianism/veganism but were afraid to ask.' All answers were succinct and yet detailed, passionate and yet humbling. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in any of the myriad reasons to be vegan and/or vegetarian. And for people whose lives are intertwined with Judaism, it offers explicit and thought-provoking rationale from that point of view for a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2001

    Fair-minded and articulate

    This book is excellent. It is beautifully written, exceptionally complete, and very fair-minded in its tone. The arguments are compelling and clear. I expected a diatribe, but that was not the case at all. Even though I will continue to eat meat, the author raised many pertinent questions and answered them in a thoughtful, well-reasoned way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2001

    Vegetarianism : The meat of the argument

    The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are now well-documented, as are the increased risks of cancer and heart disease that come with eating meat. But these are personal benefits, and personal risks; most people are content to view such a 'lifestyle' decision, like the decision to smoke, as a matter of individual choice. Would it were that easy! Today, with the advent of 'factory farming,' other considerations must come into play. Mathematician Schwartz, while never resorting to emotional appeal, wants us to realize that modern meat production is a completely automated, entirely impersonal, mechanized industry, with billions of animals spending their entire lives -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- in tiny pens or cages, never seeing the sun, never being allowed the freedom to walk even a few steps. How many of us can remain complacent in the face of such institutionalized cruelty? Is it enough, he asks, that an animal is killed painlessly, if its whole life is spent under such conditions? Is this what God intended when He gave man 'dominion' over the animal kingdom? No, it is not, answers Schwartz, who cites many biblical and rabbinic sources to prove that the biblical permission to eat meat was only a temporary concession to human weakness; humanity before the Flood was vegetarian, and will be so again in the messianic era. Indeed, Schwartz argues powerfully that the pursuit of universal peace and justice, and the end of world hunger -- all hallmarks of the messianic age -- requires Jews in particular, in their role as 'a light unto the nations,' to be in the vanguard of the vegetarian movement. Did you know, for example, that 70% of the grain grown in the United States is used to feed animals destined for slaughter? Or that 80% of the water used in the States goes toward animal agriculture? Or that land growing potatoes, rice and other vegetables can support 20 times as many people as land producing grain-fed beef? Or that many leading scientists now rank the environmental damage caused by the meat industry as second only to that caused by the use of fossil fuels? In this fact-filled volume, Schwartz goes to great lengths in proving that vegetarianism in no way conflicts with Orthodox Judaism, and points out that many leading religious Jews both past and present -- Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa among them -- have concluded that a plant-based diet is something which all 'noble souls' hould embrace. 'Judaism and Vegetarianism' devotes entire chapters to answering commonly asked questions, supplies ammunition which vegetarians can use in answering the skeptics, and provides extensive lists of Jewish vegetarian groups and books for further reading. Every argument is supported by facts, and every fact is documented. In short, Schwartz has made a case that is difficult to refute, in a book you will find difficult to ignore.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    Diet of the Messianic Age

    Many people assume that because Judaism is not a vegetarian religious tradition, it has nothing to say about the subject -- much less any practical guidance to offer the on-the-fence or aspiring vegetarian. Dr. Richard Schwartz disproves this intelligently, respectfully, and even entertainingly. His 'Jewish reasons' to support vegetarianism range from health (it's a mitzvah to take care of your body) and environmental concerns (also a mitzvah), to a critique of the food industry that raises many questions about the Talmudic prohibition of tza'ar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals). For more than 20 years, Richard has been a 'lone (or almost lone) prophet in the wilderness,' whose dedication to the human advantages of vegetarianism and to the plight of animals in our society is matched only by his sincere commitment to halacha and the full range of Jewish religious practice. Whether one agrees with him on every point or not, one must admire his compassion and integrity -- for he has not simply tailored his Judaism to the size of his vegetarianism, but sought legitimate ways in which the two may be found to be in accord. The new revised edition of this classic volume is up to date in its statistics, and tastefully designed. It also shows the author's growth in Torah knowledge, and presents a listing of contemporary Jewish vegetarian groups, publications, and websites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2001

    An outstanding resource!

    'Judaism and vegetarianism? Can the two be related? After all, what is a simcha (Jewish celebration) or holiday dinner without gefilte fish, chopped liver, cholent, roast beef, chicken and chicken soup? And what about passages in the Torah referring to Temple sacrifices of animals and the consumption of meat?' This question, quoted here from the preface to the first edition of Richard Schwartz's seminal work Judaism and Vegetarianism, has often plagued Jews considering a switch to a vegetarian lifestyle, as well as vegetarians considering Judaism. CAN one be Jewish and vegetarian? Don't the Scriptures sanction?indeed, appear to command?the consumption of meat? What is God's will regarding His people and their relationship with the animals, the Earth, and with other peoples? How does vegetarianism fit in (or does it?)? In this book, Professor Schwartz demonstrates that, not only is vegetarianism wholly consistent with Judaism, it may even be considered an imperative in this day of factory farming, environmental depletion, degenerating human health and worldwide hunger. Beginning, as is fitting, with the Scriptures (particularly the Torah), Schwartz takes his readers on a tour of the Bible from a vegetarian point of view. He then goes on to address specific issues, such as 'Tsa'ar Ba'alei Chayim - Judaism and Compassion for Animals'; 'Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Health'; 'Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Feeding the Hungry'; 'Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Ecology'; and 'Judaism, Vegetarianism and Peace'; supporting each not only with quotes from the Scriptures, but also with insight from Jewish sages and scholars from virtually every age and tradition, as well as with substantial and timely factual material gleaned from leading authorities on animal welfare, human health, the environment and the world hunger situation. He then proceeds to address even more specific questions regarding Judaism and vegetarianism (such as 'Don't Jews have to eat meat to honor the Sabbath and to rejoice on Jewish holidays?' and 'If God wanted us to have vegetarian diets and not harm animals, why were the Temple sacrificial services established?') and vegetarianism in general (such as 'Can't one work to improve conditions for animals without being a vegetarian?' and 'If vegetarian diets are best for health, why don't most doctors recommend them?'). Finally he offers solid advice on how to make the switch to vegetarianism, including information on holiday observances and information on Jewish vegetarian groups, activities and resources, as well as an interesting and informative biographical section on famous Jewish vegetarians. He closes with this question, respectfully addressed to Jews who plan to continue to eat meat: 'In view of strong Jewish mandates to be compassionate to animals, preserve our health, help feed the hungry, preserve and protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek and pursue peace, and the very negative effects animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, will you now become a vegetarian, or at least sharply reduce your consumption of animal products?' It's hard to imagine, in the face of Professor Schwartz's well-reasoned and well-documented book, that anyone could reasonably answer 'no.' I highly recommend Judaism and Vegetarianism to any Jew who is considering vegetarianism (or who has already made the switch and is seeking support and advice), as well as to those who are not vegetarians themselves, but who may be concerned about vegetarian friends and loved ones. It should be required reading for any rabbi who may encounter questions about vegetarianism or find himself ministering to vegetarians. Further, I would strongly recommend this book to vegetarian Christians and Muslims, who also accept the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative?you will find information here that will both challenge and support you, and perhaps a co

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2001

    If you care, buy this book and read it twice

    Judaism and Vegetarianism, by Richard H. Schwartz Lantern, 230 pages, $18 (paper). By NATHAN BRAUN Foot and mouth disease is treading closely on the ¿hoofs¿ of the mad cow epidemic that recently swept Europe. Yet curiously, all around the world one species that isn't even infected is nonetheless very affected, and acting very strangely. An ocean away from the plague, we homo sapiens in America are increasingly returning to the herbivorous 'roots' of Eden, as depicted in the very first chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve were indeed the first vegetarians, Richard Schwartz tells us in his updated and revised edition of ¿Judaism and Vegetarianism.¿ But if this 'Bible of the Jewish vegetarian movement' is any indication - arguing as it does that a vegetarian diet is both a societal imperative as well as an especially Jewish one - they won't be the last. Mr. Schwartz, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the College of Staten Island, writes that animal-based agriculture and diets require far more land, water, energy and other agricultural resources than plant-based diets, with the result that meat consumption (and especially production) has devastating effects on our air, water and land, and likewise contributes substantially to global climate change. Thus, our current diets negatively impact on the world's food supply, and are also a major factor behind rapidly rising medical costs. The author also seeks to demonstrate that vegetarianism is an especially Jewish imperative, since the realities of the production and consumption of animal products violate basic Jewish teachings to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve resources, help hungry people and pursue peace and non-violence. Since many difficult questions are asked of vegetarians, Mr. Schwartz provides 62 questions and answers on a wide variety of Jewish and general issues. These questions include: Don't we have to eat meat on the Sabbath and to rejoice on festivals? Isn't it a sin not to take advantage of pleasurable things like eating meat? Weren't we given dominion over animals? What about sacrificial temple services? Aren't vegetarians deviating from Jewish tradition in asserting that people and animals are of equal value? Mr. Schwartz's cogent answers enable vegetarians to respond effectively to the concerns of non-vegetarians. In order to give as complete an analysis of Jewish connections to vegetarianism as possible, Mr. Schwartz includes biographies of famous Jewish vegetarians, including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Franz Kafka and several present and past chief rabbis; a discussion of Jewish vegetarian groups and activities in Israel, the United States and England, where the International Jewish Vegetarian Society is located; contact information for the leading Jewish vegetarian and vegetarian-related groups; ideas for promoting vegetarianism; suggestions for leading a healthy Jewish vegetarian lifestyle and an extensive annotated bibliography. Indeed, Mr. Schwartz amasses such an abundance of statistics and such a wide variety of quotations from the Torah, Talmud and other traditional Jewish sources to bolster his case, that after reading ¿Judaism and Vegetarianism¿ this reviewer can only agree with the assessment of Paul Peabody who asserted in Fellowship magazine that 'it would be hard for anyone ethically sensitive - Jew or non-Jew - to read this book and not take up the vegetarian cause.' At a time when the United States and much of the world is confronted with an epidemic of degenerative diseases, mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease, soaring health care costs, a multitude of environmental threats, increasingly severe effects of global climate change, widespread hunger, as well as widening scarcities of water and energy, the powerful teachings of the Jewish tradition on vegetarianism and other positive societal changes should no longer be ignored.

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