Shamayim’s Director, Jonathan, Shares the Books, People, and Events that Shape his Vegan Journey

November 3rd, 2021

RABBI JONATHAN JAFFE BERNHARD

Friends, for my first official blog let me start by saying how excited and privileged I feel to be doing this work with you. I have taken this time to learn our programs, meet with our many different partners and participants, and seek out new ways to raise awareness and educate. It has been a great first month. 

HOW DID I GET HERE? THE BULLET POINT VERSION 

Personally: 

● An early influence: my oldest sister had health issues and was a vegetarian in her teens. (Who was one of yours?) 

● Summer of 1987. The lul/chicken coop on Kibbutz Givat Oz. One night only. My vegetarian journey began. 

● Pretty much a vegetarian after that. Big lapse when Laurie was pregnant with our first son, Nathaniel (1993). She craved meat. The deli on 89th and Broadway had great smelling hamburgers, my veggie achilles heel. (Don’t/Didn’t you have one?) 

● Almost 3 years ago, Laurie brought Clean Food Dirty Girl (a plant-based, batch-oriented approach) into our lives. We started small – plant based dinners led to plant based eating. 

In June of 2021, I leave my congregation of 25 years looking to do something different. 

Professionally: 

● An early influence: Rami Shapiro, rabbi/teacher/spiritual troublemaker, defines keeping kosher as the fit/appropriate consumption of the world’s resources. This broader understanding of kashrut sits with me still. 

● 2004 or around then scandalous reports and videos about Apriprocessors treatment of cows and workers go viral. I was outraged. It was abominable. I preached out. And returned to the issue on occasion. 

● Over time my thinking changed, my emotions evolved. Nothing dramatic. A slow unfolding, a wave breaking unevenly. 

● Books that influenced me along the way. Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are The Weather. (What are yours?) 

● More talks and learning with different groups including JIFA (Jewish Initiative for Animals). 

● High holiday sermon 2019 focused on eating less meat and challenging my congregation to go meatless on Mondays. Some people still don’t like me. That’s okay. 

In June of 2021, I leave my congregation of 25 years looking to serve in a different way.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

  • Who influenced you when you were considering veganism?
  • What books help you?
  • Were there any events that shaped your journey?

Let us know on our Facebook page or @shamayimjewishanimaladvocacy 

We’d love to hear from you. 

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