July 2019 Newsletter

July 31st, 2019


Happy start of summer!

Shamayim has some exciting updates for you since our last newsletter. We’ve hired a new staff member and accepted the participants for our next cohorts of programs, including the Synagogue Vegan Challenge, and our Campus Fellowship Program!


Shamayim would like to introduce Lisa Apfelberg, a long time vegan and leader in the Jewish community, as our new Director of Programs. We’re thrilled to have her on board.

“Lisa Apfelberg has been a vegetarian since she was six years old when she learned that meat came from an animal that was killed. About fifteen years ago, she learned the truth about dairy and eggs, and has been vegan ever since. She has been a Jewish Communal Professional for most of her career and has served as the Executive Director to five small nonprofits. She is an active volunteer in her community leading the efforts for Austin’s Jewish Community to get involved in helping newly arrived refugees and has been asked to speak on this and multiple topics publicly. Lisa has a masters degree in clinical social work from Smith College and has served as a Faculty Field Advisor for the UT Austin School of Social Work. She is proud to have been elected a Net Zero Hero by the City of Austin. She has recently begun to help people transition to veganism or meat reduction by creating guides, hosting vegan cooking classes at home, and meeting people at the grocery store. Lisa lives in Austin with her husband and two children and multiple rescued pets. Lisa is now continuing her work to help animals by serving as Director of Programs for Shamayim. She leads and manages the Synagogue Vegan Challenge, Campus Fellowship and plans the annual Jewish Animal Advocacy Retreat in collaboration with the rest of the Shamayim team.”

Erica, our previous Program Director, has taken on a new role as Manager of Digital Marketing! Shamayim’s team is growing. As a result of this, our programs, outreach, and resource base are expanding as well. Keep your eyes peeled for a new website in the works and future program announcements.


Congratulations to the five communities that were selected to participate in the third cohort of our Synagogue Vegan Challenge: Sixth & I Historic SynagogueCongregation Bonai ShalomCongregation Beth SholomChabad of Potomac and B’nai Jeshurn!

For the next year these five Jewish communities, from all denominations and backgrounds, will incorporate plant-based food and education into their programing at least once a month. This will introduce hundreds of people in the nationwide Jewish community to delicious plant-based food that is better for us, the environment and of course, the animals.

If you live near any of these synagogues, please reach out to them to ask about attending their 100% vegan monthly events!

Thank you to VegFund for sponsoring the third cohort of this program.

We’re happy to announce that 11 college students have been selected for our 2019-2020 campus fellowship program. Starting this fall, these students will be engaging the Jewish community on their campuses to think more about their food choices. Fellows will host 6 events throughout the school year, such as a vegan Shabbat meals and documentary screenings, with guidance and resources from Shamayim. Through this fellowship, students will be equipped with the tools they need to make positive, lasting change towards kinder and more sustainable eating in their communities.


The registration for our 2020 Jewish Animal Advocacy retreat at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Los Angeles from February 7th – 9th, 2020 is open! We welcome you to join us for our next gathering of Jewish vegan leaders, students and activists for an enriching Shabbat weekend filled with inspiring sessions, kosher + vegan food and great company.

Register here to take advantage of special early bird pricing.

See what this year’s retreat was like:

2019 Schedule | 2019 Session Descriptions | 2019 Photos

If you are interested in leading a session at next year’s retreat, please reach out to info@shamayim.us.


Shamayim will be tabling at the FARM Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC) at the end of this month! If you’ll be attending, please make sure to stop by our booth to learn more about how our programs and ways to get involved.

As the world’s largest and longest-running animal rights gathering, the ARNC is the best place to be to engage with, learn from and gain insight from other animal activists/organizations around the country.

Our friends at VegFund wrote a great blog post on reasons to attend if you haven’t before. We hope to see you there!


Despite Hasidic Jews and Jewish fur dealers’ disapproval of the bill to ban the sale of fur in NYC, Shamayim is proud to stand beside Voters for Animal Rights and dozens of other organizations who support the ban.

Rabbi Shmuly points out in a recent article from JTA news that wearing shtreimels (a fur hat worn by many married Haredi Jewish men) is a custom but is not mandated by Jewish law. What is required though, is not causing needless pain to animals.


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