March 2020 Newsletter

March 31st, 2020

​ERICA FUCHS

We hope you are healthy and are finding ways to connect with your family, friends, and community at this time.

The COVID-19 crisis is a reminder that we are connected to the animals that are being raised for food in additional ways than we’ve previously discussed. While there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19,  virtually every other recent pandemic threat, such as the swine flu, bird flu, or mad cow disease, has been linked to the human consumption of animals for food. Shamayim was formed to train and educate the Jewish community about switching to a plant based diet as a way to be more compassionate to all of earth’s inhabitants.

As we head into Passover – our celebration of redemption and freedom – it is a critical time to advocate for the animals in today’s agriculture industry. Animals are the population that experiences, in quantity, the most amount of suffering each year. At our seders, we discuss what it means to be liberated and how we can free ourselves from our boundaries or “narrow places” and that includes looking at our daily habits. Eating meat has ethical, environmental, and health repercussions and making the transition to a vegan lifestyle can be liberating for all.

We look forward to engaging with more of you as we work to put together remote content and programming to support our growing community. Also, we’d love to hear from you on what you’d like to see from us at this time. Please let us know by emailing info@shamayim.us

Some vegan suggestions during this time: 

  • Eating a healthy vegan diet with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables helps make a stronger immune system.
  • Ordering delivery or buying gift cards from local vegan restaurants can help them stay afloat.
  • Many people don’t feel able to care for their companion animals right now and shelters are overwhelmed. Consider fostering or adopting at this time.

VEGAN PASSOVER RESOURCES

With Pesach next week, now is the time to start preparing. The Passover seder is an opportunity to remember our journey from enslavement to freedom, recognize the forms of oppression that still exist today, and determine how we can fight them. That’s why we encourage you to make these reflective eight days ahead plant-powered (even the seder plate) to advocate for justice for animals, people & the environment!

Check out this collection of vegan Passover tips & recipes here.
 

Thank you to all who attended our webinar on March 12th, “A Passover that is Free For All: Worker, Animal, and Climate Justice,” that we offered in partnership with Jewish VegJewish Initiative for Animals & Hazon! In total, we had 80 individuals join us to learn how to celebrate Passover in a way that is truly in alignment with Jewish values by bringing awareness to issues that affect animals, the planet and fellow humans.
 

If you missed it, check out this one-pager with more vegan-friendly resources and recipes for Passover!

PROGRAM APPLICATION TIMELINE

Usually our Synagogue Vegan Challenge & Campus Fellowship applications open in April, but because of current circumstances, we will be delaying this by a few months. Stay tuned for information about application opening dates in future newsletters!

LATEST PODCAST INTERVIEW

Have you been listening to our podcast? Our latest interview features Jenny Goldfarb, founder of Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli!

In launching one of the most exciting new meat alternatives on the market today, Jenny went from creating her kosher & vegan deli meats in her kitchen for a Hanukkah party to being invested in by Mark Cuban in less than a year! Take a listen to hear Jenny’s story behind the sandwich, her experience on Shark Tank, advice for vegan entrepreneurs, and even some of her favorite vegan cookbooks!

Want to find Mrs. Goldfarb’s Unreal Deli products near you? Find a retailer here (or order some online!)!

This episode is available on Apple Podcasts & Spotify.

PLANT-BASED TORAH, WEEKLY D’VARS

Our latest D’var Torah:

Plant-Based Torah – Parashat Vayikra: The Lesson Behind the Sacrifices

Follow along with our Plant-Based Torah series, weekly D’var Torahs all about the connection between Torah and animal welfare, and the compatibility of plant-based living with Judaism and its central religious texts! We hope these weekly writings inspire you to live in alignment with the Jewish value that is Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim, not causing harm to animals.

Read all weekly D’var Torahs here

Prefer to listen instead of read? Follow along with weekly episodes through Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

SYNAGOGUE VEGAN CHALLENGE SPOTLIGHT

Sixth & I held a beautiful vegan seder last month (pre-social distancing) for Tu B’Shevat. The menu included the traditionally vegan Tu B’Shevat foods: dates, grapes, almonds, alongside fresh kale salad and vegan vegetable sandwiches made with cashew cheeses. Attendees explored Judaism’s ancient connections to environmentalism and its evolution and presentation in modern movements (veganism & plant-based eating)!

The best way to show others how easy it is to eat plant-based is through hands-on experience. That’s why we’re so proud of Natasha, representing Chabad of Potomac, a participant in our Synagogue Vegan Challenge, who held a demo on how to prepare healthy, vegan desserts for her community (this event was held pre-social distancing)! They made chocolate bark with Tu B’Shevat inspired toppings, as well as vegan Samoah girls scout cookies, and granola bars. Everyone left with some delicious samplings, a good taste for healthy plant-based desserts, and were empowered to prepare these treats at home.

CAMPUS FELLOWSHIP SPOTLIGHT

Nothing brings people together like vegan Ben & Jerry’s & great discussion (this event was held pre-social distancing)!

Talia, a campus fellow at John Hopkins University, held a “Vegan Reading Group” to discuss veganism through different Torah and secular sources. None of the students who attended this event were vegan or vegetarian, so Talia had an excellent opportunity to open some minds about why it’s a choice that all Jews should consider so we can be good stewards to our planet and each other.

Talia used a few Jewish Source Sheets (provided for free on our website here!) to jumpstart these conversations with interesting questions. You can browse & download these source sheets for yourself at any time to engage with your community.

Because of COVID-19, our campus fellowship has come to a close for the year, as most students are home and are finishing their studies remotely.

One of our fellows, Yoav at the University of Michigan, shared these words of wisdom with his community after hosting a final vegan Shabbat dinner a few weeks back (delicious vegan challah pictured above):

“Activism during a time like this is very difficult. It is very different to interact with people primarily through social media or virtual meetings, but this means any in-person contact is especially valuable and impactful. Being with housemates or family members during this time has given me a chance to really talk about topics like sustainability and health, and how a plant-based lifestyle encapsulates my beliefs to bring about a better world. As we process and adjust to the changes in our daily lives, it’s important we take some of this time to evaluate our choices and make adjustments where we can to improve the future.

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