Jewish vegetarianism ‘essential’

As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and author of the book “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” I was very pleased to see your article, (“Hazon speaker trying to push ‘kosher’ to the next level,” Aug. 12), which discussed Aaron Gross’ efforts to promote plant-centered diets.
I wish him much success in spreading his important message because: 1) the production and consumption of meat and other animal products contradict basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people; and 2) animal-based diets and agriculture are causing an epidemic of diseases in the Jewish and other communities and contributing significantly to climate change, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, water shortages and other environmental problems that threaten all of humanity.
I believe it is essential that the Jewish community address these issues to show the relevance of eternal Jewish teachings to current issues and to help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.
More information about Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism can be found at www.jewishveg.com/schwartz and in our acclaimed documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World,” which can be seen at www.asacredduty.com.
Richard Schwartz   |   Staten Island, N.Y.

Exploring Magen Tzedek seal

We at Magen Tzedek read your article with interest (“Hazon speaker trying to push ‘kosher’ to the next level,” Aug. 12).
To be sure, we are supportive of all efforts to bring more care to animals being slaughtered, a fundamental Jewish value. Our product, the Magen Tzedek, will include Jewish ethical norms and standards for workers, animals and the Earth.
We are currently completing the final iteration of our initial auditing standards in cooperation with SAAS (Social Accountability Accreditation Services). While it is true that we have spoken with Empire and have great respect for their brand, as we do for many of the kosher food brands, we are not currently in any substantive discussions regarding awarding them the Magen Tzedek social justice seal.
Since Magen Tzedek will be the most objective and verifiable way for a kosher food producer to demonstrate a true commitment to workers, animals and the Earth, we look forward to working with any and all kosher food producing companies who wish to apply.
Rabbi Morris J. Allen   |   Mendota Heights, Minn.

Pride for JCHS alumna

It was with great pride that I read about our recent alum, Lena Elkins (Jewish Community High School of the Bay, class of 2010) and her position as a Kohn intern for the American Jewish World Service (“Interns develop their working chops in Kohn program,” Aug. 12).
Lena’s deep and personal connection to AJWS began as a senior at JCHS, when she created a fundraiser to benefit the organization. In the winter of 2010, after learning that the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its hateful messages against members of the Jewish and LGBT communities, would be protesting outside JCHS, Lena created the “From Hate to Haiti Campaign.”
She spent a week collecting pledges for every minute the Westboro representatives were protesting outside of the school. Through the campaign, Lena raised more than $8,000 for the AJWS Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.
Lena is continuing to demonstrate JCHS’ core value of service and I’m thrilled to see that she is taking her passion for service into her adult life!