VegFund is pleased to announce its partnership with the vegan–Jewish organization, The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, in launching The Synagogue Vegan Challenge — an initiative that will help put veganism on the Jewish agenda.
Hosted by The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, an animal welfare organization that educates leaders, trains advocates, and campaigns for animals’ rights within and on behalf of the Jewish community, The Synagogue Vegan Challenge is the first of its kind!
The main goal of the challenge is to encourage Jewish communities to experiment with vegan living for one year, with the overall mission of challenging these communities to:
“think more deeply about animal welfare, kashrut (kosher law), and compassion for all, through gentle, non-judgmental discussion and by showing how nutritious and tasty plant-based foods can be.” – The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute
Rabbi Yanklowitz, who is leading this initiative, said the following in an interview with VegNews:
“There’s not one vegan synagogue in America. It’s very hard to make changes, and we have to make it easier for people. If people see that vegan food can be healthy and tasty, they are more likely to consider a dietary change. The synagogue should be a place of education, where people can learn about the health benefits of going vegan.”
So, how does The Synagogue Vegan Challenge work?
Five synagogues in the United States and Canada will be chosen for the program every year, and each will receive a $5,000 grant upon successful completion of the one-year vegan challenge. The synagogues selected for the 2017 pilot program are:
- Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism, Toronto, Canada – Rabbi Aaron Levy
- Temple Beth Tikvah Ecec, Roswell, Georgia – Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner
- Vegan Synagogue Without Walls, Northbrook, Illinois – Lisa Freund Rosenblatt
- Temple of Aaron – St. Paul, Minnesota, Rabbi Jeremy Fine
- Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley, Chandler, Arizona – Rabbi Kenneth Leitner
During the year, these synagogues will serve plant-based meals to their communities, whether kiddush, b’nai mitzvot, Shabbat, or any life-cycle event. Alongside the meals, they will also provide their communities with creative education on compassion for all, including:
- Hosting a vegan-catered Shabbat (or have community members bring their own plant-based creations – potluck style!)
- Screening a documentary film promoting animal welfare followed by Q&A and discussion
- Holding a workshop featuring discussion sources from the Shamayim V’Aretz website
Who can get involved?
The Synagogue Vegan Challenge encourages everyone to get involved, whether you’re running an existing synagogue, keen to set up a new one, vegan already, or simply interested in reducing the amount of animal products in your diet (and your community’s diet).
Please note that 2017 applications are now closed. Rabbi Yanklowitz plans to continue the program in 2018 if the pilot program goes well.
We look forward to hearing how this year’s participants progress in The Synagogue Vegan Challenge!
The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute was launched by Rabbi Yanklowitz, musician Matisyahu, and actress Mayim Bialik in 2012, and its name means “heaven on earth.” You can find out more about The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and their campaign work here.