The Synagogue Vegan Challenge
Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy
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In 2017, VegFund partnered with Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy (formerly The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute) to pilot The Synagogue Vegan Challenge — an initiative encouraging and supporting veganism within the Jewish community.
Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy is a nonprofit organization that runs programs, campaigns, and educational opportunities to teach the Jewish community about animal advocacy and veganism.
Five synagogues in the United States and Canada committed to vegan educational programs for one year and received a $5,000 grant upon completion. Read on to find out more about this challenge and to learn about the outcomes so far from just one of the participating synagogues, the Temple of Aaron, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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.
Rabbi Yanklowitz, who is leading this vegan initiative, in an interview with VegNews
The goal of the Synagogue Vegan Challenge is simple: Experiment with vegan programming for a year — at least 1 event per month! This adventure is easy, spiritually uplifting, & delicious.
It challenges Jewish 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.”
—Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy
people sampled vegan food at one event
Facebook Live views of Hannukkah event
During the year, these synagogues serve plant-based meals to their communities, whether kiddush, B’nai Mitzvot, Shabbat, or any life-cycle event. Alongside the meals, the synagogues provide their communities with creative education on compassion for all, for example:
- 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 Jewish Source Sheets from Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy.
Temple of Aaron – 1st Quarter Activities
- Rabbi Fine’s Sukkah and J. Selby’s Appetizers – Men’s Club gathering at Rabbi Jeremy Fine’s Sukkah. The temple used this as an opportunity to introduce attendees to J. Selby’s, the new and only vegan kosher restaurant in the Saint Paul area.
- Taking Stock in Our Youth – A musical event bringing back old timers to the synagogue to reminisce about their youth play performances. More than 80 people attended this event and were served a selection of vegan foods to sample at buffet stations from the temple kitchen and The Herbivorous Butcher. Vegan food samples included chili, pulled “pork” sandwiches using jackfruit, and Herbivorous Butcher sausages.
- Hanukah Doughnut Delivery – To spread Hanukah joy, Aaron’s Temple partnered with Sssdude-Nutz doughnuts to create Hanukkah-themed vegan doughnuts for event participants. A Facebook Live video with nearly 2,000 views kicked off the day as Rabbi Fine and Sssdude-Nutz doughnuts delivered vegan doughnuts throughout the Twin Cities to community partners, including local coffee shops, the Jewish Federation, and Jewish Community Center.
Temple of Aaron’s 2018 events:
- January – Teen Dinner in Chicago
- February – Super Bowl Hoagies with The Herbivorous Butcher
- March – Speaker on “Ethical Eating”
- April – Israeli Vegan Shabbat Lunch featuring D’vash Organics, and more!
- May – Congregant-planned program
- June – End-of-the-Year Board Meeting Vegan Snacks
- July – Local Vegan Food Truck Night
- August – Vegan Tour of the Minnesota State Fair with Blogger 2Cities1Girl
- September – Making Your Holiday Season Vegan: Tips and Eats
Overall, this has been a very good project for our synagogue to explore an important way of eating that goes hand-in-hand with Kashrut and our mission of changing eating habits. We are excited to keep going with our programming.
Rabbi Jeremy Fine, Temple of Aaron – Saint Paul, Minnesota
The organizers of this vegan challenge note that there are challenges in overcoming the stigma surrounding veganism. However, this synagogue’s marketing campaign has been strong, and the vegan events hosted at Temple of Aaron have given the organization and its members a unique way to think about eating in a setting that the community can relate to.
Getting communities to see vegan eating as a habit or way of life requires a cultural shift. This takes both time and concerted effort. This program so far has been an excellent step in this process, especially introducing people to kosher options that are also vegan.
In 2020, The Synagogue Vegan Challenge’s fourth cohort is underway with seven participants! See participating synagogues for each of the cohorts below.
- Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism (Rabbi Aaron Levy) – Toronto, Canada
- Temple Beth Tikvah Ecec (Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner) – Roswell, Georgia
- Vegan Synagogue Without Walls (Lisa Freund Rosenblatt) – Northbrook, Illinois
- Temple of Aaron (Rabbi Jeremy Fine) – Saint Paul, Minnesota
- Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley (Rabbi Kenneth Leitner) – Chandler, Arizona
- Romemu (Rabbi David Ingber) – New York, New York
- Congregation Rodef Shalom (Rabbi Rachel Kobrin) – Denver, Colorado
- OHEL (Rabbi David Paskin) – Boca Raton, Florida
- Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob (Rabbi Ari Hart) – Skokie, Illinois
- Ohef Sholom Temple (Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg) – Norfolk, Virginia
- B’nai Jeshurun – New York, New York
- Chabad of Potomac – Potomac, Maryland
- Congregation Beth Sholom – Providence, Rhode Island
- Congregation Bonai Shalom – Boulder, Colorado
- Sixth & I Historic Synagogue – Washington, D.C.
- Beth Chayim Chadashim (the world’s first LGBTQ synagogue) – Los Angeles, California
- Congregation Shaarei Kodesh – Boca Raton, Florida
- Monmouth Reform Temple – Tinton Falls, New Jersey
- Temple Chai – Phoenix, Arizona
- Temple Solel – Hollywood, Florida
- YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood – New York, New York