Thursday, May 8, 2014 | return to: views, opinions


Urban Adamah deserves respectful dialogue, not bullying

by yadidya greenberg

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In August 2012, I ran one of my first kosher slaughter workshops at the Urban Adamah educational farm in Berkeley.

I explained the kosher process and demonstrated live slaughter and processing on a few of the farm’s spent laying hens. Several participants cried during the slaughter, while some were inspired to eat better meat afterward. Still others said they wanted to become vegetarians or vegans as a result of the experience.

9_Vgreenberg_avatar_withnameThe class not only facilitated a tremendous amount of dialogue, growth and learning for all involved, it also provided a highly nutritious and tasty heritage chicken soup for farm visitors.

This past Sunday, Urban Adamah had once again set up a workshop to slaughter the remaining 15 hens of its laying flock. Things were going very smoothly until animal rights activists found out about the event and began to organize a mass protest. Their threats eventually caused the farm’s landlord to request a cancellation and, despite holding strong until that point, farm founder Adam Berman was forced to scrub the workshop in the face of a large and disruptive demonstration.

In my eyes, the most disappointing part of this event is the role that the Jewish Vegetarians of North America played as one of the central mobilizers of the protest. While I disagree with much of the JVNA philosophy, I’ve always had much respect for the group and its founder, Dr. Richard Schwartz, who has done so much to foster a dialogue about animal rights in Judaism where none existed.

But their involvement and attitude in this case has left a bitter taste and caused me to lose virtually all the respect I once held for the organization.

Don’t get me wrong; I wholeheartedly support JVNA’s right to oppose the slaughter workshop and express that opposition in a public forum. Do I think they would be better served by putting their attention elsewhere? Yes, but if they prefer to focus their energy on a small class of fellow Jews who care about animals and use extremely high welfare practices, rather than protest the atrocities that go on daily in industrial farms and slaughterhouses, then who am I to stop them?

If they had decided to write articles and send out press releases expressing their opposition, I wouldn’t have held it against them. If they had taken the opportunity to set up a debate about the ethics of animal slaughter, I would have applauded them. But instead, JVNA decided to mount a protest. Instead of engaging in intelligent and meaningful dialogue, they decided to scream and yell so loud that the other side would have no voice. This demonstration was not slated to take place at a huge poultry plant, which could easily continue operating during such an event, but rather at a small urban farm that had little to no chance of continuing with its workshop in the face of such an outcry.

One of the most important core principals in Judaism is machloket, the tradition of spirited debate, a respectful yet assertive back-and-forth. By organizing a protest to stop the kosher slaughter class, JVNA decided to ignore this principal. Instead of starting a dialogue in which people could explore their thoughts and feelings about animal slaughter, they decided to shove their opinions down everybody else’s throats and get the workshop canceled.

To add insult to injury, followers used the JVNA Facebook page to organize ways to publicly humiliate and injure Urban Adamah in order to bully it into canceling the class. After all this hostile action, JVNA even had the gall to commend and thank Urban Adamah for canceling the class when it was only because of their bullying that the class was canceled in the first place.

While I am utterly disappointed and terribly saddened by these actions, there is a way that the JVNA can make amends. There exists another very important value in Judaism, that of teshuvah, repentance or return. Both the JVNA and especially its leader, Dr. Schwartz, need to commit to the fostering of intelligent and thoughtful dialogue rather than the path of forceful intolerance that they’ve chosen.

While intolerance and bullying is what many have come to expect from some animal rights groups, I’ve always expected more from the JVNA. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to hold it up to this high level of behavior once again.


Yadidya Greenberg is a shochet, blogger and animal welfare/shechita educator based in Boulder, Colo. He hopes to found a Jewish animal welfare institute.


Posted by LassenNationalPark
05/09/2014  at  08:24 AM
Don't slaughter the hens!

Please DON’T slaughter/murder any hens or any other animals!  It would be a Holocaust! 


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Posted by Veggie18
05/09/2014  at  05:39 PM
Yedidya insults American freedoms, Jewish commandments, & J readers' intelligence

I don’t know whether to be more offended by the J editors choosing Yedidya’s outrageous and insulting opinion to print over the flood of non-violence letters, or over Yedidya’s ridiculous notion he is an animal welfare educator.  Or that he claims to be so into Judaism yet attacks the Jewish imperative to speak up and protest for justice and not stand idly by the blood of one’s neighbor.  Or maybe that he attacks our rights and American freedom to assemble and have free speech.  Or simply the absurd accusations Yedidya makes that the masses of caring, compassionate people speaking out in protest against knife-wielding killers of helpless, innocent, trusting, beautiful creatures of God are the bullies.  Too many to choose from. I’ll leave it to the typical J reader, who is above average intelligence and overly educated, to use common sense to make the right decision.  Glad Yedidya is too young to have complained about the mass Jewish community protests in the 1970s which eventually led the Soviet Jews to be freed. And, glad I won’t be sending any animals or children to his “animal welfare” education program!

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Posted by Ma poule
05/09/2014  at  08:48 PM

Why is a human life considered more important than that of another sentient being? Why do humans think they have a right to kill another being? We do not have to kill in order to eat. Many doctors and scientists have shown that humans are healthier without eating animals products.

For these hens, Urban Adamah are like Nazis with total power whether they live or die. Throughout history religious people have quoted the Bible to justify their actions. My ancestors were burned at the stake for being Protestants. The Catholic Church justified their murders by calling us heretics. Did that make the killing okay?

Of course, I understand that Urban Adamah believes they are “humane” farmers. Animals live in a hell on earth in factory farming, but when one gets to know each unique and special animal, then to betray them by killing them to eat them is unconscionable! It’s like raising your dog or cat to kill and eat them some day.


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Posted by Veggie18
05/11/2014  at  02:40 PM
Watch this on sustainable & humane

Watch why Urban Adamah isn’t sustainable
Watch this to learn why raising animals for food is not sustainable:

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Posted by Veggie18
05/13/2014  at  10:55 PM
Protesters are bullies?

So college kids protesting tuition hikes, Americans protesting the Vietnam War, people protesting capital punishment or, Jews who went to the south to register voters and shut down white supremacy are bullies?  What does he feel is worth protesting and using direct on-violent action? Maybe it’s just chickens aren’t worthy to him. A true liberal encourages dissent.  A democracy is built on people turning their voices into action whenever injustice occurs.

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Posted by IsaacG
05/15/2014  at  05:08 AM
So much for democracy and liberty

I don’t disagree with those who wish to eat only vegetables.  But, your soapbox moralizing does little persuade me of the correctness of your position.  What the folks who forced the closing down of a class in shechita did was shut down the Constitutionally protected rights of fellow citizens to engage in a legal activity.  Disagree with whether that activity should be legal?  Take the matter to the legislature and get a law passed banning the eating of meat.

It may be that you disagree with those of us who indeed like the taste of meat, or enjoy a piping hot bowl of chicken soup on a cold winter’s day.  Judging by the vehemence of the talkbacks here, and the totalitarian actions of the demonstrators, I should hoard my baloney, salami and t-bone for the long meatless siege the veganauts would raise on the rest of us.

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Posted by IsaacG
05/15/2014  at  05:12 AM
Slaughtering hens is the same

Slaughtering hens is the same as murdering 6 million Jews?  Why is human life and the life of a hen not really any different? 

It is arguments such as these that make animal rights activists look like the fools and idiots they are.


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Posted by Veggie18
05/15/2014  at  11:27 PM
Real men don't hurt animals.

Real men don’t hurt animals.  These famous and many other rabbis agree:

Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Professor (etc) Jonathan Sacks, is a vegetarian!

He says so in this interview with Cambridge University’s VarsiTV, before adding:

I don’t miss the Chicken soup, and life is short enough without my inflicting pain on innocent chickens.

From Yeshiva University’s student magazine:

R. Soloveitchik takes a very strong position regarding carnivorous practices. He calls it “ta’avah” (lust)[xxi] and an “illicit demand.”[xxii] “The insistence upon flesh, his [man’s] lusty carnal desire,” R. Soloveitchik says, “arouses the divine wrath.” [xxiii] Those who choose to eat meat, the “animal hunters and flesh-eaters” are “people that lust.” [xxiv]

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Posted by Veggie18
05/16/2014  at  02:02 PM
Speaking loudly against injustice

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” — William Loydd Garrison

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Posted by CultureLife
05/20/2014  at  04:47 PM
G-d's name connotes evolution, and all created things, including eating, reflect G-d's name

One of the divine name YHWH’s meanings is understood as “That was Was, Is, and Will Be.” The Name has a teaching in itself: G-d was, is, and will be the same, and since G-d is kedusha - separate and holy - that means everything else, from eating to nationhood, changes, transforms, and evolves over time. Particularly, all evolves, because G-d through Torah urges us to learn from and improve in the present to what every generation has done before.

I’ve been following and involved in the Jewish food situation, and witnessed some changes, over about 12 years myself, and the evolutionary principle (not me claiming to be evolved or that my view is evolved, but a principle) that is most important is to be a Jewish people aspiring to align with the divine blueprint of diet for them - whatever that may be for their own neshamah. One of the things we are instructed to do with our soul is to listen to it.

In my view there are both supernatural and natural laws we can study to know better. On both levels, there are strong, evolutionary forces moving humanity into the lifestyle of only eating vegetables, not blooded animals. On the supernatural level, Torah’s instruction to not eat blood has us dripping kosher animals dry in order to follow that instruction, when we could just eat kosher plants (probably was the instruction’s meaning in the first place, but G-d appears to give people the choice to evolve the hard or easy way). Likewise, with the veritable vegan superfood “manna” falling upon the Israelites’ head, the day they chose a meal of quail was the day a plague began “while the flesh was still rotting in their teeth.” So that’s the supernatural law level.

On the natural law level, we’ll evolve past eating animals either voluntarily, because if the plant-sourced diet done in a way personalized to the individual’s constitution, then most people feel good, stay healthier and sharper, and live longer. Or the turn will become involuntarily, because there won’t be enough clean water for the demand for animal farming. So loving and healing yourself is really loving and healing the planet, creation. With G-d living in all life, loving yourself and the planet is loving G-d with all your heart and might.

How do we align ourselves with the evolutionary force, the Shekhinah, which G-d impels us towards? I believe by:

“Be Still, and Know I Am.”

If there is a way to sense truth, such a slippery thing that truth is, it is to contemplate “what Was, Is, and Will Be” in which the mind might realize a human being’s entire life is the evolution of the stream of consciousness that G-d has created. What would an evolving stream of holy consciousness, personified, eat?

There are many people awakening to this; there are few rabbis and leaders daring to delve completely into it. Here in the Bay Area, Rabbi Cousens who hardly comes once every two years, will be here offering, on May 23-24, a Shabbaton (a Shabbat evening gathering and more). It’s in the main event room of a venue known for its organic food.

I’m not one to come back to a thread for debate on posts which people speed read. I am one to open a door and let people spend time, 3 hours at a time, “being still and knowing” in Jewish prayer and meditation with the gentle exploration of the evolutionary diet for Hashem’s divine and natural laws.

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