The future of eating meat is one of the most important ethical and ecological issues of our time – and it has intriguing cultural, political, and religio-legal Jewish dimensions. On November 14, 2021, the Center held a Zoom seminar exploring Judaism and Vegetarianism featuring prominent discussants and panelists engaged with the Jewish dimensions of this important issue.

In the opening session of the conference, Rabbi David Rosen, a former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and the American Jewish Committee’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, and Rabbi Dr. Ronen Lubitch, Head of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, discussed the contemporary vegetarian movement in Judaism. When thinking about the status of vegetarianism in the Jewish community in the coming decades, Rabbi Dr. Lubitch expressed his view that making progress on this issue is not an either/or, all or nothing proposition. Instead, he hopes people will become “half-vegetarians,” reducing their consumption of meat to once or twice a week or limiting it to Shabbats and holidays as part of a process to influence the next generation.

The second session of the seminar focused on the intensifying debate regarding Kosher butchering in Europe. Adv. Talia Naamat’s presentation comparatively explored the legal aspects of this debate as courts in Europe navigate protecting animal welfare and protecting the freedom to practice religion. Following her, Rabbi Ute Steyer of the Jewish Community in Stockholm shared her thoughts on the Swedish case study. Addressing the Swedish public’s generally negative opinion towards shechita, Rabbi Steyer noted that it is largely connected to Swedish public opinion against Muslim halal slaughter and negative sentiments within broader Swedish society towards the country’s Muslim minority.

The seminar was concluded with a fascinating look at the treatment of animal rights in Yiddish literature with Dr. Bilha Rubinstein, including the vegetarian views and works of the famous writer Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The Hebrew and English recordings of the conference are available on our homepage and on our YouTube Channel.