Interview with Vegan Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz: Vegan Activist of the Month

Can you be religious and vegan? The answer is simply YES, and the more we see leading spiritual leaders who follow the compassionate vegan route, the clearer it becomes that not only does being vegan not conflict with being religious, it can actually bring into practice religious ideals of compassion.

One such spiritual leader making a real difference within the Jewish community is vegan Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, our Vegan Activist of the Month and one of Newsweek magazine’s top American rabbis.

Rabbi Shmuly went fully vegan with his wife, Shoshana, on their wedding day, a little over four years ago. Since then, they have been working to help educate others about the realities of the various exploitive industries, the suffering animals endure within these industries, and the various alternatives each of us can follow in order to avoid supporting atrocities inflicted on animals.

Compassion for all

One of my favorite aspects of Rabbi Shmuly’s work is the way it reflects and manifests his compassion and thoughtfulness on numerous topics and issues, showing that compassion need not be exclusive to a single species or a single cause. Rabbi Shmuly is the founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek, a Jewish organization focused on combating social injustice through education, leadership development, and activism. He is also the founder and director of Shamyim V’Aretz, a pluralistic Jewish institute focused on animal rights that leads campaigns and educates leaders within the Jewish community about veganism and the way it correlates to Jewish morals and values.

Shamyin V’Aretz

Although defined as an animal welfare organization rather than a vegan one, the guiding voice of Rabbi Shmuly is very much felt throughout the work and information espoused by the Shamyim V’Aretz Institute. Vegans will find an abundance of information that will support their vegan Jewish lifestyle on the institute’s website, from guides and resources on how to celebrate the Jewish holidays without exploiting animals and where to go for Kosher vegan meals to articles and videos on various Jewish topics from a vegan perspective.

On the activist spectrum, one will find opportunities to get involved, whether in the form of leadership events or the campaigns that the institute leads, such as the anti-veal campaign aimed at abolishing veal calf consumption from Jewish institutions and culture.

Interview with Rabbi Shmuly

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Rabbi Shmuly this month, taking the opportunity to ask him some tough yet important questions about how current Jewish practices have drifted away from core Jewish values, such as Tzaar Baalei Chayim (not causing suffering to animals), and how he responds to people who use religion to justify animal consumption and exploitation.

Leading by example

As always, leading by example is such an important and powerful tool for sharing your message and ideas, and Rabbi Shmuly does just that. From his volunteer work in disaster relief to his donation of one of his kidneys to help save another human being and his passion in advocating for animals who are suffering and are exploited in so many saddening ways – thank you to Rabbi Shmuly for all the wonderful work he does, and for being such a strong and positive light in this world.

To learn how you can get involved with Rabbi Shmuly’s work, please visit him at the Shamyim V’Aretz website.

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