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Jewish and Vegan: a Blossoming Love Story

People become vegans for all sorts of reasons–ethical, environmental, health. But recently, a growing number of Jews have begun adopting a vegan diet as an expression of their Judaism, or at least a piece of it.

Veganism entails abstaining from any product derived from an animal–meat, eggs, dairy, leather, and even, for some, honey. The idea of not consuming these products has been around for a while, but it was only given the term “vegan” in the 1940s to differentiate practitioners from vegetarians. Vegan diets have many of health benefits, especially because vegans tend to eat more whole grains, legumes, and produce, but there are some important health considerations to think about.

Jews and vegans have been sharing headlines for some time now. Rav Kook famously promoted Jewish vegetarianism at the turn of the 20th century. Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer took a break from fiction to write about how he came to his decision to be a vegan in Eating Animals (after that, he changed it up again and edited a haggadah). Now the idea of Kosher veganism has come even more directly into the spotlight with the creation of The Shamayim V’Aaretz Institute, which seeks to educate and create leadership around animal welfare activism, Kosher veganism, and Jewish spirituality. Sporting an all-star cast, the Institute was founded by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri L’Tzedek and Mayim Bialik. Its board includes noted performer Matisyahu, who recently had a makeover.

Mayim Bialik, everyone’s new favorite Jewish celebrity, has become a vocal advocate of the vegan lifestyle and attachment parenting. Jumping on the s*** people say train, she starred in a video for the Institute called “Stuff Kosher Meat Eaters Say to Kosher Vegans.”

But while the number of supporters for and interest in this lifestyle is growing (check out the 34,000+ views of Mayim’s video), there are still plenty of people who feel Judaism and veganism are irreconcilable belief systems. Sorting through the spam in the comments, there are a few dissident voices. “The fact is that the Halacha DOES require the eating of meat… as with any other Halacha – we have to do things we don’t want to do.” Another commenter wrote, “This is absurd. Torah is inherently incompatible with veganism.” Rav Shmuly has a few answers for these allegations.

If you are a vegan or want to learn more about the concept of Kosher veganism, I recommend checking out the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute’s web site for recipes, resources for vegan clothes and cosmetics, and great videos–like Rav Shmuly and his wife showing off their vegan groceries. The Beet Eating Heeb is also full of resources and commentaries on veganism, Judaism, and the relationship between the two.

Posted on June 20, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Is Gluten Free the New Way to Be?

6 cups

Celiac disease and gluten intolerances have been ignored and under-diagnosed for years, but these days it’s hard to miss. Labs have seen a jump in requests for blood tests and it is now estimated that somewhere around 18 million Americans are sensitive to gluten.

Gluten is an insoluble protein in wheat, rye, and barley, among others. Because it is somewhat elastic, it helps to leaven and build structure in baked goods. It’s also hard for the human digestive system to handle. For most people, their bodies persevere and move on with their days, but for others eating or coming in contact with gluten can have a major impact.

Gluten intolerance is a toxic, negative reaction to gluten. It can often be dealt with through slight avoidance, indulging on occasion and not being stringent about gluten in non-food products like toothpaste and paint. Celiac, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body builds up antibodies against gluten every time the person comes in contact with the protein. After a while, the intestinal villi are destroyed and become incapable of absorbing nutrients, which leads to blood toxicity. In short: if you think you might have a gluten intolerance, it’s a good idea to check it out before it gets out of hand. While many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon as a fad, those who actually suffer from gluten experience a wide range of serious symptoms.

People often are nervous about making food for friends who can’t eat gluten and while it’s true that the diet can be challenging and expensive, it doesn’t have to be so far from the food you are used to. Many who switch to gluten-free lifestyles actually eat healthier, because they make more room in their diets for vegetables, fruits, and wholesome foods. Try the recipe below for a great granola that happens to be “GF”–just make sure to buy gluten free oats for those who have severe sensitivity.

If you’re looking for a new challenge as a baker, pulling off a tasty gluten-free treat is rewarding and much appreciated by people who don’t eat gluten. There are so many incredible whole grain and legume flours out there to experiment with–make this your excuse! Keep in mind that without gluten, breads will need more yeast, eggs are crucial for binding, and you may need more fat or fruit puree to keep it moist. Make sure you eat or freeze your baked goods right away, since gluten-free items have a short shelf life and lose moisture quickly.

Resources to check out:

The Gluten Free Gourmet by Betty Hagman

Gluten Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef by Shana James Ahern

Easy Granola

Posted on June 5, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy