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Archive for : Animal Welfare

Loving our animal neighbors

We all know the story of when a man provoked Rabbi Hillel to sum up the whole Torah while standing on one foot. His simple reply: “What is hateful to thyself do not do unto thy neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest,” he famously asserted, “is commentary.”

Seems easy enough. But this raises an obvious question: Just who exactly is our neighbor?

Are animals our neighbors, and if so, how can we better reflect that in our lives?
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Citizenship Day Coming Up This Friday 9/17

This Friday night, September 17th, is Erev Yom Kippur – the start of the Jewish calendar’s most sacred day. But September 17th also marks another notable event: Citizenship Day.

Founded in 2004, Citizenship Day marks the anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It’s history, however, stretches back a bit further. According to,

“The roots of Citizenship Day stretch much farther back beginning in 1940 when I am an American Day was initiated by Congress for the third Sunday in May. The day of September 17th was reached by citizens themselves. In 1952 Olga T. Weber of Ohio successfully convinced her municipality to name the date Constitution Day. The next year she went a step further and petitioned the Ohio government to celebrate the holiday statewide as Constitution Week from September 17-23 and the movement was soon passed.

Citizenship Day, which will celebrate its 14th year this year, gives all Americans an opportunity to express their pride in their citizenship and their country. And what better way to do that than with service? There are many ways you can get involved this Friday – from volunteering at a local retirement community or health center, to getting involved with a local campaign, or organizing a day of learning. And because of the timing, celebrating with service on Friday morning or afternoon is also a great lead into the spiritual services of Yom Kippur.

9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance

Last year, President Barack Obama amended the Patriot Day proclamation to make September 11th a nationally recognized day of service and remembrance. In the proclamation he wrote:

As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens, and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that united Americans in the aftermath of the attacks… I call upon all Americans to join in service and honor the lives we lost, the heroes who responded in our hour of need, and the brave men and women in uniform who continue to protect our country at home and abroad…

Originated by the family members of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.

In honor of the 9/11 day of service, people in towns and cities across the country are planning acts of service – large and small – to strengthen their communities and build stronger bonds with the issues and people they care about. The range of service projects being posted on includes everything from reading to kids in an after school program, to organizing food drives, donating blood, spending a day visiting elderly people in the hospital, and giving funds to cancer research organizations.

Find out how you can help to make 9/11 more than “just another day” by doing an act of service or adopting a local charity here.

Read President Obama’s full proclamation here.

Weekly Torah: Parshat Naso 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Daniel Bloom.

‘Meat is Murder’—at least that’s what was painted in large letters on an overpass near my family’s home. At the time, I dismissed it as extremism—after all, if meat was murder, what did that make me? It was only after an extended period of nuanced education that I slowly evolved to become a more conscious eater despite—not because of, exposure to such extreme judgments. Sometimes, even when motivated by an imperative for righteousness, spiritual or social activists run the risk of isolating themselves and alienating the very communities they are trying to change.

Parshat Naso provides a framework for, or a concession to, a personality desirous of this kind of righteous absolutism. In it we read the laws regarding the nazir—a man or woman who initiates an ascetic vow during which the nazir must refrain from wine, is forbidden to get a haircut and is also required to avoid graves and corpses, including those of his or her immediate family. The Torah describes the nazir as “holy unto God,” ((Bamidbar 6:8.)) yet at the conclusion of the period of nezirut, the nazir must bring three sacrificial offerings including a korban chatat, a sin offering.
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Weekly Torah: Parshat Emor 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Rachel Farbiarz.

Parshat Emor’s many directives on ritual sacrifice include one that applies to all animal slaughter—be it for human or Divine consumption. “[A] bull or sheep,” the parshah instructs, “you shall not sacrifice it [oto] with its young [v’et b’no] on the same day.” ((Leviticus 22:28.)) As elsewhere, it is not only this commandment’s substance that preoccupies the rabbinic tradition. It is also its textual casing—the timbre and pitch of its words, its grammatical quirks and peculiar phrasings—that begs for the sages’ interpretation.

Thus do the commentators fixate here on a textual discomfort of their own making. The ostensible maleness of the not-to-be-killed parental beast—reflected in the verse’s use of the words “bull” and “sheep” (as opposed to “cow” and “ewe”) and the masculine conjugations for the pronouns for “it” (oto, b’no)—rankles the rabbis. The text does not mean what it says, they conclude, but rather, what it does not say: A female animal must not be killed on the same day as her offspring. Other flesh—including, permissibly, that of a sire and his offspring slaughtered simultaneously—will be required to sate God’s or man’s hunger. ((Rashi on Leviticus 22:28; Babylonian Talmud, Chullin 78b.))
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