Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is Founder and CEO of the Shamayim V’Aretz (Hebrew for “Heaven and Earth”) Institute for Animal Welfare. Newsweek magazine named him to their list of “America’s Top 50 Rabbis” (whatever in the world that means!) in 2012 and 2013.
He’s a real intellectual and ethical powerhouse: a prolific writer, with op-eds in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and a regular column in Jewish Week. And – here’s what I really dig about Shmuly – he’s not afraid of taking on organized religion, including his own, when it falls down on the job. One example: a May 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal called “Why This Rabbi is Swearing Off Kosher Meat.”
I got a chance to interview Shmuly through a mutual friend, Lisa Karlan, a board member of Shamayim V’Aretz. In our conversation, I was struck by his gentle nature and warrior fierceness in pursuit of a more just and kind world. I left the conversation impressed and inspired. I hope you feel the same.
- why the social justice community typically excludes the animal kingdom
- how Shmuly got involved in animal welfare activism
- Shmuly’s “big plate of beef” revelation in grad school
- going vegan on his wedding day
- the importance of community, and the founding of Shamayim V’Aretz
- the “big tent” approach to advocating for animal welfare
- expanding the definition of “kosher” to include ethics
- how our appetites can blind us to obvious ethical imperatives
- the religious “Kool-Aid” that tells us that humans are the center of the universe
- the need for a responsible theology that balances human needs, responsibility, and dignity
- how religious people can miss the big ethical picture by cherry-picking texts and issues
- the importance of the “brief moment between the stimulus and the response”
- Shmuly’s fight to reform the kosher slaughter industry
- the connection between the Passover story of freedom and our own lives
- and much more…
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