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Vegetarian group and award-winning filmmaker team up for film on healing the planet, Jewish-style


Richard H. Schwartz, President,
Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Cell: (917) 576-0344

February 18, 2007 (New York) Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) is collaborating with multi-award winning filmmaker Lionel Friedberg to produce a documentary on how Jewish religious teachings can promote a healthier, more humane and sustainable world.

“'A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Heal the World' [working title] makes a very strong case for vegetarianism from a Jewish perspective as a major component of efforts to reduce diseases and to move our imperiled planet to a sustainable path," said Richard Schwartz, President of JVNA. "By dramatically showing that animal-based diets and agriculture violate basic Jewish mandates to preserve our health and the environment, treat animals with compassion and feed the hungry, we hope to push some hot buttons - including meat-eating's contribution to global warming - to persuade Jews and people of all faiths to choose a more compassionate and sustainable diet."

"A Sacred Duty" features interviews in the United States and Israel with over thirty key religious leaders, environmentalists, health professionals, academics and vegetarian and animal rights advocates. [Partial list is below.]

JVNA will distribute 'A Sacred Duty' free of charge to religious groups, educational institutions, the media and others to get the film's vital message out to the widest possible audience.

“'A Sacred Duty' will remind Jews that it is our responsibility to apply the teachings of the Torah to how we obtain our food, tap into the resources of the environment, and live among the many creatures that God created alongside us," said Friedberg. "Since this is really a universal duty for all human beings, 'A Sacred Duty' will challenge and inspire non-Jews as well.”

With the film near final production, JVNA - a registered charity - is raising funds from private donors to complete and distribute the film. "We're almost there," said Schwartz, "but we need to raise another $45,000."



Notable people interviewed (partial list):

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen -- Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa
Rabbi David Rosen -- Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and President of IJCIC (the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, that represents world Jewry to other world Religions.)
Rabbi David Golinkin - President of the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem
Rabbi Yonassan Gershom - A Breslov Chassid and author
Jonathan Wolf - Founder and first president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Roberta Kalechofsky - Founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications; author, editor and publisher.
Nina Natelson - Founder and director of Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI)
Richard H. Schwartz - Author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism' and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Rabbi Michael Cohen - Director of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) and a teacher at the Arava Institute in Israel
Rabbi Adam Frank - Rabbi of the largest Conservative synagogue in Israel
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. - A leading author and physician who specializes in natural healing

Israeli Environmentalists
Alon Tal - Leading Israeli environmentalist; founder of the Israel Union for Environmental defense: author of “Pollution in a Promised Land.
Jeremy Benstein - Co-founder and co-director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Studies in Tel Aviv
Gidon Bromberg - Director of Jerusalem branch of Friends of the Earth/Middle East
Raanan Boral - Environmental expert for the Society of Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)
Michelle Levine - Public relations person for SPNI
Yael Cohen Paran - A leader of Green Course, an Israeli student-based environmental group.

Jewish and Muslim (Jordanian and Palestinian) students at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies were also interviewed, to help show the importance of multilateral efforts to solve Israel's environmental problems.

Unlike many documentaries, “A Sacred Duty” will not be just a series of talking heads. Friedberg has videotaped much background material in both the United States and Israel, and he has received additional background material from many sources. This rich visual content will enliven the interviews and make for a compelling film.

While all the arguments for vegetarianism are fully presented, “A Sacred Duty” includes especially extensive coverage of the mistreatment of animals on factory farms, thanks to the powerful footage provided to us by animal rights groups. Again, these are "hot buttons" that can transform (and save) lives.

Although it is primarily intended for a Jewish audience, “A Sacred Duty” speaks to people everywhere about the ethics of our relationship to the natural world in which we live. The movie's universal message will appeal to anyone interested in such topics as vegetarianism, the environment, health, nutrition, hunger and resource usage, as well as Judaism and Israel.

The movie spells out how contemporary diets, lifestyles and agricultural practices are playing havoc with the environment, contributing to problems like global warming, endangering human health, and adversely affecting the myriad creatures that share our planet. Needless to say, this is a subject that resonates with many, many people today.

As a model of what is wrong with planet Earth due to human activities, A Sacred Duty hones in on the land of the Bible, on Eretz Yisrael itself. Israel is fraught with environmental problems that never make the headlines. Rivers are dirty; the Dead Sea is drying up; air pollution in metropolitan areas kill thousands every year. There is progress in these fields, but that too never makes the headlines. The movie will shed light on many of these issues while considering the environmental threats faced by the planet as a whole. Again, there is much interest by Jews and non-Jews alike in "the Holy Land" and its future.

JVNA president Richard Schwartz stated: “Recent reports about the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other groups and additional reports from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the major contributions that 'livestock' agriculture has on global warming and other environmental threats demonstrate the great importance of the movie. Regrettably, in spite of the severity of the global environmental crisis and Judaism's powerful teachings on environmental stewardship, the Jewish establishment largely continues to ignore the issue. 'A Sacred Duty' aims to help end this state of denial.”

There are many quotations in the movie from the Torah and other Jewish sacred texts, including the Talmud, since these texts are full of lessons and laws prescribing how we should live mercifully, efficiently, compassionately, and remain responsible custodians of this magnificent, yet highly imperiled world that God has bequeathed to us.

Though powerful and challenging, “A Sacred Duty” does not issue decrees or lecture its audience. It offers information on a wide variety of sensitive issues and food for thought. The net effect is a very positive message for all age groups.

For more information about the movie and donation opportunities, contact Schwartz at President@JewishVeg.com.

About Lionel Friedberg

With an initial background in cinematography - including 18 feature film credits as Director of Photography - Lionel has worked all over the world on both dramatic and non-fiction productions. For the past 25 years, he has concentrated on supervising, producing, writing and directing documentaries, reality, investigative report and educational programs. He has won a Primetime Emmy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science 'Westinghouse' Award for Science Programming, three Columbus and two Golden Eagles for Best Documentaries, and various awards as a dramatic and episodic TV director.

Two recommendations for Lionel:

Richard, I have known Lionel since 1989 and in that time I have worked for him, along side him, and he has worked for me. He's a man of impeccable virtue and character. He also happens to be a highly skilled television writer and producer. One of the best, quite frankly, in the world of documentary/non-fiction television in all of Los Angeles. I have never heard of a project that did not benefit from his involvement.

Hope this helps. Best of luck.
Mark Finkelpearl
Executive Producer
Discovery Networks -- United States
Dear Dr. Schwartz, It is a great, great pleasure to talk about working with Lionel Friedberg, because he is both a consummate professional and a joy to work with. Lionel has produced about a dozen programs for my company over the past few years and done an outstanding job on each of them. He is equally gifted as a producer, director, writer and photographer. I would have to say he is among the couple of best storytellers I've worked with during my 25 years in the industry. And more than anything, he is a person of great integrity and principle, respectfulof all those he works with. You can count on him completely. As you can tell, I look forward to working with him on future projects. In the meantime, if you can get him on your project, I have no doubt you will be thoroughly pleased.

If you have any specific questions that I haven't answered above, please feel free to call or email me.

Best wishes,
Dan Arden
Arden Entertainment
12034 Riverside Drive, Suite 200
N. Hollywood, CA 91607
Tel: 818.985.4600
Fax: 818.985.3021

2006: Silver Screen Award - World on a String - The Sacred Bead
2005: Cine golden Eagle Award - World on a String - The Eternal Bead
2005: Silver Screen Award World on a String - The Eternal Bead
1997: Golden Eagle Award The Bible's Greatest Mysteries. (Supervising Producer)
1996: Nominee. Cable Ace Award Mysteries of the Bible (Supervising Producer)
1996: Public Information Radio & Television Educational Society Buccaneer Award Windows Through Time (Producer/Writer/Director)
1995: Nominee. Cable Ace Award Mysteries of the Bible (Supervising Producer)
1994: Ohio Governor's State Award Mysteries Underground (Producer/Writer/Director)
1993: National Primetime Emmy Award Mysteries Underground (Cinematographer)
1993: National Television Academy News and Documentary Award - Mysteries Underground (Producer)
1993: Columbus International Chris Award Mysteries Underground (Producer/Writer/Director)
1993: Eastman Kodak Award Mysteries Underground (Cinematographer)
1991: Columbus International Chris Award Sail On, Voyager! (Producer/Writer/Director)
1991: Golden Eagle Award Sail On, Voyager! (Producer/Writer/Director)
1991: Birmingham International Environmental Electra Award Crisis in the Atmosphere (Producer/Writer/Director)
1990: Golden Eagle Award Crisis in the Atmosphere (Producer/Writer/Director)
1990: American Association for the Advancement of Science Westinghouse Award The Great Dinosaur Hunt
1990: Columbus International Chris Award The Great Dinosaur Hunt (Producer/Writer/Director)
1985: Argus Star Tonight Award Hell on Earth (Director)
1985: Eastman Kodak Visible Spectrum Award A Delicate Balance (Cinematographer)
1984: Argus Star Tonight Award Then Came the English (Director)
1978: International Anthropological Festival Grand Prix du Festival The Cultural Identity (Director/Cinematographer)
1977: Argus Star Tonight Award The Tribal Identity (Director/Writer/Cinematographer)

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of "Judaism and Vegetarianism," "Judaism and Global Survival," and "Mathematics and Global Survival," and over 130 articles at JewishVeg.com/schwartz
President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and
Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV)
Phone: 718-761-5876 FAX: 718-982-3631

Source: Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.- e-mail
Author: Richard H. Schwartz

Link: German Output May Plummet as World Warms - Study
Link: Is US Near a Tipping Point on Global Warming?

Date: 2007-02-19


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photo GerdAltmann_pixelio.de

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