“There are a number of examples within the Jewish tradition where we are directed to relieve an animal’s suffering. We know that today’s way of obtaining meat for food, of which 99% comes from factory farms, includes immense amounts of animal suffering. Shamayim is fortunate to be partnering and learning with similar organizations who work with other faiths.”-Lisa Apfelberg, Director of Programming, Shamayim
As part of our new and ongoing article series, Faith, Sustainability & Stewardship, Pacific Roots Magazine connected with Lisa Apfelberg of North American SHAMAYIM: Jewish Animal Advocacy for the following interview.
Founded in 2014 by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, Shamayim is a non-profit organization that educates leaders, trains advocates, and leads campaigns for the ethical treatment of animals.
A vegetarian since she was six years old and a vegan for a decade and a half now, Lisa serves as Director of Programming for Shamayim. A native of California, she currently resides in Austin with her husband, two children and multipe rescued pets. She has been elected as Net Zero Hero by the City of Austin and helps people transition to veganism or meat reduction by creating guides, hosting vegan cooking classes at home, and meeting people at the grocery store. With a masters degree in social work and experience in the non-profit sector for her entire career, Lisa is now continuing her work to help animals by serving as Director of Programs for Shamayim.
Interview with Lisa Apfelberg of SHAMAYIM: Jewish Animal Advocacy
Can you share more about the Synagogue Vegan Challenge and participating Synagogues thus far?
Lisa: The Synagogue Vegan Challenge is a signature program of SHAMAYIM and it is in our 3rd year. This program is sponsored by VegFund and we worked with them to develop it. Every year we have five synagogues participating in this program where they have twelve vegan events during the course of the year and educate their community about why they are participating in this program and the important benefit of eating plant-based for the environment, health, and animal welfare.
Shamayim provides training and education to the congregations. They are doing really interesting programs in their communities including cooking classes, celebrating Jewish holiday meals with a plant-based feast and education around how this ties into the holiday that we just observed. They are learning how to cook traditional Jewish favorites without relying on the animal products and seeing that they can taste just as good. They will likely do movie screenings and many of them are pairing up with local vegan restaurants for their programs.
You also manage the Campus Fellowship and plan the annual Jewish Animal Advocacy Retreat. Can you share more about the development of both programs?
Lisa: Yes, the Campus Fellowship operates under a similar principle to the Synagogue Vegan Challenge. By training leaders and ambassadors, we can reach more people all over the country to learn about the many important reasons to reduce their reliance on animal products for food. The Campus Fellows do regular vegan programming on their campuses with training from Shamayim and other leaders and their work has a ripple effect. Through these two programs, our message can reach thousands of people.
SHAMAYIM’s mission beautifully highlights human’s role as stewards of the Earth. It is a role we seemed to, in many ways, have strayed from, yet with missions and activities like SHAMAYIM’s, we can redirect focus on that most holy of purposes in this world. Do you feel that when other individuals and organizations learn of what you are doing that it is at times a sort of awakening to purpose and environmental responsibility directed by spirituality?
Lisa: I do. There are a lot of messages in our tradition and in the Torah that point to the importance of being good stewards for G-d’s creation – our planet – and every living being on it. There are a number of examples within the Jewish tradition where we are directed to relieve an animal’s suffering. We know that today’s way of obtaining meat for food, of which 99% comes from factory farms, includes immense amounts of animal suffering. Shamayim is fortunate to be partnering and learning with similar organizations who work with other faiths. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues at Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA), CreatureKind, the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, and Jewish Veg.
Do you have a recommendation for good digital sources for vegan Jewish cooking for various holidays?
Lisa: YES! One of my favorite things to do is to create traditional foods without using their requisite animal products. Plants are amazing and can produce anything. The other day, my husband even made lox (traditional salmon that is often served with bagels and cream cheese) out of carrots. Some of my favorite digital recipe sites are:
Stay tuned when we launch Pacific Roots Podcast this Winter for a talk with Lisa Apfelberg & Alex Weisz, SHAMAYIM’s Content Manager
Feature & Interview by Annika Lundkvist at Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk for our Faith, Sustainability & Stewardship series