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Who Stole My Religion?: Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet Hardcover – August 28, 2016
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“Once again Richard Schwartz has produced a thought provoking book. Who Stole My Religion? will be a very positive addition to our libraries. His writing is powerful and thought provoking. As always, Richard is not afraid to challenge us.” —Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, Director of Development, Friends of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies
“With so many people apparently oblivious of the climate catastrophe the world is rapidly approaching, Who Stole My Religion? is a breath of fresh air. I hope this excellent book will be widely read and its message heeded, helping fulfill Dr. Schwartz’s dream of shifting our imperiled world to a sustainable path.”— Bruce Friedrich, peace and justice advocate; author, The Animal Activist’s Handbook; Director of Policy, Farm Sanctuary
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"People ask me why I am a Jew. It is to you that I
want to answer, little unborn grandson. I am a Jew
because the faith of Israel demands of me no
abdication of the mind. I am a Jew because in every
place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps. I am
a Jew because at every time when despair cries out,
the Jew hopes."
- Edmond Fleg (Frenchman), 1927
* * * *
There is a Jewish prayer with which my
long-time friend and colleague, Dr.
Richard Schwartz begins his new book,
"Who Stole My Religion?"
"Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of
the universe, who has kept us alive and
sustained us, and brought us to this season".
It is a simple prayer traditionally recited by one's
rabbi at various celebratory plateaus of life. I last
heard it (as it related to me) upon the (Hebrew)
baby namings of each of my three daughters, and
decades later at each of their weddings. My eyes
tear up just to write these words. The book
triggered deeply embedded feelings.
Often times men do not achieve their destiny.
The same can be said for nations throughout
history. The same can be said for many religions.
Judaism in the 21st century is no exception.
Our planet is challenged. Crime. Terrorism.
Global Warming. Poverty. Inequality. Injustice.
On page 23, Dr. Schwartz writes:
"Unfortunately too many Jews today seem to
be paying insufficient attention to the words
of Jewish prophets and sages, whose teachings
resound with a passionate concern for justice,
peace, and righteousness. There is too little
active involvement or protest against injustice
in the world at large. Instead, there is much
complacency and conformity…Many Jews
have forgotten the Jewish mandate to strive
to perfect the world."
The author explains why he believes his
religion has been stolen by identifying the
intellectual evidence supporting his title:
"The acts of helping the needy and caring
for the world are not voluntary options, but
responsibilities and divine commandments.
There has been a major shift, primarily
among orthodox Jews, towards support of
very conservative policies and a Republican
Party in the U.S. that puts a priority on
helping corporations and wealthy people
rather than the majority of people."
Dr. Schwartz notices a shift towards the
political right. He notes a major denial of
global warming and climate change among
the Orthodox Jewish community and a move
which Dr. Schwartz equates with Judaism
being a radical religion.
The book was actually written long before
the Presidential primaries, in which Iran and
the development of a nuclear capability
(and the American treaty) have become
major campaign issues. Many people argued
for war as an alternative to prevent war. How
silly! The book is a timely read, as Dr.
Schwartz brilliantly analyzes the alternatives
to war and peaceful solutions in which all
men are extended dignity. By the time this
reader got to chapter 10 (beginning on page
16) I could not put the book down.
I felt as if I was watching a present-day rally, a
debate, and two conventions. The title of Chapter
10: "How Should Jews Respond to Radical
Islamists and to Bias and Hatred to Muslims? "
Chapter 13 (Judaism and Animal Rights) is one of
Dr. Schwartz's best intellectual efforts. He writes:
"Many great Jewish heroes were chosen because they
showed compassion to animals. Moses and King David
were considered worthy to be leaders because of their
kind treatment of the sheep in their care when they were
shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be Isaac's
wife because of her kindness in providing water to the
ten thirsty camels…All of these teachings should lead
us to care for the welfare of animals and to raise our
voices in protest when they are mistreated."
Although there are 15 chapters, Dr. Schwartz saved (in
my opinion) the best for Chapter 13 (page 220): "Should
Jews be Vegetarians or Even Vegans? " (He doesn't
mention it, but I've read and written about a Jewish
Essene rabbi named Jesus who ate a plant-based diet
long ago, observing biblical texts such as the dietary
instruction offered to mankind in Genesis 1:19. Dr.
"As a vegetarian and later a vegan activist in the Jewish
community for about 35 years, I believe it is essential
that Jews consider how plant-based diets are most
consistent with Jewish teachings. Plant-based diets
can improve the health of Jews and others, can help
stabilize the world's climate, and can help reduce
human hunger and environmental dangers."
To that I say, amen.
Saving the world. That is what we try to do. We are
never really truly successful, are we? The best we can
do is change one person per day and if we succeed,
then we know success. We have saved the world.
"One should see the world, and see himself as
a scale with an equal balance of good and evil.
When he does one good deed the scale is
tipped to the good - he and the world are saved.
When he does one evil deed the scale is tipped
to the bad - he and the world are destroyed."
This review was written by Robert Cohen, the Notmilkman and posted per his request by Julie Tuesday.
This book, as the author states, “is meant to be a wake-up call. While not addressing issues such as “original sin,” it focuses on applying Jewish values to oft-debated and generally misunderstood issues such as climate change, the growing threat of radical Islamists, world hunger that is leading to thousands of deaths, meeting energy needs, and the upcoming threats of the insufficiency of water which has already hurt some country and is a problem in Israel.
The author stresses that he hopes to aid “Israel’s security and well-being, reduce anti-Semitism, reduce climate change and other environmental threats and, in general, lead to a better future.” His goal is to “revitalize Judaism (and perhaps other religions, from our example).” He states that “in the face of today’s urgent problems, Jews must [stop accepting non-Jewish values and] return to our Jewish values and to be ‘a light unto the nations.’”
But all this cruelty and destruction violates the amazingly strong teachings and commandments of Judaism that require us to treat animals with compassion, protect the natural environment, and have a reverence for all of G-d's Creation.
I am pretty conservative myself, so I disagree with many of the liberal viewpoints expressed by Richard. But when it comes to discussing the moral and religious obligations of Jews to fight cruelty to animals and the damaging of the natural biological systems that make life on earth possible, there is no one better than he.
This book is "must" reading for anyone interested in religion animals, and the environment. Even if you disagree with some of this conclusions, you have to admit that his very knowledgeable, scholarly approach, always accompanied by humility and reason, must be respected and taken seriously.
Lewis Regenstein is the author of a score of books on wildlife and the environment, including "Replenish the earth: The Teachings of the World's Religions on Protecting Animals and nature," as well as a booklet on the teachings of Judaism, "Commandments of Compassion." He is President of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and nature.
Most recent customer reviews
*Who Stole My Religion?Read more
It would be great to see every world religion embrace compassionate living.