Jewish Journal

An Argument for Jewish Vegetarianism

by Jane Ulman

Posted on Jul. 22, 1999 at 8:00 pm

"If God had wanted us to be vegetarians, he wouldn't have invented animals," announces Zack, my 15-year-old carnivorous son.

He turns the large steak that's sizzling on the outdoor barbecue for him and his brothers, Gabe, 12, and Jeremy, 10. My husband's piece of fish is relegated to a far corner of the grill; my veggie burger to the opposite corner.

My fourth son, Danny, 8, opts for a can of minestrone, announcing that he's now a vegetarian. "Eating animals is disgusting," he says.

I sympathize. My conversion occurred almost nine years ago, while I was preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. I took a good look at the hapless, headless bird -- its legs, its wings, the cavities in which I was packing the stuffing -- and, "cold turkey," you might say, quit eating meat.

"Never eat anything that looks like what it is," my brother, Michael, advises. According to his philosophy, hamburgers are fine, but drumsticks, whole pan-fried trout or rump roast are not.

I have a different criterion. Never eat anything that once had a face or a mother.

Despite our modern obsession with nutrition and health, vegetarianism isn't anything new. It's been around, well, since Adam and Eve.

First, God announced to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:30: "To you I give every herb, seed and green thing. These shall be yours for food." This law applied not only to Adam and Eve but also to all the animals living there, who were herbivorous and who did not prey on one another. Obviously, there were no pit bulls in the Garden of Eden.

In Noah's time, however, after practically wiping out the world with a major flood, God relented with the great post-diluvian compromise, allowing man to eat meat.

Thus, eating meat is a choice, not a commandment.

And while I'm not a veg-evangelist, I do want to point out that vegetarians are not just meshugunah people who like to eat side dishes. A few of the world's famous Jewish vegetarians include Albert Einstein; writers Isaac Bashevis Singer, Franz Kafka and S.Y. Agnon; visionary Zionist A.D. Gordon; and Palestine's first chief rabbi, Abraham Isaac Kook.

And if anyone questions my aversion to eating animals, I'll continue to tell them about the erstwhile Thanksgiving turkey and about Singer, who was once asked if he were a vegetarian for health reasons.

"Yes," the Nobel laureate replied. "I do it for the health of the chickens."

To Be Kosher and Veggie in L.A.

If you keep kosher, or just keep veggie, there are plenty of great restaurant choices in the city. Among our favorites:

The Milky Way

9108 Pico. Blvd. (310) 859-0004.

Milk and Honey

8837 W. Pico Blvd. (310) 858-8850.

Nagila 9411 W. Pico Blvd. (310) 788-0111.

The Pizza Station

8965 W. Pico Blvd. (310) 276-8708.

Pizza World

365 S. Fairfax Ave. (323) 653-2896.

And don't forget the vegetarian appetizers at the many Persian and Middle Eastern kosher restaurants, such as:

Shula and Esther

519 N. Fairfax Ave. (323) 653-9024.

The Magic Carpet

8566 W. Pico Blvd. (310) 652-8507.

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