Richard H. Schwartz
|This biographical article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2014)|
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D, (April 10, 1934— ) is Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, College of Staten Island; President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA); and co-founder and coordinator of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV). He is best known as a Jewish vegetarian activist and advocate for animal rights in the United States and Israel. His writings inspired the 2007 documentary film, A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Heal the World, directed by Lionel Friedberg. Because the issues are so critical, Schwartz and JVNA have arranged to give away about 40,000 complimentary DVDs of the video and have arranged to have it seen freely at aSacredDuty.com.
Schwartz was born in Arverne, New York. As a youth, he was not a vegetarian. He describes his upbringing as being a "meat and potatoes person" whose favorite dish was pot roast. In 1975 he began teaching a course called "Mathematics and the Environment" at the College of Staten Island. The course used basic mathematical concepts and problems to explore current critical issues, such as pollution, resource scarcities, hunger, energy, population growth, health, and the arms race. He wrote a text for the cause called, "Mathematics and Global Survival." He writes:
- While reviewing material related to world hunger, I became aware of the tremendous waste of grain associated with the production of beef... In spite of my own eating habits, I often led class discussions on the possibility of reducing meat consumption as a way of helping hungry people. After several semesters of this, I took my own advice and gave up eating red meat, while continuing to eat chicken and fish... I then began to read about the many health benefits of vegetarianism and about the horrible conditions for animals raised on factory farms. I was increasingly attracted to vegetarianism, and on January 1, 1978, I decided to join the International Jewish Vegetarian Society... I decided to become a full practicing vegetarian, and since then have avoided eating any meat, fowl, or fish.
As an Orthodox Jew, Schwartz began to explore what Judaism had to say about diet, ecology, and the proper treatment of animals. The result was his best-known book, Judaism and Vegetarianism, the first work published in English on this topic. It was first published in 1982, with later, expanded editions published in 1988 and 2001. It explores vegetarianism from the standpoint of biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinical references, and concludes that vegetarianism is the highest form of kosher and the best diet for Jews in the modern world. The second edition, revised and much expanded, was a B'nai Brith Book Club Selection that same year. Schwartz argues that the realities of animal-based diets and agriculture conflict with basic Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and pursue peace.
Since then, Schwartz has been active in a variety of vegetarian and animal rights organizations. His unique contribution has been to increase public awareness about Jewish teachings concerning vegetarianism and the ethical treatment of animals. On July 3, 2005, Schwartz was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS). The ceremony was held at the 31st Annual NAVS Summerfest on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Schwartz also spoke at the Summerfest on "Judaism and Vegetarianism" and "Ten Approaches to Obtain a Vegetarian-Conscious World by 2010."
Schwartz also reaches out to vegetarians from other religions, and his writings helped inspire the formation of the Christian Vegetarian Association, and their original campaign and literature, namely "What Would Jesus Eat...Today?" This campaign has more recently evolved into the broader "Honoring God's Creation" campaign and has strongly influenced the Christian vegetarian movement. He also is president of the interfaith group, "Society of Ethical and religious Vegetarians (SERV).
- Mathematics and Global Survival: Scarcity, hunger, population growth, pollution, waste 4th edition by Ginn Press, 1998.
- Judaism and Vegetarianism, 3rd edition by Lantern Books, New York, 2001. ISBN 1930051247
- Judaism and Global Survival, first published in 1984, 2nd edition by Lantern Books, New York, 2002. ISBN 1930051875
- Who Stole My Religion?: Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal our Imperiled Planet, (with Rabbi Yonassan Gershom), Lulu Press, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2011. ISBN 978-1105336461
Dr. Schwartz also has over 140 articles online, as well as interviews, at JVNA's website. He frequently speaks and contributes to print periodicals articles and letters to the editor on environmental, health, and other current issues.
- From the cover of the DVD: "Inspired by the writings of vegetarian activist and Mathematician Prof. Richard H. Schwartz, this one hour production features leading Israeli and American environmentalists..."
- Why I am a Vegetarian Jewish Veg
- "Volunteers for Israel's Environment — Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel". Greenzionism.org. 2012-08-06. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. Lantern Books
- Works by Richard H. Schwartz at Internet Archive
- An Introductory Interview with Dr. Schwartz, discussing his biography as it relates to Orthodox Judaism, his shift to vegetarianism, his deep concern with social justice, etc.
- Why I am a Vegetarian By Dr. Richard H. Schwartz. Biographical essay about how he evolved from a "meat and potatoes person" to a vegetarian.
- The Schwartz Collection, a direct link to a complete index of all Richard H. Schwartz's articles and interviews online.
- A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Heal the World, homepage for the film. You can also view the entire film on YouTube. Includes interview footage with Dr. Schwartz.
- Jewish Vegetarians of North America