Richard H. Schwartz
Vegan, climate change,and social justice activist

Leading US Animal Rights Activist Visiting Israel to Tell How His Holocaust Experiences Shaped His Activism

Alex Hershaft, Ph.D., is coming to Israel from May 2 to May 13 to explain how his experiences in the Warsaw ghetto was a major factor in his becoming a leading animal rights activist. With the theme, “From surviving the Warsaw Ghetto to co-founding the U.S. Animal Rights movement,” Dr. Hershaft will be giving several talks and will meet with Jewish and Arab animal rights activists.

In his lectures, Hershaft will discuss how dealing with the trauma and grief over the loss of his family during the Holocaust shaped his values and outlook on life, and increased his sense of compassion. When his life was no longer in danger, he felt guilty that he survived when so many others had perished. He felt that in response to his miraculous survival, he should devote himself to repaying a debt to society by devoting his life to helping the helpless and to working to reduce the evil in the world. After visiting a slaughterhouse where he saw piles of hooves, skins, hearts, livers, and skulls that he felt bore silent witness to evil, he became a vegetarian. (and later a vegan) He felt that the challenging mandate, ‘never again’ should apply to animals as well as people.

With a Ph.D. in chemistry, Herschaft could have had a career that would have provided him with a comfortable life. But he gave that up to devote his life to ending the mistreatment of farmed animals. He founded the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM), which later became the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The group has many activities, including an annual Animal Rights National Conference that now attracts almost 1,500 attendees to hear leading animal rights activists and to visit booths that provide much information about other animal rights and vegetarian groups as well as information about the latest vegan products, books, and videos. Since their beginning in 1976 and official formation in 1981, FARM has launched a variety of grassroots campaigns in pursuit of their mission: World Day for Farmed Animals , Great American Meatout, Gentle Thanksgiving, 10 Billion Lives Tour , Letters from FARM, Sabina Fund, Vegan Earth Day, Meatout Mondays, and Live Vegan.

Herschaft is a former member of the Board of Directors of Jewish Vegetarians of North Americans and remains involved as a member of JVNA’s Advisory Council. JVNA is working with him in setting up talks in the US about how his Holocaust experiences contributed to his becoming an animal rights activist.

Hershaft’s schedule includes lectures at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv University, Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, and a civic center in Haifa, a half-dozen intense seminars for local activists, and private meetings with distinguished Israelis.

About the Author
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and over 200 articles and 25 podcasts at JewishVeg.com/schwartz. He is President Emeritus of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and President of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV). He is associate producer of the 2007 documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.” He is also a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, which is part of the City University of New York.
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