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VegParadise Media Reviews

A Sacred Duty:
Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World

Produced by Richard Schwartz

Written, Directed, Photographed, and Narrated by Lionel Friedberg

Presented by Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Available free at http://www.jewishveg.com

Don't look behind you, Al Gore. You may have that Nobel Prize, but there's one area you haven't dared to broach: livestock production and the havoc it creates in the environment and with human health. If you do look behind you, you'll find Professor Richard Schwartz who has been delivering the message for many years in books like Judaism and Vegetarianism and Judaism and Global Survival.

But reading the message is not like seeing it on the screen as Gore learned with An Inconvenient Truth. Now Schwartz has found the person who can transfer to film the thoughts he and others have been trumpeting for years. The filmmaker is Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning documentary cinematographer and director.

In making the film, Friedberg interviewed prominent rabbis, environmentalists, and activists, but the emphasis was on A Sacred Duty of Jews to apply Jewish teachings in obtaining food, conserving natural resources, and protecting non-human creatures.

Although the film emphasizes Judaism and Jewish teachings, the information and call to action are universal. Among the rabbinical leaders participating are Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Haifa, and Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland.

A Sacred Duty Documentary A Sacred Duty begins and ends with a biblical statement from Deuteronomy 30:19 read by Theodore Bikel"

"I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against you today. I have placed before you life and death, blessing and curse, and you shall choose life so that you may live, you and your offspring."

As Rabbi Yonassan Gershom tells viewers, this choice is represented symbolically. Life is seeing our planet from outer space as one globe with no national boundaries. Death is revealed in the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb explosion. Both choices affect the entire planet. What happens in one part of the world affects everyone on earth.

The filmmaker chooses to focus on Israel because that tiny country is a microcosm of the earth itself. In this relatively small nation are many of the natural features found on the entire earth. A burgeoning population has led to pollution as revealed in scenes showing litter in the countryside as well as despoiled rivers, none safe for swimming or drinking water, and a Dead Sea that is rapidly dying, starved by a trickle of water from the Jordan River.

Like so many countries of the world, Israel has serious environmental problems, most noticeably air pollution. Quite startling is to learn that 17% of children have asthma. One in seven women in Haifa are plagued by breast cancer.

The heart of the film presents information that many vegetarians are cognizant of, the toll of animal agriculture on the health of the planet and the people inhabiting it. Referenced is the statement by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization that 18% of the greenhouse gases are from animal livestock production. The film also emphasizes the cruelty involved in factory farm food production in footage that makes necessary the cautionary note at the opening that there are graphic scenes that may be disturbing for some viewers.

Truly remarkable is the amount of information and ideas presented in this documentary that is slightly less than one hour in viewing time. Friedberg has assembled colorful footage that is highlighted by a stirring musical score composed and conducted by Andrew Keresztes

Combining his writing, photographic, and narrative skills, Friedberg has created a visual message that convincingly reveals that vegetarianism plays a vital role in alleviating global warming and pollution. A Sacred Duty emphasizes the need to apply Jewish values and teachings in the production of food and the utilization of natural resources. This film dares to tread where so many environmentalists fear to go--recognizing that using animals for food is wasteful and cruel and is responsible for the destruction of the planet and human health at the same time.

A Sacred Duty is a tribute to Professor Richard Schwartz who is a living incarnation of Jewish values. He has worked tirelessly and diligently for many years to bring the information in this film into public consciousness.

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