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Who Stole My Religion? by Richard Schwartz

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By clicking on you can see the cover and the complete text of Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, my latest book (written with RabbiYonassan Gershom), due out at the end of this month as both a trade paperback and an ebook.

Ordering information for the print edition is available at: 

The book will also eventually be on , it is in the pipeline for that but not listed there yet. If you are on their Associates program, you may want to watch for it and link to your site.

Also attached is a lower-resolution version of the cover more suitable for the Web, if you wish to use it.

Last but not least, we now have a blog at  where we have posted excerpts, a dialogue between us about the book, etc., with more material to come.

I am going way out on a limb with this book with many controversial arguments and expect to receive much criticism. So why am I doing it? Mainly because I feel strongly that the book has the potential to help revitalize Judaism and to help avert the climate, food, energy, and water catastrophes that the world is rapidly approaching.

It is essential that Jewish (and other religions) values be applied in responding to current crises, but many Jews, especially among the Orthodox, are in denial, paying more attention to conservative commentators than to the wide consensus of experts.

It is vital that there be a major societal shift toward vegetarian diets to reduce current threats, but few Jews (or others) are considering that vegetarianism is the diet most consistent with religious mandates to preserve human health, treat animals compassionately, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people.

It is urgent that Jewish teachings be applied to address current economic and social problems, but many Jews, especially among the Orthodox, are supporting a Republican Party that has shifted far to the right recently, greatly influenced by the Tea Party. This Republican Party is generally in denial about climate change and other environmental threats, and is supporting continued tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and major, highly profitable corporations, even though this means cuts in programs that many Jews and other middle class and poor Americans depend on.

While it will be difficult to obtain, Israel needs a comprehensive, sustainable, just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in order to avoid renewed conflict, to effectively respond to her economic, environmental, and other domestic problems, and to remain both a Jewish and a democratic state.

In addition to addressing these issues, Who Stole My Religion also considers such issues as how the Holocaust can be a spur to activism, how anti-Semitism can be reduced, how Judaism can be revitalized, how prayers can spark activism, how Jews should respond to Islamophobia, why Jews should be environmental, vegetarian, and animal rights activists, and how we can make the U.S. economic system and our foreign policy more consistent with Jewish values.

Please consider the arguments in the book and please share this message, with the link above, with others, including media people, rabbis and other religious leaders, educators, environmentalists, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and politicians.

I very much doubt that you or anybody else will agree with everything in this book. But, at a time when the U.S., the world, and the Jewish people face many threats, I believe that Who Stole My Religion can initiate respectful dialogues that can help shift our imperiled world to a sustainable path. Your help in increasing awareness of the book would be much appreciated.

Please let me know if you have suggestions about promoting the book and its messages. It is completely independent of Jewish Vegetarians of North America and other groups that I am involved with.

Please visit our blog at  for the latest updates, excerpts and articles, and to be notified when the book is available.

Many thanks and all the best,

Richard Schwartz


What people are saying about

Who Stole My Religion?

The many endorsements below are included to show that it is not just the author himself, but many other people also -- including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews, as well as Christians, and Muslims -- who think their religion has been -- stolen' by right-wing politics, but who still believe that compassionate religious values have relevance to current crises. It is hoped that the voices of the people who submitted the statements below, as well as many more voices, will be raised to help revitalize Judaism and other religions and to apply religious values effectively in response to the many threats to humanity today.

'This book is a compelling and cogently argued attempt to reclaim the deepest and truest values of Judaism, many of which have become forgotten or submerged over the centuries as our struggle for mere survival has, perhaps, eclipsed what we are supposed to be surviving for. In Who Stole My Religion? we now have a powerful antidote to spiritual complacency, narrowness, and xenophobia, and a ringing reminder of who and what we are supposed to be. One may not always agree with every position the author takes, but one seldom learns from works that don't have the courage to challenge our preconceived ideas and comfortable evasions. A critically important contribution to an honest and authentic Judaism, and one that is very sorely needed indeed.' -- Rabbi Bob Carroll, Former Program Director, Edah; Interfaith Encounter Association Board Member

'For many years now, Richard Schwartz has been a clear, unwavering voice for a more compassionate, more humane and holier Judaism. Who Stole My Religion? offers Jews and non-Jews alike a critique of many of the unhappy trends in the Jewish world today and an authentic and inspirational view of what traditional Judaism is and should be.' -- Professor Alon Tal, Ben Gurion University of the Negev; Chairman of -- The Green Movement' (Israel's Green Party); author of Pollution in the Promised Land and many other books and articles on environmental issues in Israel.

'No one has been more creative, committed, and consistent than Richard Schwartz in arguing for a Judaism that can address in all its depth the world crisis that all humanity and all the life-forms of our planet face today.' -- Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; author, Down-to-Earth Judaism, Seasons of Our Joy, and many other works on Jewish thought and action.

'The challenging title of this welcome new book by Prof. Richard Schwartz, one of the most insightful commentators on Jewish scriptural interpretation, says a great deal about his struggle to reclaim Judaism in the 21st century from those who would narrow its scope to ethnocentrism and self-interest. Schwartz is a major protagonist in the battle to present the humanitarian insights and universal truths that have been part of the Jewish tradition, from its earliest holy texts to the present day.'' Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Founder, Rabbis for Human Rights, North America and Executive Director, Clergy Beyond Borders

'Richard Schwartz has boldly broadened the Jewish agenda, and allowed fresh air into the dogma and doctrine of Jewish faith and political and social judgment with candor. He reminds us that ours is a questioning faith of a choosing people in its never-ending search for that which embraces all the searchers of Godliness. Who Stole My Religion? is a book worthy of deep and respectful reading.'' Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, rabbi emeritus of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, one of America's leading pulpit rabbis and a respected, widely-published author.

'I commend Dr. Schwartz for his courage and integrity in reminding the Jewish community of its historic mission to serve as a light unto the nations. While it is always safer to tell people what they want to hear, I am thrilled that at least one person has the guts to challenge our people to live up to the highest ideals of the prophets by acting as responsible stewards of our planet, fighting to protect those who need our help, and practicing kindness to animals. His book Who Stole My Religion? will serve as a lightning rod to stimulate critically needed discussion about what it means to be Jewish and how we can live an ethically Jewish life.' -- Rabbi Barry Silver, Rabbi of Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor in Lake Worth, Florida, Former Florida State Representative, Founder and co-Chairman of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition.

'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

'Who Stole My Religion? covers a multitude of topics that are dear to the author's heart. When he writes about social and religious attitudes, his voice is no less strong and imperative than when he writes about climate change and all its ramifications for the changes that the human race must make in its collective lifestyle -- or perish! Traditionally Judaism -- the Judaism that Richard Schwartz so bravely and eloquently presents -- would uphold and mandate these changes. I commend this book to anyone for whom Judaism is cherished as teaching us how to live our lives in loving stewardship of God's world.' -- Rabbi Simchah Roth, Herzliya, Israel

'As a Jewish animal rights activist, I have always considered Richard Schwartz to be a mentor and someone I admire tremendously. His new book only corroborates that opinion as it passionately and persuasively goes beyond even the most important 21st-century concerns into the heart of Judaism itself. Every Jew -- and non-Jew who is concerned with the future of our planet -- should read Who Stole My Religion?' -- Pauline Dubkin Yearwood, Managing Editor, Chicago Jewish News

'In this time of ubiquitous polarization and demonization of -- the other,' Who Stole My Religion? makes a cogent, compelling call for Jews to turn from unquestioning acceptance of particular cultural and political positions back to core religious values of wisdom, compassion, and self-examination. No nation or religion is automatically good; frequent comparison of values with behaviors is a huge part of what makes good people, good nations and good religions. Professor Schwartz weaves a readable and interesting tapestry of current and historical facts, scriptural citations, study findings, authoritative quotes and heartfelt common sense, all in the cause of finding the best course for Jews, for peace, and for the world. Highly recommended.' -- Karima Vargas Bushnell, co-author of Cultural Detective Islam (tm) and teacher of Intercultural Communication at Metropolitan State University. She helps others explore the borderlands between different religions and cultures, has a particular interest in cross-cultural mysticism, and now guides a small Sufi circle, the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Circle of Ishq.

'Schwartz offers a vision of traditional Judaism alight with love for humanity and respect for creation -- a love and respect embodied as much in daily observance of halachah as in pragmatic actions to heal a wounded world. Even more, Schwartz's insights hold the potential to heal a deep rift in Judaism: he shows us that the elements of Orthodoxy that have dismissed urgent issues of social justice, like the problem of global warming, do not speak for all traditional Jews, much less traditional Judaism. For all persons who love Jewish law no less than Judaism's radical call to justice, Schwartz doesn't just ask 'Who Stole My Religion?' -- he shows a path to reclaim it.' -- Aaron Gross, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Farm Forward and Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of San Diego

'Richard Schwartz, in his pioneering advocacy of vegetarianism over many decades, has brought knowledge of its sources in the most profound and meaningful Jewish values and principles both to the Jewish community and into the American society-at-large. In his groundbreaking new work, Who Stole My Religion?, he expands on the Jewish values regarding the environment, animal protection, health and the elimination of poverty into a trenchant critique of how the Jewish community is, and is not, responding in accordance with the spirit of Judaism to these and other imperative issues such as climate change, criticism of Israeli policies, and social and economic inequality. The book is a must-read for people who urgently need to know that what passes for Judaism in some circles in the community these days is an avoidance and violation of the spirit of Judaism rather than an embrace of it ' and how to overcome this grievous condition, retrieve and revive Judaism, and possibly contribute to saving the planet.' -- Aviva Cantor, author of Jewish Women/Jewish Men: The Legacy of Patriarchy in Jewish Life and The Egalitarian Haggada; Vice President of CHAI: Concern for Helping Animals in Israel.

'Who Stole My Religion? is magnificent! It is a vision of holiness, wholeness, and healing that speaks to the challenges facing Jews -- and the rest of us -- in the twenty-first century. This is what tikkun olam and bal tashchit and being a 'light unto the nations' are all about. The book is an eloquent summum of Richard Schwartz's vision that speaks to everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike. It will extend far into the future as a beacon for those who are tempted to lose faith, not only in God, but also in the ability of our tormented species to desist from destroying our neighbors, our home, and ourselves. My heartfelt congratulations!'' Norm Phelps, long time vegetarian activist; author of The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible, The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights, and The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy From Pythagoras to PETA.

'Tekiah! The venerable Richard Schwartz once again sounds a shofar blast of warning to wake up the Jewish community and the world. As unabated greed and climate change threaten life and religion as we know them, Schwartz urges actions rooted in the very heart of Judaism. We all would be wise to heed the call.' -- David Krantz, President and Chairperson, Green Zionist Alliance: The Grassroots Campaign for a Sustainable Israel

'Richard Schwartz has done it again! Who Stole My Religion? is an important, fascinating, and necessary book, perhaps needed more now than ever to create peace and environmental sustainability, while enhancing spirituality. Given the oeuvre of his leadership, writings, and other efforts, Dr. Schwartz deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. While particularly relevant to Jews, this wise and prophetic book would be useful for anybody who appreciates the highest values of their religion more than stultifying dogma and conservative ideology. Read this book, reclaim your religion, and let's co-create a better world!' -- Dan Brook, Ph.D., Instructor at City College of San Francisco and San Jose State University; author of Modern Revolution, Understanding Sociology, and An Alef-Bet Kabalah.

'Richard Schwartz's previous work has been adored and well-respected during these past thirty years, but there comes a time when a man such as Richard produces his opus/epic tome, defining Judaism's magnificent and inspiring past, present conflicts, and glorious future. Such a book is now in your hands.' -- Robert Cohen, author, lecturer, and director of

'Richard Schwartz knows as well as anybody how Jewish teachings apply to the world's most pressing problems. The impressive scope of his concern is fully on display in his new book. Who Stole My Religion? is a very personal story about how and why he became a Jewish activist and what he expects of his religion. I congratulate Richard for writing such an honest, engaging, important and timely book. I recommend it highly.'' Charles Patterson, author of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust

'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 of The Animal Activist's Handbook

'There are woefully few examples in history of lone individuals who bravely rose up to identify the underlying causes of problems that have plagued nations, societies and indeed, the world at large. All too often those voices were rapidly silenced, either through political subjugation, ignorance or indifference. Fortunately, despite overwhelming odds, there are those who have made a profound difference to the reigning status quo. Richard Schwartz is one such man. His new book identifies much of what we as Jews have failed to recognize as our planet heads inexorably towards an ecological meltdown. Politically, ethically, morally, economically, and scientifically, we are guilty of wearing blinkers when we look around and perceive what is happening to our world, especially in the face of global warming and also in our inability to obtain a just and peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

'Soundly basing his views on the profound teachings of the Torah and the inherent wisdom and compassion of our ancient faith, he provides an alarming analysis of how we are failing not only ourselves but also our duty to be a 'light unto the nations.' This book should be essential reading for everyone. I applaud Richard as a maverick and as a tzaddik, a truly righteous man in every sense of the word. He is one of the few individuals who gives me a sense that there is still hope if we act now to reverse the trends that are pushing us towards disaster.' -- Lionel Friedberg, Emmy Award-winning producer, director, writer and documentarian; Producer of A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World.

'If you think Judaism consists of occasional visits to a synagogue or Temple where congregants perform rituals and recite prayers without feeling and attend mainly to socialize, then this book is a must read. Schwartz reminds us that the very essence of Judaism is to struggle to find what is right and to have the courage to do right, including speaking out against evil. Worship accompanied by indifference to evil, the prophets said, is an abomination to God. Schwartz fulfills the best of Judaism by urging us to cry out against immorality, injustice, deceit, cruelty, and violence toward all living beings, rather than condone it with our silence, for in condoning empty rituals and standing silent in the face of immoral deeds, we make a mockery of Judaism itself.' -- Nina Natelson, Director, Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI)

'Richard Schwartz's illuminating and challenging new book is a valuable guide to living a humane Jewish life in our troubled and violent age.' -- Murray Polner, former editor of Present Tense, co-editor of Shalom: The Jewish Peace Letter.

'Richard Schwartz is the most knowledgeable person alive on the teachings of Judaism on protecting animals and nature. His writings are brilliant, and his books always valuable and worth reading and discussing. I say this as a conservative, even a right-winger, who strongly disagrees with Richard's devotion to liberal tenets. But when he discusses the fate of our planet and the many environmental issues that threaten human civilization, and the responsibility of Jews to take action, there is no one better.' -- Lewis Regenstein, a 40 year veteran of the animal protection movement, is author of Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World's Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature.

'Who Stole My Religion? is a challenge to contemporary Jewish communities: there is so much we should check about our current practices and affiliations! Is it a call for renovation of Jewish thought? Schwartz's answers for today's pressing issues derive from compassion and the pursuit of peace and justice. These, as he persuasively shows, go back to the roots of Jewish tradition. For me the book reclaims my religion, returning to the core of Jewish values -- as my parents knew them and as did generations before them.'' Yossi Wolfson, Coordinator of Ginger, the Vegetarian Community Center in Jerusalem.

'Richard Schwartz has been a consistent, clear, compassionate voice for the planet. This book once again illustrates his wisdom, insight and willingness to speak up. If the Jewish community takes this book to heart and makes the necessary changes, the world can follow. We can co-create a world that respects all life.' -- Rae Sikora, co-founder Plant Peace Daily; Institute for Humane Education, and Veg und.

'If ever there was a book that inspires us to recall the purest values of Judaism -- it is Who Stole My Religion? Richard Schwartz, a true patriot for his faith, pushes the spiritual envelope of our conscience -- and consciousness' to a deeper and richer re-acquaintance with this glorious faith tradition as he unflinchingly holds up a sometimes painful mirror from which Jews and non-Jews alike can no longer avert our gaze.'' Dr. Kris Lecakes Haley, Department of Humane Religious Studies Co-Chair, Emerson Theological Institute.

'This is a book of plain speaking. In light of pressing economic, environmental, social, and political difficulties, we are in great need of such informed and candid commentary from members within each of the world's great religions. Who will be next to step up to the plate?' -- Lisa Kemmerer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of philosophy and Religion at Montana State University, author and editor of Animals and World Religions, Sister Species, and half a dozen other books on social justice issues and/or religions.

Richard H. Schwartz
Professor Emeritus, College of Staten Island
Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival and Mathematics and Global Survival and over 140 articles at
President. Jewish Vegetarians of North America (; Director of Veg Climate Alliance
Associate producer of A SACRED DUTY

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