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New York Author Decries Neglect of Nobel Laureate
Isaac Bashevis Singer's Legacy

Dr. Charles Patterson, author of the groundbreaking book ETERNAL TREBLINKA, which he dedicated to the Yiddish writer and Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, laments that on the occasion of the Singer Centennial (Singer was born in Poland on July 14, 1904) an important part of his legacy is being ignored. Singer was the most powerful pro-animal voice in modern literature and a passionately committed vegetarian , but you would never know if from centennial observances taking place in his name.

(PRWEB) July 6, 2004 -- Charles Patterson, author of the highly acclaimed book "Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust," regrets that most people honoring the centennial of the Yiddish writer and Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-91) are unaware just how important his vegetarianism was to him and what a central theme it was in his writings. Most of the main characters in his novels and short stories either are vegetarians, become vegetarians, or think about becoming vegetarians.

From an early age Singer was greatly upset by the abuse and killing of animals he saw around him in Poland. His indignation was so strong that he thought that there should be an Eleventh Commandment: "Do not kill or exploit the animal. Don't eat its flesh, don't flail its hide, don't force it to do things against its nature."

"The longer I am a vegetarian," he wrote, "the more I feel how wrong it is to kill animals and eat them. I think that eating meat or fish is a denial of all ideals, even of all religions. How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood? Every kind of killing seems to me savage and I find no justification for it."

The Holocaust made a deep impression on Singer. Although he escaped it by following his older brother Joshua to the United States in 1935, his mother, younger brother, and many members of his extended family who remained in Poland were killed. Singer's stories and novels set in America are mostly about Holocaust survivors and refugees from Europe.

Although he did not write about the Holocaust directly, it was the ever present lens through which he viewed the world, especially when it came to the killing of animals. The central character in his short story "The Letter Writer," a Holocaust survivor, declares: "In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka."

In his foreword to a book about vegetarianism published in 1979, Singer wrote: "We know now, as we have always known instinctively, that animals can suffer as much as human beings. Their emotions and their sensitivity are often stronger than those of a human being. Various philosophers and religious leaders tried to convince their disciples and followers that animals are nothing more than machines without a soul, without feelings. However, anyone who has ever lived with an animal--be it a dog, bird or even a mouse--knows that this theory is a brazen lie, invented to justify cruelty."

Singer warned that as long as human beings go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace. "There is only one little step from killing animals to creating gas chambers a la Hitler...There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is."

Singer was a patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, and in 1986 he received the "Jewish Vegetarian of the Year" award from the Jewish Vegetarians of North America.

In Israel the organization CHAI (Concern for Helping Animals in Israel) built an Isaac Bashevis Singer Humane Education Center at the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Tel Aviv. The center contains an extensive library of books and videos about animals and animal issues and conducts educational programs, including CHAI's "Living Together" program that brings together Jewish and Arab children to learn about and help animals.

At dinners in his honor where chicken was usually served, Singer would decline the main course. Once when a woman asked him if he didn't eat chicken for "health reasons," he said, "Yes, for the health of the chicken."

Singer was one of the most powerful pro-animal voices of the twentieth century and the first major writer in modern literature to use the Holocaust analogy to describe the exploitation and slaughter of animals. This important part of the Singer legacy should not be ignored or forgotten.

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