The Valley could have one of the first synagogues in the nation to go vegan.

The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish animal welfare organization that educates leaders, trains advocates and leads campaigns for the ethical treatment of animals, has announced its Synagogue Vegan Challenge.

According to the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, the Synagogue Vegan Challenge is the first-ever attempt to encourage Jewish spiritual communities to go vegan for one calendar year. To stimulate interest, the institute is offering a $5,000 grant to five synagogues across the nation that undertake and complete the challenge.

“Veganism is one of the fastest-growing trends in America aimed at improving human health, supporting the environment and reducing animal suffering,” said Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder and CEO of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute.

Yanklowitz, who is also president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash, added, “The Jewish community needs to show leadership, but there is not one vegan synagogue in America yet. With this $25,000 prize, we are looking to launch the first five vegan synagogues in America.”

Shamayim v’aretz means “heaven and earth” in Hebrew. Actress Mayim Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, is a founding member of the institute and serves as a senior leadership consultant.

Vegans do not eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products or honey. They also refrain from wearing or using leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.

Throughout the year, synagogues selected for the challenge will serve plant-based meals, whether it’s for kiddush, bar and bat mitvahs, Shabbat or any other event. The participating synagogues will also be required to provide the community with education about veganism.

Applications are open to all Jewish spiritual communities who think they will benefit from this program. The final day to apply is Aug. 1, 2017.

More information and the application to the Synagogue Vegan Challenge can be found at thesynagogueveganchallenge.weebly.com. JN

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