Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Executive Director of the Valley Beit Midrash, the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, and the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute. Rav Shmuly completed a Masters at Yeshiva University in Jewish Philosophy, a Masters at Harvard in Moral Psychology, and a Doctorate at Columbia in Epistemology and Moral Development. Rav Shmuly is the author of Jewish Ethics and Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century and his second book was Epistemic Development in Talmud Study.
At roughly what age did you become vegetarian?
I became vegetarian when I was 23 years old in grad school at Harvard.
What made you become vegetarian?
I heard a lecture by Professor Martha Nussbaum about the neo-Aristotelian capabilities approach arguing that it is morally wrong to shorten any other being’s capability or potential. I realized that the gain that I had from eating meat was far less in quantity and quality than the amount of pain (and loss of life) the animal experienced. I also realized I had been living with blindfolds to the reality of the great suffering in the industry and needed to take responsibility. I finally gathered the courage to look at that reality and make some really hard life changes. I had been eating meat daily so it wasn’t the easiest change at first. My wife was a vegetarian from her early teenage years. On our wedding day, we became full vegans together.
What is your favourite vegetarian meal?
Anything my dear wife Shoshana prepares for us! In particular, I love her Asian tofu dishes, Indian keema, Mexican quesadillas, pizza, and special seitan and tempeh dishes. For breakfast, we enjoy amazing pancakes and French toast. Of course, nothing beats fresh vegetables (especially kale). Oh and Shoshana makes the best cinnamon (water) challah for Shabbos!
Which is the best vegetarian restaurant you have been to?
Where is the most vegetarian-friendly place?
The Garden of Eden. Religiously, we yearn to return to a world where the eating of sentient creatures is not imaginable.
What has been your worst experience as a vegetarian?
I can handle the abuse of those who are insecure about their meat eating. I have learned to deal with it. The worst experience for me is the cynical day that ushers in the realisation that we are unlikely to end mass slaughter during my lifetime.
Can you recommend any good vegetarian resources (cookbooks/guides/websites/etc.)?
The Shamayim V’Aretz website (the organisation I lead along with many other passionate folks) has a ton of great Jewish resources (shamayimvaretz.org).
What’s your “signature dish” (and can you give us the recipe)?
I can’t make anything but we have great recipes on our Shamayim website.