What is the Synagogue Vegan Challenge?
Let us begin by defining what vegan means. In simple terms it means that what you eat has no animal products: no meat, no dairy, no fish, no chicken… if it came from an animal or insect, you don’t eat it, so honey is out as well.
At first this may seem daunting, but it really is not as scary or difficult as it may seem. It can certainly be very different than what you’re used to eating, but different is not necessarily bad. Many studies have shown that a vegan diet can correct for a multitude of health issues. It is clearly not a cure-all and should not be done without careful consideration to ensure proper nutrition.
Having said all that, what is the Vegan Challenge?
The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, based in Scottsdale put out a challenge to all synagogues to Go Vegan. After a rather extensive application process (ours was completed by Helen Jaffa), five synagogues would be selected. TBS-EV was one of those five and the only local synagogue. This challenge offers us a reimbursement of expenses up to $5,000 spent on Vegan-only events at the completion of a year.
The ultimate goal of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute is to educate and advocate for the ethical treatment of animals by thinking more deeply about animal welfare ethics, kashrut and compassion for all. Eating a plant based diet is the means to this end. The only successful way to do this is through education and example. That’s where we and the other four synagogues come into the picture. We educate our congregation and the community about veganism. We must host at least one Vegan event per month. Events can be a dinner, an oneg, a Kiddush, a lecture, a movie, a cooking class and pretty much anything else that helps educate folks. We have already hosted two kiddushim and two dinners. In addition to hosting the events, we must also reach 300 distinct individuals. As you can imagine, that can be a bit of a challenge it itself, but we have an entire year to do so. With any grant comes paperwork. The institute requires quarterly reports that include names and respective feedback (whenever possible), the total number of attendees, and the number of repeat guests.
What do we at TBS-EV get out of the Vegan Challenge?
Lots. Of course if we meet the requirements of 300 distinct folks, having monthly events, filing the proper paper work, we get reimbursed up to $5,000. But we get so much more. We get exposure. We have already had a write up in the Phoenix Jewish News. We will be hosting community wide events that we otherwise would not have if we were not part of the Vegan Challenge. And of course we get the opportunity to educate our members and members of the community about the values and tastiness of eating a vegan diet.
How can I help?
Attend a vegan challenge event and include friends and family that are interested. Be sure to have them sign into the event, and after it is done, here is a questionnaire to fill out.