5782 – 5783 Annual Report
Letter from the Director
Genesis, the first book in the Torah, gives humans and all the other animals the same commandments to be fruitful and multiply and to eat only plants. The one thing that distinguishes humans from other animals is that humans are made in God’s image and, as a result, they have dominion over other creatures. How we act toward the other animals with whom we share this world reflects to what extent we live up to the divine spark we have been gifted.
At Jewish Initiative for Animals (JIFA), our goal is to center the well-being of animals and promote ethical consumption so that the divine within us can shine outside of us. We do this by helping align the Jewish community’s food choices with our tradition’s values.
This has been an exciting year and a half for JIFA, which determined the need for an expanded leadership that will allow us to better support our programming and serve the broader Jewish community that sees the critical need for our work in a sustained manner. After 25 years as a congregational senior rabbi, I am thrilled to join JIFA, and expand our reach and impact as its first Executive Director.
Also ensuring JIFA’s success is our new advisory board, composed of long-time JIFA supporters Wilhelmina Waldman, Dr. Adrienne Krone, Ilana Braverman, and founder Dr. Aaron Gross. Melissa Hoffman stepped into her new role as Director of Programs, developing new initiatives and campaigns while keeping us focused on our core mission.
Food Policy Intern, Ellie Fajer, joined the JIFA team for over a year and was instrumental in supporting our campaigns and working directly with Hillels on improving their food practices, including her own at Stanford University (now a member of JIFA’s Leadership Circle). Recently, we welcomed Kayla Kaplan as JIFA’s new Social Media and Community Manager. A seasoned writer and content publisher with a master’s in Science, Food and Nutrition from Tufts University, Kayla brings invaluable experience and adds considerably to our programmatic capacity.
For many months, our community engagement efforts have centered on our latest campaign, Is This Kosher?. Leading up to the campaign, JIFA launched a new website with expanded blog content on industrial kosher issues. We amplified this message through articles and live educational programs in connection with Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Tu B’Shvat, Purim, and Passover. Finally, in April 2023, our campaign came onto both the virtual scene and Los Angeles landscape with 11 billboards, broadcasting its provocative yet invitational call to learn and take action.
The question Is This Kosher? embodies the Jewish spirit of questioning and challenges the status quo in favor of a more just system. With virtually all kosher animal products originating from factory farms today, we can and must do better. Happily, our efforts to raise awareness about this troubling fact doesn’t end there: our numerous followers and supporters can take meaningful steps to build a healthier food system with new culinary training resources coming out in the new Jewish year (5784).
This past year’s work and growth leaves us excited for the years to come. At its core, the Torah is a call to responsibility that echoes throughout Jewish tradition. Through JIFA’s advocacy for institutional change, we fight to create a more caring and just society for people and the animals in our care.