Skip to main content

Who We Are

History

Jewish Veg was founded in 1975 as Jewish Vegetarians of North America by Jonathan Wolf, the organization’s first president. Initial leaders also included Charles Stahler, Debra Wasserman, Isaac Luchinsky, Florence Mitrani, Richard Schwartz, and Rabbi Noach Valley. They were motivated by a desire to show that Jewish teachings are most consistent with plant-based diets.

Originally an entirely volunteer-run organization, JVNA hired its first full-time staff member, Jeffrey Spitz Cohan, in 2013 as its executive director. Under his leadership, in 2015 JVNA was renamed Jewish Veg and began to hire additional staff. Currently, Jewish Veg comprises five full-time staff members, a Board of Directors, an Advisory Council, a Rabbinic Council, and thousands of members across North America and elsewhere.

Staff

Jeffrey Spitz Cohan

Executive Director

Jeffrey Spitz Cohan became a vegan after learning what the Torah says about animals and food. Recognizing that most of his fellow Jews were unaware of the connection between veganism…

Read More

Lisa Apfelberg

Deputy Executive Director

Lisa Apfelberg (she/her) truly loves to outreach, meet new people, create beneficial partnerships, and make connections. To that end, she has held the title Director of Outreach and Engagement three…

Read More

Sara Eifler

Director of Programming

Sara Eifler (she/they) coordinates Jewish Veg events and programs and conducts workshops, presentations, and interviews on Jewish veganism across North America. She is a rabbinic student in the ALEPH Ordination…

Read More

Jodi Krizer Graber

Director of Development

Jodi Krizer Graber (she/her) develops and maintains relationships with the valued and respected donors who support Jewish Veg as well as media representatives who promote the important work of the…

Read More

Liz Madsen

Director of Marketing and Communications

Liz Madsen (they/them) has extensive experience in communications and marketing at Jewish organizations. They became vegan for the animals and the environment, but they are also passionate about cooking and…

Read More

Board of Directors

David Niekerk

Chairman

A dedicated animal advocate with a professional background in human resources, David currently serves as the board chair of Jewish Veg. He also serves on the Board of Directors of…

Read More

Richard Schwartz

President Emeritus

Richard was one of the earliest leaders of Jewish Veg under its prior name of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. He is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Mathematics and…

Read More

Alicia Albek

A native of Argentina and daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Alicia immigrated with her family to the U.S. in her teenage years, attending high school in a San Diego suburb….

Read More

Dr. Jeff Schrager

Jeff graduated from Dartmouth Medical School in 1990, conducted HIV research, and completed a residency in anatomic pathology and a fellowship in hematopathology at the National Cancer Institute. With his…

Read More

Advisory Council

Patti is a sought-after public speaker and well-known writer about veganism. She is the director of the Marin (CA) Vegetarian Education Group and the co-author of the book Never Too Late to Go Vegan.

Dan is a writer, speaker, poet, photographer, activist, wanderer, wonderer, and adjunct professor of sociology at San Jose State University. Some of his books include Eating the Earth: The Truth About What We Eat and Justice in the Kitchen.

Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens is the founder of the Tree of Life Foundation and its residential health center in Patagonia, AZ, where he treats patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases with a vegan, mostly raw diet. He lectures internationally and is the author of nine books.

William is the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. A vegan since 2011, Daroff was named by the Jerusalem Post as among the 50 most influential Jews in the world; by the Forward newspaper as being among the 50 most influential Jews in the U.S.; and by the Algemeiner newspaper as one of the Top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life. He received his B.A., M.A., and J.D. from Case Western Reserve in his hometown of Cleveland, OH.

An expert in vegan advocacy, Caryn is the author of Animal Impacts: Secrets Proven to Achieve Results and Move the World. She is the co-founder and CEO of Priority Ventures Group, which provides a wide range of strategic consulting services to animal-protection organizations.

Diana’s career has focused on corporate and high school curriculum development, training and education. Currently, she is the founder of Beantown Kitchen, which provides plant-based cooking instruction, personalized vegan lifestyle coaching and educational seminars. Diana holds a B.S. from Cornell and an Ed.M. from Harvard.

Ellen is an the author of several top-selling books on veganism, including Eat Vegan on $4 a Day. She is also an accomplished plant-based distance runner, a personal trainer and a popular speaker at veg fests.

A graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School, Joel has been practicing cardiology since 1990. In addition to his practice, he is now a sought-after public speaker about the benefits of plant-based diets for cardiovascular health and the author of the book The Whole Heart Solution.

Ellen Kanner is the soulful vegan award-winning author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner (VegNews’ Book of the Year, PETA’s debut Book of the Month Club pick) and the ebook Beans: A Handful of Magic. She has been writing about the intersection of food, wellness and sustainability for over 20 years for outlets including HuffPo, Civil Eats, Saveur, EatingWell, VegNews, the Miami Herald, and Whole Foods Magazine.

Dan is a physiatrist with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. He is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, with subspecialty certification in Pain, Sports, and Neuromuscular Medicine. He has a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition and is leading a plant-based lifestyle medicine program.

Nina Natelson is the founding director of Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHAI), a non-profit organization established in 1984 to improve the lives and treatment of Israel’s animals through education, legislation and direct support.

A cardiologist, Dr. Ostfeld is the founder and director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. He is a nationally recognized leader in educating fellow and future doctors about the health benefits of plant-based diets.

Aaron is the Vice President of Policy and Strategy for The Humane League.

Roberta is the coordinator of Hudson Valley Vegans, a regional vegan-advocacy organization in upstate New York. She is also a co-author of two cookbooks: Thanksvegan and the Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook.

Steve, a resident of Boston, is the founder and CEO of Rainier Communications, a public relations firm serving more than 200 clients in the high-tech sector. Rainier has offices in Westborough, MA, and Tel Aviv. He is a past president of Temple Sinai in Worcester, MA.

Heather is an interventional cardiologist in the Los Angeles area. While she is skilled at angioplasty, she prefers to prevent heart disease through healthy lifestyles, including plant-based diets and exercise. She has followed a vegan diet for over ten years and competes in triathlons, cycling and running races, including two Ironman triathlons. She blogs at VeganHeartDoc.com.

Roberta was the founder and chief editor of Micah Publications, the leading publisher of books on Jewish vegetarianism. She was the author of “Vegetarian Judaism: A Guide for Everyone” and the editor of “Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition,” among several other books.

Rabbinic Council

Rabbi Allen, of Wayland, Massachusetts, is the spiritual leader of Ma’yan Tikvah—A Wellspring of Hope, which holds outdoor Shabbat and holiday services. She is also the co-founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network and considers herself an eco-chaplain.

Rabbi Nelly Altenburger became the first female Rabbi at Adath Israel Synagogue in Middletown, Connecticut in July 2020. She completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Hebrew Language and Literature at the University of San Paulo and earned a Master of Arts in Rabbinic studies.

Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz founded Congregation Or Hadish, with her husband Rabbi Mario Karpuj, in Sandy Springs, Georgia. She is also the author of The Voice of Silence: A Rabbi’s Journey into a Trappist Monastery and Other Contemplation and the founder of “Hope for Seeds” which helps couples that are struggling with infertility.

Rabbi Rick Brody leads the Baskin Jewish Community Chaplaincy program which provides services for unaffiliated Jewish people in the Denver, Colorado area. He identifies as a Vegan and a Liberal Social Justice advocate.

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb serves as Rabbi at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Maryland. He holds leadership positions for multiple Jewish environmental groups, works as staff at Camp Havaya, and writes for Moment Magazine.

Rabbi Boris Dolin is the Rabbi at Congregation Dorshei Emet in Montreal, Canada. His synagogue describes him as an activist for environmentalism, food justice, animal rights issues, anti-racism, and LGBTQ+ initiatives, as well as interfaith dialogue.

Rabbi Akiva Gersh is known on the internet as the “Vegan Rabbi.” He holds classes about the connection between Judaism and the environment, animal rights, and veganism. He currently lives in Israel, however, he teaches many of his workshops online.

Rabbi Donn Gross founded the vegan synagogue, Congregation Bet Dovid in Caldwell, New Jersey. He is also the owner of Meals to Heal Catering which provides daily meal plan deliveries as well as Shabbat meals.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is currently a visiting scholar at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He is also the chair of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

Rabbi Robert Judd is a conservative Rabbi serving congregation B’nai Sholom in Connecticut since 2020. He is also a published writer for the Gerald Dispatch.

Rabbi Andy Kastner serves as the Vice President of Jewish life of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. He grew up in Ohio and studied at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Andy Kastner serves as the Vice President of Jewish life of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. He grew up in Ohio and studied at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein serves Temple Beth El in Bakersfield, California. He is also the founder of Faith Action for Animals, an organization of multiple faiths that advocates for animal rights.

Rabbi David Rosen is the American Jewish Committee’s  International Director of Interreligious Affairs. In 2005, Rabbi Rosen was granted a papal knighthood and in 2010 he was made Commander of the British Empire.

Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein is the Rabbi at Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, New York. He and Rabbi Linda Motzkin founded the Bread and Torah Project which offers programs on scribal arts and bakery activities.

Rabbi David Sears is the director of the Breslov Center. He is also the author of  The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism.

Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner is the third senior rabbi at Temple Beth Tikvah. She also participates in multiple boards and committees for rabbis in Greater Atlanta.

Rabbi Barry Silver serves Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor and as an attorney as well. He identifies as an activist and founded the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition as well as the Interfaith Justice League. 

Rabbi Eliyahu Soiefer graduated from Berklee College of Music and received a master’s degree in education from Adelphi University. He is the spiritual leader of Congregation Achdus Yisrael.

Rabbi Marc Soloway serves as Bonai Shalom’s rabbi in Boulder, Colorado. He is the national chair of Hazon’s Rabbinical Advisory Board and their Colorado Advisory Board.

Rabbi Micah Streiffer is the Rabbi of Kol Ami in Toronto, Canada. He is also the host of the Seven Minute Torah Podcast and teaches both online and in-person classes.

Rabbi Beni Wajnberg serves as rabbi at The United Hebrew Congregation in Singapore. He is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the OHALAH Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly.

Rabbi Ariann Weitzman is the Associate Rabbi and Director of Congregational Learning at Bnai Keshet in Montclair, New Jersey. She was awarded a congressional certificate from the 11th Congressional District in 2021 for her help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rabbi David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. He is also a columnist for the New York Jewish Week and Jerusalem Post as well as numerous other publications.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash. He is also the founder of many organizations including Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy and Uri L’Tzedek.

Rabbinic Statement

We are proud to share our Rabbinic Statement. In 2017, 75 rabbis and Jewish clergy signed the following statement about plant-based eating and Judaism. Today, we are proud to present a bigger list of rabbis and Jewish clergy. The signatories of the statement include rabbis and Jewish clergy from all denominations and movements. All of them encourage their fellow Jews to transition toward animal-free, plant-based diets.


Learn more about the Rabbinic Statement