Passover 2018

Las night, I hosted 10 beautiful people for Passover at my bungalow in Santa Monica. It was a dream come true to bring people from different worlds of mine together, some who had never experienced Passover before, some who often don’t, and others who do Passover every year, for a remixed sedar.

There were so many people who I want to thank who I truly could not have done this without. Dani Duke, my twin sister, who worked many many hours to compile a draft of the Haggadah we used from many different texts and who also hosted her own vegan Passover sedar in Boston just a few hours ahead of ours. My amazing friend Sean who helped me cook, bake, chop, prepare, and set up EVERYTHING. My friends Ben and Johanna who printed out the Haggadahs and brought extra chairs so I didn’t have to turn anyone away. My friend Cari who brought the salt so we could dip our bitter herbs. And of course, we would not have been here without OneTable, one of the most incredible organizations that I am so lucky to be involved in. OneTable empowers people to host and attend Shabbats (or in the case, Passovers) that are unique, valuable, and sustainable by setting hosts up with the tools they need to succeed; guidance, money per person to provide food, and a platform. Bringing good people together from my many different worlds to share the plant-based food I enjoy and traditions I love, while celebrating our most beautiful holidays is honestly one of the most special and meaningful things I’ve ever done.

I wanted to create this post incase anyone in the future is curious and desiring of hosting their own Passover and would like to replicate or learn from what I did last night.

First, see if you can sign up to be a OneTable host. Aside from all of the wonderful help OneTable offers with empowering you to host in your own unique way, they also give you $15 per person for each person who RSVPs, which helps with the cost of food. I normally charge $5 when I host, as I realize it furthers the level of commitment from my friends… if you pay, you’re more likely to come. Also, it helps towards the REAL cost of the dinner (even with $15 per person, I was still $100 over of my own money as I really wanted the night to be special) so charging can help cover the difference. I’ve done $5 in the past because I really don’t want it to be difficult for anyone to attend, but next time for a holiday I will likely charge $10 since it’s still affordable but can actually cover the cost.

Next, you want to make sure everyone RSVPs and you have a legitimate head count- see if people are planning to bring plus ones (they should have added them on the invite) so you know you have enough room for everyone. The New Moon Shabbat I threw recently had 18 people there and since it wasn’t a sit down dinner, people didn’t need seats. We had Rahel’s Vegan Ethiopian Food so people grabbed food at our “buffet” and sat on couches and comfortably on the floor. But if you’re doing a holiday meal like Passover, it makes sense to make sure you have seats for everyone.

During the week before Passover, my sister found texts online for a Haggadah that we wanted to create ourselves. Since we are both passionate about veganism, earth justice, sustainability, social justice, and using yoga and Kabbalah to make sense of Jewish themes, we knew that we wanted to create our own Haggadah using existing texts for a vegan Sedar. While Dani scoured through documents, I sent her quotes from my friend Jenny’s Kabbalah Shabbat emails, friends Passover posts, and Kabbalah centre blog post readings I’ve been doing. Dani compiled texts into a 47 page google doc that she edited down to 8 pages, and then I went through her 8 pages and added some stuff to make it the final 12 page Haggadah that we used.

I am posting the PDF here but it is a living & breathing document, and as I learn more, I hope to add more. Additionally, this is only a jumping off point, as the real learning should come from people’s perspectives and thoughts at the table.

***********Passover Haggadah**************

With Dani’s draft of her Boston meal, I planned a meal. At the sedar, we were having so much fun and I was so present in the moment that I forgot to take pictures of the food unfortunately (this happened with the New Moon Shabbat too… next time I need to put one of my friends on photography // social media duty so I can make sure we get some great photos of everything). I am always nervous because this food is delicious to me but my palette is so adjusted to a clean way of eating- by not eating processed foods, added oils, added sugars, etc, I can really taste the flavors of fruits and vegetables in ways that people who are eating processed food simply cannot… so I always worry if people will like the food.

Good news, everyone ate food that is TRULY health-promoting and nourishing, AND they all really enjoyed it (which thrills me)! There was no dollars directly contributed to violence, and hopefully people have a more expansive idea of what a vegan meal can be.

Here are the recipes for everything we made:

  • Smoked chickpeas which were on the table for munching
    • We didn’t end up doing the olives or the peppers, was just too much
  • Charoset –> apples, cinnamon, walnuts, and grape juice
    • First we chopped up the apples and walnuts and just mixed it together with cinnamon and grape juice. I always liked charoset that wasn’t pureed, but it just tasted like apples and walnuts so I ended up throwing it into the food processor and it came out WAY better. We had too much grape juice so we just added more apples and walnuts and it came out perfectly
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts —> brussel sprouts with a balsamic // dijon mustard // maple syrup glaze
    • This is Chef AJ‘s recipe that I learned from her cooking class last year someone else posted it here.
    • I usually don’t use maple syrup, and just do half mustard half balsamic, but it’s a holiday so did it. Delicious both ways.
    • It’s a huge favorite of everyone whose eaten it, I actually prefer to roast them and eat them after they’ve been in refrigerator (they’re AMAZING cold).
    • This is the balsamic you should use, it’s thicker than balsamic vinegar  (you can get it at Whole Foods)
    • I roasted on a silpat instead of parchment paper- either is great because you don’t need oil but I prefer a silpat because it creates less waste!
  • Curried Quinoa
    • This was just amazing. The tahini in this… I mean the tahini in anything.. but the tahini in this.. wow!
  • Israeli Rainbow Salad
    • This really took me back to my 3 months spent in Israel.. which I’ve been missing so much lately
    • No oil necessary at all!! I think Dani didn’t use oil but used potato starch instead for thickness but we just used lemon juice and it was perfect
  • The Jessie Salad —> 2 different kale mixes massaged with avocado; and with grapes cut in half, raisins, walnuts, beets, fresh mint, and Brandi from The Vegan 8’s incredible spicy tahini dressing
    • I’m going to start calling it the Jessie Salad because every time I cook for people I make some variation of a massaged kale with avocado salad with different fruits and nuts
  • Barbecue Lentil Loaf
    • Brandi from the Vegan 8 is my favorite blogger- all of her recipes are less than 8 ingredients and oil free
    • This loaf is SO GOOD!!!! I made it for my film fraternity’s Passover I threw 2 years ago. AMAZING
  • Sweet Potato Kugle
    • I used orange sweet potatoes and Japanese sweet potatoes
    • I had no regard for the measurements here.. just kinda threw in apples and potatoes as I pleased
    • Whole Foods ran out of matzah meal so I left that out and this was a big hit
  • I also bought Enjoy Life (vegan and oil free) dark chocolate chips to melt on strawberries and matzah but we ended up not doing it because people were eating pretty late and my friend brought dessert she passed out, but that’s on the menu for next time 🙂

Now for the details of actually making this thing happen:

Saturday morning around 10am I went to Whole Foods and did a huge shop. Make sure you give yourself enough time to shop and cook- without taking a break, I started at about 10am and cooked up until 6:20pm (people arrived at 6:30pm).

Luckily, I have a beautiful reclaimed wooden table (that was my workman’s desk in New Jersey, but is now my dining room table in Santa Monica) AND a hard plastic folding long table that was exactly the same width so it ended up looking like a pretty awesome long table (#aesthetic). I covered the ugly hard plastic table in a green and brown elephant tapestry which worked perfectly. In addition to 6 upholstered dining room chairs, I brought in chairs from my outdoor table (and had 2 chairs from Ben & Johanna also). I also strung lights above the table (it actually was placed perfectly) but to my upset, the lights wouldn’t work!!! I was so nervous because the overhead lighting in my apartment is pretty gross, but with the light coming in from outside and all of the tea lights, it was perfect and vibey evening. I also opened all of the windows and the door so we had lots of cool air (one of my friend’s even said it felt like we were outside with all the fresh air, while still being comfortably inside). I was very happy with how the room ended up being set, even with no working christmas lights.

As for setting the table:

(2) Mason Jars with fresh flowers: beautiful pink and red daisies

(2) 3 tea light candle holders, as well as free standing tea light candles to line the entire table

(2) Larger candles at the ends of the middle of the table

2 Plate holder (top plate was our sedar plate, bottom plate held the matzah) in the middle of the two tables

Each table had their own charoset, celery, salt water, and smoked chickpeas (appetizer while going through the sedar)

Real plates + napkins, and plastic ups and plastic utensils that I can wash and save for the next time I host

And of course, lots of wine

Sedar plate: Orange, Tomato, a Lock, Celery, a scoop of charoset & a beet (check out the Haggadah for what these all mean!)

Other details:

Printing the Haggadah: make sure you or someone you know has a printer and can print the Haggadah. Don’t mean to waste the paper, but I truly could not imagine having people stare at their phones (never in a million years). To make it sustainable, I plan to bring out Haggadah’s and laminate them, and save them for year to year.

Parking: I encouraged my guests not to drive if they were going to drink, but for those who did want to drive, I was able to register guest spots from the City of Santa Monica since parking is permit required on my street. Make sure if you’re hosting, your guests will be able to park otherwise it creates a hassle before the night has even started for them and that’s not the mindset you want your guests to walk into dinner with

Communicate & Set the tone: If you’re relaxed, your guests will be relaxed. If you’re joyful, they’ll be joyful. I send emails before the dinner always so people know a little bit of what to expect. Call people. Text people. Make sure people are excited by showing how excited YOU are- if you show how much it means to you, it will mean something to them. I was so happy to see everyone taking the sedar so seriously, but I realized it’s because I set the tone that this was an important and special night.

The night was so beautiful, and honestly a dream come true. It meant so much to me to be able to share last night with every single person who was there… each person who came who was invited by myself or another was extremely intentional and arrived so open and conducted themselves with so much respect and love (and I recommend thinking about and being intentional with who you invite for such an intimate dining experience) and it really was perfect. The double table looks long (and it was) but it also was very intimate and small. I am growing more confident in my ability to create atmospheres conducive for the special kind of interactions I value so much; so I walk away now looking forward towards a meaningful Passover week (celebrations don’t stop here) and towards a future with many more opportunities to host.

Although I never did Shabbat growing up, the past few years of Friday night dinners have inspired me and filled my life with so much joy. I’ve grown to love creating experiences for people to connect and tune in, and it makes me feel a warm sense of family that I really crave. So I am so grateful for everyone who came and will come in the future as I continue to create these experiences for myself and others.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out and let me know 🙂 Happy passover! To freedom.

Other stufff:

Jewish Vegetarian Society: Your Guide to a Plant-based Passover <– I actually didn’t get a chance to look through it before I did my own but this is amazing!! Their posts are wonderful and I had the pleasure of meeting Lara, the director, at a Jewish vegan conference back in February.

Learning to Fly The Kabbalah Centre

Eliminating Chaos from Our Lives The Kabbalah Centre

Little few second video of everyone connecting! IMG_9918-1 

 

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Koby Barak of SuperMeat on Global Change-making, Activism, and Food.

This summer, I had the extreme pleasure to interview Co-Founder and COO, Koby Barak of SuperMeat. SuperMeat is an Israeli bio-tech & food-tech startup, developing a technology to create cultured meat, or clean meat, from chicken cells. We went to dinner at The Green Cat, one of my favorite vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv, and talked global change, vegan food, activism, and solving the world’s problems over delicious vegan pizza.

For more info on SuperMeat check out Richard Branson: In the Near Future, We’ll Think It’s “Archaic” to Kill Animals for Food and This Little Lab-Grown Piggy Went to Market: Clean Meat Is on the Rise.

Enjoy the interview!

J: Let’s start with your thoughts on activism, awareness, and exposing people to the ideas we’re both so passionate about today. I never considered myself an activist but I’d say my blog is my first step into exposing people to concepts they might not have thought about in this light before… what was your entry into this world like? Exposing the truth even to one other person, maybe just by identifying as a vegan, seems like a safe first step that anyone could take.

K; I understand what you are saying about exposing people… at the beginning, I thought the same thing. I started as an animal rights activist and made all the protests.. I worked the explanation stalls, but…

J: I mean how much stuff was going on? that was 18 years ago? It [animal activism] wasn’t really big in Israel yet, right?

K: No no, it wasn’t, it was just the start. But it accelerated very fast. But after a lot of years of animal activism, I realized, at least it was my realization, that this wouldn’t solve the problem. It’s very good to increase the awareness and show people what’s going on and attract them to our circles, but in my opinion, it won’t solve the problem. When you take into consideration that we are 7 billion people, and soon we are going to be 9 or 10 billion people, and according to the UN, the demand for meat is going to double itself in the year 2050… and especially when you think about China with 5 billion people and India and all the third world countries which are most of the population, you just can’t talk to every single one of these people. So far me it was, yes, [animal activism] is good and it’s important to increase awareness, but it’s a means, not an end. It won’t be able to solve the problem. This is why me and some other people went to study biology and went into the field of cultured meat. So yes, I understand what you are saying that you support [the activism], but it’s like our ship is sinking and all the increasing awareness is like taking water out with a spoon. It’s not viral, it’s not global, it’s too slow, it’s too little and too late. This is how i see it.

J: Did you go to school to learn the skills in bio to do cultured meat or did you study bio and then realize that was the best way you could contribute to animal activism with cultured meat? I know you come from animal activism… so what got you started on that path?

K: Actually when I was a kid I became vegan and joined the animal rights movement, I even founded some of the organizations…

J: Sooo cool..

K: And yes, at the age of 19, I think I realized… it’s hopeless.

J: It was quick for you to have that realization.

K: Yeah, but I continued with the animal rights activities because I didn’t have any other possibilities.

J: Were you in the army at this point?

K: No, i was only in the army for one year, between 18 and 19. I think i joined at 18 and a half, but i don’t remember exactly… maybe 17 and a half.

J: What made you go vegan at 18?

K: Like every story in the world it was a girl (laughs).

J: I really thought that could be it though, you never know!

K: I’m saying like every trouble in the world, it was a girl…. but i’m just kidding about that.

J: Have you seen the movie The Social Network?

K: Hmm.. the social network….

J: It’s a movie about the start of facebook!

K: Oh yes, of course

J: So he starts Facebook… actually because of a girl!

K: (Laughs) Yeah you’re right! So it was the same thing; I had a girlfriend and her brother was against animal experiments. He gave his sister a pamphlet about these activities and she gave it to me, and I said wow- this is insane- and I had no idea about anything. I wanted to read more about it. So I went to the internet, read about it, and then joined an organization against animal dissection, and they started to tell me everything about animal dissection. From there, I went to Anonymous, and they veganized me!

J: So you did animal activism for a bunch of years with Anonymous…

K: I was in Anonymous for around 7 years and other organizations. But they weakened, I left to study cultured meat and a lot of other major players left to do their own thing. But I left because I started to realize things were hopeless… you know, human demand is increasing exponentially. We have no money and more people, and the meat demand is increasing, and the better the social economic situation of people becomes, the more they eat meat. I continued for a little because I do think it’s important to increase awareness and recruit more vegans, but at the age of 28, me and a few other people, we heard about the idea of cultured meat. So we went to study biology.

J: Where did you go to study?

K: Tel Aviv University. And then we founded the Modern Agriculture Foundation. Its a NGO to promote cultured meat research. I was the Director of the Organization but I founded it with some other people… you can read about it more on the website.

J: Yeah Im on the website all the time (laughs)

K: Perfect! So after we saw it succeeded, and we got attention from all around the world and a lot of potential investors told us “we want to get into this field”. But they told us they wouldn’t go in unless we started a company. This is when we left the Organization and myself and two others founded SuperMeat.

J: What year was that?

K: We founded SuperMeat in December 2016 and we founded the Modern Agriculture Foundation in March 2014.

J: And you’re still part of the Modern Agriculture Foundation?

K: We’re very close but I’m not the director anymore because Super Meat requires all of my time.

J: What does your day to day look like w SuperMeat? [referring to the pizza] And how do you like it?

K: Very good!

J: I love this place. This is the saddest place that I’m going to say goodbye to.

K: When are you leaving?

J: Tuesday.

K: WOW.

J: Yeah, really soon.

K: I thought you were here for 6 months?

J: No, my program is 2 months. But ive been here for 3 months because I was here before a little bit before.

K: Wow… so what are other vegan places have you been? This isn’t as good as the pizza place in Brooklyn [Screamers].

J: Because I can’t have oil I can’t eat at Screamers. The Green Cat can make pizza without oil for me… and it’s delicious. I have Crohns Disease… and I haven’t eaten pizza out since I got diagnosed a few years ago. And my family’s go-to restaurant for any occasion was a real authentic Italian pizza place in New Jersey. So this is honestly the best thing in the world to me.

K. So what can’t you eat out?

J: I’m vegan ethically, whole food plant based. You know Dr. Gregor? I know he’s endorsed SuperMeat. He advocates for this WFPB way of eating to help w diseases. It helped me get off all my medication. I don’t eat processed food. I eat whole plant foods, no oil.

K: So raw food vegan?

J: I eat food that happens to be raw, sure, but I’m not a raw food vegan. I eat cooked food, but oil isn’t a whole food, it’s a plant extract that’s really processed. It messes up my stomach.

K: So I guess you haven’t tasted Beyond Meat.

J: Correct.

K: Wow. you have to. Cant you take a pill or something?

J: I could probably take a bite of it if someone else ordered it. I wouldn’t die from it or anything, but I would get sick and stuff. And i have to be really careful because my doctors did not want me to get off my medication, I basically stopped it by myself and found support afterwards.

K: Beyond Meat is worth dying for.

J: [laughs] I’ve heard- I really wanna try the Impossible Burger too. But that I know has a lot of oil. A bite is likely all I could have, but I really don’t wanna get sick again because I’m so afraid of being back on medication. I couldn’t travel abroad for a long time because I was on a medication that kept me getting these infusions at a hospital every 4 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to leave the country. Luckily, changing my diet has allowed me to travel and get off all my medicine. It’s worth it for me, I’m very satisfied and happy with the food I eat, and I don’t wanna go back to being tied down.

K: I understand. So you’re 2 years vegan? And since when do you have the Crohn’s Disease?

J: 3 years. I struggled for a while and I didn’t really know what to do. My mom had been vegan and kept saying try this. I hadn’t eaten meat for about a year; I was a pescatarian and I didn’t eat dairy because it bothered my stomach. The only thing I ate was sushi and I loved fish… that I felt like I could never give up! I finally did give it up… which is weird to think about it now was as easy as just saying “I’m just not going to have it anymore”… but I knew that ethically I was moving towards veganism. At the time, though, I was so sick and was in and out of school. So it was hard to think about the bigger picture of my actions since I was just trying to figure out how to get through the day. Once I went vegan, I got a little better but not significantly… but once I eliminated the processed food from my diet, everything changed. Within just a few days. As I started to get healthier, I had enough mindspace to be open to the ethical side of veganism. I had been living in kind of a brain fog; I couldn’t really think clearly when I was so sick, but once I started to get healthy, all of the cognitive dissonance went away. Why wouldn’t I shift towards a vegan lifestyle? Everything I believe supports and is aligned with this compassionate way of living. I didn’t want to contribute to all of the systems of exploitation I don’t agree with.

K: So you’re saying that non-processed food really helped Crohn’s disease?

J: Yes.

K: Why is that?

J: Because processed food in general, whether it is vegan or non-vegan, is hard on your stomach, it’s hard on your body. There are additives and chemicals and horrible stuff in it that we’re not meant to eat.. our bodies are resilient so we don’t realize how unhealthy it’s making us until we can’t ignore it any longer. Crohns disease is your intestines, where your food goes…

K: Crohn’s Disease causes problems in your digestive system?

J: With Crohn’s Disease, they say your immune system is attacking itself. But there are certain things that are really inflammatory, that would increase that activity. Meat, dairy, and processed foods are really bad. But those “foods” (and I’ll argue that meat, dairy, and processed ‘foods’ aren’t even foods at all) are not a good thing for your health anyway. But most people DO see those products as foods, so I think stuff like plant-based meats and cheeses are important to get people to go vegan. But for me, for disease maintenance, they [a lot of doctors] recommend no processed foods.

K: So you can eat rice and potatoes?

J: That’s primarily what I eat: rice, potatoes, beans, lentils, obviously vegetables and fruits.. all that good stuff. You know because you’re a vegan, but there are endless varieties of foods and cuisines that can be made with all of that.

K: Okay, that sounds good. With potatoes you can make chips!

J: Exactly, I always say, anything people eat, I can make vegan. I make potato chips myself; I just cut up the potatoes into thin slices, put some rosemary or garlic on them and put them in the microwave and that’s it…potato chips! There’s no oil on them or anything- they’re delicious and healthy. I also make french fries all the time, I bake falafel, or put it in an air fryer.

K: Falafel is very good for you.. lots of hummus.

J: And here, I can get the hummus without oil, it’s a life changer. In the states, the hummus is so bad, it’s gross, I never thought I liked it before I came here. It has so many additives you don’t even need. Here it’s fresh and warm and so good, I love it.

K: So good. I agree, in Israel, the hummus is REALLY good. As opposed to in the states…

J: I love it. I’m gonna miss that too.

K: And what were you doing for Anonymous these past couple months?

J: I was helping with Challenge 22+. So you probably know, but there are 3 specialized tracks for the Israeli Challenge- the soldiers track, the parents with kids track, and teenager track. Now they’re working on creating specialized tracks for the international challenge. So i was working on NYC, which is why I had done all the research there and I was able to send you restaurant recommendations when you were visiting Brooklyn a few weeks ago. I also did Los Angeles. I came up with a plan for them to roll out for targeting global cities. Basically, if you lived in nyc, what would you need if you wanted to go vegan? All the restaurants, all the farmers markets, all the sanctuaries that are close by, all the places you could volunteer at, the meet up groups, the facebook groups, etc.

K: That’s a great feat.

J: Very extensive… lots of research, lots of hours, but I really enjoy being able to dive into this kind of work. And also, because I’m from NJ, I have a lot of friends in New York. My older sister is there too; she’s not vegan but I’ll tell her to go to the restaurants. Now I have all these resources to tell people, oh try this out, even if they’re not vegan there are some people who are down to challenge themselves to see if they can handle eating one meal without meat [laughs]. So it was really cool… I also did stuff for their instagram and social media.

K: So you worked with Shachar?

J: She works there, but I don’t work directly with her. I know she is part of the Modern Agriculture Foundation too.

K: Yeah, she’s a good friend, she helped us so much with the Super Meat page. We worked at my apartment…. she was lying on the floor, working for so many hours with the computer and looked like she died but fell asleep! I need to show you the picture. So amazing.

J: I was gonna ask about that, it is so clear how much work has gone into the campaign. The video, on the Indiegogo is so funny, its so good! Do you have someone who is doing your marketing? or who created that script? Communication is absolutely imperative in reaching people… and the video knocks it out of the park. It’s so funny.

K: Yeah it is, I think the video got total 10 million views, and got 50 or 60 thousand shares. We worked with the #1 Israeli company in video publishing and branding. They wrote the script, they rented the camera, so it was the best.

J: It’s really good! Changing pace a little to get more scientific… So something I’m pretty curious about, how is cultured meat taken from the animals without the use of animals? What is the process of cell incubation?

K: In general, there are several ways to take the cells. You can take from a simple biopsy, and you can take cells that are already incubated in the past. The idea is to take the type of cell that has the capacity and the potential to proliferate; to divide indefinitely and then to grow into large masses, and eventually, to differentiate into the relevant cell type. For example if you want to make muscle, in biology its called progenitor. Once you take a relevant stem cell, then you differentiate it to the relevant cell type you want, like muscle or fat. You grow it on a bioreactor – think of like a petri dish– you take cells and some media, some liquid with all the ingredients the cell needs like protein, sugars, fats, and then the cell proliferates. That reactor will be a machine with a lot of liquid, the allows the cells to grow 3-Dimensional.

J: How long does it take?

K: It’s a little bit of a hard question, because your question really is ‘what is going to be the final process?’. I can’t answer right now because there are too many variables.

J: have you done it yet?


K: We stared R&D [Research & Development]. We haven’t made a prototype yet, we’re still working on it. We hope to get a big investment soon that will allow us to take the R&D forward and reach a prototype in about a year from now.

J: And I know they have already done cultured meat in London; were you able to try [the cultured meat]? Are you in contact with them?

K: I haven’t tried it but yeah! We’re in contact with all the companies.

J: And why [focus on] chicken?

K: Because of the animal advocacy movement. Chicken, along with fish, are the most abused animals, numbers wise. I mean, when you think about the numbers, it’s like, 60 billion chickens worldwide are slaughtered annually. As opposed to cows, which are 1 or 2 billion.

J: Is that because, something that I was told, is because when you eat a hamburger, even though it’s not good obviously, you’re eating less % of the animal, because chickens are such smaller animals so…

K: Yes they are smaller.

J: So you could more easily eat an entire chicken than an entire cow. And a fish too obviously.

K: Yeah, and back when we started SuperMeat, no one else had started their R&D on chickens, so we thought it was a good opportunity to start here.

J: They did the hamburger in London, right?

K: Yes. And eventually, the technology will be finalized and eventually we will do everything, yeah? Cows, pigs, chicken, fish… only now since we are at the beginning we are focusing on one animal because it is more efficient.

J: Definitely. So for people who might be grossed out thinking about eating meat from a laboratory, what do you say to those people? In my opinion, they don’t know where their meat actually comes from and what’s in it…

K: Fortunately it’s not a common reaction, most people are not grossed out. They think its a very good idea. But it brings up the most common question when people are grossed up; they say it’s not natural. So here’s the question. What is natural? Is a banana natural? It was artificially selected and has become different in so many ways from what it was many years ago. The same goes for tomatoes, and of course for meat. The meat people eat today comes from animals that have been bred and changed in very not natural ways- cages… antibiotics… I don’t need to tell you the stories. Either everything is not natural so this is no problem, because this is not natural either. Or everything is natural because we can define that everything we touch and intervene with is also natural, which applies to all of the food we eat today. I mean, everything– how corn was a lot of years ago and what it is today. Tomatoes were poison for us… so I mean, once [this meat] reaches the market, the market issue is gonna be so simple. All you need to do is show how animals are grown, and how our lab-grown process is so hygienic and sterile and clean. I think it’s going to be very fine.

J: I know this applies to chickens as well. They’re not the way they used to be, their bred and selected as plumped up and full of bad stuff and not the natural animals they used to be. The cells you’re planning to use, is there even a way to find a chicken that hasn’t been touched or modified?

K: So you can find cells from a wild chicken that hasn’t been manipulated. They exist in the wild. 

J: Is that what you’re planning to do? Or are you planning to use cells from a chicken that will taste more like what people are used to? Which is obviously chickens that are modified?

K: Actually yeah, we are open to everything. Right now, we are more focusing on reaching our scientific milestones. This is a question for more progressed level, maybe in the future we will be able to make a lot of types. But right now we are not focusing on that, these challenges haven’t come up yet.

J: So is there an R&D lab that you’re in all the time? What does your day to day look like?

K: Ok so, we started at the lab at the academy that we had at the beginning. But we are now moving to a private lab, so we are now in the process of establishing the new lab. So hopefully it’ll be ready soon.

J: Will it be in Tel Aviv?

K: We are thinking about two places. Haifa or Rehovot. I don’t know if you’ve heard the names.

J: Yeah absolutely!

K: Mostly the day to day right now, is focusing on the investments part. Because we need money in order to get the equipment etc.. Right now we are focusing on continuing everything we can with R&D and on the other hand focusing on raising money.

J: Amazing…. back-tracking a little now. So how did you come up with the idea to start SuperMeat? What was the moment it came into your head vs. the moment you actually decided to make it happen– did you wake up in the middle of the night and say ‘Oh my god, I need to go back to school to study bio to do this’? Do you remember how it evolved?

K: Yeah, I do. So as I told you, very early in activism, me and my friends, we realized that what were we doing is too little and too late. And for a lot of time we started to think, what can we do differently? What can we do that we can impact the world fast and global. Because I feel like the people who are standing on the streets delivering pamphlets, it’s not relevant or fast enough.

J: Do you think theres a place for everyone’s activism?

K: Yeah, yeah. I’m making this more extreme because I wanted to impact that kind of change. We sat down and we said ‘okay, how are we going to really start it?‘. It’s not enough to just make one more vegan; it’s nice, but how can we really start this? And when you go into this mode, you start thinking. We did deliver pamphlets to people, and it’s good, but it’s not life-changing, its not history making. We wanna stop this [animal cruelty] tomorrow. It’s not going to be stopped tomorrow with pamphlets.

J: Right, right.

K: So we had a lot of meetings, we researched and read and discussed a lot of ideas, and only when we heard about the idea of cultured meat did something click. We realized this is the really only possible solution because every other idea is trying to change people. And when you understand a little bit of the history of human kind, you realize it is a very very long process; even if you can succeed, and it’s not promised you can succeed at this process; it’s very long and arduous. In cultured meat, if we are able to work together with the meat companies, because the farmers will be against us no matter what since it’ll be a fight because raising animals is their business. But meat companies… they don’t care who gives them the raw materials- if it’s clean meat or if it’s from animal agriculture. So we said to ourselves, ‘this route has the potential to harness the support of the meat companies and become the resource for them. This has the ability to go viral and make the system change without forcing people to change. We can just switch the raw materials [from livestock to lab-grown meat]. This was the idea. And as time goes by, we see that our thoughts were logical because today many meat companies are interested in this.

J: Have you talked to any of them?

K: Yes, I cannot say names. But in this investment round, one or two meat companies are going to be part of the investment in SuperMeat.

J: That’s incredible.

K; Yeah, yeah, for us, it is strategic they be with us. I can quote one of the owners who told us “Once this technology is available, I’m closing all slaughter houses and using only this meat as the raw material.”

J: Wow.


K: So together, we think that we can make a global change without asking people to change. So this is our thought that led us to join this field. And as time goes by, it looks more promising. More money comes in, more people are joining, more meat companies are showing their interest.

J: How has the Israeli vegan movement within the last 5 years, with Gary Yourofsky’s speech being translated into Hebrew… how has that impacted what you’re doing here?

K: It very much helps. Everytime we meet with meat companies or investors, they are all aware of the problem.

J: In Israel you mean?

K: Yeah, in Israel. Because of all of the incredible activity that has been done, in the last few years, which I haven’t even been a part of. As I said, I’m only in the cultured meat field… I’m not doing any advocacy activities for animal rights anymore, because I’m 24/7 on clean meat. But increasing awareness on such a scale, made a lot of people, even not vegan, gain awareness. Because most of the population is still not vegan, and they’re not going to be vegan, but the activity made them more aware. Most people… they care about animals! They just don’t want to give up their meat, what they view as their wealth, their enjoyment of life. I totally understand because I was a big meat-eater before I became vegan. I ate meat 3 times a day everyday.

J: That’s an American thing, that’s what we do!

K: Yes I was like an American in my meat-eating habits [laughs]. So it was very hard for me also to become vegan. So I understand. Most of the time people care for animals but they don’t want to give up meat. For a lot of people, giving up meat is like giving up sex. It is that magnitude. So, this makes people subconsciously get creative with their dissonance, so when they hear the idea of clean meat, many of them which are not sympathizing with vegans, they are very supportive of us, of clean meat. So actually a lot of celebrities in Israel got filmed for our campaign and a lot of investors when they heard about us, they knew about all the implications of the meat industry and the health and the animals and the environment. This is something celebrities, investors, and people who volunteered in the crowd-funding campaign wanted to be part of, as opposed to the vegan movement… although the vegan movement’s accelerated activity is what really helped us get here. So it really helped us.

J: That’s awesome. Something else I was very interested in that I read about on the website… there was a little bit of talk about accessibility, so I’m curious. Although this is in the future, of course, are there ideas or a roll out plan for how to get meat or the technology that will allow people to produce their own meat, to places with scarcity of food? The website talked about a meat cultivation machine. It reminded me of the way people bring water filters to countries that don’t have access to clean water. Is there an idea of how you would get these meat cultivation machines to places like that? What would the business plan be, how would you continue making money when people are able to grow their own meat themselves?

K: So I have a few things to say. First of all, we are not working anymore with the idea that you are talking about- the machine for home. We now have a new technology that we are working on, and this is why we have also changed our R&D lab. The technology we are now working on is more promising and we believe with this, we can reach the market faster and in a better way. So this is the first thing. Second, regarding our feeding the people who don’t have food, it’s important for me to clarify this point. Today, the reason that there are hungry people around the world, is very complex. The economy is not equal all around the world- it’s achievements and the way they divide the resources are different, and cultured meat will not solve this problem. The problem it CAN solve regarding the people who are hungry, is in the future. As time goes by, our resources are being vanished, exploited, and eliminated. With cultured meat, we will be able to produce meat more efficiently: it will take 99% less land, 99% less water, etc. etc. It will allow people not to starve and to have meat all around the world, so it’s not relevant really for people who are poor or hungry right now, because they can also buy meat today very cheaply. So I’m not gonna act like clean meat is going to solve this problem of world hunger due to a lack of resources and use of earth.

J: What about the fact that most of our grains are given to cattle?

K: Yeah yeah! This will solve that problem and allow us more space, more water, more plants, but again, if you are poor in a third world country, clean meat won’t solve your problem tomorrow. These problems need to be solved in a humanitarian way using an economic model that is relevant and just.

J: So who do you think it’s going to have to be, either the government or another company, in regards to stepping up and redistributing these resources? Obviously SuperMeat can’t do everything, it’s not like a focus of creating clean meat is a small task! But someones going to have to come in and work with communities, either the government or a company, (this is what I’m thinking at least), to figure out how to use all of the resources clean meat will free up- the 99% of the grains that aren’t being fed to cattle, the water, etc.

K: I do think that, but this is just a thought, it’s just something I’m saying off the top of my head. Let us first reach our milestones before we figure out how to deliver this [laughs], but in general, i think that [thinking about this] is important because even today, even the price of meat would have been twice more expensive without the subsidies that are reducing 50% of the costs.

J: Does that exist in Israel?

K: Yes, in israel.

J: Because I know subsidies are a big thing in the states.

K: Yes, yes. So eventually it’s a question of if the world will unite to stop the threat of global warming, the exploitation of the resources and stop animal slaughter. It’s really a question of if the governments will keep subsidizing…

J: Do you think it will be top-down, like the ‘big’ people make these decisions and the ‘little’ people follow? Or do you think it has to be bottom up?

k: Yes I know what you’re saying but I don’t know how to answer this question, it’s too complicated.

J: …Or do you think it has to be everyone making the change? Where does the pressure have to be put?

K: In general or in cultured meat?

J: In cultured meat.

K: Right now, in cultured meat, the people who are influencing are the people at the top because this field, in order to move forward, needs funds. Only when you get funding can you move forward. So we actually started because of the people at the bottom because we had crowd-funding support and awareness, but right now…

J: Now you’re relying on them- the people at the top- for the funds.

K: Yes, and then we will be able to move forward with the milestones and processes. Once we reach the market, we again rely on the bottom – the people.

J: And the demand is there! People want this.

K: Yes the demand is there! We get approached everyday by people from countries all around the world- Poland, Australia… they say “we want to import your cultured meat and sell it everyday!”

J: [laughs] What do you say? We’ll get back to you in a few years?

K: Yeah! I say, “we’re just in the R&D right now”. We’ve got approaches from meat companies on almost every continent on the world who want to collaborate and start selling this product.

J: What about the health aspects- the website says cultured meat will be a lot healthier than regular meat. I’m assuming because of the antibiotics?

K: Yes, first of all the antibiotics. Second, [with cultured meat] you control everything in the meat. Today, animals… they feed them with lot of disgusting stuff! They put a lot of arsenic and other growth hormones into them… in our process, everything is going to be controlled, and it’s going to be sterile and clean. Today there is salmonella and lots of drugs used because of the poor hygiene conditions that animals raised and slaughtered for food live in. With cultured meat, it’s going to be much more healthy. We can also control how much feed is going to be in them- it can 0% or 90%- anything we want.

J: Pretty amazing. This is so huge… it’s the future, and you’re at the front of it! I wanna talk to you about the website as well. I studied film which is really communication and storytelling, so I acknowledge the importance of this when communicating with viewers. I love that on the website, the landing page says ‘Click to end the war’ with two options: ‘I think meat is delicious’ and ‘Stop animal suffering’. This is a brilliant way to target people. You have at the very least, 2 different kinds of people, people who are eating meat and not eating meat. Have you seen an equal amount of interest by both meat-eaters and vegans/vegetarians alike or is there a big difference in the numbers?

K: Yes, I think we’ve got interest in both sides. I don’t have a quote- or verified data- but i think our crowdfunding campaign was about 50% vegans or vegetarians and 50% meat-eaters.

J: How often can a company say that?!

K: This IS verified data, though, as for contributions to the crowd-funding campaign, it was 40% from Israel, 40% from the USA, and 20% from all around the world.

J: Incredible. Israel is such a small country so amazing that the support equaled that of the USA. Makes sense since it is the most vegan country in the world right now.

K: And we got a lot of support from the animal rights community, and Freelee the banana girl she made a video for us and helped with a lot of the funding. Her video reached a lot of viewers who donated to us, and a lot of pages for animal rights pages and organizations from all over the world published our crowdfunding campaign.

J: There was an article that came out today that you guys were mentioned in, on One Green Planet. Bruce Friedrich shared it and it talked about the importance of backing a company like SuperMeat. I read it literally right before I came here and I thought it was so funny and fitting. So what is your favorite part of the work that you do? Or is it the bigger mission that keeps you going?

K: Yeah, its the bigger mission. The fact that we can make a global change, this is what drives us in the morning to work for what we do. It’s not something specific because it really is such hard work.

J: So its almost like you feel called to this because you believe in its importance. You said you had to start the business for this to happen, but it seems to me like you didn’t really want to start a business?

K: Yeah it wasn’t our mission. Our mission was to found the NGO and to promote this field for the whole world. But this is the start-up world and it really is much more efficient because money is number 1 catalyst in the field of cultured meat. It’s what holds the strongest weight in this field. It wasn’t our life’s mission to start a business. I was a finance manager in the high-tech industry with a good job before that. But as you said, the bigger picture is what drives us. We wanted to make a change. I have so many English mistakes.

J: No your English is amazing! If you asked me to speak Hebrew.. it just wouldn’t happen! [laughs] Do you have any heroes or role models or people who you look up to? people whose work or way of living really inspires you?

K: Not anyone in particular who comes to my mind… but I really appreciate and admire everyone that is vegan and that is active for animal rights. I don’t like to look at it as heroes and role models… anyone that donates their time and money for animals… we are like one big family, and everyone does their part.

J: You were saying too you’re not part of vegan activism right now because you’re involved in cultured meat 100$ of the time, but I consider what you’re doing activism in it’s own right.

K: I just want to put the most effort in… and be most efficient in promoting cultured meat. And to me its more efficient for animal rights in the bigger picture than doing vegan advocacy. In the bigger picture of animal rights — you have the vegan movement and cultured meat movement. But both of them promote and want to stop animal suffering.

J: You obviously found a very effective route of activism that works for you… so what would you say to people who don’t feel like the typical route of activism isn’t right for them, but they still care and want to do something?

K: Everyone has an ability and willingness to promote their beliefs….even at the very least, talking to a friend, or tagging in a post, everything happens. In general, I think there are more effective activities than others, that have the potential to cause great change. But if you can come up with something that has the potential to reach all people, then you can maximize your time and abilities. You need to think how you can go global and reach people in all the way in China, in Argentina, in Spain. Can it go viral? Can it go global? If you’re doing action for your local community- that’s good. But there are 7 billion people, what is the relevance if only 1,000 people are gonna hear about it? This is a model that you must examine and think about when you do action. How can you can maximize your impact? Think always about the bigger picture and how you can make a global change. This is my message… and it comes from my years of experience in animal activism. A lot of people don’t think innovatively, they just like to join the existing paradigms and follow the regular and consistent norms… “okay so I’ll join an organization, I’ll give out some pamphlets.” It’s not something I like to encourage. I like to encourage people to say “What is the problem? What causes the problem? Can we solve it? If yes, how?”

J: Finding solutions.

K: “If we can’t solve the problem, okay. What can we do to minimize the problems?” I asked myself if I believed we can make the vegan world, and said no. So I said, “okay, what can we do?” And thats a lot of thinking that then led to SuperMeat. But if someone says, “Yes, I believe we can make a vegan world” then ask yourself “Okay, how? What does it require? How do you intend to veganize the 7 billion people on the planet from different cultures and communities? How do you make an action that will impact a lot of people and make more awareness and more activism?” People need to think and be creative. I don’t know the answer, but I know this is a must. I’m promoting [critical thinking, which is] the most efficient way.

J: Do you think it’s an inherent drive, or that most people feel like they want to fix the problems of the world? Because this is a specific kind of thought process, if you think to yourself, ‘what is wrong and how can i help?’ Do you think most people are in that mindset or is that a vegan mindset, of wanting to fix the world’s problems?

K: Yeah thats a good question, because you can say that a lot of people become vegan and then think about it, or maybe people think about it and then become vegan and vegan is one of their derivatives. It’s a good question! I don’t know.

J: Okay I have two more questions. Hope for the future? And then any books or documentaries or speeches or anything thats inspired you that’d you’d recommend to people who are interested in learning more or getting involved in this space?

K: I see a very dark future [laughs]. It’s not my opinion, it’s just what all the scientists say. For humans, for the animals, and for the environment. My hope is that clean meat can become a commercially viable and available product. I really hope and believe that it can truly abolish the current industry and replace it. If that will happen we might have a chance… and if the whole world becomes vegan we might have a chance [laughs] but I don’t see it happening in the coming 1000 years. Regarding specific books or documentaries.. I don’t have a specific one.. I really like Earthlings, and Cowspiracy was very good also.

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Gifts from Others re: Sadness

When things hurt for a minute, that scared me. What I probably mean is it saddened me, and that sadness scared me.

I’m not sure why I’ve, in the past, been fearful of less than positive emotions.

I definitely know a few reasons, but I’m not going to be held back by those anymore. What held me back is not the point of this post.

It’s been a little bit of feeling feelings I don’t love. I hesitantly reached out to someone whose brought nothing but subtle joy and sweet sounds into my life for the past few years. Seemingly insignificant, the energy between us is anything but.

Though at very different places in our lives, we always have a way to connect. Turns out he is dealing with his own stuff right now, as I am. His are more intense, more pronounced, it seems, so I feel funny comparing my situation to his. But I feel lucky to hear his thoughts and perspective- usually I can only guess from the music he sends me. Today he said it really eloquently:

“Its wild how much it shakes you when someone breaks up with you even when its not a very serious thing”

He got me exactly. Things weren’t serious enough to think twice about, and even more than that- they certainly weren’t worth being upset over. That’s why I was all the more upset with myself- why was this worthless sadness impacting me?

“But being sad definitely isn’t a bad thing, I think you should embrace it”

I asked him why.

“I mean it’s just not good to ignore emotions I don’t think. They have a reason, and if you can kinda follow it down it’ll help you get to know yourself”

He didn’t pretend to know everything or be an expert. He didn’t try to fix me, or save me. I laughed when he qualified this with he isn’t as good as he sounds at taking his own advice…. but it wasn’t about that. It wasn’t just that, over the past few years, he’s given me the space to feel what I feel with either his music or his words.

His perspective was so refreshing. Though subtle words and thoughts, they were a dramatic wake up for me- it is long past time to unlearn the ideas that sadness or anything less than positive is something to be avoided.

I want to try to feel what I’m feeling. It’s so natural, it’s so common sense. There is something to be learned from everything- including sadness. Perhaps sadness even more than joy.

It’s time I stop running from sadness, from fear, from disappointment. And feel it instead.

Feel it so I can grow. Feel it so I can know myself.

This isn’t the first time he illuminated a

truth for me. Just meeting him was the biggest wake-up call that there are really incredible people all over that I can connect with. I had never met someone whose energy was so new… so beautiful.. so different… so unlike anyone I had ever met… but who I felt so connected with.

I always say the people who change my life are those that I’ve met or have known for only a few days. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay in touch with them; to me, meaning, the lessons from them are not yet done with.

I met him when I was distraught over someone who hurt my heart so much. I was traveling, and heart-broken. Having an amazing experience but distracted by the pain and rejection I felt. Spending time with him was easy, simple, and a breath of fresh air. He made me realize that there would always be others, other amazing people, that I could and would connect with. That connecting with people is in my very nature.

Over two years later he still makes me realize things that are seemingly simple but hidden for me, buried by past experiences and un-healed wounds.

It’s not about him- it’s about the real gifts of human connection, of warmth, support, kindness, and care that the people we’ve shared energy with give to us when we need it most. I guess I am caught up on how the universe just knows to give me exactly what I need when I need it.

A reminder.

It’s okay to feel what you feel. It’s okay to be sad. Look for the lessons. Look for the people who are by your side.

I don’t have to fear what I’m feeling, I have the ability to trudge through. I also have people around me who are okay with me trying to feel what I feel. Without judgement. Without accusing me of being broken, running for the hills, or feeling like it is their job to save me. Sometimes I’m too exhausted to reach out to these people, but I never regret it when I do. I have to remember, even when I’m exhausted, to reach out. How nice it feels to have a warm hand on your shoulder, or kind words on FaceTime. How bad it would be to miss a gift for fear of reaching out…

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PBNHC: Part 1 Reflections

It’s been an amazing, inspiring, and exhausting first two days volunteering at the International Plant-based Nutrition Healthcare Conference 2017. It’s hard for me to process how lucky I feel to be here. I often feel lucky, and grateful, for the knowledge I’ve gained through both luck and circumstance, and extensive research. But being here among those open to the power of plant-based nutrition, from all around the world…. hearing and speaking to those that I am hearing and speaking to… I am just so privileged. I really am. It is uplifting and affirming and it feels good. 

I remember when I looked outside my film major and took COMM 443: Communicating Health & Medical Issues. I loved the class, but it didn’t feel good. I cried as the class asked me to start to think more deeply about the many systems in place that prohibit, prevent, and limit us from getting top notch and preventative HEALTH care. I went down a rabbit hole; I was seeing, hearing, reading, researching, reading both the lines and the space between them, and investigating anything I could get my hands on. I remember leaving class after learning about Dollars for Docs- a website that allows you to look up doctors and see how much, on top of their salary, they were being paid (usually by pharmaceutical companies)- and I was distraught. I was energy drained, my head hurt, and upset. I laid down on the grass between the music school and Norris Theatre, my favorite spot on campus, and called a friend of mine. I told her how absolutely frozen and powerless I felt. How I realized how deep “it really it is”. How I knew it was even deeper than I realized at the moment I realized it was deeper than I had realized (ha- imagine my overwhelming confusion!). It wasn’t an issue with one doctor or one hospital or one drug or one company. It was decades of social norms and behaviors and expectations and society and industries and media and profit and insurance and so much more I would never even claim to understand, that was keeping those of us sick trapped inside a system of sick care. She listened to me and then stopped me; I remember her saying, “Jessie, why are you so upset? You’re free.* You figured it out. You know how to take care of yourself. You’re not trapped in this system anymore.” I think she assumed I was upset thinking about my past experiences- how long it had taken for me to get diagnosed, the way I had been treated, etc.

*I can largely categorize my life as a complex search for freedom in everything I do. This is positive and negative- or maybe it’s just neutral. I haven’t decided. I do know, whatever it may be, it is a huge part of who I am.

But it wasn’t about me. I knew she was right about most of what she said; I did know. I was not as trapped in the system as I once had been anymore. But she didn’t get everything right. I was not free. Because you cannot be free when others aren’t.

This wasn’t about me. This was about everyone else. I had the knowledge but so many people didn’t. So many of my friends with Crohn’s Disease; so many people with preventable and reversible conditions; so many people and communities with conditions that could be largely helped by lifestyle change; they didn’t know. So many people I knew who looked for the answers in the wrong places and it wasn’t their fault: it’s what they were taught. Just like it’s not one doctor’s fault, as in one doctor is not evil for not telling their patient about nutrition, it is also not one patient’s fault. Though many of these diseases are caused by lifestyle, it is not an individual’s fault they don’t know the best way to take care of themselves when they are being fed deliberately confusing messages by industries everywhere (I personally think WALL*E offers the best interpretation of this that I’ve seen to date; check it out if you haven’t seen it, it is Pixar MAGIC!).

I have a serious chronic disease and to live the quality of life I am determined to live, I don’t have the ability to have off days in caring for my health. This is why I’m so serious about taking care of myself, and so grateful to be here. But although I am grateful, it’s not enough. It doesn’t stop here. It starts here. I am here because other people need to know. I am here because this information needs to be out there. I can’t be content with knowing and hearing these experts present their clinical research. I can’t be happy with the science knowing I’m doing the right things to preserve my entire well being. Now I need to make sure others know.

I am here witnessing the cutting edge of medicine. I am here seeing and hearing stories of living healthier and better using plant-based nutrition. I am here as a story myself. Medication may preserve life, but it won’t always keep the quality of it.

I am here learning that Alzheimers and heart medication is not a normal part of aging. I am here learning that aging can be vibrant. I want this information out there, and I want people, like my dad, like my grandma, to open their eyes to it.

Even though I’ve heard a lot of these people speak before and am very familiar with almost all of their practices and their work, I am just as excited to be here as I was last year. One of the conference organizers was apologizing for how chaotic the first day was and how great of a job we did; I told her she didn’t need to talk me up or encourage me- I’m ME- I’m literally exploding with excitement and joy to be here. Every time I meet someone new and connect with them about their passion and what they are doing, it’s like a shot of adrenaline. Sitting at lunch, I heard two people talking about how they were so amazed at one doctor’s story about a patient who got off their medication. They were saying how they wanted to spread the message to Austin, Texas. How they couldn’t believe people don’t know about this. It made me remember when I found out how amazing and life-saving plant-based nutrition can be. How cool it is to see other people have their own a-ha moments. And it’s kind of funny, I feel as if I’m in Jonestown and we’re in a cult or something. But honestly, healthy food is our best kept secret. It has been since Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine” a zillion years ago. It makes me smile to see people have these revelations- because for as many doctors are here that are well versed in plant-based nutrition, there are fresh doctors being introduced to a component to their practice that will change theirs and their patients’ lives forever.

This is not an understatement. Although Alzheimers cannot be reversed with plant-based nutrition, and of course there are certain late-stage illnesses that also cannot as well, it can be prevented. And there are so many chronic diseases that can be prevented, reversed, and stopped. Medicine and biotechnology may have hit the nail on the head for stopping infectious diseases, but American medicine should not be proud of the way they manage those sick with chronic diseases. People in America are not dying from infectious diseases anymore, they are dying while living with chronic diseases. Lifestyle medicine is the way to care for people with chronic diseases and prevent them before they even happen.

There are so many opportunities for me to grasp here. There are so many more people to talk to; I am in the process of trying to brainstorm how to find out who the LA doctors are, and who the gastroenterologists are. I have exchanged so many cards. So many people have agreed to let me interview them, some have even asked to interview me. There are so many people I want to support and learn from, and there are others my age who I hope to have on my side as my future colleagues.

My roommate is an ENT surgeon who practices in Detroit. I didn’t meet her the first day, but I finally did today. She is AMAZING. She is so sweet; she is so smart; she is so kind. I think we were best friends in another life. I could sit in the room and talk to her all day. We had dinner together tonight and talked the entire time. She is awesome. We were strategizing together about how to get plant-based nutrition higher up in hospitals- something we both need to think about right now (her being a doctor who is passionate about this and me trying to figure out what degree to go back to school for and how to chart the path that will allow me to make this happen). I truly hope to stay in touch with her.

Dr. Scott Stoll, who heads up the Plantrician Project, spoke last night about behavior change in people. He said for behavior change to happen, “Prospect Loss” cannot be overlooked. People view gains and losses differently. The gain has to be twice as much as the loss for people to consider even making that change. People ask, how much of myself do I have to leave in the past? Some people need info; but most people need more than information. We need to help them overcome the uncertainty that prevents them from making the change. And when you want to help or guide people towards behavior change, you have to remember they bring with them who they are. Each person is their genetics and epigenetic, their habits, the food they eat, their belief systems about what is possible, their belief systems about the past and the future. Each person is the sum total of their relationships. The pressures they feel from life. Everyone is the totality of their past. This is interesting in many aspects of my life.

We are the totality of our past but we also need to let people see that we can be the totality of our future too. That those of us can have a future beyond what is currently giving us stress and troubles right in front of us.

I’ve been able to spend time with some of the volunteers I became close with last year. They are amazing. There are new volunteers who are also incredible. We are a girl squad of super fierce ladies who are keeping things running smoothly. I’m proud to be working with them.

There are so many opportunities here for collaboration and growth and spreading a message of compassion and health. I haven’t stopped going- you know that feeling when you keep going and going and going and going and you feel like you’re fine and you won’t have to stop but then you realize it’s just adrenaline and all of a sudden your eyes are glazed over and you start to feel sick? That was me today. I totally wiped myself out. I’ve been so excited and haven’t stopped listening, learning, taking notes, meeting people, and giving all of myself to everyone that I meet, that I didn’t even realize how exhausted I was. I realized when I meet people I don’t guard myself or put up boundaries: I give them all of my energy and enthusiasm. It’s awesome and allows me to connect well with people but I end up exhausted. Most of the time it’s too little to notice- you meet a new person once every few days if that. But at a conference with 900 people passionate about what I care about, it happens a lot (not enough though- I am freaking out that I can’t meet all of these amazing people here). I ended up going up to my room and napping and feeling a lot better when I woke up. I’m going to take it easy for the next few days because I need to be at my best!

I’ve heard some amazing presentations, and had even better conversations with people. I’m so inspired by everyone here. Seriously- I could write 10 page essays about each person here and it truly would not be enough. The work that each person is doing to contribute to their own community, is inspirational at the very least (And I will talk more in depth about each of them when I write up some interviews!!). But one person whose impact has really stuck with me for the past few days is T. Colin Campbell, PhD. It’s funny- he is such a celebrity. He is 83 years old and he can’t walk anywhere without being stopped by people. You know where he is in a sea of 900+ people because he has a following! Last year, I didn’t get it. Yes the guy is amazing- he has done amazing things for plant-based nutrition. He wrote The China Study. He dedicated his life to this message. But look at all these other doctors! Look at what everyone is doing. It only took a few minutes of filming an interview for one of the other volunteers with him and listening to him speak for it to click: it was the choice of this one person that is the reason we are all here today. And not just the reason that we are all sitting in this room, but the reason that I am here. The reason that I have a quality of life that I want to live. I still remember being sick and saying to my sister “This is not a life.” He is the reason that a lot of these people themselves are alive today, a lot of their patients, a lot of their family members. Almost every single person here has at least one personal story. It was his choice to go against the crowd, to go against what he believed to be true. A lot of times in research they talk about the bias of reputation. If you’ve spent your whole life investigating caramel candles as the best kind of candles for relaxation, your research will likely be skewed towards continuing to find caramel candles as the best scent for relaxation even if lavender is truly better. And it could be less because caramel is paying you- it’s reputation that often gets in the way. But Campbell defied this- he grew up on a farm. He wanted to do a study that would prove that meat and dairy were necessary and beneficial for people. But that’s not what he found. And he told the truth. He made a choice to dedicate his life to this. He was ridiculed and disregarded. He was slandered. He made a choice. He made a choice and he changed everything. I’m not sure if I am making clear how amazing this was for me. I was sitting in front of the man who was responsible for a change I truly believe in. And just as importantly,  it made me realize how immeasurably powerful we all are. We all have the power to stand up for the truth- to investigate it and call people on it till the day we die.

I know what I choose.

Excited for the last two days of the conference.

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PBNHC 2016: A Year Later, Reflections in Pictures

Getting to be in a room with 800 medical professionals from around the world all dedicated to learning from the experts about the power of plant-based nutrition in their practices was beyond inspiring. This year, I’ll be volunteering, instead of doing photography. I’m so excited to learn from this year’s amazing presenters and for all of the amazing people I’m going to get to meet.

 

  

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Morning Blues & Tragedy Thoughts

While the extrovert in me loves night to have conversations with people, mornings are my favorite time of the day to be alone. There is something magical about being by yourself in the morning. I could seek peace all day, but nothing will compare to the peace that is so readily available if you wake up early enough to find it. When I lived in New Jersey, I used to wake up early and watch the sun come up from my porch. The view was just trees, but the trees made the air fresh and the birds chirped and I basked in my loneliness. I don’t know if I was happy or sad. I think I was content. Maybe the best way to describe it is “beautiful cool morning blues that give me a warm feeling”. I know, I know, I have such a way with words. But the coolness outside made me feel warm, though I think I mistook the warmness for feeling cold.

Before each first day of high school, my friend Anka and I would go to the high school bleachers and watch the sun come up over the football field. I loved watching the sky go from dark black or blue as it got lighter and lighter. I always wished the transition took longer, though, that time slowed down. Each year different people came- a boyfriend of mine, my twin sister, or sometimes it was just us. We watched the sun come up on a new year. I desperately wanted those sunrises to provide me with peace, but if I’m honest, they usually just made me nostalgic and upset about time passing. Not only did the change from darkness to light happen so fast, but if I was there, it meant it was already September, the start of my favorite 3 month run of the year that would be over before I realize it had begun. September, October, November: I loved going back to school, having a new schedule, meeting new people. I loved Mahwah Day, football and soccer games, homecoming, my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, crisp cool fall air, and the many concerts that branded those months concert season. Everything was pumpkin spice and the weather made me feel alive. I often wonder how, despite loving living in LA, I can live in a place that doesn’t have a traditional fall season. The fall was never just a backdrop for memories or moments, the fall was the star of it all.

I love CA mornings because they remind me of fall, no matter what time of the year it is. The cool air and the birds wake me up. This is different than a traditional fall feeling from New Jersey, since my room in Mahwah never had a door leading to outside. This is my second room to have a plaster door I can leave wide open at night, with the gated screen door locked. I’m both lucky and grateful for this. So I leave the door and my windows open every night, because going to sleep and waking up in the mornings with the cool air gives me that Fall feeling, and that feeling moves the blood in my veins. It gives me life.

My mornings still mean everything to me. I can feel the city asleep around me. Even for a few hours, time is mine. There is an illusion that time slows down in the morning for me, but it moves just as fast. Before I know it, it’s time to think about getting on my mat, making tea, and setting an intention. It’s not that I don’t love my morning routine, I do, I just wish it didn’t go so quickly every morning. I don’t think I can get up much earlier than 5:15 AM. I just enjoy this feeling when peace is mine and I’m alone. I think one day I might like experiencing this feeling with another person. I can see it happening.

The mornings are peaceful because the air is. Maybe it’s a false sense of security though, a false sense of peace, a false sense of life. I imagine the morning of 9/11 felt just the same. The morning of the earthquake in Mexico or the hurricane in Puerto Rico also must have felt serene and calm and quiet, ‘before the storm’, at least at some moment.

Mornings clearly have long-winded associations for me. They make me think of time passing, of fall, of memories, of peace, of loneliness. There is comfort in mornings. They make me think of peace. But I can’t stop thinking about what’s going on in the world, and how quickly, and violently, that peace can be ripped away. Once tragedies, disasters like the ones that have recently occurred, happen, I can only imagine how near impossible, really how long it takes, to find peace again.

We must be part of the collective that helps those in Mexico, in Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean, in Florida, find peace. My heart feels the smallest and uncomparable twinge of pain for those and those who love them in the affected cities today. Donate. Research. Find out what you can do. How you can help.  Show your shared humanity. Act on your compassion. Take steps to un-numb yourself. We’ve been so desensitized to tragedy around us. And it hurts to feel the pain of the world. But become aware. Feel hurt. It’s okay. You will survive.

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Rosh Hashana Thoughts

“The Jewish New year has some partying to it, but, really, this time of newness is about hard, internal, personal work. We spend most of Tishrei seeking perspective on our past actions, touching in with morality, and promising to be the best possible versions of ourselves, moving forward. We perform Teshuvah, a hard word to explain, but which means something like “returning to self, letting go, forgiving, owning past actions.”

To do Tishrei right means entering this month from a place of compassion—for self and for all those in our communities. It means keeping in mind and in heart the ultimate Divine Oneness of the world. During this month, we also set ourselves the task of leaving behind old patterns. Tishrei is here to teach us that we can change. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy, this business of change; we humans are fallible beings. We make mistakes. This is why Jews start the New Year with purification and forgiveness that flows into letting go. From this spiritually “clean” place, we move on.”

This life is unreal.

Never before have I felt that I am so blessed (let alone used the word blessed). I am so blessed. I am so blessed.

How many times can I say it till I believe this is really the reality I’m living in?

I’ve met and deepened friendships with some of the most amazing people in the world this year (I have chills just thinking about them). In the past year, I lived with two beautiful people who became close friends of mine. I have gotten closer with people who amaze me and who matter to me, friendships who bring so much warmth and joy into my life, friendships that make me a better person. This summer, I had the opportunity to solidify my foundational and important relationships with those closest to me in New Jersey. This past year, my life got exponentially more meaningful with the meeting of a handful of people. I can’t even fathom that I could live my life not knowing them, now that I know them. Their friendships would be enough to fill me up forever.

I am surrounding myself with positive people who care about me, want the best for me, and support me. I have beautiful friends who I want to rekindle friendships with who are living closer to me. Others who have reached out to me; or come into my life by chance; these connections are all so important to me. The many people I met at the Hostel and in Israel who left a lasting imprint on me. And of course those who I have met throughout my journeys over the past several years who continue to impact me years later. And with all of this comes balance. I have moved away from some people who were in my life, people who may have been fun on the surface but were doing damage to my spirit.

I don’t think this is a coincidence. Attracting good-energy friendships is intentional. I have long sought to have quality people in my life. I believe I must be becoming a better person to bring these kinds of people into my world.

This year, I started doing Shabbat Yoga. I let myself dive into my spirituality in a deep and meaningful way that combined the things that most allow me to connect to my spirituality: yoga, music and story/wisdom/philosophy from eastern & Jewish culture. I continue to explore what this means in my life. I spent time in Poland. I spent time in Israel. I spent time on both the east and the west coast. I met some of the most amazing people and had some of the best conversations. A conversation till 5 AM in Poland has turned into consistent cross-country FaceTimes. Walking on Christmas Day in Krakow, turned into sitting on Delray Beach with our feet in the sand over Spring Break. A friend from another continent changed the way I view people with too many conversations to count. Hour long phone conversations and hanging out with a friend in LA feeling like I have a real good friend who cares about me. A conversation on a rooftop in Israel. A friend who cared for and celebrated and loved me unconditionally, boarding over at a moment’s notice. A friend who I want to travel the world with now. I have found myself surrounded with people in my life who love me for who I am. I am accepting this love. I will no longer question this love.

I am living my truth. I am not faking it and trying to convince myself that I need to do film or be in Hollywood. I was scared and I denied my truth for a long time, but I am now trying to live authentically. I’m working on a blog to help people be their best selves, to reclaim their innate compassion that desensitization from big business has tried to numb them from. I’m trying to move forward in the direction of my dreams. I am going to therapy, and I am trying to not be so hard on myself. I am trying to trust the process. I will trust the process. I am trusting the process. I am trying to be kind and gentle with myself while still desiring to be better and get better. I am practicing yoga, I am trying to keep myself open, soft, vulnerable, and loving and not just for show. I am trying to not be what I think others want me to be. I am trying to be who I want to be. I am reflecting on my therapy sessions. I am trying to learn. I am working hard to be the person I need to and want to be so I can live fully, accept and give love, and move in the direction of my dreams and my purpose.

I graduated from college. I did what I didn’t think I could do for a long time. I spent time with family in New Jersey, family who means more to me than I could put into words. Family who has proven time and time again that they are the ones who matter. Their love is unconditional. Their support gives me strength. I supported my mom in her transition to the west coast. I forgave my dad. I forgave my dad. I am working on forgiveness, acceptance, and peace.

I don’t blame everything on my past anymore. I don’t blame others for any of my situations. I accept where I am. I don’t feel like a victim. I learn from my mistakes. I am learning from everything that happened in Israel. I am grateful for the opportunities to learn and the opportunities to try to be better.

I no longer view other people’s relationships as untouchable dynamics that I could never experience or that seem too perfect and leave me speechless. I see myself having a good relationship. I visualize myself accepting love. I visualize myself having love for someone.

I no longer say I’m not a good friend. I no longer put myself down because that is not the energy I want to put out into the world. I will continue to show up for my friends and I will keep learning and trying to be a good friend. I am a good friend. I have deep compassion and care for those who matter to me.

I have so much work to do. I have so many areas I can improve on and in. But I finally see that I don’t need to fix myself in order to be loved. I finally see I am deserving of love and good things the way I am. I accept myself. I don’t love everything about me, but I accept myself.

I accept the blessings that God has in store for me this year. I accept the challenges and the hard work that must be done to get to where I need to go. I accept the confusion and the nervousness and the anxiety as I try to figure out how best to move forward.

I am excited to help more people. I am excited to work on being vulnerable and staying soft. I am excited to work on learning more. I am excited to go deeper.

I will work on being unapologetically who I am. I will work on not acting and performing who I am, but just being me. The right people will love me. The right people will accept me. I don’t need to pretend to not think as much as I do. I don’t need to act cool. I don’t need to present myself in a certain way to impress people. I just need to be me.

I have been hurt deeply in the past year by friends and family, and I know that I have hurt friends and family deeply. I have acted quickly and without too much thought. I have taken things personally; though I know that nothing in this world can be taken personally. I have not fought for friendships. I have experienced the pain of seeing friendships I didn’t fight for dissipate. I have not given myself enough time to meditate, to do yoga. I have not given myself enough time to take care of myself. I have wasted time. I have not communicated when I should have. I have not honored my truth and my agency when I should have and spoken my mind. I have held resentment for those who do not deserve it. I have struggled with letting go. I have spoken badly to myself and I have torn myself down. I have diminished my self-confidence. Too many times, I have counted myself out before I even tried. It is not easy to do so, but I accept this. I accept this is as a part of me because I can’t acknowledge my ‘light’ side without acknowledging my ‘shadow’ side. Both sides make me who I am. I am okay. I’m a work in progress. It’s just life. I can try to be better but I don’t need to take it so seriously. I let go of this. I forgive myself. I will try to be better at these things. It won’t be easy but I will try.

I am finally starting to implement what I learned in yoga teacher training. I am still reflecting on that experience. I am still reflecting on Poland. I haven’t even begun to reflect on Israel. I can’t even process college yet. I recognize my mistakes and my selfish ways in trying to experience things without going all in. I acknowledge my walls, my masks, and my armor. I take them off. I am ready to live easier. It is easier, it is a relief, to just be. It’s all I know how to be. I’m done pretending.

“What will you start today to make this New Year meaningful? Pick something, commit to it, and start working! What if we all did?”

“This month of Tishrei reminds us we can change. Be honest, live authentically, let go.”

I will work on visualizing at night and meditating in the morning. Visualizing what I want, what I desire. Meditating on breath, meditating on peace.

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Banana Date Gelato

Leggenda, Golda, Anita, Arte, pretty much anywhere

This gelato is unbelievable and made fresh at (I’m pretty sure) all of the locations it is found. Also, there are tons of vegan flavors at these places, even though none of them are 100% vegan. Maybe it’s because Israel in general is so vegan friendly and vegan forward, but I also think it’s because for the people who keep kosher, they can’t have ice cream right after a meat-based meal. Regardless, there are lots of options- Lotus and Soy Caramel Cookies were my favorite- so creamy and delicious, and made with Israel’s famous Lotus crackers (I stopped eating those once I realized that even though the ice cream wasn’t made with oil, the cookies had a little bit of oil in them)- fruit based flavors and others like dark chocolate, pistachio, etc. 

Pretty much anywhere you are in Israel, if you want some good vegan gelato, you can find it! And if you’re like me, try the banana date flavor 🙂 

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Paletas

Can be found almost anywhere in Israel

Delicious, few ingredients, and only between 8 and 12 shek. Flavors like mexican chocolate, banana date, and peanut butter banana stood out to me as being ‘Jessie’ flavors 🙂 But there are lots of fruity ones for everyone else 😉

*(Click on the pic to see the whole sign)

 

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Veggie Heaven

473 Cedar Ln, Teaneck NJ 07666 and 631 Valley Rd, Montclair NJ 07043

 Veggie Heaven is probably the best vegan restaurant to grace the state of New Jersey. Luckily, this is the one place I found before moving out of New Jersey, and I frequent it every time (or I should say, multiple times) I visit.

It’s not just a Chinese food. It’s 100% vegan Chinese food. And it’s also 100% vegan Chinese food with no artificial preservatives, flavorings, MSG (the additive that makes you feel really crappy and tired after you typically eat Chinese food).

When you first get there, they give you little dishes of cabbage with vinegar that is absurdly good and refreshing- though I might be the only person who is as obsessed with it as I am (everyone I’m with usually eats it but I devour it). Then, they bring out a pitcher of tea I usually get no oil steamed vegetables with brown rice and garlic sauce (since the sauce has no oil), but the other time I was able to get chow fun with no oil which was great.

Some of the waiters are so kind and nice, but some of them have serious attitudes. The food is worth it, but just be prepared.

Love this place, though, and almost all non-vegans really enjoy it too! Go, bring your friends, bring your fam!

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