Around 50 vegans and vegetarians spent Sunday afternoon munching on apples, clementines, hummus and pita. The gathering was called to “gauge the interest of the area” for a Washington chapter of Jewish Veg, said Michael Gribov, the group’s national director of member engagement.
Though Jewish Veg has been around for nearly half a century, there has never been a Washington branch. But a few months ago, Adam Gorod, a local Jewish vegan, reached out to Gribov about starting a branch in the area, which has had a steadily growing vegetarian presence.
“When you’re looking around [here], it’s clear how much interest there is in veganism and vegetarianism [and] you see how brilliantly connected [the diet] is to Judaism,” Gorod said.
According to Gribov, Washington has the largest number of vegan restaurants per capita in the United States.
“There’s a lot of demand,” he said. “This movement has really flourished over the past few years.”
It’s a huge change from the “meat and potatoes” city Washington used to be, long-time vegan David Schneider said, adding that he was a member of the group Jewish Vegans of America before it disbanded.
Having Jewish Veg “is a real game changer,” he said.
In the Washington area, some vegan restaurants in the area are also certified kosher.
Most of those interviewed for this story said they don’t keep kosher, but went vegan for health reasons and because of the Jewish value of tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, or compassion for animals. Sarah Newman, who has been vegan for five years, said having a Jewish Veg group will allow for more discussion about the Jewish values of veganism.
The number of people who turned out to the meeting, held at the GatherDC townhouse, spurred Gribov to announce that a Washington group will start meeting in October.
One person interested in the group was William Daroff, the CEO for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. His family has been vegan for eight years.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we have as many pathways to engagement in our community as we can,” he said, mentioning how the diet switch has given him and his family another way of participating in the Jewish community.
While most at the meeting were already vegan — talking about their favorite vegan restaurants, and whether they preferred hummus or guacamole — some, like Sam Levin, were among “the veg curious.”
“I want to get more involved and cut my meat consumption by 50 percent,” said Levin. “I want to eat better.” n