Plant Powered Shabbat: Leigh Markowitz

Written by: Leigh Markowitz
April 2022

Plant Powered Shabbat: Leigh Markowitz

Plant Powered Shabbat is a OneTable series that celebrates the Jewish values of nourishing ourselves and the world around us through plant-based cooking and eating. Hear from OneTable hosts and guests how they’re bringing these values to the Shabbat table!

We sat down with OneTable guest Leigh Markowitz (she/her) to talk about her vegan journey, Shabbat practice, and delish tzimmes recipe.

Tell us a bit about you!

I am a 12-year vegan! I’m also an attorney, a law professor, and a yoga teacher. I currently teach at a clinic that focuses on adults with intellectual disabilities.

What inspired you to go vegan?

I was raised in a vegetarian household where I was always taught from a young age that we don’t kill other creatures for food. All throughout elementary and middle school, I was that kid who brought my own veg pizza to birthday parties. I loved to ask my classmates if they knew what was in their food… this did not help my popularity. In high school, I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan. The editor-in-chief of the school newspaper was the first vegan I had ever met. We talked about what had inspired them to be vegan. All the reasons I was vegetarian, were why they were vegan. I realized there was no difference in motivation, and that was that!

I was very uncertain about what I wanted to do during my life when I was in college. I thought maybe I’d do something with marketing or advertising to promote animal protection. And then, I was googling animal rights issues and I discovered certain law schools have focused on animal law. The idea of using academia and activism that pairing together was the perfect career move.

How is veganism connected to your Judaism?

I grew up in a very secular household, but I went to Jewish school from pre-K to 8th grade. I don’t believe in God or any religious aspects really of Judaism, but the community is super important to me.

When I went away to college, I found this interfaith Shabbat group that really soothed my homesickness. That connection to my culture and background was really big for me. I realized how important Judaism was to my own mental happiness.

In law school, it was the same. I would always bring a vegan dish to our Jewish law school association Shabbats. Having those little moments, even when I was so stressed, allowed me to slow down and ground in the midst of law school stress. It always made me feel like I could get through this and take a breath. It really was that breath that sustained me.

What does Shabbat mean to you?

Shabbat has an interesting connection with veganism for me. Having an entirely plant-based meal gives me a sense of safety, just as Shabbat provides me with a sense of safety. When these two are combined, it gives me an even larger elevated sense of security and calm. I don’t have to think about pain or suffering; for a moment, I can put aside all of those things. I can imagine the world as it could be.

Go-to for cooking tips and tricks?!

Anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my favorite! I especially love The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.

Leigh’s Vegan Tzimmes Recipe:

  • Slice up sweet potatoes, apples, pears, carrots, apricots, prunes
  • Pour some orange juice and sprinkle cinnamon
  • Toss all ingredients in a glass pyrex dish
  • Bake it until it is completely soft (hour to hour and a half) – I like to put foil on top for part of the time and then take it off
  • Enjoy that ooey gooey natural sweetness of fruit!