Plant Powered Shabbat: Shiriel King Abramson

Written by: Shiriel King Abramson
April 2022

Plant Powered Shabbat: Shiriel King Abramson

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!

OneTable team member Naomi Davis (they/them) sat down with OneTable Bay Area host Shiriel King Abramson (she/her) to share about her Shabbat practice and journey to plant-based living.

Tell us a bit about you!

I just finished my Masters in sustainability science and practice at Stanford University. I also work part-time for The Orchard, a young adult Jewish community affiliated with Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos. I founded a Jewish environmental action group at The Orchard. I’m a theater improviser, tap dancer, and you can find me hiking and reading books in my spare time.

What inspired you to go vegan?

I actually went vegetarian first when I was two and a half years old. I was really appalled when I realized I was eating real animals. My family used to serve chicken and fish on Shabbat, and when I learned these were actual animals, I stopped partaking.

As I grew up, I heard about the practices of the factory farm industry. I knew there was bad stuff with the dairy industry, but didn’t want to think about it because I knew it would turn me vegan. When I graduated from college and moved home with my parents during the pandemic, my parents and I were sharing the cooking responsibilities. My best friend had just gone vegan and started sending me videos from Earthling Ed, a vegan activist in the UK. Some of the videos depicted animal cruelty and I was very moved by that. That summer, I began transitioning more toward a vegan diet. It took me a few months, and now I’m “flexi-vegan.” I eat challah on Shabbat (regardless of the egg) and I’ll eat dairy or egg if there is no vegan option available, but other than that, I am vegan! It is still a process.

How is veganism connected to your Judaism?

My veganism feels very aligned with my Judaism. At the individual level, practicing veganism is one of the most impactful things I can do to repair the world in the spirit of tikkun olam.

What does Shabbat mean to you?

Shabbat for me means rest and disconnecting from the world of work and productivity. It means reconnecting with friends, family, and loved ones. It means taking time to pause. I try to minimize my screen time on Shabbat to reconnect with the physical world.

How does Shabbat relate to your plant-based values?

Shabbat, on an earthly level, is about time for pause and renewal. Especially this year! It’s a Shmita year where we are supposed to let our fields lay fallow. Plant-based values are about giving our earth time to recover from centuries of industrial animal agriculture. We have created a lot of harmful food production practices.

The same way that I’m taking a break from these harmful food production practices by moving toward veganism, on Shabbat we take a break from work culture and drive toward productivity. In essence, both practices move me toward slowing down, taking a break, and being present with what is around me.

Being vegan is about practicing kindness toward the earth and the rest of humanity by reducing my carbon and methane footprint and minimizing the resources required to produce the food that I eat. This practice is ultimately necessary for the preservation of humanity and, therefore, the Jewish people.

I think of Judaism as a motivator and container of practicing an ethical life, or a life that trends towards ethics. Veganism is an important way for me to do that since I do have the privilege of easy access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins.

Do you have a go-to vegan challah recipe?

One of my friends just sent me a maple-glazed challah recipe from The Spruce Eats that looks really interesting. You should try it with me!