When I went vegetarian in 2006, and my mom became vegan later that year, I thought she was radical and extreme. Over the years I began to listen more, to hear more of what the truth was behind eggs & dairy, and I desired to make the switch. However, as a Jewtalian, I felt obliged to keep dairy in my diet. It was such a staple of both cultures, how could I not? So I spent about 18 months in in NYC living amongst a thriving vegan community, attending their events, supporting their causes, even being invited to participate in art shows & fundraisers as an ally. I went fully vegan in the Spring of 2012, and I was so grateful to already have a community laid at my feet, because of the people my mom had introduced me to, and because of all of the tolerant, patient vegans I’d gotten to know who invited me into their world before I even knew it was mine too.
There’s been a strange shift I’ve noticed over the past year, where it’s become almost common practice to shame other activists for their methods, especially if they are tolerant to non-vegans. What’s so difficult for me to wrap my head around is that veganism is about compassion and giving all living beings the equal respect that we all deserve. So instead of shutting myself off from every single Facebook group, or becoming the shaming vegan myself, I decided to do something about it. I began searching for like-minded individuals who were as passionate about activism as they were building real friendships.
Many of us in the NYC boroughs have found a home at VSPOT Organic in the East Village, where fundraisers & vegan events are hosted on a regular basis. Through the common ground of loving their food & the Cheers-like atmosphere, an all-vegan market has sprouted, a home for vegan cooking competitions has developed, and we all get amped for the parties they throw for nearly every holiday. I have found my people, and we are continuing to grow our community through events like the market, where we seek out people running the types of businesses & nonprofits that we believe in, to help give them a platform to be noticed, but also to have a reason for us all to gather in a room on a (somewhat) regular basis, and spend time with people who over time are coming to feel like family.
So if you find that you’re not loving the vegan community in your neck of the woods, plan a potluck picnic in the park, throw it up on meetup, post about it on your local Facebook vegetarian & vegan groups, or invite allies who aren’t necessarily vegan yet. Plan a veggie singles mixer at your local bar. Organize a vegan webchat through Google Hangouts or Twitter. Be a leader. I’m not an extrovert; in fact, I’m as close to an introvert as one can be without being diagnosed agoraphobic. I started by attending events and finding the one other person who looked more uncomfortable than me and talked to them. I reached out to my heroes through Facebook and Instagram and to my extreme surprise (and delight) found that many of them are regular humans who are happy to chat, and even connect in the real world!
Don’t doubt your worth, and know that you are not alone. We are all in this cause together. But we’re all attracted to different personalities; just because we’re all vegan, it doesn’t mean we’re all going to get along or like each other. That’s just human nature. What we can do is find our comfort zone, which is often a lot closer than we think if we just do a bit of footwork & get the ball rolling! You’ll be surprised how many folks will come through the woodwork once you put your desires out there!
May you always do what you are afraid to do. 😀
Shoshana Frishberg-Izzo, VLCE is the Executive Pastry Chef & Director of Operations for VPSOT Organic & VSPOT Cafe & Tapas in NYC. Additionally, she runs their vegan popup market. She is also a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy, and Fitness Coach for Beach Body. Shoshana lives in the Bronx with her boyfriend and rescued hamsters, Cagney & Rachel. Find Brooklyn. Follow Shoshana on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and VSPOT on Facebook.