Agriprocessors cannot stay out of the news. The latest report is of the
State of Iowa investigating under age employees, 57 minors to be exact
in violation of state employment laws. Iowa law has some provision
calling on employers to take special measures to be certain that all
employees are of legal age. What? No special measures to make certain
the employee is legally in the US?
I don't know what Iowa had in mind with this provision. But the basic
issue remains, these were workers who illegally entered the US and
were either provided by the company or someone else the Name, DOB, and
SSN of an American citizen in order to work. Agriprocessors
should launch a constitutional fight over the law protecting any
illegal workers, minor or otherwise. The unions want them protected
with same rights as US citizens and legal residents. I for one, do
not. These people were working here as identity thieves and resided illegally in the
US. They should just be sent home to wherever they came from. I have
little sympathy for people knowingly working illegally getting caught
and then crying foul about conditions and lack of rights. Go work in
Canada or Brazil.
If on the other hand, US citizens or legal residents under the age of
18 were employed in ways they should not have been or under conditions
inappropriate for workers then you have a different set of
As to the articles below, I am further of the opinion that Rabbis
should do Kashrus work and government employees should enforce the
laws of the land, be they state or federal. Rabbi Lerner led a team
of 25 Rabbis to Postville to tour the plant subject of the May ICE
bust. The report of his tour group can be read below. Overall, it
paints a very different picture than the media is portraying. Nevertheless, and meaning no disrespect to Rabbi Lerner and the Rabbonim he took to Iowa, their primary focus should be kashrus. Whether employees like their job or are being paid on time is not their business unless those same employees bring their claims to a beis din. Then it becomes a Rabbi matter. Otherwise, not.
To presume for a moment the thoughts of Agriprocessor's critics, it is
inconceivable except to the most perverted mind that this entire tour
group is bought and paid for, subject to bribery and arm twisting and
generally seeking the exact same outcome. To believe in such madness requires
one to be vulnerable to the most ridiculous conspiracies.
Speaking further to the idea of credibility is that unlike the
previous Heksher Tzedek tour, or the attacks by organized labor or
PETA, Rabbi Lerner's group cannot be said to enter this issue with a
preconceived conclusion or agenda. Think of the consequences if such a
conspiracy were true and revealed to the public? Think of the shanda
this would be and the chilul HaShem which would result? The careers
and lives ruined for a single cause? Its just not credible to believe
such fantasies. One does not have to look very far to see the
difference in the integrity category. Evidence is drawn from
experience and first hand observation. All else is hearsay, wishful
thinking and agenda driven propaganda. Is that correct Ari Hart? When will we hear from these same critics that the refuse to buy shoes, clothes, appliances and other goods from overseas producers where working conditions, payment and labor rights are appalling by every one's standards? Why single out Kashrus?
Finally, the last article heralds the long awaited meaningless guidelines for so-called ethical kashrus published by Morris Allen and Hechsher Tzdek. This doesn't warrant further discussion as the irrelevance is obvious. The Conservativists are merely seeking union membership. Nothing more will come of this effort which is destined to slip back into the anonymity from which it sprung forth.
FIRST FULL REPORT: National Rabbinic Mission Visits Postville Meat Plant - YWN
August 4, 2008
As was first reported HERE by YWN, a group of more than twenty
Orthodox Rabbinical leaders were scheduled to visit the Agriprocessors
plant in Postville, Iowa. Below is a report of that visit as written
by Aaron Troodler (one of the participants in the mission representing
the National Council of Young Israel):
A group of more than twenty Orthodox Jewish rabbinical leaders
representing several major Jewish organizations and large Jewish
communities visited the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa on
July 31st. Agriprocessors is the largest kosher meat and poultry
plant in the United States. The mission, which was spearheaded by
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National
Council of Young Israel, was meant to provide the Jewish leaders with
a first-hand account of the state of the Agriprocessors plant and the
impact that recent developments have had on the Postville community.
It is believed that the delegation of Rabbis that visited the plant
last week was the first delegation to be inside the plant since the
May 2008 raid that was carried out by federal immigration agents.
"We have all heard many media reports coming out of Postville which
relate to the Agriprocessors plant," said Rabbi Lerner, "We wanted to
see first-hand the status of the facility's equipment and machinery,
examine the working conditions at the plant, and observe how the
employees are being treated."
The Rabbis flew into airports in a number of cities throughout the
Midwest, including Madison, Wisconsin, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and
Dubuque, Iowa. As there is no airport near Postville, the Rabbis
traveled anywhere between two and five hours in cars and busses from
their respective airports to reach Postville. Following the mission,
the Rabbis' journey was no less tiring with several more hours spent
in cars and busses, and numerous flight delays which delayed their
return, with most of the Rabbis arriving home after midnight on
The Rabbis began the day by touring the plant. Before embarking on
the tour, everyone was required to don a hard hat, hair and beard
nets, and a white coat to wear over their clothing, all of which was
intended to provide the visitors with a level of safety and to
maintain a high level of cleanliness at the plant. The visitors were
required to adhere to the same safety and hygienic standards that are
required of all workers at the facility.
Shortly after beginning the tour, which was led by managers at the
plant, word came of a tornado sighting in the area, which briefly put
the tour on hold. Soon thereafter, there was a weather-related power
outage at the plant. During that time, the Rabbis waited in the
plant's lunchroom, where many of the workers at the plant were there
on break. The participants conversed with the workers, both in
English and Spanish, and inquired about the working conditions at the
plant, including salaries, working hours, and benefits.
Every worker who spoke with the Rabbis expressed a degree of
satisfaction with how much they were being paid and the hours which
they worked. Some of the workers noted that the working conditions
and the hourly wages that they were being paid at the Agriprocessors
plant were a stark improvement over conditions they faced in other
meat and poultry plants that they had worked at in the past. Others
spoke about the opportunity for advancement that they had at
Agriprocessors, which were not available in other meat plants. A
reporter for the Five Towns Jewish Times filmed dozens of interviews
with randomly selected employees in English and Spanish. Those
interviews will be made available shortly on the Internet via You
After the power was restored, the Rabbis spent time touring the plant,
during which time they observed the working conditions in various
parts of the facility and spoke with employees to get their
perspective about working conditions at the plant. Although several
of the plant's managers were leading the tour, the participants were
free to separate from the group and to walk around unimpeded if they
so desired. Many of the visitors did break away from the tour and
spent a great deal of time speaking to the workers and visiting
different areas of the plant unannounced.
The Rabbis also spent time examining the Kashruth standards (adherence
to Jewish dietary laws) at the Agriprocessors plant. The rabbinic
delegation walked through the slaughtering sections for both poultry
and beef, and observed all aspects of the processing of the foods
including the cooking and preparation of smoked meat.
Some of the Rabbis who are involved in Kashruth certification noted
several unusual innovations in kosher observance that are
unprecedented in the kosher food industry. Rabbi Zvi Zuravin of the
St. Louis Vaad Hair, one the oldest kosher certification agencies in
the United States, said "What impressed me the most was the
innovations in kosher slaughter, salting and the freedom of the kosher
supervisory agencies to operate without management's intrusion."
During the course of their tour, the Rabbis noticed a number of
inspectors from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
which is the government agency responsible for overseeing the meat and
poultry production at the Agriprocessors plant. While speaking with
the Rabbis, the USDA inspectors said that the conditions at the plant,
and the plant's equipment and facilities were equal or better than
other facilities that they have observed.
Following the tour of the plant, the Rabbis took a tour of the city of
Postville. They saw the modern affordable housing complexes that the
Rubashkin family, the owners of Agriprocessors, had built for its
workers and for members of the Postville community. In fact, the
mission participants discovered that a number of the families of the
workers who were arrested during the May 12th raid are in fact still
living in housing provided by the Rubashkins and paying limited, if
any, rent. The Rabbis also saw several dilapidated trailers, which
are in visible need of repair, that were rented to workers by a
Postville City Councilman, and which were mistakenly portrayed in the
media as being owned and operated by Agriprocessors. The Rabbis also
saw Postville's day care center, which was built by a number of
individual and community groups, including the Rubashkins and
The Rabbis also visited the $12 million environmentally-friendly water
treatment plant that Agriprocessors constructed. The director of the
facility, a professional with twenty-five years of experience in the
field, demonstrated to the visitors how the state-of-the-art plant
transforms unusable water to clean, healthy water for the city's
residents above the federally mandated requirements.
Postville Mayor Bob Penrod, whose family has been in Postville since
the 1950's, spoke to the rabbinic delegation about the central role
that Agriprocessors plays in the city. Mayor Penrod praised the
Rubashkin family's contribution to the economic and social well-being
of the town of 2,500, and explained that the plant was responsible for
employing more than one-third of the labor force in the ethnically
diverse city. The Mayor also spoke about how the May 12th raid at
Agriprocessors had negatively impacted the financial well-being of
Postville, and expressed hope that many Latino families would continue
to consider making Postville their home.
When asked by the Rabbis about some of the Postville residents who
have been vocal critics of the Agriprocessors plant, Mayor Penrod
explained that for some people, change is daunting, and there is a
desire among some to have the town revert back to the way it was in
the 1950's, before Postville became an ethnically diverse city.
"The Jewish community is extremely important to this town and we don't
want to see them leave," said Mayor Penrod.
Pastor Gary Catterson of the Presbyterian Church of Postville and
President of the city's Food Bank told the Rabbis that although he
heard the rumors in town about some of the reported abuses of workers,
"he had never seen a shred of evidence of any such abuses." Pastor
Catterson told stories of how the Rubashkins regularly contribute to
the Food Bank.
"We have had nothing but the best experience with the Rubashkin
family," said Pastor Catterson.
Ryan Regenold, a representative of Jacobson Staffing, the national
firm which presently oversees and works with the plant's human
resources operation, explained to the Rabbis that his firm is using
the federal government's E-Verification system in order to make
certain that illegal workers are not hired by Agriprocessors to work
at the plant. Although using the E-Verification system is not
mandatory, Regenold noted that it was being used at Agriprocessors to
ensure that all immigration-related policies and procedures mandated
by the federal government are strictly adhered to.
In addition, Regenold noted that Jacobson Staffing is utilizing
recruiting managers who are bilingual in an attempt to preclude any
possible miscommunication when dealing with potential workers during
the hiring process.
The Rabbis inquired about media reports which centered on workers who
were promised jobs and not hired, and others who were being underpaid.
In response to these questions, Regenold explained that Jacobson
Staffing advertises for workers all over the country, which is how the
group of Somali workers discussed in these news stories found their
way to Postville. Regenold said that the group merely answered a
nationwide ad. "We never promised anyone a job," said Regenold.
"Some workers we hired, while others either had issues with
immigration or were inappropriate for the jobs being advertised."
Those individuals who were not hired were given bus fare back to their
city of origin.
Regenold also told the Rabbis that Agriprocessors is paying its new
workers $10 an hour, which is well above Iowa's minimum wage, which is
currently $7.25 an hour. "The pay scale is the same for everyone," he
said. Regenold also said that as workers develop seniority, their pay
scale increases considerably, and that many workers voluntarily work
overtime, which pays 1 1/2 times the normal hourly rate.
Trent Gorton, a Postville resident who serves as the Safety Director
at the Agriprocessors plant, told the Rabbis that Agriprocessors is
nearly 100% compliant with all of the requirements set forth by the
United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Any outstanding items are being addressed and will be resolved
shortly. Generally, employers tend to fall short of complete
compliance with OSHA requirements, and a compliance rate of almost
100% is extraordinary. Gorton said that "working for the Rubashkin
family has been a treat," and that he is "encouraged and inspired by
what we are doing here."
James Martin, a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District
of Missouri who became Agriprocessors' compliance officer, reported on
some of the steps that have been taken at the plant in the area of
worker relations. Martin told the Rabbis that a toll-free hotline had
been put in place so that workers can confidentially report any
problems or concerns that they may have. Information about the
hotline is available for the workers throughout the plant in multiple
languages. In addition, Martin said that Agriprocessors has hired
former agents from OSHA, the Internal Revenue Service, and the United
States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in order to maintain a
level of excellence at the plant when it comes to government
"Safety is our number one priority, even ahead of production," Martin said.
Several of the Rabbis also met with worker advocates affiliated with
St. Bridget's Church, which historically has been critical of the
plant and its management. Although the entire group of Rabbis was
initially scheduled to meet with the church representatives, many of
the mission participants had to depart Postville in order to get to
the airports and catch their flights home. Due to the importance of
this meeting, four of the Rabbis did rearrange their travel plans and
remained behind in Postville in order to attend the meeting.
Rabbi Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel, Rabbi David
Eliezrie of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County, California, and
two other Rabbis from the group met with Paul Rael, the church's
Director of Lay Ministry, and Esther Lopez, a social worker associated
with the church, for more than an hour.
The church representatives cited specific cases of alleged worker
mistreatment at Agriprocessors and spoke about their desire to
investigate those claims. The Rabbis pledged to work with the
representatives of the workers and the management at Agriprocessors to
help facilitate their investigation and address the allegations. As
of this moment, the Rabbis are awaiting documentation of the alleged
abuses to workers of the Agriprocessors plant.
Rabbi Lerner noted that a great deal of the problems between the St.
Bridget's community and Agriprocessors was due to a lack of
communication. Although the church representatives acknowledged that
the Rubashkin family had made an overture to the church, to date no
meetings have taken place and there has been no direct communication
between the parties.
"Part of the problem here appears to be a lack of communication," said
Rabbi Lerner, "It became very evident that there needs to be a
dialogue between the church and Agriprocessors so that the two sides
can have an open and honest conversation about the issues at hand."
The Rabbis suggested that St. Bridget's Church and Agriprocessors
create a system where representatives from each entity meet with one
another once a week so that the two sides can establish a relationship
and a means by which issues and concerns can be addressed in person,
rather than through the media. The Rabbis discussed the proposal with
the church representatives and the management at Agriprocessors, both
of whom pledged to consider the proposal and get back to the Rabbis in
"We are hoping that we can create a bridge of understanding between
the Church representatives and the plant's management," said Rabbi
Lerner, who noted that this is the first time that there has been a
real effort to put the two groups together for the betterment of the
community, "Together they can address the issues affecting the workers
and actively seek solutions."
After visiting the Agriprocessors plant first-hand, personally
observing the operation, and speaking with the workers, the Rabbis
marveled at how the media reports, which have traditionally placed a
strong emphasis on statements from union officials and others who do
not necessarily have personal knowledge of the situation, actually
differ from the situation that they observed during their mission.
"The current situation at the Agriprocessors plant is diametrically
opposed to the rumors and innuendos that we had heard before we got
here," said Rabbi Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National
Council of Young Israel, who organized the mission and led the group
that came from fifteen cities in the United states and Canada. Rabbi
Lerner's sentiments were shared by the other members of the mission.
"We saw the reality, not stories told over from others," explained one
member of the delegation, "That reality was far different than the one
that has portrayed in the press."
"There were no limitations placed on us as we inspected the facility
and no boundaries imposed during our visit - everything and everyone
was fair game," said Rabbi Lerner. "We discovered workers being
treated equitably and receiving fair wages and benefits. We saw a
state-of-the-art plant, a tremendous emphasis on safety, and excellent
standards of Kashruth. While we have no personal knowledge of what
may or may not have happened in the past, the Agriprocessors plant
that we saw today is far different than what has been reported."
Rabbi Lerner promised to continue to work hard "to set the record
straight with the help of the two-dozen witnesses who joined him on
the July 31st trip to Postville, Iowa. He explained that
Agriprocessors was an important part of Jewish life in America, and
noted that they are responsible for supplying 60% of glatt kosher beef
and 40% of kosher poultry in the United States. In addition, Rabbi
Lerner pointed out that Agriprocessors also supplies kosher meat and
chicken to some of the more remote communities in the United States,
which would have no access to kosher food but for the products they
receive from the Agriprocessors plant.
"What we observed in Postville was a 'Cadillac' with top of the line
machinery and a heavy emphasis on safety, security, and health," said
Rabbi Lerner. "Based on what we saw, this is a modern plant that is
servicing an important need and working diligently to adhere to the
highest workplace standards possible. What we saw and heard is how
the Rubashkins and Agriprocessors are going well above and beyond the
call of duty and the requirements of the law."
The following is a list of the individuals who traveled to Postville,
Iowa for last week's mission:
Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, Agudath Israel of America, New York Rabbi Naftali
Burnstein, Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, Ohio Mr. Yehuda Ceitlin,
COL, Radio 10 (Flatbush), Bakehila (Israel) Rabbi Edward Davis, Young
Israel of Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and ORB Kashrut Commission
Rabbi Yochonon Donn, Hamodia Newspaper, Brooklyn, New York Rabbi Moshe
Elefant, Orthodox Union, New York Rabbi David Eliezrie, Rabbinical
Council of Orange County, California Rabbi Chaim Goldberger,
Congregation Knesseth Israel of Minneapolis, Minnesota Rabbi Yair
Hoffman, Five Towns Jewish Times, Lawrence, New York Rabbi Yechiel
Kalish, Agudath Israel of America, Chicago, Illinois Rabbi Shauli
Klein, Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas, Texas Rabbi Pesach Lerner, National
Council of Young Israel, New York Rabbi Pinchos Lipschitz, Yated
Ne'eman Newspaper, Monsey, New York Mr. Menachem Lubinsky, Lubicom
Marketing Consulting, New York Rabbi Seth Mandel, Orthodox Union, New
York Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, Chicago Rabbinical Council, Chicago,
Illinois Rabbi Chanoch Nelkin, Vaad Hatzdakus - Jewish Charity
Commission - Toronto, Canada Rabbi Shlomo Rybak, Congregation Adas
Israel in Passaic New Jersey, Rabbinical Council of America Rabbi
Dovid Schochet, Rabbinical Council of Ontario/Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch,
USA and Canada, Rabbi Peretz Steinberg, Young Israel of Queens Valley,
New York, and Vaad Halachah, Young Israel Council of Rabbis Rabbi
Gershon Tennenbaum, Rabbinical Alliance (Igud Harobbonim) of America,
New York Mr. Aaron Troodler, National Council of Young Israel, New
York Rabbi Yaakov Wasser, Young Israel of East Brunswick, New Jersey,
and Rabbinical Council of America Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, UMK Kosher,
St. Paul, Minnesota Rabbi Zvi Zuravin, Vaad Harabbanim of St. Louis,
A Look At Rubashkin - Five Towns Jewish Times
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman, Published on Thursday, July 31, 2008
The nation should have been horrified. Here was a case where a
well-known institution had clearly hired illegal workers. It was a
well-respected institution that should have known better. Was it the
Rubashkin meat plant in Postville, Iowa? No. It was actually the
Department of Water and Power of the city of Los Angeles in
California. This government organization had hired illegal workers
from Mexico, El Salvador, the Phillipines, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. This
is not to say that the situation was ignored. In May 2006, agents from
the United States Custom and Immigration Enforcement Agency (ICE)
swept into these government offices and promptly arrested eight of the
Los Angeles DWP employees. The illegality was widely varied. Some of
these workers had entered the country legally but had stayed past the
expiration date of their visas. At least one had entered the country
illegally. Some had criminal convictions.
The entire issue of undocumented workers has been pretty much evaded
by the legislators and federal-level politicians in this country. It
is a problem that should be addressed on a federal level that requires
We may also recall Zoe Baird, former president Bill Clinton's nominee
to be Attorney General, who had employed two Peruvians living
illegally in the United States as her babysitter and part-time driver
for nearly two years. Indeed, an entire cadre of politicians have been
questioned and vetted on this issue in the past decade.
In this past election campaign as well, both Governor Mitt Romney and
his son had utilized illegal workers on their lawns who worked for a
company called "Community Lawn Service with a Heart." When asked by a
reporter about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, Romney,
who was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in
Miami, said, "Aw, geez," and walked away.
On the other hand, the largest purveyor of kosher meat in world
history, the Rubashkin meat plant in Postville, Iowa, has been the
subject of an overwhelmingly negative media and government onslaught.
Rubashkin's compliancy officers have always made sure that the workers
in their plants were legally documented. When the federal government
arrested individuals who had actually dealt in and obtained forged
documents, however, the accusations came flying. There is an
expression in Western culture—"Hypocrisy is the last bastion of
morality." The intent is that even though the person may be personally
weak, at least the moral standards espoused remain in force. This is
not quite the Torah perspective, however. Judaism draws a distinction
between not following the moral standard and actually reproving others
for not following something that you don't follow yourself.
Which brings us to a fascinating concept in Jewish law: K'shot
atzmecha v'achar kach k'shot acheirim—"Be true to yourself and then
bring truth to others."
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 60a) derives this concept from a verse in
Tzefaniah (2:2). It is used to tell us that the kings of Israel,
although they sit and are present during rulings of the high court,
may not judge. This is because they themselves are not subject to the
rulings of a beis din. It is a tacit rule of logic that one may not
judge another if one perceives that they themselves are not subject to
the same criterion.
The principle is utilized when describing the mitzvah of tochachah,
reproving someone for being lax in a mitzvah. The question arises as
to whether it is merely good advice or a solid halachic requirement.
In other words, if someone is personally not fasting on a fast day, is
it forbidden for him or her to reprove someone else who is not
fasting? Or is this merely good advice?
Dayan Weiss zt"l (Minchas Yitzchok v. 4, r. 80) cites a fascinating
Malbim (Vayikra 19:17) in which he states that the mitzvah of
admonishing (tochachah) applies only to equals, i.e. one who is free
from that sin. He further states that the recipient must be amenable
to receiving the admonishment. The latter requirement of the Malbim is
only according to the view of the SMaG and the Meiri. This is,
however, a minority view that is not considered the normative halachic
position adopted by our poskim (See Mishnah Berurah Shaar HaTziyon
Orach Chayim 608:13). The import of the Malbim's first point, however,
is that it is not just good advice—until one cleans up one's own act,
one should not point fingers to others. This is also the implication
of the Talmud's ruling regarding the kings of Israel.
The character assassination that Rubashkin has been subjected to in
recent weeks, however, is truly deplorable and runs counter to the
very traditions that Americans have held dear since the revolution.
The character assassination can be seen in many ways. 1) The tone of
the media and unfortunately the tone of many who should know better in
not giving Rubashkin the assumption of innocence that lies at the
foundation of our country. 2) The veritable acceptance of anonymous
charges by non-citizens looking for any opportunity to remain in the
country. 3) The sheer multiplicity of accusations based on either zero
or very flimsy evidence ranging from untoward behavior to women, to
weapons and drug manufacture.
The above situation has prompted Jewish communal leaders to take a
look at these issues themselves. This week, numerous Jewish leaders
will visit the Rubashkin plant in Postville, meet with the mayor of
Postville, and examine the issues at stake for themselves.
Representatives of the OU, Agudas Yisrael, and various va'ad
ha'rabbanims and shuls will be in attendance. The event was
spearheaded by Rabbi Pesach Lerner from the National Council of Young
Israel. According to the coordinators of the meeting, aside from the
rabbis and leaders in attendance, editors and correspondents from the
HaModia, the Five Towns Jewish Times, and the Yated Ne'eman will be
accompanying and reporting on this visit and meeting next week. Stay
Yair Hoffman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kosher Meat Shortages Reach Brooklyn, Catskills - YWN
August 5, 2008
Brooklyn, NY - The sign at a local Shoprite tells kosher shoppers that
the store only has kosher meat when it receives a delivery from
Agriprocessors. At the Wal-Mart in Monticello, a freezer case usually
reserved for products from Agriprocessors was empty. Similar reports
were also received from many parts of the country as Agriprocessors
continues to struggle to resume normal deliveries.
In Postville and at a Brooklyn distribution center, the company's
phones are ringing off the hook with retailers, wholesalers and
caterers clamoring for product. It is apparent that despite efforts by
Agriprocessors to resume full production, "it is still not there yet,"
a wholesaler told KosherToday. The Postville plant appears to be
approaching normal production for poultry but is still lagging far
behind for beef, the wholesaler noted.
With Rosh Hashanah less than two months away, there was a growing
concern that there would not be enough product to go around, although
the company says it is making strides every week.
One of the main issues at the plant appears to be the hiring of
skilled workers, which continues on a daily basis. In addition to the
reports of shortages, some kosher meat and poultry prices continue to
rise with some reports of an additional 5% increase in just the past
10 days. Almost three months since the May 12th raid, the
repercussions are only now beginning to be felt as the nation's kosher
meat supply is at its lowest point in the past two decades, according
to industry sources. (Source: Kosher Today)
Ethical Guidelines for Kosher Food Released - Forward
By Marissa Brostoff, Thu. Jul 31, 2008
A group of Conservative rabbis has released long-awaited guidelines
for a program that aims to monitor and certify working conditions in
kosher food production.
The guidelines for the Hekhsher Tzedek program, as it is known, are
wide-ranging, with sections devoted to labor standards, the treatment
of animals, corporate transparency and environmental impact. In order
to evaluate a company's performance in those categories, the Hekhsher
Tzedek commission will consider whether it is in compliance with a
number of pre-existing industry and government standards, as well as
some standards specific to the commission.
"Companies will be favored for the Hekhsher if they pay their workers
the industry average or above; offer comprehensive health insurance
and retirement benefits; and provide workers with paid time off for
vacation, sick, and maternity leave," according to the guidelines.
Rabbi Morris Allen, project director of Hekhsher Tzedek, told the
Forward that he hoped to see the first wave of products endorsed with
the commission's hekhsher, or stamp of approval, by Rosh Hashana of
"We believe that in the next month, we will be involved in serious
discussions with players in the kosher food industry around these
issues," Allen said. He added that some kosher food companies, "a
couple major ones," have already been speaking with the commission.
Typically, Orthodox rabbis have run kosher certification in the United
States and have charged for their services. Allen suggested that there
would be costs for companies that want a certification from Hekhsher
Allen's commission formed in 2006 after a group of Conservative rabbis
and others responded to complaints about the working conditions at the
nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. Since that
plant was the target of a federal immigration raid this past May,
Allen has been one of the most outspoken critics of the company,
Agriprocessors, and its labor practices. In the background, Allen and
his commission have been putting together concrete standards for the
new certification since winning the endorsement of the Conservative
movement's governing bodies last year.
KLD Research & Analytics — a Boston-based consulting firm that advises
companies on socially responsible investing — helped to compile
Hekhsher Tzedek's guidelines and will assist the commission in
analyzing a company's compliance.
Many in the Orthodox Jewish world have been skeptical of Hekhsher
Tzedek, arguing that ethical issues should not be tacked on to the
age-old system of kosher laws.
After viewing the initial guidelines, Rabbi Yosef Wikler, editor of
Kashrus Magazine, said, "These guidelines do not give us enough
freedom for us to complete a proper ritual slaughter without being
impeded by these arbitrary rules."
"At this time, I don't believe that any kosher organization is
prepared to work together with them in any which way," Wikler added.