Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tzedek Hechsher Slammed by Orthodox

"As rabbis of Conservative Judaism begin work on a new, ethically motivated food certification, they are coming under attack from a number of Orthodox kosher authorities."

This from the most recent edition of The Forward, in an article called "Orthodox Slam Effort To Monitor Conditions at Kosher Factories" by Nathaniel Popper.

If you've been following the issue, serious concerns about the treatment of workers in the kosher food processing plant in Postville, IA led the Conservative movement, represented by a task force of rabbis with personal experience at the AgriProcessor plant, to create a supplementary hechsher to attest to the fact that not only were animals treated according to strict halacha in how they were raised and slaughtered, but also that those who work in the plant doing the slaughtering weren't inhumanely treated either.

"Lederman and his committee have been adamant that any new certification would be a supplement, not a replacement, for current kosher certification that looks solely at the process of food preparation. But this argument appears to hold little sway with Orthodox critics." (emphasis mine)

Condemnation of the Conservative movement's insistence that we are morally responsible not only for animal rights but also human rights in the production of the very food we are required by Jewish law to eat (if we eat meat) appeared in both the recent issue of the Jewish Press and also Kosher Today, the industry's trade publication.

The rabbinic administrator for Central Rabbinical Congress (Hisachdus Horabbonim), which is leading the opposition, has told kosher companies not to even let Conservative rabbis into their plants.

The Orthodox Union, the largest kosher supervision organization, has not taken sides, but indicated human or worker's rights issues should be left to the government, not the rabbinate.

Some Orthodox believe this entire issue will serve only to drive a wedge between Orthodox and Conservative Jews, far more than even the recent controversial decision regarding openly gay and lesbian rabbis.

You can read the full article here:


james said...

sounds like the companies have a hand in this... as in healthy donations and payoffs to the orthodox...

corporate maneuvering rather than posturing, maybe?

either way, it seems antithetical to the intent and meaning of kosher, no? keep fighting!

Shira Salamone said...

From my perspective, it's like women's tefillah groups--the right-wing Orthodox oppose them because they give the appearance of being influenced by feminist (read: Non-Orthodox Jewish) thinking.

And here I thought that the Torah itself forebade withholding a worker's wages overnight. Since when are workers' rights an issue about which Judaism has nothing to say?

Sheyna said...

James - I agree, antithetical to the intent and meaning, absolutely. Thanks for the encouragement!

Shira - I must have missed the memo about workers' rights no longer being a Jewish issue. Having not been to Postville, I can't say with any absolute certainty what is going on for the workers, but it should be something we at least talk about, since after all, they're processing OUR food (non-vegetarians, anyway). Just leaving it to the government sounds like a solution that will never come.