This is a guest post by Jewschool reader “themicah”.
In the wake of the Postville ICE raid, a number of folks (myself included) reached out to our former summer camps to see if we could persuade them to avoid Agriprocessors this summer. In the case of Ramah Wisconsin (my former camp), we learned that all meat for summer 2008 had already been purchased and was from Agriprocessors, but that the camp was evaluating taking ethical concerns into consideration in future summers’ meat purchases, and that they would work on developing programming for this summer to encourage discussion among the camp community about the role of ethical standards in kashrut. This was disappointing, but given the camp’s tight budget, I felt it would be a mistake to push further on the point, and appreciated that they were making a real effort to address the issue (unlike so many organizations).
Over the weekend I was forwarded an update from the Ramah Wisconsin administration, however. Although the Agriprocessors meat was already delivered, upon inspection the camp found that some of it was substandard (too old, from what I understand). They have therefore made arrangements to return the entire order to Agriprocessors and buy a whole new supply of meat for 2008 that comes from a non-Agriprocessors source. The camp is also bringing Rabbi Morris Allen to camp during staff week to teach about the Hechsher Tzedek program, making good on their promise to create dialog on the subject.
Even better, however, is that it’s not just Ramah Wisconsin that is affected. Ramah Wisconsin purchases its meat as part of a group of seven midwestern camps (Chi, Beber, OSRUI, Interlaken, Moshava and Henry Horner being the others) that work together through a purchasing agent to obtain the best deal possible on kosher meat. The update I received suggested that all seven of these camps were dumping Agriprocessors for the 2008 summer. And apparently there are other Jewish camps across the country that work with the same purchasing agent, so there’s a chance this change may spread.
Would it have been better if they had made a stand as soon as the news from Postville broke and torched all their meat on the spot rather than searching for another excuse to get out of their contract? Maybe. But I’m very happy that campers this summer will not be eating meat that was known to have been produced in an environment many of us believe made it treif. And if summer camps across the country start actually demanding Hechsher Tzedek certified meat in future summers, it may create the kind of demand that’s needed for the Hechsher Tzedek program to take root.
So please, get on the phone to your summer camp (or any other institution that buys a lot of kosher meat) and ask what they’re doing about the situation. All it takes is a few phone calls to drive home that there is real demand for food that is ethically produced.