… and we likely won’t for around 27 years. On June 21, Sholom Rubashkin, former head of the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, IA, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for 86 counts of fraud. According to the Huffington Post, prosecutors chose to not pursue the immigration charges (regarding the no less than 400 undocumented workers discovered working in his plant) because of the “decisive fraud conviction.”
While defense attorneys sought a 10 year conviction, prosecutors relaxed their request of life imprisonment to 25 years; in the end, U.S. District Judge Linda Reade of Cedar Rapids sentenced Rubashkin to 27 years in prison and ordered him to repay his lenders.
According to the Huff Post report:
In a statement released after the sentence announcement, Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox organization, called it “a dark day” for both American justice and American Jewry.
“While none of us condones any wrongdoing by Mr. Rubashkin, the extraordinary severity of the sentence imposed upon one of our Jewish brothers sends chills of shock and apprehension down our collective spine,” the statement reads. “This is a horrifying development.”
Hopefully enough chills of shock and apprehension to stop any other gross injustices against God, Creation and humanity from the Jewish community…
Seems there’s trouble brewing in Postville again.
In a terse note, Rabbi Weissmandl of Supreme Kosher removed his supervision from Agri-Star. OU supervision remains intact, for now, but this is a worrying sign. Indications are that this might be about Kashrut Politics, but perhaps there’s more to it? Let’s watch and see what unfolds.
Hat tip failed messiah.
Jewschool’s decade-in-review series began with the best JewFilms of the 2000s, Independent Minyanim, and the Jewish Food Movement and continues with this roundup of the Social Justice phenomenon.
Organizations which either didn’t exist or hadn’t yet gotten their voice a decade ago: Progressive Jewish Alliance (with regions in Los Angeles and San Francisco), Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, which launched in New York, and now has branches in DC, Chicago and New Orleans, the environmental group Hazon, American Jewish World Service (actually AJWS with Ruth Messinger—whole different thing than AJWS), Jewish FundS for Justice, the New York group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jews United for Justice in Washington DC, Boston’s Jewish Organizing Initiative, Minnesota’s Jewish Community Action. In addition, the eminence grise of Jewish social justice organizations, Chicago’s Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, hired Jill Jacobs, a Conservative Rabbi as Director of Outreach and Education in 2004, and started a summer seminar for rabbis (modeled on Interfaith Worker Justice’s “Seminary Summer”) which integrated Torah study and the practice of social justice. (Jacobs was then hired away from JCUA by JFSJ).
Cautious embrace of some social justice goals by the institutions of the Conservative and (to a much smaller extent) the Orthodox movements: Spurred on by the exposure of the unjust treatment of workers and the abuse of animals at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here -this is not an exhaustive list- for various JS posts on this never ending source of nausea) in Postville, Iowa, the Conservative movement launched the so-called heksher tzedek. This is a kosher seal of approval which guaranteed that the product under supervision was manufactured ethically—that workers’ rights were being respected and that animals were not being abused. An Orthodox group called Uri L’tzedek (“Awaken to Justice”) organized shortly afterwards to the same end. Also during this time, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly approved a decision (a “responsa”) authored by Rabbi Jill Jacobs (by then having moved to the Jewish Funds for Justice as their Rabbi in Residence) requiring synagogues to pay their employees living wages. There is also a concurring responsa by Rabbi Elliot Dorff.
Finally, the latest Rabbinical seminary on the block, the Modern Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCC) has a social justice track which culminates in doing a social project (Canfei Nesharim was started by students at YCC).
Add it all up: the old split between the Jews who are interested in ritual practice and Jews who are interested in ethical practice is finally being eroded. The practice of social justice as a Jewish textual and ritual and political practice got a solid footing in the past decade. Keep it up.
Jewschool’s decade-in-review series began with the best JewFilms of the 2000s, and Independent Minyanim, and continues with this roundup of the Jewish Food Movement.
This last decade has seen a burgeoning of awareness into the source of our food, our lack of connection to our food systems and the environmental and health problems inherent in factory farm methods.
The Jewish community, like many communities around the country and globe, became much more active and involved in their food systems and spent much of the last decade establishing the foundations for real change that will bring us into the next decade with a better posture to protect our food security and protect our environment.
In 2000, a book came on the scene that, at the time, received little attention, but soon would be on many reading lists. I’m referring to Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America by Stephen Bloom, who wrote of a small group of New York Lubavitcher Hasidim who ventured to Postville, IA to run the Agriprocessors meat plant in 1987. No matter which way you look at it, this last decade in food in terms of Jewish community and involvement is most notably marked by the emergence of reports of worker and animal abuse and illegal activity in America’s largest kosher slaughter house. More »
(Crossposted to Mah Rabu.)
Last week in Toronto, the Union for Reform Judaism held its biennial convention, and as in past years, URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie delivered a sermon laying out goals and initiatives for the next two years.
The sermon began with a great shout-out to the Biennial’s host country:
We Americans, it needs to be said, do not know Canada as well as we should. [...] I have a question for the Americans sitting in this congregation: How many of you can name the last three Prime Ministers of Canada?
Well, we Americans need to do better. The Canadian political system is far from perfect, but remember this: it has well-regulated banks; tough gun control laws; legalized marriage for gays; and an excellent, publicly-run health service – all matters of importance to Reform Jews and worthy of emulation by the United States.
This American (who can name the last three Canadian prime ministers and knows all the words to “O Canada”) says hear hear! (However, I was surprised that this was the only mention of health care, an issue that was featured so prominently two years ago, given that this sermon was just a few hours before the House passed the health care bill.)
The major initiatives are about food and technology. David A.M. Wilensky has already weighed in on the technology part, so I’ll leave that alone for now. There’s a lot to say about food; I’ll just focus on two points.
Oy the chutspah, it hurts my head.
With all the grace of the Menendez Brothers begging the mercy of the court as orphans, the infamous Rubashkin clan (“The largest corporate suppliers of the desecration of God’s name in America, with the lowest prices around! Ten chilulei-hashem for 20 bucks. But for you? $19.95!”) and their cronies are at it again.
Voila: The “War On Kosher” petition site. My family’s neighborhood in Brooklyn had been coated in big black flyers with the WOK website’s address when I went home for Thanksgiving & Shabbos last week. The signs blared “Lo ta’amod al dam achicha” — Don’t stand by as your brother’s blood is spilled, and “Ve’ahavta lere’acha kamocha” — Love your neighbor as yourself. What a treat, I thought - usually one would have to go all the way across the borough to Satmar-cum-hipster Williamsburg for that kind of irony!
I’m sort of astonished to discover that there are still Jews out there who missed the three-ring circus of scandal at Agriprocessors/Rubashkins, who are moved by the following appeal (extracted from the email jungle by our Jewschool secret agents):
An open letter from:
Hindy Light (Rubashkin)
Imagine if I were to tell you that there was a well to do family that was going through a financial crisis. That they were on the verge of losing everything they worked their whole lives for c’v. That within the next few days a judge could decide to take away their business, their homes….c’v. Imagine if I were to tell you that a family that once lived a life of comfort was now collecting funds to pay for their father’s legal fees. Imagine if I were to tell you that there were tens of families who are about to lose their livelihood and become sudden paupers. Wouldn’t you be horrified and do everything you can to help them? Well now – STOP IMAGINING!
This is happening right now! Right in front of your eyes. Not to any family. It’s happening to MY family and as jews it is happening to yours as well!
I am begging each and every one of you to go to www.waronkosher.com and sign the petition. But please don’t just sign it. Send it out as a chain email. Let’s use our ability to help someone in need. This petition can only help if there are at least 15,000 signatures – YOU can make it happen. Please SPREAD the word!
May we hear besuros tovos [CW?: good news] now!
Hindy Light (Rubashkin)
I’m sorry, Hindy, but you broke it, you buy it. If La Famiglia Rubashkin can no longer afford their rock-and-roll lifestyle, it’s not my problem. They wouldn’t be in this position if they had actually followed the Choshen Mishpat & the Federal Law codes and built their “kosher” fleish empire on honor, honesty, and service instead of on fraud, abuse, and greed.
For anyone who still can’t stop watching the trainwreck:
+ The indefatigable Shmarya Rosenberg is still covering new developments in the story at Failed Messiah.
+ and “FightinBack” at Daily Kos has the entire sordid tale organized by date back to 1983.
+ EDIT: Added link: “The Fall of the House of Rubashkin” from The Village Voice.
hat tip to FailedMessiah.com for his CONSTANT vigilance in this ongoing saga.
But now, folks, it has reached a new place. Sholom Rubashkin, former CEO of Agriprocessors, has been arrested and released with GPS bracelet, charged with “conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, document fraud, and aggravated identity theft.”
full press release can be viewed here (once again thanks to FailedMessiah.com)
The New York Times has issued a searing (ha! pun not-so-much intended) editorial on the Postville affair, titled, “The Shame of Postville, Iowa”
In my opinion, skip the editorial and go straight to the source, an eye-witness essay of the handling of the workers. It is pretty disgusting and it’s too early in the morning to share any reactions, it’s really awful enough to stand on its own, no reflection necessary. read for yourself at your own risk of queasiness and rage.
inside the essay you’ll find joyful reports, such as:
Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10. They appeared to be uniformly no more than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí…), some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment. They all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside from their Guatemalan or Mexican nationality, which was imposed on their people after Independence, they too were Native Americans, in shackles
On a prior post this week, commenter balabusta linked us to a video from the NYT that I’m sorry to say I had missed. The video is disheartening in that it reveals quite a bit that generally has been missing from the whole Agri commentary on the Jewish side of the question. It’s not only our outrage at the workers being treated unfairly by Agri at this point (not to mention being abused, as is clear from the variety of investigations) but the very fact that the racial component is being ignored, but even more clearly that the illegal immigrants are actually being railroaded into pleading guilty for crimes which are almost certainly Agri’s.
While everyone following this story along with us here at Jewschool from the beginning, now years ago, can see that we nearly qualify at apoplectic at the combination of injustice and chillul hashem that’s being done, listening to the words of this translator, who in all his years has not been moved to speak out -until now- makes me sad and angry all over again.
It’s too early for the boycott to be called off. The workers are being charged with social security fraud and aggravated identity theft, the court is using the greater charge to browbeat the workers into pleading guilty for the lesser charge. If they refuse to plead guilty, they are told, instead of five months in prison and then deportation (forever, with no chance to return legally) they will have 6-8months in prison, with the possibility of two years more if they lose. Most of them are the sole economic support for their families and thus are choosing to plead guilty, despite the fact that many of them – according to the translator- clearly have no idea what a social security number is or what it’s used for (and are apparently ashamed of looking ignorant about it, most cannot read or write, and when asked what the number is say they don’t know, the factory people put it there.
In other words, of the crimes of social security fraud and aggravatedidentity theft, it is Agri who should be on trial, not the workers. If Agri wants their boycott lifted, some signs of tshuvah are in order. Confession (to God and to the victim(s), Apology, Restitution and Failure to Repeat the offense when given another chance. In order for us to even think about taking them seriously, they need to admit publicly that it is they, Agri, who are behind these offenses and not allow people who are innocent of these crimes to be tried and deported for them. The workers may be guilty of illegally entering the country, but they are almost certainly not guilty of what they are being accused. There are no signs of tshuvah yet from Rubashkin. Thus we should not be revoking the boycott.
I can’t even begin to say how disgusted I remain with this whole episode, how much harm the American Jewish community’s consumption of excess amounts of meat has done to other people, and that Agri will allow their workers to take the fall for them… well, it’s despicable.
Failed Messiah and Gawker report on the latest (what? Not over yet?) scandal in the kashrut world. After the last round of scandals, Agriprocessors hired a PR firm – because as we all know, Public Relations is far preferable to tshuvah when a corporation sins- to restore its image. The firm, 5WPR, who has also represented the charming so-called “pro-Israel” pastor, John Hagee, (who hates homosexuals and Muslims and has had to apologize for sliming Catholics, oh, yeah and also blamed Jews for the death of Jesus, called liberal Jews “poisoned” and “spiritually blind,” and been relatively unconcerned that he hopes for a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran even though he believes it will lead to the deaths of most Jews in Israel) apparently has engaged in some antics of its own.
It seems that 5WPR has left multiple comments on several blogs, including JTA and Failed Messiah’s, under a variety of aliases, and also posing as Rabbi Morris Allen of the Hekhsher Tzedek, as well as JVNA officer John Diamond and another frequent FailedMessiah commenter (all, as FM points out, federal crimes). The comments were designed to support Agri, bolster one another and discredit Hekhsher Tzedek, the Conservative Movement and Rabbi Allen. Failed Messiah posts screen shots of the comments – well worth looking at, if only for their utter ridiculousness.
From the Uri L’Tzedek website:
On May 23rd of this year, Uri L’Tzedek wrote an open letter to Aaron Rubashkin, expressing how deeply upset we were by evidence of worker mistreatment in his company, Agriprocessors, and calling on the community of kosher consumers to join us in demanding change. Since the outset of our campaign, Uri L’Tzedek has sought protection and fair treatment for workers at Agriprocessors’ Postville plant. Our effort has been guided by the spirit of Rabbi Yosef Breuer of blessed memory and his 1949 essay “Glatt Kosher – Glatt Yosher,? where he describes strict standards of kashrut and strict standards of ethics. As Rabbi Breuer wrote: “God’s Torah not only demands the observance of kashrut and the sanctification of our physical enjoyment; it also insists on the sanctification of our social relationships.”
The Jewish community in general and the observant community in particular are bound to the people who provide our food through the sacred social relationships of worker, employer, and consumer. Through this campaign, we have given voice to thousands of observant Jews who believe that the standards of kashrut of our food be matched by the kashrut of our ethics, and their voice has been heard loudly and clearly.
After the events of the May 11 federal raid at the Agriprocessors plant, and the release of government reports, affidavits, and media surrounding working conditions at the plant, thousands of observant Jews felt those sacred social relationships had been damaged. Uri L’Tzedek responded to those events with a letter that asked Agriprocessors to pay its workers a minimum wage and recommit to abiding by all U.S. law relating to worker safety and rights. In order to ensure that the company meets these modest requests, we asked that the company establish a department and staff to deal exclusively with these concerns.
In recent weeks, Agriprocessors retained James Martin, former Senior Federal U.S. Attorney to serve as Chief Compliance Officer for the company. Mr. Martin has instituted a number of important reforms including: the creation of an anonymous tip line for employees to report safety and rights violations without fear of retribution; establishment of a safety department within the company that is staffed by an officer and assistant (with plans for two additional employees); and development of new safety training initiatives. Mr. Martin has also assured us that his term is expected to last at least one year. His role, according to communications between Uri L’Tzedek and Agriprocessors, is to set in place the procedures and personnel to ensure that the compliance effort is ?continual, robust, and permanent.? Mr. Martin, a reputable and skilled attorney with years of experience prosecuting corporate crime, has now accepted on himself and his firm, the Prevene Group, the professional responsibility to ensure the company treats its workers with the respect, dignity, and rights that are demanded by U.S. law.
We believe that through hiring Mr. Martin, Agriprocessors is beginning to take significant steps towards directly addressing the concerns of the Jewish leaders and consumers who signed our May 23rd letter. In light of these early signs of reform, Uri L’Tzedek is no longer calling for the community to abstain from purchasing Agriprocessors’ products. Time will show what kind of results these reforms will yield for the workers at Agriprocessors, but the social justice philosophy of Uri L’Tzedek is one deeply committed to challenging what is broken in our world but partnering to support efforts towards fixing it.
We are inspired by all the people throughout North America and the world who have raised their voice on this critical issue. Their participation in this effort has been the critical foundation of our work, and it has generated crucial moral awareness and has yielded impressive results. We are similarly thankful to the Agriprocessors corporation and the Rubashkin family, who by and large have engaged in a respectful dialogue.
If Agriprocessors does not implement Mr. Martin’s recommendations or demonstrates that it is not committed to full compliance with all laws regarding worker safety, pay, and rights, then we will once again raise our concerns with Agriprocessors and with the community of kosher consumers.
There are still matters of great concern in Postville: shattered families left without wage earners, mothers unable to find jobs to pay for basic necessities, children thousands of miles from home living in fear of another raid, a broken Postville economy, and deeply flawed federal immigration policy. Addressing these larger issues is integral to our work as activists. Uri L’Tzedek leadership has helped raise significant funds for the families deeply hurt by the raids and has met with U.S. House and Senate staff, and has had a conversation with Senator Joseph Lieberman, Head of the Department of Homeland Security to express our concerns about the human suffering that results from these kinds of enforcement tactics.
These events strengthen our conviction that Klal Yisrael and the Orthodox community are committed to leading the way in creating a just society and sanctifying the Name of God. We believe that this campaign signals a new level of communal expectation of all our businesses to conduct themselves with the highest standards of yashrut and tzedek, ethics and justice.
That’s right folks, we can all eat meat again. So say the good people at Uri L’Tzedek.
A few weeks ago, Rubashkin’s retained former federal prosecutor James Martin from the Prevene group to insure the company’s compliance with relevant secular and Jewish laws. No one was really sure how serious this would be, or what Mr. Martin could actually do. However, following a meeting with Mr. Martin, the Uri leaders were satisfied that he was prepared to do exactly what they had wanted. The original open letter had called for the company to comply with all relevant laws (both Jewish and secular) and to bring in a third party for verification. Well, well, it looks like Mr. Rubashkin listened, and did exactly as he was asked.
So today is a happy day. A good day for Jewish law, for workers’ rights, for consumer activism, and for Uri L’Tzedek.
So it would seem at least. But, I don’t know, I feel a little empty. Something doesn’t sit right for me. Uri L’Tzedek had the right demands, and they were fulfilled, but I guess I wanted a little repentance, a little chest thumping. Something akin to how Tylenol dealt with the cyanide crisis of the ’80s. A radical change, a broad corporate effort to make the world better. That hasn’t happened. Well, maybe that’s asking too much. You can’t ask people to be good people, only to do the right thing. And, well, it seems they have.
However, Uri L’Tzedek, and the rest of us should remain vigilant. Mr. Martin was only retained for one year, and we need to make sure that the work he does is effective. But, until then – enjoy your hot dogs!
From the Agriprocessor PR machine:
You are invited to join a select group of community leaders at an
URGENT LEADERSHIP MEETING on
THE REALITIES AT POSTVILLE
A. What is the truth behind the troubles at Agriprocessors?
B. Is there a potential for a kosher meat crisis in America?
C. What steps were taken at Agriprocessors following the raid on May 5th?
D. What can be done to stop the slander and vilifications against Agriprocessors
On Tuesday Evening June 24th at
At the Bnai Zion
136 East 39th Street
(corner Lexington Avenue)
The briefers will include:
Nathan Lewin Esq.
Rabbi Menachem M. Weissmandl
Local community activists from Postville
Kosher food industry leaders
IT IS CRUCIAL THAT YOU TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN THE
TRUTH ABOUT AGRIPROCESSORS!
Please RSVP: Eda at LUBICOM Marketing Consulting 718.854.4450,
Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You’re invited! Make sure you get your questions answered about:
- Why a dozen children between the ages of 13 and 17 were arrested at the plant on a schoolday
- Why there were 39 plant-safety violations at the Postville plant in March.
- Why a temp agency hired after the raid pulled out its workers due to safety concerns.
- Why there is a brand new homeless problem in Postville.
- Why Agriprocessors won’t release a statement about its worker protection policy.
- Why Agriprocessors won’t make its compliance efforts transparent to the public.
- Why Agriprocessors continues to recruit in Guatemalan newspapers.
- Why efforts to create an ethical kashrut industry have been compared to Nazi tactics.
Reading the news on JTA, I came across this story.
In an effort to restore lagging production at its plant in Postville, Iowa, the country’s largest kosher meat producer has been hiring workers from homeless shelters in Texas to replace employees detained in a massive federal immigration raid last month.
Ok, this sounds decent. They’re helping people find employment, moving them to a town with housing. At first glance, this could be a positive step in restoring Rubashkin’s reputation.
Several officials in Postville say the new arrivals have created problems for the town.
Postville Police Chief Michael Halse told JTA that his officers had arrested four plant workers for disorderly conduct this week.
Father Paul Ouderkirk, leader of the local Catholic church, which has played a lead role in helping former workers and their families after last month’s raid, said a mentally challenged woman from Texas had come to his church looking for help with prescription medications.
And in an interview Friday with Postville’s local radio station, Diana Morris said she spent three days on a bus from Amarillo only to discover she was expected to live with 10 men in a four-bedroom house that had no electricity or hot water.
“Amarillo’s homeless problem has become Postville’s homeless problem,” Jeff Abbas, who runs the KPVL radio station, told JTA.
Um… crap. And…
In her interview with Abbas, Morris described how she was recruited from Amarillo with about 15 others and given a Greyhound bus ticket and $15 dollars to pay for food during the 1,000-mile journey. She said she was promised 30 days of free housing as well as a $100 bonus upon arrival.
What made the offer so attractive, Morris said, was the $10 per hour that Agriprocessors is now offering. “Everything down there is about $6 an hour being paid, and that’s the minimum wage,” she said of Texas.
That’s not a lot of money for 1,000 miles of travel. A quick check on Greyhound shows that the trip from Amarillo to Waterloo, IA takes 1 day, 1 hour, and 55 minutes (and then another 77 miles to Postville). In other words, a couple coffees, sodas, and a bag of chips for 28ish hours. Nutritious!
It’s great to hear that Rubashkins will be paying their employees a better wage than before, but the living conditions are unacceptable. And, if you read the full article, you’ll see that the people are being shipped to Iowa and then being screened for hiring. Why not screen them in Texas first? Why are they using two intermediary agencies (a recruiting firm in Texas and a staffing firm in Iowa)? Couldn’t the recruiting and screening be done by the same firm in Texas, before these people are moved 1,000 miles?
Do we think Agriprocessors is actually going to make good on its promise to improve working conditions? 150 replacement staff were removed by their staffing firm a couple weeks after the initial raid. Within days of starting work, a group of Native Americans who had been brought in to staff the factory left, saying conditions were worse than expected. Now these Texans… were they recruited because word of the scandal hadn’t spread to them? Will they be able to leave if the conditions still haven’t improved?
[Full article on JTA.]
Check out jcarrot for a fascinating interview with a former Agriprocessors mashgiach. It’s very openminded and worth reading; although peculiar in its breeziness – I don’t know how else to say it. read for yourselves.
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.
Week Six, Day Three
Tiferet of Yesod
Reported in Vos Is Neias, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of Ohev Sholom the National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., has called for the Vaad Harabonim of Washington to temporarily suspend Rubashkinâ€™s meat in the stores and caterers that it supervises. So far the Vaad has not responded; it will be interesting to see if they do. Why? A quick view at the comments section might be edifying: Rabbi Herzfeld is dismissed as “a talmid of ‘Rabbi’ Avi Weiss;” apparently in some circles that’s enough to have your smichah be questionable.
But more than that, Rabbi Herzfeld, despite his innovative programming, energy and, let’s face it, success in reviving a dying shul, has not won him the kudos of the local Orthodox leadership. Aside from a minor scrap over his shul taking the name “the National Synagogue,” Rabbi Herzfeld has also put himself outside the pale by becoming the first Orthodox rabbi in DC to join the Washington Board of rabbis and sit down at the table with non-Orthodox rabbis and call them colleagues.
I’d like to think that instead of him being tarred with yet another reason to keep him on the outside of his Orthodox colleagues’ circles, this would be an opportunity for them to show some leadership on this issue, and also offer the opportunity for them to show some spine over politics. Rabbi Herzfeld isn’t the only rabbi out there -Orthodox or Conservative- who is working on trying to get some movement happening, but I do hope that he might help the DC area to move on this matter more effectively.
In other Rubashkin’s news, the CEO of Rubashkin, Sholom Rubashkin, will resign as head of Agriprocessors Inc. after a search for a new CEO is completed
Week Six, Day One
Chesed of Yesod
Week Six, Day Two
Gevurah of Yesod
So first, before you get the chaser, I want to direct you to the JLC site where there is a statement regarding the current mess:
The JLC has also learned that Agriprocessors is actively waging a campaign of intimidation and harassment against workers who have expressed an interest in exercising their legal right to union representation.
In this atmosphere, it is clear that the recent ICE raid at Agriprocessors, though apparently legal, only buttresses the conviction shared by many undocumented workers that our government is not only indifferent to worker abuse, but works in collusion with management to penalize workers who challenge it…