Culture, Justice, Religion

Blogging the Omer, Day 38: Starting to Feel Obsessed or Obsessive…

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 Rubashkin’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

6 thoughts on “Blogging the Omer, Day 38: Starting to Feel Obsessed or Obsessive…

  1. My understanding of the vaad harabanim of washington is that they will act when it’s in their interest to act. So I’m not holding my breath.

  2. I’d like to advise everyone that at they are taking a yes/no online poll asking “Should a company’s kashruth supervision be removed if it is found to have violated laws and ethical standards having nothing to do with kashruth?” While I don’t totally like the way they phrased the question, we are indeed demanding the OU to revoke its hechser on Rubashkins. So far yes is winning 67/33. I say we continue to stuff the ballot box.
    Voting on the issue there seems to me a good way to get our voice heard over at a segment of the Jewish community who usually has a different haskafa on many things then we do.
    With a bit of sarcasm, its nice to see that The Jewish Press is finally recognizing the latest Agriprocessors issues and the grass roots boycotts with a reprinted JTA article on what happened even if they aren’t providing any editioral piece saying if they see things like we do or not.

  3. First and formost, let me say the I in no way condone withholding proper wages from a worker. Torah is very explicit about this — Devarim ch 24:14 and 15 state that wages must be paid and paid on time, while ch 12 implies additional stringcies. And R. Herzfeld is to be commended for reviving Orthodox Judaism in his neighborhood of NW 16th Street in Washington.
    That being said, a boycott of Rubashkin’s is hasty in my view. The charges against Agriprocessor’s are only that — allegations. They will be investigated, and if found credible, prosecuted. Only afterwards should we consider boycotts. Until then, “innocent until proven otherwise” is sage advice.

  4. David G. When you have the time and you will need time because the laundry list of problems is so extensive Go to – Click on the Rubashkins tab and you will read about a plethora of reasons why there was a need to boycott Rubashkins well before the ICE raid this month.

  5. @Kishman Short of a Bet Din or Civil court ruling, an allegation is just words. That they appear on the Internet gives them no greater (or lesser!) standing, that there are multiple allegations likewise does not affect standing. If I asserted your “mother wears army boots” (to quote the children’s taunt of years ago), would that automatically make her a soldier? If a 100 people did so? Again, innocent until proven otherwise.
    Related to this however is an article in the Jewish Star this week asserting that the Orthodox Union had a role in the recent announcement that Sholom Rubashkin will step (has stepped?) down from his leadership of Agriprocessors. The Jewish Telegraph Agency appears to affirm this in an article today
    Regardless of the recent events at Agriprocessors, I believe bringing in “professional” management (i.e. executives specifically familiar with the meat packing industry) and having open management is a good thing for Agriprocessors. They fulfill a critical need in the Jewish community and there is no harm and much good in their practices being above reproach.

  6. Removing Sholom Rubashkin and replacing him with a different Sholom Rubashkin is akin to treating an aggressive internal cancer with a salve. It may make things look a little better, but something nasty is at work beneath. The problems at Agriprocessors are pervasive.
    When those who police kashrut in our name allow producers to violate other elements of Jewish law to maintain the bare minimum standards of kashrut (and even that is in doubt) the people are within their right to demand more stringency. This is in keeping with tradition.
    When it comes to the food that nourishes our bodies and our minds, can we truly be content and satisfied if it comes at the price of excesses (and clear torah violations) against both animals and workers? I want to vomit just thinking about it.
    Has anyone posted the Uri LTzedek letter and petition link?

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