Culture, Justice, Mishegas, Politics, Religion

Blogging the Omer Days 31 & 32: Shame on You!

Week Five, Day Three
Tiferet of Hod
Week Five, Day Four
Netzach of Hod
So much for Hekhsher Tzedek. Apparently politics wins out over justice.
In a not very surprising move, the Conservative Movement has decided not to boycott Rubashkin.

Calls this week by activist rabbis for a limited boycott have been muted out of concern that a boycott could be actionable and might discourage Jews from keeping kosher because kosher meat would be harder to access.

Actionable? Are you kidding? Seriously, what would be pure enough to get something started? Let’s see, we have major violations of Dina d’malchuta dina, loads of other, amazingly varied halachic violations that have now gone on for years – and in theory have actually spurred the Conservative movement to the unusual action of attempting to actually do something (follow-through apparently being a little slow, ahem). The moral and halachic violations range from abuse of workers’ labor to sexual abuse; apparently there are allegations of the drug methamphetamine being produced at the site, and that rabbinic supervisors, specifically have abused plant workers. Not to mention child labor violations, identity theft, illegal weapons sales, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
So, what would be enough to get the Jewish world to move? Can anyone possibly believe that they are totally innocent? That poor old Rubashkin’s is being railroaded? I mean, reality check: When is the Jewish community going to get off its collective Butt?
If for no other reason, we should be boycotting because this will make people look at us and say, if that’s what Jews do, I want no part of it. Note to the Conservative movement: This includes your followers whom you are trying so valiantly to get to keep kosher. IMO, more people will quit keeping kosher over your spinelessness than over the lack of available kosher meat. The folks who keep kosher now aren’t going to stop for this reason. Not to mention that all those young folks you’re trying to attract: they’re leaving because they look and see that something is seriously wrong here. As a Jew, I am embarrassed and ashamed about the lack of response from all the movements, but CJ, your Hekhsher Tzedek plans give you a special responsibility. Live up to it. Stand up for something, already.
And, Hey, Orthodoxy, you have a chance here to outmoral the left: get up and do something, will you? Somebody? Anybody? Before all the holiness drains out of the world?

17 thoughts on “Blogging the Omer Days 31 & 32: Shame on You!

  1. I’m a kosher-keeping omnivore, but it still sickens me that one nick on one blade for one day would’ve caused a bigger uproar than all of this is causing now.

  2. and by far the best:
    Movement officials are now considering other options, which include […] a study session on Jewish values related to workers’ rights and food consumption to be organized this summer.
    âí ëé úøáå úôìä àððé ùåîò – éãéëí ãîéí îìàå. And “ãîéí” also means “money”.

  3. Is there even a mechanism within the Conservative movement that could call for an immediate boycott of anything? The CJLS meets 4X a year. And the agenda for each of their meetings is planned in advanced. So when enough rabbis actually feel there is a crisis that must be addressed immediately who is allowed to speak for the movement on that? Who is allowed to convene that kind of meeting?
    On a separate idea. It seems logical that the movement which is first and foremost interested in creating a big tent atmosphere would not turn around and totally ban anything. Gays as rabbis are okay and not okay. Women as rabbis are okay and not okay. Even patrilineal Jews – on the books not okay. But we know of so many Conservative rabbis who then include patrilineal Jews in their families’ simchas and even their own congregations as full Jewish participants and without any major distinction. I could go on with this flip flop flip flop stuff. But all of us have been down that road before.

  4. Is there even a mechanism within the Conservative movement that could call for an immediate boycott of anything? The CJLS meets 4X a year. And the agenda for each of their meetings is planned in advanced. So when enough rabbis actually feel there is a crisis that must be addressed immediately who is allowed to speak for the movement on that? Who is allowed to convene that kind of meeting?
    I assume the executive board of the USCJ or the RA, if they wanted, could decide immediately that (at the very least) no Rubashkin’s products will be served at USCJ/RA events, and encourage member congregations to do the same.

  5. Is there even a mechanism within the Conservative movement that could call for an immediate boycott of anything?
    I think think a boycott needs to be organized through the halachic court of the CJLS.
    The Conservative movement is a confederations of organizations: USCJ, the RA, each synagogue, the Federation of Men’s Clubs, the Women’s clubs, and USY. Each of these organizations has the separate ability to make a decision of what it does or does not purchase and also what it tells it’s members through press releases and it’s bulletins.
    So far, some unnamed parts of the movement in the JTA article has decided to do nothing and no other part has said anything. More can definitely be done than is currently being done.

  6. There is now a formal USCJ/RA statement at:
    http://rabbimorrisallen2.blogspot.com/2008/05/you-shall-not-abuse-needy-and-destitute.html
    I’m not sure when or if my response will be posted there so I’ll put my comment here too:
    This is a fairly weak statement from a movement that seems concerned about ethics. What does “release an advisory to its members and constituents to evaluate the appropriateness of consuming Rubashkin products” mean? Could they be any more oblique on what they advise people to do? This statement implies that people might want to consider refraining from purchasing Rubashkin products, but the writers seem afraid to actually state that.
    Will there be another advisory statement released with more actual advice? Will UCSJ and the RA actually send this out as a press release? Currently it is not on either website.
    There are few things where I think organizational focus could come from our National movement organizations, but this is one of the issues and I hope USCJ and RA can be more direct than this statement in the near future.

  7. And I advise that C Jewish leaders stop this wishy washy crap. Get some cahones and demand a total ban.

  8. This post points out a continued problem with Jewshool. Kol Raash Gadol quotes a JTA article that indicates that the Conservative Movement has, essentially, decided not to act.The presumption is that the article was accurate and that enabled many of the Jewschool readers to slam the Conservative Movement on its inaction.
    I took the step of contacting the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative rabbis) right after the JTA artcile appeared. I also contacted United Synagogue.
    Both organizations were clear that what appeared in JTA, while it may reflect positions of some individual rabbis, did not reflect an organizational position.They were working on a position that would have both a moral element and allow for practical steps.
    I would hope that Camps Ramah, JTS, caterers that are in Conservative shuls, will look elsewhere for a supply of meat.
    The Conservative voice has been the loudest on this travesty. Shame on the other rabbbis.
    Subsequent to the JTA article (notice the article made an allegation yet it did not quote anyone nor any Conservative organization)a statement has been released. As this is being written specific practical steps are under consideration.The statement could have been stronger. But before one can make specific suggestions-practical alternatives, legal ramifications, PR(getting people on board) take a bit of time.
    This is the stuff of Urban Myths. Once someone says it (in this case) JTA – it almost becomes fact.

  9. Meir,
    I didn’t just the JTA article alone, but read the press release that I linked to. The JTA article was correct. It sounds like they wanted to say something, but both USCJ and the RA stopped far short of even directly suggesting people might not want to buy Agriprocessors meat. That is not an urban myth. There’s a chance more things will be done in the future, but the Conservative movement isn’t doing much now.

  10. The original JTA article reported false information. It was released BEFORE the Movement issued a press release. What you NOW see on JTA has replaced the JTA piece that led to the Jewschool story.
    As for what Conservative Movement people are doing now-you say they are not doing much.
    Indeed they are formulating a plan of action that will have teeth. A quick, haphazard, campaign, not thought through, would be a good media coup but it would be wrong.
    The fact that as of today, Friday, you do not know what is under consideration, should not give you the right to say that as of now they are doing nothing.
    A plan is being developed. Something is being done that will, hopefully, make a difference. But if yu know otherwise-please spell out the specifics.

  11. Meir,
    I didn’t trust it as a stand-alone piece, but the original JTA article was correct. It that said the Conservative Movement wouldn’t call for a boycott. The press release very specifically doesn’t call for a boycott and doesn’t even ask people to consider buying less of their products.
    I know that over a year ago the Conservative movement personally sent people to the Agriprocessors plant and decided worker welfare there was so bad that they did something unprecedented in their history and started plans to have their other hecture. They have had well over a year to consider how the movement should interact with Agriprocessors and they were silent. The most recent event is just another in a long list of unethical/illegal practices from this company.
    I have full right to say that USCJ/RA have done nothing over the past year and the most recent issues show the full disgrace of their past silence. The fact that even with so much advanced warning, they are taking weeks to even imply that this might not be a good company to send business to just adds insult to injury.
    If you know otherwise, please write more. What has the movement been doing for the past year? Did they only re-decide Agriprocessors needs addressing after this immigration arrests and had to start this process from the ground up? It’s one thing not to have a rapid response media time it’s another to have no advanced planning and only reacting to easily forseen issues after the fact.

  12. D writes:I didn’t trust it (JTA) as a stand-alone piece, but the original JTA article was correct.
    I wish to respond in two ways. When the original JTA piece was published, a decision had not yet been made in the Conservative Movement.Yet JTA said it had been made. You can claim that it turned out to be more-or less correct, but that is not how news reporting works.JTA reported something that was not so at the time it appeared and as a result Kol Rash passed it on to Jewschool.
    Now more to the point. I do not wish to justify bad behavior with other poor behavior, but…
    The Conservative leadership has brought a religious aspect to this issue. They have tied Kashrut to ethical standards. They did not go al the way and call for a boycott, but they certainly created language that moved many Conservative rabbis to urge their congregants to look elsewhere for their Kosher meat. This is far better than nothing. And there may be more to come.
    Let us also keep in mind that Rabashkin has not yet even been charged with any crime or wrongdoing (yes, workers have been).
    But The Reform Movement (the Movement of Prophetic ethics) gets off the hook with a statement that this is more the bailiwick of Conservatives because Reform does not insist on Kashrut.
    The Orthodox rabbinate is THE rabbinate in charge of Kashrut at the plant. They provide the Hashgacha. They have, for the most part,remained silent. They have, for the most part, held that Kashrut and ethical working conditions ought not be connected.
    I expect, and hope,that we will see more action and stronger language from the Conservative leadership. i will agree that there is a need for hard ball.
    But does this mean that they should have told the family that planned their wedding celebration (choosing a kosher affair at extra cost) for next week at the synagogue, or a Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration, “Sorry, your big event is off at our shul?
    That too would raise a variety of issues.
    Specific action may yet come from Conservative leadership. But there has been near total silence in the world that grants Hashgacha. There has been almost nothing coming out of the Reform Movement.
    The Conservative Movement calls on its membership “to evaluate whether it is appropriate to consume Rubashkin products until this situation is addressed.” Yet they are the ones who come under criticism.
    The organized Jewish world needs to feel shame here. The Conservative leadership did not go as far as some activist rabbis would have wished.
    But why is this story about the ONLY denomination that is reacting to the failure to tie Kashrut to ethics?

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