Culture, Justice, Politics

This is What Orthodox Social Justice Looks Like

From yesterday’s JTA, see full article here:
In New York, Uri L’Tzedek, a social justice group founded last year by rabbinical students at the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, is set to launch its Tav HaYosher, or ethical seal. The seal will be awarded to kosher restaurants in New York City that treat their workers fairly. “Yosher” is a Hebrew word meaning honesty or straightness.
On the other side of the country, in Los Angeles, three Orthodox rabbis are putting the final touches on Peulat Sachir, or the Ethical Labor Initiative. The term comes from a verse in Leviticus 19 demanding that workers be paid the same day they complete their work.
The New York and Los Angeles efforts are modeled closely after the Tav Chevrati, or social seal, a similar initiative run by the 4-year-old Israeli nonprofit Bema’aglei Tzedek, or Circles of Justice. The Bema’aglei Tzedek seal is granted free to restaurants that are seen as respecting workers’ rights and being accessible to those with disabilities. More than 300 restaurants in Israel, including 130 in Jerusalem, display the seal in their windows.
The founders of the two new Orthodox seals believe that as Orthodox Jews, they bear a special responsibility for the actions of businesses that cater to their community. If Jews are to take Torah seriously, the founders of these two initiatives say, they should ensure that businesses serving their needs adhere to Jewish ethical values.
For Uri L’Tzedek, that means the kosher food industry. “We have an extra ethical imperative on issues of kashrut,” said Yanklowitz, speaking of Orthodox Jews, who comprise the majority of those who patronize kosher restaurants. “First, it’s our system, one we think has a certain level of sanctity, so we have a certain responsibility for it. And not only is it something we care about, but being that it’s our dollars and cents that keep it going, it’s an industry where we can have the greatest impact…”
The Tav HaYosher seal will be given free to kosher restaurants in New York City that guarantee three basic rights to their workers: fair pay; regular time off; and a safe and healthy work environment. Restaurants that opt into the system will be vetted by a team of volunteers and then display a certificate showing their adherence to these standards.
Uri L’Tzedek held its first volunteer training in early December and has quietly collected a handful of Manhattan restaurants interested in the project. The group expects to award its first seals in late January.”
The Tav needs you! The Tav HaYosher is a local, grassroots initiative to bring workers, restaurant owners and community members together to create just workplaces in kosher restaurants. If you are a consumer of kosher food and interested in addressing issues of social justice on a grassroots level, sign the letter of support here and indicate that you are interested in being a part of the Tav HaYosher team. This project needs people who can:
– Serve as compliance officers
– Speak Spanish
– Speak in synagogues and community centers
– Host informational sessions
– Engage restaurants
Get involved here.

3 thoughts on “This is What Orthodox Social Justice Looks Like

  1. I’ve said this before, sorry to repeat myself. I love the concept but think that government agencies are better at enforcing these kinds of laws than small religous organizations. What about a well established set of policies and procedures? An appeals process? Inspector generals to prohibit fraud?
    Do we really want a couple of Rabbis to have authority to sanction people for employment law violations? Think of how awful the conversion process is in Israel right now.
    I think a more practical approach is for Jews to lobby governments to fund inspection and enforcement of secular law related to these issues.

  2. I think it’s a fascinating model of grassroots empowerment. I hope so much that it’s sustainable in a volunteer sense. If it is, wow, brilliant and worth the risks.

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