Agudath Israel Said to Oppose Hekhsher Tzedek

(Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 08:15 AM)

kosher3.gifAgudath Israel of America, one of the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organizations, is set to come out against the Hekhsher Tzedek, a new kosher symbol floated by Conservative rabbis to verify compliance with ethical behavior in the treatment of animals and laborers, KosherToday reports.

The organization’s Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah (Council of Torah Sages) is said to have authorized the organization to publicly oppose the new symbol initiated by Rabbi Morris Allen, a Conservative rabbi from Minneapolis who subsequently obtained the endorsement of the Conservative rabbinate. Sources say that Agudath Israel’s position will be consistent with the position taken by other mainstream Orthodox organization and certifying agencies, which basically oppose the broadening of the traditional definition of kosher, despite Rabbi Allen’s assertions that the new symbol would be in addition to the traditional kashrus symbol.

The organization is scheduled to release its position in the coming days, virtually assuring that the Hekhsher Tzedek symbol will not be accepted by kosher businesses and the majority of core kosher consumers. Kashrus organizations, headed by the Orthodox Union, have argued that they fully rely on government oversight to protect consumers from the ethical considerations that the Conservative movement is concerned about.

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The Hekhsher Tzedek issue has become the focus of widespread media attention, including a front page article in Saturday’s New York Times, but most media sources have failed to make the point that the Hekhsher Tzedek is opposed across the board in the Orthodox community. Even rabbis who told KosherToday that they welcomed the kind of concern for ethics that Rabbi Allen is advocating, are questioning how the standard could be practically implemented, why it is applied only to kosher foods and not to all Jewish-owned businesses (or, for that matter, non-Jewish), and how the kosher consumer could afford to fund such a new certification at a time of rapidly rising food prices.

The debate surrounding the Hekhsher Tzedek symbol largely revolves around the beleaguered Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, which continues to be beset by an ongoing onslaught of allegations. On Friday, the Iowa Department of Labor slapped the company with $101,000 in fines for 31 alleged violations, 8 of which dealt with one extension cord. Agriprocessors had hired a former OSHA official who told a group of 20 visiting Orthodox rabbis on July 31st that the plant was “99% compliant with federal and state OSHA requirements.”

(Source: Kosher Today)

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16 Comments

  1. Joseph says:

    If OU, OK, etc. refuses to certify anyone with this false “hekhsher”, it will die a swift death.

  2. akuperma says:

    Very few “Conservative” Jews keep kosher to begin with, meaning few producers of kosher items will go to any extra expense to make the non-Orthodox happy since it won’t result in increased sales. Note how over the last few generations, good hecksherim have been putting bad hecksherim out of business, since the better the hecksher, the more customers, and most kosher food producers are primarily interested in maximizing sales (capitalism and all that…).

    Furthermore, attempting to enforce non-halachic based standards (even wise ones, unlike the the racism policy of discriminating against hard-working Hispanic peasants whose families have lived in America for millenia), leads to a “pandora’s box”. For example, should we boycott hospitals that perform elective abortions, or boycott companies that encourage and support employees engaged in non-marital sexual relationships, etc, etc.

  3. frummerthanthou says:

    There are many, many frum yidden, such as myself who approve of the idea of a hechsher tzedek, where we will finally live up to the Torah’s ideals of treating others as we would like to be treated.
    I would certainly prefer for an orthodox organization to offer such a service, but if they are unable or as in this case, unwilling to do so, I will accept Rabbi Allen’s Hechsher in this area.
    What might really be of benefit is if we work in concert with him, to have appropriate and verifiable guidleines. This is an area where Conservative and Orthodox Jews could cooperate, and have the benefit of encouraging more Conservative Jews to observe Kashrus as well.

  4. tzoorba says:

    No good can come from associating with falsifiers of Yiddishkeit such as the morally bankrupt and empty Conservative Judaism movement.

    We should never associate with them in any way. Nothing good comes from joining with those who violate the Torah as the religious Zionists have learned to their chagrin.

    Behischabrecha im rasha poratz Hashem es maasecha

  5. Left Brooklyn says:

    Bah humbug. If you are busy being shomrei torah who has tiem to worry about workers. Particularly illegals.

  6. TheReader says:

    #4 – fruumerthanthou-

    Are you saying that you want to rely on Conservatives to define what is ‘tzedek’? People who don’t believe in what the Torah defines ‘tzedek’ ??

  7. akuperma says:

    Reply to #4

    So the conservatives insist that employers not object to women, non-Shomer Shabbos Jews, or even non-Jews bewing employed as slaughterers. Or they are happy with a restaurant serving meat and milk, as long as they aren’t cooked together (and of course, chicken and milk is no problem, even the mishna discusses it as a humrah). Nothing is wrong with boycotting firms whose policies you object to, but being “politically correct” isn’t “kosher”.

  8. robroy560 says:

    Follow the money… these guys probbaly don’t want competition. Remember, more kosher is purchased by non-Jews than Jews (excluding meat and chicken). If you don’t believe me, go to a Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s; they are very public about offering kosher. I have many non-Jewish friends who look for hechshers on products because they are into health foods.

    Many companies sign up for kosher certification because they know they can capture the kosher, Muslim, and health markets. I met a guy that started a gelatto company. He’s Catholic, and was adamant about getting the OU to supervise his business. Why? He knows that will make it easier for him to get into a variety of markets.

    But kosher certification in itself is arguablly a dirty business. You didn’t have a va’ad in many European towns prior to WW2. You were frum, and you were trusted. The local rav ate by you, and that was fine for the community. Today it’s a big problem because we have seen frum people cheat (remember Monsey?), and we have other questionable practices when some like to cut corners.

    On the other hand, we also see extortion tactics by the va’ads in certain locations. We also forget to make sure if it’s kosher first before we obsess over which holier than though rabbi certifies it. What do I mean? If a guy opens a business and hires a competent mashgeach, he will be slandered if he does not pay for the va’ad. Rabbis will say “I’m not saying it is not kosher, but I wouldn’t eat there.”

    If the companies see a profit to be made with this extra certification, good for them. Otherwise it will probably fail.

    BTW, I have a friend who has smicha and will not eat products with more than one hechser. Why? If it needs more than one, it was probably a questionable product to start with.

  9. Left Brooklyn says:

    Frum, Charedi, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, post-denominational, all Jews … has anyone stopped to think if the R”SO cares? How about focusing on being true bnei torah and that includes how we treat the R”SO creations (yes animals too)!!!!

  10. tzippi says:

    #4 – one of the most sensible things I’ve heard on the matter is this: why stop with food? Why not a hechsher tzedek on all manner of consumer goods? That they’re focusing on food leads one to believe there’s an agenda.

  11. feivel says:

    #10

    “How about focusing on being true bnei torah and that includes how we treat the R”SO creations (yes animals too)!!!! ”

    a true Bnei Torah will always capitalize Torah out of his great love and respect for it. (probably a typo on your part.)

    a true Bnei Torah will treat the R”SO creations exactly the way the R”SO has told us to treat them, through his Torah, Nveim, our leaders the Sages of the Talmud, and our Gedolim today, who have received the Mesorah from Har Sinai, father to son.
    not through those today who “poskin” based on “feeling good” about morality, and political correctness.

  12. Baal Boose says:

    I agree much needs to be fixed in the kashrus industry. (Especially when hechsherim bully companies and when they announce “we have withdrawn our hechsher” even if it was only non-payment of bills, or went somewhere else).
    HOWEVER, the problem with Heschsher tzedek is it seems to me their main purpose is to be an alternative to the regular kosher. They are searching for a niche.

  13. cowdoc says:

    The preparation of a cow for kosher slaughter is very stressful for the animal. It is cast on its back, or lifted up by its front legs prior to the cutting of the animal’s neck. Non kosher slaughter is much less stressful, the animal may be shot in the head with a captive bolt gun or may be rendered unconscious with electrical shock. What these people from Hescher tzedek are saying is try to keep the pre-scheita stress to the minumum.

    They are also saying that workers should be treated fairly. In summary they are not dealing with the issue of the animal from the time that the knife touches the neck (unless not killed and then it must be quickly and humanely killed by other means).

    I think that all G_d fearing Jews should welcome this innovation. If they cannot accept it because of the fact that it is initiated by the Conservative movement, then let the orthodox institutions adopt these measures.

  14. hassidicrambler says:

    Don’t confuse different packaging labels. If the workers and the animals were treated nicely, then write THAT on the package, not a kosher symbol. If the food is kosher, that’s when you write kosher. You don’t write “Contains No Peanuts” or “Organic” on products because the workers were treated nicely. You just write what it is.

    Cowdoc, what in the world are you talking about? You think getting shot in the head with a bolt gun or electrocuted until unconscious isn’t painful? Shechita as mandated in halacha is the most humane way to slaughter an animal, period.

    But if you want you can thank Agriprocessors for inventing the rotating pen. That’s right. They are the ones leading the way in better industry practices, not all these big talkers full of hot air.

  15. YNW says:

    RM”A is arguably worse than RM”D. Keep far away from him.

  16. cowdoc says:

    Number 15.
    Scheita is one humane method of killing an animal. The animal MAY be rendered unconsious as quickly as using the captive bolt gun or electric stunning. The process leading up to scheita is not necessarily humane. Other methods of killing an animal that I mentioned before in do not involve all of the pre slaughter preperation that scheita does which stresses the animal.

    I cannot warn enough not to label reasons for mitzvot. We do schieta because of belief not because of calling it the most humane way of slaughter. We do not eat pork because of belief not because of potential health hazards.

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