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A Three Hour Tour, a Three Hour Tour

rubashkin2.gif(Jewish Star Editorial — Issue of August 15, 2008)

We must be missing something.

Federal and state law enforcement is investigating the Rubashkin plant in Postville, Iowa a half dozen different ways, with the most recent unpleasant revelation being alleged child labor violations on a scale said to be unprecedented in the State of Iowa. Yet, to hear continuing reaction to that now famous three hour tour of the plant by a group of rabbis — remember Gilligan’s three hour tour? — a guy not paying attention might think the entire Postville matter has been exposed as a trumped-up blood libel put out there by union organizers who play hardball.

It’s nice to know that the Rubashkin plant is spotless. After all that downtime following the immigration raid, we suppose they had time to clean up a little. Does anyone else think it would have been relevant to point out that Rubashkin paid for the tour? The National Council of Young Israel, which led the visit to Potemkin Village, apparently didn’t.

It’s also good to know that some of the townspeople are standing behind their biggest local employer. And it’s true that an accused under our system of justice is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And it seems clear that the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, frustrated in its attempts to unionize the plant, has been trying to stick it to the Rubashkins for years. But, with all that said, does anyone really believe that there’s no case here?

Obviously, we’re not condoning a rush to justice; we’re certainly not condoning loshon horah; and we’re absolutely not condoning the union’s over-the-top activities. But smoke and fire do tend to work together and it seems eminently clear to us that not everything that was going on at that plant was on the up and up. In case you don’t know, The Forward has been reporting this story for years leading up to recent events. Some of the reporting has been about the back and forth with the union, but not all of it. In fact, it’s fair to say that for people who have been following that paper’s coverage, none of this is even much of a surprise.

Pretend for a moment that the initial fuss was about a serious, alleged kashrus violation, and not about civil laws. After what happened in Monsey last year, is there anyone who cares about kashrus who wouldn’t have said, “better safe than sorry” and “you can’t be too careful?” Unlikely. There would have been little talk of loshon horah, and few, if any self-righteous calls about waiting for all the facts. At some point, all the facts will be in – probably at a trial, or maybe several. But in the meantime, what to do?

The Orthodox Union’s point about not being equipped to police legal compliance and immigration issues is a fair one, and calls to boycott Rubashkin meat altogether run headlong into realpolitik ­­ namely that the loss of the plant could, and has, wreaked havoc with the glatt meat market. Still, something useful has to come from this.

If nothing else, we hope it’s this: a realization within all parts of the frum community that mitzvah haboh b’aveira is not ok, that civil laws do matter, and that one ignores them at his peril.

37 Responses

  1. “If nothing else, we hope it’s this: a realization within all parts of the frum community that mitzvah haboh b’aveira is not ok, that civil laws do matter, and that one ignores them at his peril. ”

    I have no idea what really went, or if anything went wrong, behind the scenes at Rubashkin’s. Nor, really, do I care. Rubashkin’s has been getting harshly and overly criticized by the press – Jewish and secular alike – for issues that I rather suspect go on in most plants and warehouses across the country. Issues of illegal immigrants being used as workers, poor pay, and long hours are not unique to Rubashkin’s and should not be portrayed in a manner that would make the reader believe as such.

    The above article certainly has it right that the various articles published by the rabbinic writers (Yated springs to mind) should have disclosed that Rubashkin’s paid or arranged for tour if, indeed, they did do so. But that’s not really the central point of this entire story.

    The central theme for us, as yidden, should be that while the owner of Rubashkin’s seems to have simply did what everyone else does and then got caught, he should have recognized that if he got caught it would lead to a Chillul HaShem. He either did not think he would get caught, did not care, or ignored that fact. That’s where I level my criticism.

  2. I for one do not care about what the govt says in regarding whether there were underage kids or illegal aliens working since for the most part they came looking for jobs and doctored up papers which showed older ages and legal immigrants. Maybe all the people who hire cleaning ladies and companies that hire workers should call the US Immigrations Dept when they hirte someone and fax them the paperwork and send them a photo and only then should they hire the worker. It is absurd. As far as the 3 hour visit which went as far as I can tell quite well and the neighbors and townspeople in general like the fact the the Rubaskins are there giving jobs to their town, I would best think that all is OK and as far as the Hasgocha if you trust the Rav Hamaschir then eat the food and if you don’t then buy the competition but lets get over this and there is no questions of Kashrus here anyway as it has been under the KAJ for years and they never said they left due to Kashrus problems and Rav Weissmandel is an erlicher Hasgocha so keep telling yourselves that all is well and hopefully more beef and chicken will be more available as time goes on and the plant gets back to normal. Let us be Dan L’kaf Zechus as we should always be.

  3. Dear “Jewish” Star,

    What a non suprise to me that you have elected to swallow the kool aid fed to you by the Slimes and its writers. Why dont you wait till trial and see what the emes really is instead of relying on the paper that is all the hypocrisy it wishes to print?

    If you claim to be Jewish writing about Jewish issues than perhaps you should open your eyes a bit. PITA YEMACH SH’MOM V’ZICHROM tried bringing the company down but that didnt work. The Unions YEMACH SH’MOM V’ZICHROM who aren’t allowed are trying to do the same thing.

    They keep throwing the stuff on the wall waiting for something to stick and you are helping spread the stuff. Get off your high horse with its related stuff and open your eyes. Why dont you write stories that are really no’gaya such as stories on PITA YEMACH SH’MOM V’ZICHROM and how they are trying to destroy Sh’chita with their messed up agenda? Why not expose the union for what they are doing too?

    Alas you have no intestinal fortitude other than to take on a company like Argi which when it all comes out will have done nothing wrong.


  4. what a moronic article.
    1) rubashkin paid for the tour.
    of course they did it was a pr event.
    but rabbis who came are independent
    and do not work for rubashkin. Some
    of them would certainly speak out if they
    something they thought wrong.
    2) smoke and fire tend to go together?
    when the union has a powerful interest?
    They have created the smoke. idiots like
    you assume there must be fire.

    they made this junk up. If you tell people
    enough times they are being abused, guess
    what will happen. Sooner or later someone who
    has a complaint or grievance will call it
    3) We keep hearing of ‘allegations of abuse’
    but so far there are only allegations of allegations of abuse. no actual credible allegations have been made public or they would have been mentioned in that stupid article.

    4) mitzvah haboh b’avairah.
    just what mitzvah do YOU think YOU are doing?

  5. further comment:
    At some point, all the facts will be in – probably at a trial, or maybe several. But in the meantime, what to do?
    end quote.
    Wow! what a dilemna. what to do!?
    You moron!
    “what to do”, you ask?
    Keep your mouth shut and wait.

  6. The truth is that we will never know the full story. Only Hashem knows all. We do know that there was a terrible Chillul Hashem and many of us know that the more we discuss it the worse it is for us. There are many factors and many people who are engaged in anti-frum activities. The solution is that we as Orthodox Jews must maintain a level of vigilence when it comes to our actions and our deeds so that we minimize the lashon hara and produce kidush Hashem. This should be done even tough it means that kosher consumers will have to pay more for their kosher meat and poultry. Write the OU. Write the RCC. And whenever you are about to do something, ask yourself how you can create a Kiddush Hashem.

  7. i personally had a tour of the plant and spoke to workers, both jewish and not and everyone was happy and nothing was wrong. i dont see why the rubashkins (a good family) HAS to be doing something wrong, maybe they really are just good people in a bad situation

  8. this is the first time in my life I am posting a comment on any site.Is this an opinion piece or a news item.I thought this was a yeshiva news site!It is very obvious that you have some form of a bias against rubashkin.even in previous posts you quote modern orthodox sources in trying to villify rubashkin,something dosen’t smell right with YWN’s stance on this matter

  9. “And it’s true that an accused under our system of justice is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
    “we’re certainly not condoning loshon horah”
    “After what happened in Monsey last year, is there anyone who cares about kashrus who wouldn’t have said, “better safe than sorry” and “you can’t be too careful?” Unlikely. There would have been little talk of loshon horah, and few, if any self-righteous calls about waiting for all the facts.”

    First of all, I thought it was the Torah’s system of Justice that says you need proof in front of Bais Din, I didn’t realize America has a monopoly of not presuming guilt (even though you want to.)

    Second of all, the disclaimer “We don’t condone Lashon Hara” has all the halachic power of “Nisht af Shabbos gereht, uber…”

    Finally, I don’t believe you can compare allegations of labor violations (where the paperwork may be turned in falsely by the applicants though the employer may turn a blind eye to inconsistencies) to someone knowingly selling tarfus and causing people to eat something forbidden.

    I don’t know if the level of aveira is equal when a person eats a Purdue chicken, or his turkey breast sandwich was packed by a 14-year

    Finally, when the issue came up in Monsey, many DID call out about the Lashon Hara issue, and many people were severely oiver on degrading Talmidei Chachomim.

    Let’s face it, people with an axe to grind don’t belong in a slaughterhouse.

  10. Anyone involved with hashgocha will tell you that if a plant is a mess concerning compliance to various government regulations and organization then they will probably be a mess concerning kashrus as well. This does not apply as much to the case at hand, because they may be more concerned about kashrus. Even so, with the tracking required to differentiate between kosher and treif animals, a lack of organization gives one reason to call their reliability into question.

  11. One can’t expect a butcher from Brooklyn to properly supervise a factory in Iowa (perhaps it might be better to move the critters to where the customers and slaughter them nearer to market) — One can’t expect frum Jews (and some would say, anyone else) to enforce the racist, anti-business immigration laws that require harassing anyone with a hispanic surname even if they have been citizens for generations, especially since we often ignore these laws (an illegal immigrant is someone with an expired tourist visa, and many Jews meet that criterion).

  12. The media, Jewish and secular alike, have been critical of Rubashkin’s, alleging abuse of employees, unsanitary conditions, use of illegal immigrants and underage people as employees, poor pay, and other similar things.
    I have no way of knowing whether or not any, or all, of the above allegations are true. I suspect some of the allegations may be true, because I also suspect Rubashkin’s is guilty of doing what a lot of other companies do – use illegal immigrants as cheap labor. Is it wrong? Sure. So is cheating on taxes and people, Jew and Gentile alike do it. Thus, to be critical of Rubashkin’s and let other companies slide is wrong.
    Where criticism of Rubashkin’s should be coming from, when coming from the Jewish community, is that the owner of Rubashkin’s needed to be aware of the ramifications of his actions should he get caught which, apparently, he may have been. It’s the Chillul HaShem involved that should make the Jewish community stand up and tell Rubashkin’s that its’ actions have ramifications beyond the bottom line that affect us, the Jewish community in America and how we are perceived.

  13. As someone who has been involved in various kashrus organisations, I can’t believe how much the “yashrus” has been left out of “kashrus”. For any plant, factory or shop that is run by owner/s who don’t deal yashrus in the day to day “non” kashrus issues, how can they be trusted with kashrus issues? If there is an problem with immigrants that has various illegal issues, obviously those issues were brushed under tha carpet, how do we know any kashrus issues have not been handled the same way! “boss i have a problem with the salting, boss there is a problem with the nikkur, etc is that “taken in hand”-” it will be dealt with, don’t worry” and nothing is heard more? Vested interests have mysterious ways of changing peoples outlooks in the kashrus world. To be caught with such a high number of illegals it makes me wonder what else is operating under the carpet.

  14. The smartest thing for Rubashkin to do is to cede control of the company to an outsider selected by the OU. He can remain the majority stockholder, but he and fmaily should no longer run the day to day activities of the company.

  15. while i hope for the best for the rubashkin family, i hope the three hour tour does not end up a three year saga! (like that other three hour tour)

  16. Mitzvah goreres mitzvah too! Not just the let’s punish the Rubashkins kind of talk.
    It is a mitzvah for us to buy kosher and it is a mitzvah to support a Jewish family and it is a mitzvah that the Rubashkins give more tzedakah to Tomchei SHabbos and to feed the hungry. Why not mention the positive things?
    Repeating the negative is just a way of bringing up all over again. You want Hashem to keep reminding you of your sins after you already were modeh?

  17. It is heartening to see the Orthodox community gain consciousness of these nearly forgotten issues of workers rights and civil law. The real tragedy is that the victims of this imbroglio have often already been deported as criminals with nary a peep from our community. Aarons wants us to have hakarat hatov to them for supplying kosher meat to us; that is fine and good. But they, and we, seem to have forgotten to display the same courtesy to the people who actually produced that meat, often under bad conditions, and for incredibly low wages.

  18. Of course Agri paid for the tour – who else should pay for it? The people involved took the time out of their busy schedules, and agreed to go on a grueling trip to eck velt in order to see what’s going on, and you expect them to pay for the privilege? They certainly received no compensation for their time and effort. It’s not as if Agri flew them out on a corporate jet, put them up in four-star hotels, and fed them haute cuisine; they would have had a better time in every way had they stayed home.

  19. Oh, and dress it however you like, the US Code is not part of Shulchan Aruch, violating civil law is not an aveira, and nobody in the frum community cares about it. It doesn’t affect their ne’emonus, and it doesn’t affect the kashrus of the product. Nor does anybody in the goyishe world care about it, so it’s not a chilul Hashem. The only people who care about it are the professional nudniks in the Modern Orthodox world, who have elevated “dina demalchusa dina” into an ikkar hadas, without bothering to actually learn anything about it. Hint: you will not find anywhere in the gemara or in any rishon who discusses it, an actual obligation to obey the law.

  20. perhaps the editor of the jewish star is biased–
    he was not invited to join the group of rabbis going to postville, while the frummer and bigger paper in five towns and far rockaway, the five towns jewish times, was.
    maybe bias is too nice, maybe his anger has dictated his message.

  21. First of all the Monsey story was two years ago and that is a different story. This is wrong what happened and look how many other places have Illegal Immigrants or Youths working go after them!!!.

  22. I really think we have to be honest about this (from all sides). Dina demalchusa dina applies across the board to all companies equally. Why are we all of a sudden SO up in arms about a few underage or illegal workers in Iowa? We don’t have enough working in almost every supermarket (or home)in Brooklyn? It should bother an Orthodox Jew that the Star is using the fact that the Forward “has covered the story for years”. Who cares? We all know the Forward’s agenda! Anyone with half a brain can see their non-stop articles on Rubashkin as just steps in an insidious campaign against kashrus and Orthodoxy! I’m no expert on the Star, but I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who are.
    Oh,and by the way, the Rabbi’s were out there SIX hours (sorry to ruin the gag).

  23. MILHOUSE>>>>>>

    NO CHILOUL HASHEM???!? where do u live? ur attitude makes me sick, and sincerely u give rightous frummies a bad image. ur comment itself is a hiloul.

  24. Look I don’t know what really went on and most of us have no clue either. But I’ll say this again, follow the money:

    It sounds to me like the union is angry that they haven’t been able unionize Agri, and, like other have said, Agri may have done what many large employers from all industries have alledgedly done – hire illegals. This is not to be taken as support for what they allegedly did.

    So here’s the solution. If Agri hired illegal workers, they should be fined like other companies. If the union is succesful, without out sneaky tactics, of unionzing the workers, then we’ll have to accept it (and higher prices). Then we can all move on.

    However, AGRI screwed up big time by letting this get way out of hand. Now they turned their allegations into a big black mark for the Jewish community. As any businessman will tell you, fix it quickly and move on.

  25. perhaps you found something offensive about my previous comment, and that is why it wasn’t posted. Why is the title of this news story duplicated? Three hour tour, three hour tour.

  26. In no particular order:

    Milhouse, you could be on the wrong side of this as much as you want. No one is debating dina d’malchusa here, at least not that I saw. The issue here is whether the “charges” are true. So far no matter what you say, THEY ARE NOT TRUE. You are missing the point which is that when one is INVESTIGATED they have not been CHARGED and NOT BEEN FOUND GUILTY. Its easy to call someone a Rosha but why not wait till they actually plead guilty to something instead of being guilty by the NY Slimes, PITA, and the Union? Until then all it is, is loshon hora which you no doubt have been M’kabel.

    cantoresq, why would that be “the smartest” thing? Why not assume they didnt do anything wrong?

    Regarding Monsey, Flatbush, Cleveland, Chicago, etc., y’all have to realize there is a halocha of Eyd Echod and when there is a shomer shabbos / shomer torah u’mitzvos person, he AUTOMATICLY is given ne’emonis. We are “stricter” than Shulchan Aruch and we generally make them have a hashgocha, but is certainly is not needed according to halocha.

    Finally, ladies and gentlemen as well as all those not included in the above mentioned categories, we are dealing with ALLEGED issues. No one has plead guilty to anything and it is not up to us to find them guilty either.

  27. I may be attacked for being paranoid but I am quite certain that the fact that the Rubashkins happen to be Lubavitcher has added fuel to the fire.Practically every major meat processor in the country,kosher and otherwise, is guilty of the very same crimes that Agri is being accused of.
    Meat slaughtering under the best of situations is a dirty and dangerous and is prone to many sorts of violations, local and federal ,but not necessarily intentional .In addition you have Peta, the unions,the conservative movement and sad to say the so called Modern Orthodox being lead around like behaimes (pun intended) by a young Rabbi in Washington trying to make a name for himself.All of these factors add up to lynch mob situation even though the only crime,not necessarily by Agri, that has actually been committed or proven is the one of illegal immigrants.

  28. Enough with these articles. Let this company do what it has to do to clear things up and there is nothing to be gained by posting the latest information about the troubles this company is having. It was news once, now it is fuel for nothing good at all.

  29. BS”D

    The very title of the editorial is offensive to those of us who really do not want to see references to secular “culture” in Jewish news sources. (I, for one, don’t need to be reminded of my own vapid TV-ridden secular childhood).

    From there, the editorial just gets worse.

  30. As far as I can see, all that can be said has been, I only have two corrections:

    1. ML (#3) The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals have the initials PETA, Not PITA, like a bread

    2. Nitpicker (#7)- the question is whether to eat from them or not, not whether to make a macha or not.

  31. This article completely misses the point. As someone following the story closely, I can tell you that the fact is that ‘the entire Postville matter has been exposed as a trumped-up blood libel put out there by union organizers who play hardball.’ Anyone interested in the facts must admit as much. The only reliable testimony we have to go on is these rabbis who toured the plant. It’s insulting to suggest that they lose their credibility as respected community leaders from different segments of the Jewish community just because they didn’t have to pay for the airfare.

    The idea that we would be more concerned if it were a kashrus issue is a preposterous idea based on hateful caricatures of Orthodox Jews. (Despite what people may say, it is actually possible for an Orthodox Jew to be a good person.) If even one of the many respected Jewish organizations testifying to Rubashkin’s innocence said that something is kosher we would leave it at that. Ever heard of kosher certification? How do you think that works? UNRWA (the union) hasn’t tried to impugn Rubashkin’s kashrus because it wouldn’t work. The OU is simply more reliable than this union which at any given time is being sued by ten different companies for libel.

    Where there is smoke is fire is right. The fire is the corruption of UNRWA that would allow it to sink to such dastardly tactics. How do people take that sitting down?

    It is not in our best interest as Jews to give any credence to the tactic of ‘blaming the hated Jew’. We must stand together and give the message that blood libels are a thing of the past. If this libel succeeds, others are not far behind.

  32. 1) The union interested in organizing workers ar Agriprocessors is the United Food and Commercial workers (UFCW).
    2) UFCW has never called for an election at Agriprocessors. The workers were too intimidated and afraid management (Rubashkin) would fire them and for good reason.
    3) UFCW did not advertise in Guatemala and Mexico for sixteen year old girls to come to Postville and be propositioned by supervisors.
    4) ICE, and the other 15 Federal and State government agencies involved in the May 12 raid, found false identification papers in the Human Resource Department of Agriprocessor for the use of employees applying for work.
    5) One of the Agriprocessor supervisors under indictment for selling false documents to workers is expected to plead guilty tonight or tomorrow.
    6) Rabbonim who work at AGri walked out today because they havn’t been paid for 6-8 weeks!

    Stop blaming the UFCW for Agri’s greed.
    The anti-Semites had nothing to do with employing children at Agriprocessor.
    Competitors did not take old meat out of the Agriprocessor freezer, defrost it, and send it out with new freshness dates.

    The problems at Agriprocessor were caused by two things: A) Our own failure to police ourselves, and; B) The greed and hubris of the owners of Agriprocessors.

  33. As someone who has been in Rubashkin’s plant on more than one occasion, and have worked in other m/west slaughterhouses, I want to point out that its nearly impossible to assume that Rubashkin is blatantly guilty here for the following reason: Agri operates with MANY USDA inspectors on the lines. In fact, if they shecht when a supervisor is not on the line, the meat is condemmed! Therefore it’s kind of silly to assume that they blatanly ignored the law and did not do what they were responsible to do. Its also silly to think that workers were abused on the lines, or totally untrained. As you probably know, making meth w/o people nearby knowing, is impossible–it stinks. I could go on and on…

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