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12 Jewish Congressman Blast Agriprocessors In Letter

agri3.jpgToday, several Jewish members of Congress sent the enclosed letter to Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin, the President and Director of Agriprocessors, the major kosher slaughterhouse and meat distribution firm whose plant was the site of a major immigration raid in August. The letter expresses deep concern over the company’s alleged mistreatment of its workers and animals and the violation of U.S. laws and Jewish standards.

Signatories to the letter include Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Howard Berman (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ron Klein (D-FL), Barney Frank (D-Mass), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). The correspondence was organized by Berman, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Ackerman, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and Waxman, the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The text of the letter is enclosed below:

September 23, 2008
Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin
President and Director – Agriprocessors, Inc.PO Box 920 Postville, IA 52162

Dear Rabbi Rubashkin:
We write to express our deep concern as Jewish Members of Congress regarding recent reports concerning Agriprocessors’ business and labor practices. The allegations about the company’s treatment of its workers and the animals raise serious questions about the company’s compliance with U.S. law and the highest standards of Jewish law and tradition concerning kashrut–a subject certainly beyond the scope of the U.S. government’s concern, but one of considerable importance to the Jewish communities in our districts.

We were shocked by the May 12, 2008 raid on your facility by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which led to the arrest of nearly 400 of your employees, each of whom was working and living in the United States as an illegal immigrant. We were absolutely stunned, however, to learn that, in the course of their investigations, federal authorities reportedly uncovered a methamphetamine laboratory and a Social Security card-forgery ring, as well as the use of child labor, inside the Agriprocessors facility. While federal investigators are still in the process of determining the extent that company management was aware of these activities, the decision by the Iowa Attorney General to file some 9,000 separate child labor charges is deeply troubling.

The company has also opposed efforts by employees to unionize, disregarding orders by the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to honor a vote by workers at Agriprocessors’ distribution center in Brooklyn, New York to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Most recently, Agriprocessors has challenged these orders on the basis that some of the employees who supported the union effort were undocumented, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Sure-Tan Inc. v. the National Labor Relations Board that the National Labor Relations Act pertains to employees regardless of their immigration status. If the allegations about Agriprocessors’ knowledge of the hiring of undocumented workers are true, the company would appear to have a brazen interest in abiding by U.S. laws at its own convenience.

In addition to our alarm over reports of your company’s extensive, deplorable and illegal treatment of many of its workers, we have been disgusted by revelations about Agriprocessors’ slaughtering practices and the company’s treatment of animals. Between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007, Agriprocessors was issued five separate citations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for faulty monitoring of mad cow disease and more than a dozen citations for fecal and bile contamination of beef and poultry, which resulted in two separate meat recalls. A 2005 report by the USDA Inspector General also found evidence of inhumane slaughter practices.

After an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2004 showed footage of cattle walking inside the Agriprocessors facility with slit throats – a grotesque and unethical practice altogether – the company asked Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-respected expert in the fields of animal rights and humane slaughtering practices, to tour the facility and recommend reforms.

More recently, another undercover PETA investigation filmed the use of a practice known as “gouging,” which inflicts deep, agonizing, saw-like wounds onto an animal immediately after the rabbi completed the ritual cut as proscribed by Jewish law. The new report led Dr. Grandin to rescind her earlier support of the slaughtering practices employed by the company and recommend the permanent installment of cameras that would be independently monitored.

If these many and varied allegations prove to be true, aside from personal criminal liability, such conduct would be a blot on the reputation of the kosher food industry.

While we welcome the announcement last week that Agriprocessors has hired a new chief executive officer, Bernard Feldman, under the threat of losing kosher certification from the Orthodox Union, we remain deeply disturbed by the company’s alleged past practices. We would appreciate a detailed explanation of the steps Agriprocessors will be taking under the leadership of Mr. Feldman to address the company’s systemic problems and ensure the humane and ethical treatment of both workers and animals in accordance with both U.S. laws and Jewish standards.

(Dov Gordon – YWN)

36 Responses

  1. BS”D

    The Rubashkins survived the Yevsektziya (Jewish moisrim who joined the Communists and were themselves purged by Stalin YM”S) in the Soviet Union; they will survive this Congressional Yevsektziya as well!

    Gary Ackerman should be ashamed of himself for associating with the likes of M”Znik Barney Frank and socialist Nita Lowey in signing this, which is the equivalent of an extremist “kol korei” on a mikveh wall. It is clearly the work of union influence through their lobbyists.

    I would say that Reb Aron’s response should be “yeshakeini” but if I were he I would not say that to Barney Frank…………

  2. Thank you Congressmen for getting involved where you dont belong. Perhaps you should aquaint yourselves with JEWISH law and you will know that as ugly as it looks on tape, there is HALACHIKLY nothing wrong with the second cut. You are allowing PETA to throw their weight around too much. They are a left wing terrorist organization – pehraps not in the same spirit as the ones we are fighting in Iraq & Afganistan – but terrorists nontheless and the fact that you are giving them any credence doesnt surprise me with that letter after your names.

    Stick to running the country, something yall dont do too well and keep out of business where you dont belong.

  3. Yes, there are Republicans in Congress. There are also at least two members of Congress who keep kosher – Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT); neither of them signed (I notice that all the signatories are from the House – I wonder why).

  4. In my opinion, enough already about this. Again, from this point on, in my opinion, and I am not expert, this matter is just a matter of gossip and not news anymore.

  5. why does it matter if these people keep kosher? of course no one wants to see anything happen to agri but if there where problems with illegal people working there that needs to be adressed.

  6. BS”D

    I have reason to believe Gary Ackerman does keep kosher and usually he is very supportive of Jewish causes. That’s why I said he ought to be ashamed of himself.

  7. Millhouse- your comment about lechol hadeyos is nonsense. How do you know what gd views as more important. Personally i think gd cares far more about how you treat your fellow man, and that you don’t cause animals unnecessary pain, over whether you keep kosher. Lets face it, the torah doesnt say anything explicitly about schecitah but it explicitly says plenty about treating your fellow man as you would treat yourself and about not causing animals unnecessary pain.

    As for the rest of the comments here- its typical charedi arrogance- if anything charedi is criticised, the criticisor must be an idiot or biased- you guys never stop for even one second to think about whether there is any truth in the criticism.

    And yes, as you may have guessed, I am no longer observant of halacha- in large part because I have been sickened by the hypocrasy and double standards of the charedi leadership.

  8. are they just as shocked at the number of illegals working and living in the districts?

    are they just as shocked as when other companies get raided and hr practices weren’t the best?

    were they just as shocked when their brother in congress (one of the signatories) had illegal activities happening in his very own apartment?

    they are all a bunch of phonies!

    we should send our letters to these 12 and tell them that opinion is nothing more than meaningless drivel.

  9. It is news when my congressperson, who is supposed to represent ME, takes a position that is so alien to my core beliefs.

    As members of congress, I can understand their concern with the immigration issues. But they’ve taken all the worst allegations (repeat, allegations) out there and broadcast them to the world as if they were proven.

    I guess PETA is giving them more money then their frum constiuency.

    And, after a week in which Hillary declined to appear at a rally, and all these non-frum Democrats rally round PETA, does anyone still not understand why a frum Jew has no place in the Democratic party anymore?

  10. To Chaimg:

    Don’t let another person’s hypocrisy determine your path. Remember that CURRENT Charedi philosophy represents the extreme right-wing and not mainstream Jewish thought.

    The Rambam teaches (and the Halacha requires) that we are supposed to stay away from the extremes and position ourselves midway between them. You have let one extreme push you all the way to the other extreme thereby overshooting the middle. Try the middle, you might find it suits you just fine.

  11. Interesting quotes from Dr. Grandin. I remember a quote from Kashrus Magazine in the 90s (maybe it can be found on google, haven’t tried) concerning some new ramps that were designed to minimize the animals’ distress. She said that she felt at peace.

    You have to know a bit about Temple Grandin to “chap” that, but the point is, she was not opposed to shechita at all, just wanted to see done what could be done to minimize the animals’ distress within the kosher framework. So I am a bit curious.

  12. To all

    if you read the letter they say if the allegation are true.

    What does it matter if they kid kosher or not, many of the abuses have nothing to do whether the meat is kosher or not.
    Why is rubashkin the only one who does the second cut and not any of the other glatt kosher slaughterhouses. Seems to me that it is not necessary so do not do it.

    And the biggest shanday (shame) of this whole story is the reaction of the frum community, not caring about anything besides that it is kosher. Since many would still buy rubashkin even it everything proves to be true.

    You are showing all the world how the frum community has lost its way morally, and does not care whatsoever of others. In other words you fell others are not equal to you and do not deserve the same respect and you do.At least the reform and conservatives are helping the x-workers get home or some money to live. Something the frum would never ever do.

    And for those who always like to point out others do it, since when it that a valid excuse? when I questioned my rosh yeshive about the youth core program and the lunch program he also said well others do it.

    I answered I am so happy you said that now I know I can go to a movie or whatever, since others do it.

    and chaimg you are correct they are never wrong no matter what the situation is. They feel once they where black and keep shabbos they can do what they they want and it is okay because the keep shabbos

    Why someone who steal 10,000.000 is held in higher regard to someone who does not kep kosher is beyond me, they both are sins.

  13. to #17 — Hiring “illegal” aliens is widespread in all areas of the economy (in fact many “illegals” are students who tourists whose visas have expired). It is common in many Jewish business (think of the many Russians and Israelis who don’t have US citizenship or green cards but still work – without a green card all you can legally do is study, go sightseeing or twiddle your thumbs). It is common on “Wall Street”. Indeed without these “illegal” immigrants, our economy might be in big trouble. SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT is at least as big a concern – and it should be noted that the letter writters all receive substantial $$$ contributions from labor unions who are traditionally anti-immigrant (that’s why the labor union opposed holocaust rescue, something they don’t feel guilty about).
    The additional factor is that the signers of the letter for the most part are associated with “Jewish” organizions with an ideological objection to kashruth. If the letter was from Jewish legislators who keep kosher, have traditional affiliations, and aren’t “owned” by groups that have a “hidden agenda” in dealing with Agriprocessors (and Agriprocessors willingness to hire hispanic workers), it would have more credibility.

  14. I agree with everyone! I know more halacha, Rishonim, Acharonim, and Gemara then all of them put together! And of all of the people to criticize! That Barney Frank is a Menuval!!

  15. #14. Not sure if your elected officials are there to just represent you and not the other people in their constituency, but PETA is a good organization and has brought up valid points about shechita that should not be allowed. PETA loves animals and our Holy Torah cautions us to be mindful of treatment to animals, too.

  16. the bottom line is that there is a public perception that this plant played fast and loose with the law – and in Washington, image is everything – so, if someone has a reputation to restore, that person needs to work twice as hard as anyone else –

    trust me, the implications of this letter would be far more devastating to the Kosher-observant community if it issued from Gentile Congressmen with zero concern for Jewish causes – it’s the same difference as being underage and caught with whiskey by your father, rather than a cop –

  17. To A. Rubashkin and Agri.
    do not be fazed by any of these so called Jewish DimocRats who have no compuctions about eating treifos and Neveilos they are worse than the goyim. Do what you have to do, answer them in kind. and continue to provide the orthodox community with kosher products. We are 100% behind you in your fight with these mamzeirim.

  18. 21, you write that PETA loves animals. Reminds me of something a teacher of mine said: people say, they love ice cream, they love chicken, etc. But they don’t. They love themselves and how the ice cream and chicken make them feel. If they really loved the ice cream and chicken they wouldn’t eat it, they would do whatever they could to preserve it.

    So that’s PETA. They love animals and aren’t interested in reducing their distress in the shechita process (as is, say a Temple Grandin) but don’t want to see them shechted to begin with.

    True, the Torah commands us to be mindful of animals in literally dozens of places, but the Torah does not equate the needs and essential worth of animals with those of humans.

  19. Thanks for publishing the congresspeople’s names. Now everyone in their districts should get friends, family, etc etc to BOMBARD their offices with fury to make them realize that WE THE PEOPLE voted them in & we can vote them out again for a) mixing in where they don’t belong & b) ASSUMING guilt before no judgment or decision is made, just innuendo, gossip, & hate.

    GO, PEOPLE!!!

  20. Let’s keep in mind a few things. First of all, I think meat tastes better when made my underaged, unpaid illegal workers. It gives it that “exotic” feel, you know?

    Second of all, where in the Torah does it mention anything about lying being wrong? Since when were Chazal ever concerned with breaking secular law, and do we have any reason to think God is concerned with downtrodden workers? So what’s the big deal anyway? If something doesn’t affect ritual law, it doesn’t matter, right?

    Finally, right on above– what role do these national leaders have in getting involved in what has become a national embarrassment to their religion? (Ok, maybe they have constituents who are upset about the whole scandal, but who says it’s the job of congress to govern on behalf of their constituents?)


    -Yishayah Perek 1

  21. At the risk of stating the obvious:

    1) There was never a meth lab uncovered at agri, it was only mentioned in the affidavit used by ice for the raid and nothing was found (even the press has dropped the story).

    2) There was never a social security card forgery ring found in agri. What you read in the press that a pile of 96 fake id’s that were found on a desk in HR is misrepresentation by the press. They fail to mention that these were the cards that the illegal workers handed the people in HR to get a job. But just making a statement that there were 96 fake cards found in agri’s HR
    dept it makes it sound like they were being produced there.

    3) To make a statement that just the bringing of charges against a company or individual (regardless of the quantity) is “deeply troubling”, is completely unbecoming of a US congressman and completely ignores the noble
    American right of innocent until proven guilty. Remember the duke rape case, Sharpton’s pile and many others. Charges alone meant nothing.

    Re the company opposing employee efforts to unionize –

    This is still entangled in a legal battle, as agri has petitioned the us supreme court to hear the case and the supreme court has yet to

    Re reports of company treatment of workers –

    1) There is nothing to be disgusted with in regard to agri’s slaughter practices. There is hard copy evidence proving the scandal is one fabricated by peta and gobbled up by the press.

    2) claims of mad cow are usual claims made by the

    3) The claim that fecal bile contamination citations led to two separate recalls is patently false and once again a claim made often by the union.

    Additionally, the recalls that were issued were as
    follows: 1) 2,700 pounds of hot dogs due to underprocessing. 2) 35,000 lbs
    of frozen cooked chicken and beef products due to mislabeling.

    The union makes the second sound horrific by saying that the items contained a known
    allergen that can cause significant harm. The known allergen is EGGS. And the mislabeling thing was never agri’s fault to begin with.

    Most importantly, from the day agri opened 20 years ago, there has never been a recall on their raw beef and poultry, you can contrast this with industry figures of recalls during 2007 alone.


    They say these are all allegations, yet they have the chutzpah to write such a letter and demanding changes, when NOTHING has been proven in an unbiased arena? Amazing or what?

  22. BS”D

    Temple Grandin should be investigated and unmasked as a fraud.

    Remember the uproar when wannabe mekubalim abused autistic children to get nonsense answers about Moshiach? This charlatan is taking advantage of her protected status as autistic and therefore “disabled” to claim that she knows what an animal feels.

    Well, I am a former pet owner. This is majorly sick, but very true – I held a dead cat in my hands as he was making post mortem involuntary movements because I knew no better at the time and because I was distraught over losing him. I’ve also been to shechita that was done outside a factory setting and spoken to 2 BT shochtim who happen to have scientific knowledge. A cow does not understand or feel much of anything; that is why in the UK a slow, stupid, uncouth, low-class woman is called a cow.

    I am glad Temple Grandin (is that the name of a Reform house of worship on the Left Coast perhaps) knows what a dead animal feels after shechita. If I claimed to know that, I’d be committed to Pilgrim State because I B”H don’t have protected “disabled” status to abuse!

  23. dont just write comments here. take a pen and paper and write a letter expressing your anger at what they are doing to rubashkin and send a copy to every one of the names above. they are corrupt. I thier rabbi is R’ Elliot Shpitzer.

  24. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, or whether anyone keeps kosher. It’s about the human rights of the workers at Agri. How can any caring human being turn a blind eye to these abuses? Children working in a meatpacking plant — illegal! Workers denied overtime — illegal! Workers, when they ask for extra hours, being told that they have to buy a car from management before they get their hours — shameful! More than 90 percent of the workers are undocumented — does anyone think that this happened without the management’s knowledge? Impossible! Some people might enjoy thinking this is bias against those who keep kosher, but the facts speak otherwise. No amount of hiding behind the abuses of our history can change them.

  25. Were the Congre$$men who wrote the scathing attack letter to Agriprocessors influenced by the money?
    6:28:PM Thursday, Sep 25, 2008

    Those who are following the current events surrounding Agriprocessors, are no doubt wondering about, or rather coming to the conclusion that something else must be playing a roll here.

    Here are some facts which may shed some light unto this;

    In the 2008 election cycle the following Congressman were included on the U.F.C.W. (United Food & Commercial Workers Union):

    Jan Schakowsky, $10,000 (she also “happens” to be -as quoted in the Forward- a vocal critic of Agri in Washington).
    Henry Waxman, $5,000
    Barney Frank, $5,000
    Howard Berman, $5,000
    Rahm Emanuel $5,000
    Steve Israel $4,000
    Ron Klein $1,000
    Debbie Wasserman Schultz $1,000
    Robert Wexler $1,000

    Also note that the Democratic house as a whole received $1,340,857 vs. the Republicans $500.

  26. Where is the CRY, “Seperation of church and state”? When these same abuses happen in thier districts, there is an earily QUITE from them when it’s of a “NON Kosher” concern. Do these congress critters want us to believe they represent everyone, when it is so untrue.

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