Dear friends -
While I have not created this blog to comment on politics or world events, I feel it is my duty as a "food" blogger to share with you our Rabbi's recent thoughts on the unethical treatment of workers in a facility that produces kosher meat and chicken. There are hundreds of undocumented workers that are being held after a raid on the facility and there are allegations of mistreatment and abuse of these workers.
I absolutely agree with everything that the Rabbi has to say and for sure I will not be purchasing items produced by this company until this is fully resolved and there are assurances that abuse is not taking place. For those of you that are not aware of what has been happening, I am attaching the comments and article....(this was sent to my e-mail from my synagogue Anshe Emet in Chicago.)
I am sure that all of us have been following the terrible events in Postville, Iowa in these past weeks. The sight of hundreds of undocumented workers being held, many separated from their families is difficult to witness. Add to this the allegations reported in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the situation becomes all that more chilling. Because this is taking place in a Kosher meat plant, what is happening in Postville is a poor reflection on the time honored tradition of Kashrut and the Jewish people at large!
The Hekhsher Tzedek Commission, of which I am proud to serve as national co-chair, in an effort to ensure that Kosher products are produced in an ethical way, has spearheaded an active response. This statement is going out to the entire Conservative Movement. The time is long overdue for us to make our voices heard. I hope that you will participate in this effort.
Rabbi Michael S. Siegel
"YOU SHALL NOT ABUSE A NEEDY AND DESTITUTE LABORER"
A Statement by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly Regarding Rubashkin's Meat Products
New York, NY (May 22, 2008) - In light of continuing disturbing allegations of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors Plant in Postville, Iowa, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly is united in calling for a thorough evaluation by kosher consumers of the appropriateness of purchasing and consuming meat products produced by the Rubashkin's label.
Rubashkin's produces kosher meat primarily under the Aaron and David label at the Agriprocessors facility. It is a major producer of kosher meat and poultry in the United States. The allegations about the terrible treatment of workers employed by Rubashkin's has shocked and appalled members of the Conservative Movement as well as all people of conscience. As Kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting human suffering.
The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will immediately release an advisory to its members and constituents to evaluate the appropriateness of consuming Rubashkin products until the current situation is addressed. This advisory extends not only to products purchased on the retail level but to meat and poultry consumed in restaurants and at private functions, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.
As the month of Sivan approaches, Jews throughout the world are mindful of the Torah's message of the power of Kedushah, holiness as it applies to all aspects of our lives including the ethics of worker treatment and food production. It is hoped that Conservative synagogues, schools and summer camps engage in a study of this important topic in honor of the festival of Shavuot - which begins on the sixth day of Sivan -- which commemorates the giving of the Torah.
A valuable source for such study is the paper written by Rabbi Avraham Reisner, entitled Hekhsher Tzedek Al Pi Din. This paper is a companion to the Hekhsher Tzedek Policy Statement and Working Guidelines. The paper is available on the websites of the Rabbinical Assembly (www.rabbinicalassembly.org) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (www.uscj.org). By releasing this advisory, the Conservative Movement endorses the vision and guidance of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. Hekhsher Tzedek is an initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue that seeks to create an ethical certification process for kosher food. Through its work, Hekhsher Tzedek seeks to strengthen the bond between Halakha and Social Justice.
The reports of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant demonstrate the pressing need for the sort of ethical oversight which might be provided by Hekhsher Tzedek.
For further information about the advisory being released by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly, or to request an interview with any member of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission, the Rabbinical Assembly or United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism please call Shira Dicker at 212.663.4643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Steve Rabinowitz at 202.265.3000 or email@example.com.