Why Is The Rubashkin “Investigation” By Conservative Rabbis Taking So Long To Start?

So, why is the much-ballyhooed “investigation” of alleged worker abuse at Rubashkin’s Iowa plant taking so long to get off the ground? It is more than 3 weeks since the Forward broke the story, and the “investigation” has still not begun.

A source close to the happenings in Postville tells me the Conservative rabbis agreed to wait until Rabbi Sholom M. Rubashkin returns from an extended stay in New York. Rubashkin’s son Getzel was married last week, and the sheva brachot (week of festive meals) isn’t over until early this week. Rubashkin wants to be in Postville for the Conservative rabbis’ visit, and the rabbis, who took way too long to decide an investigation was warranted, then agreed to wait for Rubashkin to return.

Rubashkin has had almost one month to coverup and prepare for this visit. He has had ample time to reward workers who help him and isolate those who have not. And into this “prepared table” will waltz the Conservative rabbis, whose leader seems much more concerned about preventing a scandal than he does with getting at the truth.

Another rabbi on the delegation wants to secure Rubashkin non-glatt meat at affordable prices for his community. Will this “investigation” do this for him? If it does, doubt the investigation’s results.

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10 Comments

Filed under Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal

10 responses to “Why Is The Rubashkin “Investigation” By Conservative Rabbis Taking So Long To Start?

  1. anon

    patience.
    You seem to rail against various denominations that have dictators who can radically change people lives with a single utterance. One strength and weakness of Conservative Judaism is that it’s disorganized and there is no individual or even 10 individuals who can rapidly start something within the movement. It probably took weeks before the USCJ, RA, JTS, UJ, etc all decided how to do something together.

    The fact that people from multiple places in the movement came together and decided that this issue needs to be investigated and addressed as a community is already a rare and significant event.

  2. Neo-Conservaguy

    Who is expected to be in this group of Conservative rabbis? In this movement, one would be wise to evaluate each member of the rabbinate on their own merit. Let’s hope someone like R. Joel Roth is involved.

  3. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    I hope I am wrong, but I tend to believe that the Conservative rabbis will more than likely cover up for Rubashkin, and even if they might be somewhat critical, they definitely will not take a firm stand against worker exploitation.

    First off, almost everything in the Conservative movement goes toward kula just as Orthodoxy goes toward chumra. Second, we already have the example of how they reacted to the PETA video. A little hemming and hawing, a few rabbis refusing to serve the meat in their own synagogues for a while, but no strong action to boycott. Instead there was the view that banning Rubashkin’s meat would be too much of a hardship for communities with no other kosher meat source (as if kosher vegetarianism was so horribly difficult compared to wating six hours after a meat meal to have dairy, or having to have two sets of dishes, or the extra expense of kosher meat, etc.).

    I spoke to a Conservative rabbi in my area, who is vegan primarily for health reasons but also cares about animal welfare. His impression is that many Jews (mis)perceive an obligation not to eat inhumanely produced food as a kashrut chumra, no different from glatt, chalav Yisrael, or yashan, which they reject. That is, in essence, many Jews who do not affiliate Orthodox are rejecting these kinds of dietary and similar restrictions and banning products produced by animal or worker abuse smacks of being too “frum” in their minds.

    THis explains precicely why the Conservative movement has been in decline over the bast couple of decades. These Conservative rabbis have a golden opportunity to shine here. Watch them blow it yet again.

  4. Suzanne Bring

    Creating a real strategy for progressive change–the kind of change that would ensure worker justice and immigrant rights, even at ONE packing plant–isn’t going to happen in three weeks. Or several months. Maybe not even in a year.

    Impatience is just one reason among many why the left has no power. One reason among many why the gains of the 20th century labor movement have been rolled back. One reason among many why we are powerless to change cruel, unethical, dangerous business practices. One reason among many why we have no vision for immigrant rights, no vision for an anti-racist society, no vision to end poverty….Because we expect magic wands to be waved, statements to be spoken, and things to change, in an instant. And we turn away from the long, hard work that it really takes to create change.

    But I digress. As a staff person with Jewish Community Action–a Twin Cities-based group that engages Jewish people and congregations in long-term solutions to social justice problems, I am working in a supporting role to the aforementioned group of Conservative rabbis and leaders. I believe that they are showing wisdom in taking their time. They are holding conversations with people, learning more, and thinking about how positive relationships can make incremental changes. Changes that would ensure worker justice, immigrant rights, and could prove a model for labor practice and immigration reform throughout the U.S.

    In the Twin Cities, there is no rabbi more in front on immigrant rights issues than Rabbi Morris Allen. He is passionately committed to justice, and would no more engage in a “cover-up” (quoting Stephen Mendelson, see his post) than he would encourage his congregation to eat trayf.

  5. C-Girl

    Suzanne,
    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I encourage you to bring this issue out before other Jewish community relations committees. As with any effort towards social change, awareness is the first step.

  6. stillfrum

    FYI-Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, Orthodox rabbi and RCA member (www.bethdavidwh.org), and head of the Hartford Kashrut Commission, has taken the step (while not banning Agriprocessors meat outright) of demanding that the slaughterhouse source of all meat sold under his auspices be labeled, so that people can make a decision about what brand of meat to buy. He is “discouraging” the use of Agri meat in his shul, and has posted a list on the shul website of other OU approved kosher slaughterhouses so that people can try to purchase meat from other sources. I’m sure that’s not as severe as what Shmarya would like, but it’s a good start-enabling the buyer to make his/her own decisions.

  7. C-Girl

    I applaud Rabbi Adler’s willingness to speak up. It reflects a radical departure from the prevalent attitude of not wanting to diverge from the OU’s script. It’s striking that a rabbi could, in this day and age, stand up and encourage his congregants to be educated consumers.

    Rabbi Adler offers a list of alternative, OU-approved sources. Unfortunately, several of these OU-approved suppliers use the “shackle & hoist” method of shechita. You’d have no way of knowing that from the list, though. In addition, one listed supplier processes veal, a problematic “product” that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein poskened against eating.

  8. C-Girl

    I applaud Rabbi Adler’s willingness to speak up. It reflects a radical departure from the prevalent attitude of not wanting to diverge from the OU’s script. It’s striking that a rabbi could, in this day and age, stand up and encourage his congregants to be educated consumers.

    Rabbi Adler offers a list of alternative, OU-approved sources. Unfortunately, several of these OU-approved suppliers use the “shackle & hoist” method of shechita. You’d have no way of knowing that from the list, though. In addition, one listed supplier processes veal, a problematic “product” that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein poskened against eating.

  9. C-Girl

    I applaud Rabbi Adler’s willingness to speak up. It reflects a radical departure from the prevalent attitude of not wanting to diverge from the OU’s script. It’s striking that a rabbi could, in this day and age, stand up and encourage his congregants to be educated consumers.

    Rabbi Adler offers a list of alternative, OU-approved sources. Unfortunately, several of these OU-approved suppliers use the “shackle & hoist” method of shechita. You’d have no way of knowing that from the list, though. In addition, one listed supplier processes veal, a problematic “product” that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein poskened against eating.

  10. Stephen Mendelsohn

    BS”D

    I live in the Hartford area and know Rabbi Adler. I happen to work in an office directly above the kosher meat department at Waldbaum’s in West Hartford, where most of the glatt kosher meat in this area is sold. The meat in this store comes from both AgriProcessors (both Rubashkin’s / Aaron’s Best and Shor-haBor) and Alle / MealMart. The poultry comes from Empire, Rubashkin’s, David Elliott, and some organic chicken from Wise (which can also be found at Whole Foods). Occasionally there is also some bison from Solomon’s. There is also a Jewish owned store across the street under Conservative hashgacha which I believe has Hebrew National as its server. Trader Joe’s opened up last November and carries Rubashkin’s and Empire chicken as well as Agri’s non-glatt meat(David’s).

    A reporter from the Hartford Courant interviewed Rabbi Adler on kashrut and asked him about the veal issue. He responded that while in his view, halacha does not absolutely forbid the consumption of veal, he discourages its consumtion and forbids its being served in his shul. The article is posted prominently at the shul’s entrance. Rabbi Adler is also an endorser of Earth Kosher (http://www.earthkosher.com — click on endorsements), an Orthodox kashrut agency with environmental, health, labor, and animal compassion standards. While he was at first rather supportive of Rubashkin’s (and the OU) when the PETA video first came out, he is clearly more open-minded on this issue than other Orthodox rabbis in my area (one of whom publically admitted to debeaking chickens and had no regrets for what he did).

    Perhaps I can contact Rabbi Adler and let him know of our concerns about shackle- and-hoist, food containing battery caged eggs (the typical kiddush at Beth David is laden with cruelly produced eggs), and the like. Or anyone here can contact him at rabbiy@comcast.net or at Beth David Synagogue (860)236-1241.

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