CONSERVATIVE RABBIS: What Would Heschel Have Done?

So, the Conservative rabbis charged five months ago with investigating the abuse at Rubashkin’s AgriProcessors plant in Postville are sitting on their findings. Why? I know some of the reasons, perhaps all of them. Soon, I’ll list them. But not now.

Now I will just ask Rabbi Morris Allen and his colleagues one question: What would Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel have done? You know the answer. Leadership takes courage. Sometimes it involves risk, as well. You can act like Heschel or not – the choice is yours.

Put simply, Heschel had real strength. He took real risks. He stood up for the truth and for what is right and good. He didn’t worry about his popularity or his safety. Perhaps this is because of what happened to his generation in Europe. Perhaps it is simply because he accepted the burden of leadership in its fullest manner.

One thing I can guarantee you. When you all face the beit din shel mayla (and that should be a very long time away), God isn’t going to care much about the price of kosher meat (that is a trial Rubashkin & Co. will surely face and fail) – He’s going to care about the ungodly price paid by those (often illegal) immigrants who produce it.

What would Heschel do? You know the answer. The only real question is, Will you follow in his footsteps?



Filed under Chabad Theology, Crime, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Price-Fixing, Rubashkin Worker Abuse

11 responses to “CONSERVATIVE RABBIS: What Would Heschel Have Done?

  1. I know full well what you’re driving at, and I agree with you, but Heschel wasn’t Conservative. He didn’t fit in with the faculty and the administration at JTS at the time and certainly wouldn’t fit in there now.

    Yes, it’s true that many inside JTS look up to him (and they should), but they have never looked at him as the moral guidepost.

  2. Yochanan Lavie

    Heschel didn’t only belong to the Conservative movement. He belonged to all of us. I wish we had his like today.

  3. Kyle

    But the real question is, what would Brian Boitano do?

  4. Schneur

    Although I am unceratin as to why the RA has not issued a report, I must take issue with your portrayal of Prof. Heschel.
    When the riots in urban America broke out in the mid 1960’s the chief victims were Jewish merchants and the Jewish infrastructure (read orthodox shuls and schools).Tens of Millions of dolars of losses were taken by Orthodox Jews,and other urban Jews.It marked the end of Jewish communities in places like Newark, Detroit, Dorchester, etc etc. and thousands of Jewish senior citizens and poor Jews were driven from their homes and /or lived in constant fear.
    The culprits were Black teena gers egged on by the Black Power movement and White Liberals including Hubert Humphrey.
    Heschel like other American Jewish leadrs was also very sensative to the media. Not a word of protest from him as to the price the Jewish community was apying for the Black power movement, rather he chose to portray himself as a Civil Rights leader himself marching down South with a Torah scroll. After all his movement the Conservative one was a suburban based movement whose instittutions and members were basically immunized from these Riots.This played well on NBC , the New York Times and the Liberal media.
    Unlike the Rav who came out against Interfaith religious dialogue with the Vatican , Heschel jumped at the opportunity to meet the Pope get his picture in TIME magazine etc etc.
    When a reporter for TIME came to speak to the Rav in the 1960’s he told him to go to hell,(as the rav could care less about publicity) not Heschel, he grew his hair long and became New Agey after all that was in those days.
    My guess that Heschel would check the PR thermometer now too and see which way the wind was blowing.

  5. Heschel risked his life to march with King. And marching with King has no relationship to the Panthers, etc. or those riots. The question isn’t why Heschel marched with King – the question is why the Rav did not.

  6. Rabbi Heschel not only marched with martin Luther King. He was also an early leader in the struggle for Soviet Jewry and a founder and leader of Clergy and laity Against the war in Vietnam.

    I agree that we need rabbis with Heschel’s sensitivity and courage today. Among the issues where we badly need rabbinic leadership, I believe, are in applying Jewish values to global climate change and the many other environmental threats to humanity, and to make Jews aware of the devastating effects that animal-based diets and agriculture are having on the health of the Jewish people and others and on the health of our precious, but imperiled, planet.

  7. Schneur

    Pray tell me why Heschel did not publically protest the Black inner city riots and use his contacts with the Black leadership to seek to halt them, especially in regarsd to the Jewish community.
    As a teenager living in a New Haven in a predominately black area, these times were very frightening.Walking home from shul was a dangerous task.My father’s kosher meat market was ransacked, after all the local Blacks were expressing their anger at the high price of Kosher meat. But Heschel was not bothered , ( neither was the American Jewish leadership when Crown Hts was under attack by Black mobs) Yes ,I saw Heschel (with no less than a Torah in his arm accompanied by a mob of reporters and photogrophers) in Selma etc,) but I did not see him marching down Jewish business streets seeking to protect Jewish stores, shuls etc .
    Make no mistake about it these riots were the direct cause of the end of the traditional jewish communities in most Urban areas including many until then Jewish neighbiorhoods in NYC
    But Dr. Heschel expressed no public concern about that issue.
    As a matter of fact it was this silence on the part of Heschel and the American jewish leadershiop that DIRECTLY led to the creation of the JDL under the leadership of the late Meir Kahane .Kahane’s originakl followers were urban jewish youth who were angered by the facts as I write them here.
    I find it interesting that people want a critical bio of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Artscroll books about Gedole Israel are mocked for being uncritical, but there is no one out there prepared to undertake aeven a mildly critical analysis of Heschel’s career. Yelamdenu rabbeinu !!

  8. At least heschel stood up for something, and at great risk. No rabbinic leader you cite did so.

    Plus, if memory serves me, most of the devastating riots were AFTER King’s assassination. The murder pushed the Civil Rights movement into the arms of black radicals,and out of Heschel’s influence.

    American Jewish orgs did not have good radical contacts. The sad truth is, no one blamed non-radical blacks for those riots or expected them to march down the streets of Newark and Brooklyn defending Jews. I think your anger is more properly placed with those moderate black leaders. They were the only ones who could have had a positive effect.

  9. Yochanan Lavie

    The bad behavior of the black radicals (whom I have no use for) does not negate the positive aspects of the civil rights movement. The anti-Semitic, anti-white riots did not retroactively justify Jim crow Laws, etc. Heschel was right to march (okay, the nebbishy Jewish community should have stood up for the beleagured urban Jews- but that doesn’t mean condoning racism).

    Furthermore, MLK, Jr. defended Israel’s right to exist, and denounced “anti-Zionism” as a new form of anti-Semitism. A. Philip Randolph was head of a Negro-American Israel friendship league (the exact name escapes me).

    Someone else’s bad behavior does not justify one’s own bad behavior.

  10. Arnon

    Can we kindly think about Lev 24-25, with respect to the consequences of such Chillul Hashem as the Rubashkin’s do could be?

    Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.

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