Category Archives: Chabad Theology

The Lies Of Kosher Today Exposed

I wrote two weeks ago that the claim made by Kosher Today that OSHA had inspected Rubashkin’s Postville, Iowa plant and given the plant a clean bill of health, was most likely false. I pointed out that the man who made that claim, Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, was unreliable, and that he has a close business relationship with Rubashkin. I called OSHA and Iowa state officials and reported that no official visit was made by Federal or State Plan OSHA, and that the only possible "inspection" that could have taken place would been a consult done through the state’s consultancy program, which is not an inspection and has no bearing on what plant practices were before it or after it, but even this seemed unlikely.

The Forward has picked up this story (although it did not bother to give this blog a hat tip), and it did the one thing that I could not do – ask Rabbi Asher Zeilingold what the truth is. Here is what Rabbi Zeilingold told the Forward this week:

…Zeilingold, who is paid to provide kosher certification for the meat
at AgriProcessors, was an early defender of the company when the
original allegations appeared in the Forward. In Kosher Today,
Zeilingold said that the Conservative task force was “delighted to
accept all the lies and slander of the Forward article as absolute
truth because it gave them a pretext by which they could gain entry
into AgriProcessors and other plants positing as the champions of
‘kashrut’ and the rights of workers.”

Zeilingold’s
Conservative counterpart, Rabbi Morris Allen, was not contacted for the
Kosher Today article, but Allen’s synagogue did write a letter to the
publication, defending their religious leader.

“That
Rabbi Allen’s efforts — which are of no financial benefit to him — are
attacked by fellow Jews who also believe in the sanctity of kosher laws
is unfair and misguided,” the letter said.

In
addition to the criticism of Allen, Zeilingold told Kosher Today that
an official for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had
visited AgriProcessors and gave him a report praising the company’s
labor practices.

Reached this week, Zeilingold
said he could not release the OSHA report; however, he did say that the
OSHA official was not working in an official capacity when he made his
visit,
but rather as a “private consultant.”

My understanding is OSHA would like to find this "OSHA official" and discipline him. OSHA regional head Charles "Chuck" Adkins told me he wanted to find the man because no one has the right to represent OSHA unless he is on official business. "I want to put the hammer down on him," Adkins said.

Rabbi Asher Zeilingold’s veracity can further be determined by reading the data posted here.

[I should also note that Rabbi Zeilingold is the rabbi who excommunicated me.]

UPDATE: 2-8-07– I have now
confirmed the "OSHA inspection" was done by an employee of Federal OSHA
on his own time. It was not a full inspection, was not sanctioned or
approved by OSHA, and was arranged by Rabbi Zeilingold’s friend Carlos Carbonera (this
"inspector" is a friend of Carbonera’s). OSHA’s regional head Chuck
Adkins told me again today that he will "bring the hammer down" on anyone,
this inspector included, who uses OSHA’s name without permission. He
also pointed out that what this inspector did was a violation of
OSHA’s "internal rules and regulations."

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Crime, Haredim, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Rubashkin Worker Abuse

Schvartzes?

Rabbi Shmuely Boteach writes:

Last week I delivered a sermon based on the Torah portion of the week and which compared Moses, the great Jewish redeemer, with Abraham Lincoln, the martyred American emancipator. When I finished, I was approached by an acquaintance who happens to be an Orthodox Jewish engineer. He seemed, up until that time, to be devout, educated, and sophisticated. But what he told me was sacrilegious, ignorant, and primitive.

This gentleman maintained that Lincoln was no hero, seeing as he had freed a people who were the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, who was cursed for humiliating his father. “Ham’s children are black, and are condemned by God to eternal slavery,” he said. “There was even a rebbe in Poland who predicted that Abraham Lincoln would be shot for liberating a people against God’s wishes.”

I looked this man in the eye and said to him, “I’m confused. Judaism believes that every man is judged according to his actions. Now you are telling me that every black person in the world is cursed for something an ancestor did millennia ago. We Jews don’t believe in Original Sin, and we don’t believe in vertical accountability. So how can you tell me something so abominably racist like the fact that blacks are cursed?”

He responded that I was denying scripture. I told him that his views were repugnant to everything Judaism stood for in terms of the equality of all mankind.…

I remember my shock at seeing a book written by Rabbi Ahron Soleveitchik that strongly stated that racism of any kind has no place in Judaism. Why was I shocked? Because every Chabad and haredi rabbi I then knew was profoundly racist.

I was once driving with a head shaliach (the senior rabbi sent by the Chabad Rebbe to a particular area). We passed a bus stop at which a black man was kissing a white woman. The rabbi reacted with disgust. "It’s unnatural!" he screamed. "What is?" I asked. "Schvartes and whites shouldn’t mix. Races shouldn’t mix," he answered. I asked him if that was true even if the "schvartze" had converted. He fumbled for an answer, finally settling on "that depends on the situation." He hastened to add that the black convert would be a full Jew, and really should be able to marry any Jew, regardless of color. "So," I asked him, "would you let your son marry a black convert or the daughter of black converts?" "No!," he said. "Why not?" I asked. "It just wouldn’t be right," he said.

I used to write off this insanity as the side effects of living in or frequenting Crown Heights, with its years of racial tension. But the truth cuts much deeper. Orthodoxy in general and haredim specifically demonize the Other. Nothing is more "Other" than a black man.

I remember another haredi rabbi teaching that tselem elokim, the idea that man is made in God’s image, only applies to Jews. And we have the assertion in the Tanya, the so-called bible of Chabad hasidut, that every kindness a non-Jew does for Jews is only done for selfish reasons; non-Jews are not capable of altruism.

Boteach is right. Racism, as Rabbi Ahron Soleveitchik said, has no place in Judaism. It’s just too bad so many haredim don’t realize this, and that they have not realized it for so long.

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Rabbi Krinsky Says The Late Rebbe Is Still Alive?

Luke Ford has a brief post on a fundraising letter signed by Chabad’s titular head Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky. The letter refers to the Rebbe – who passed away in 1994 – as if he were still alive:

“As a fund which holds deep, personal significance to the Rebbe, the participation in its efforts is indeed a privilege and a priority for each of us.”

This sentence, which explicitly refers to the deceased Rebbe in the present tense as though he were still alive (i.e., “holds” not held), is underlined in the original letter.

Think this strange? Chabad, based on extreme interpretations of some kabbalistic theology, holds that tzaddikim are "more alive" after their passing than while "clothed" in a physical body. It’s a very short jump from there to saying the Rebbe’s relationship to hasidim and the world is unchanged by his passing, and that, therefore, our relationship to the Rebbe should be unchanged. As I noted last week, this is in fact what now passes for "normative" Chabad theology.

The Rebbe himself said things like this (and worse than this) about his father-in-law, the previous rebbe, after his passing in 1950. It was, in part, these extreme and bizarre statements that propelled Menachem Mendel Schneerson into leadership and rebbe status. In other words, to quote an old Yiddish proverb, the fish stinks from its head – the problems with today’s Chabad can be traced directly to Menachem Mendel Schneerson’s behavior in 1950 and 1951.

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The Nuclear Holocaust To Come?

Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael Oren have written a comprehensive, frightening article on Iran.  In it they note that Yitzhak Rabin’s acceptance of Oslo was meant to remove the inner ring threat to Israel, to neutralize it, so Israel could prepare for and face the threat of a nuclear Iran. The US under President Clinton did not believe Iran had a military nuclear program. It did and still does. (The authors note that Israeli defense officials began calling George Tennant’s CIA – which insisted that Iran was peaceable and had no military nuclear program – the CPIA, the Central Politicized Intelligence Agency.)

The main message here besides the threat itself and the potential Israeli response is that Rabin tried to remove the Palestinians from Iran’s orbit. He may very well have succeeded in this if the Clinton Administration had forced the PLO to comply with the agreements signed. It did not do so. That led to increasing chaos, the eventual Israeli-enforced isolation of Arafat, and the anarchy we see now.

But Rabin’s goal was good and his attempt to achieve it understandable. One can only hope fringe elements of Israeli society – especially the settlers and their insane "sanhedrin," Chabad, haredim, and the extreme right – can stop focusing on their parochial concerns and instead focus on the real threat – a nuclear Holocaust launched by Iran.

For his part, leftist historian Benny Morris thinks the end is near. His terrifying take on Iran can be read here.

UPDATE — Bernard Lewis on Iran:

…The Cold War philosophy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), which prevented the former Soviet Union and the United States from using the nuclear weapons they had targeted at each other, would not apply to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran, said Lewis.

"For him, Mutual Assured Destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement," said Lewis of Ahmadinejad. "We know already that they [Iran’s ruling ayatollahs] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. If they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick, free pass to heaven. I find all that very alarming," said Lewis.…

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Current Affairs, Israel, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy

LEADING CHABAD THEOLOGIAN: “The Rebbe Is Alive … There Is No Change In How The Rebbe Relates To Hasidim And No Change In How Hasidim Relate To The Rebbe”

Rabbi Yoel Kahn, Chabad’s chief theologian, has this to say about the Rebbe’s death and his ‘role’ in the world to this day:

The right shitah is to say the truth: That now the Rebbe is also alive and affects us here physically. That after Gimmel Tamuz 1994 no change has occurred in the relationship between the Rebbe and chassidim – no change as the Rebbe relates to chassidim and no change as chassidim relate to the Rebbe.

"Chazal tell us (in Sotah 13b) that just like Moses was standing in service of G-d before he became 120 so too he is standing in the service of G-d after 120. It is brought down in holy books that this is said not only of Moses but of all true leaders of Israel in every generation especially in the sichos where the Rebbe speaks of the "hiskashrus" to the Previous Rebbe.

"Obviously, this pertains to the Rebbe too as it is written in Zohar that "when a Tzaddik departs he is to be found in all the worlds more than in his lifetime."

"The difference between the Rebbe Rashab and the Rebbe is that since the Rebbe Rashab had a son who replaced him the "hashpo" goes through the new leader and Moses of that respective generation. But in the case of the Rebbe since he did not leave anybody to replace him, he continues to affect us just like before.… [One must ask, if this is true (it is not), does this mean every childless leader of Jews is still leading us, even many years or centuries after their deaths? This bizarre thought is now normative in Chabad. – Shmarya.]

Just like before Gimmel Tammuz 1994 people from all walks of life, not only Lubavitchers, would come to the Rebbe on Sundays to receive a dollar and ask for a blessing and witnessed outright miracles today too people from all walks of life come to the Ohel and are blessed with what they need. Some people make a special trip just for that. They land in Kennedy airport, go to the Ohel and fly back just as they came to the Rebbe before Gimmel Tamuz.…

This is part of a loger interview published in Kfar Chabad Magazine in which Rabbi Kahn attacks the theology of the extreme messianists (also known as Sfasniks and Taliban), the guys who pretend to get glasses of wine from the late Rebbe and other insanities. In other words, Rabbi Kahn is not arguing against the now normative Chabad belief that the Rebbe will be the messiah.

For those of you unaware, Gimmel (3) Tammuz is the date on the Jewish calendar of the Rebbe’s death.

[Hat Tip: Tzemach Atlas.]

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The Truth About Rubashkin, The Conservative Rabbis and OSHA

Kosher Today, the mouthpiece of the kosher food industry, has a misleading piece on the Conservative Movement’s new tzedek hechsher, Rubashkin and the allegations of worker abuse at Agriprocessors Postville, Iowa plant. First, the Kosher Today article in full:

Friendship of Orthodox and Conservative Rabbi in Tatters Over Kashrus Issues

St. Paul¦ It all began almost a year ago when a local glatt kosher butcher closed its doors leaving many kosher consumers without a source for glatt kosher meat. Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, spiritual leader of the Adath Israel Synagogue, head of United Mehadrin and a respected authority on kashrus, persuaded Cooper’s Supermarket to carry glatt kosher meats from Agriprocessors. Celebrating his accomplishments, Rabbi Zeilingold next reached out to his long-time friend Rabbi Morris Allen, the rabbi of the Conservative temple Beth Jacob in Mendota Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Rabbi Zeilingold had hoped that Rabbi Allen would help him assure that as many Jews as possible patronize the Cooper’s special section on glatt kosher meats. But Rabbi Allen insisted that the store not carry regular kosher meats from Agri, which had been the subject of attack by PETA, the extremist animal rights organization. The Conservative Rabbi also made sure to send out to his membership copies of a scathing article by the Forward which accused Agri of abusing its workers. He also refused to accept regular kosher meat from Agri, preferring instead kosher meat from Green Bay. In the process of settling on a supplier of the kosher meats, the American Jewish World in Minneapolis launched a vicious tirade against Twin-City Poultry, accusing the large kosher meat distributor of refusing to sell non-glatt products. The irony of it all is that kosher meat in many markets is more expensive than "glatt kosher" meat.

Within days of the Forward article, Zeilingold and a Spanish speaking congregant, Dr. Carlos Carbonera, visited the Postville, Iowa plant of Agriprocessors. They freely spoke to many of the Agri employees and found the Forward piece to be patently false. The Orthodox rabbi invited his friend Allen to see for himself. He and a group of Conservative rabbis turned up in Postville, only to take part in the latest efforts by the Union to unionize Agri employees. The Union had in fact advertised the rabbi’s appearance. Said Rabbi Zeilingold: "From the Forward article, and from Rabbi Allen’s deceptive behavior, it was obvious to me that Rabbi Allen, Victor Rosenthal, and the other members of the Conservative commission did NOT visit Agriprocessors in order to evaluate the validity of the Forward’s May 26 attack on Agri.  They were delighted to accept all the lies and slander of the Forward article as absolute truth because it gave them a pretext by which they could gain entry into Agriprocessors and other plants posing as the champions of "kashrut" and the rights of workers.  The lies of the Forward article gave them fertile ground to plant the seeds of the "tzedek hechsher," a new Conservative certification that includes social concerns.

To put the entire matter to rest, Rabbi Zeilingold arranged for a high ranking official of the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to visit the Agri plant. After two-full days at the plant, the OSHA official reported having "no issues of concern."  According to OSHA records, Agriprocessors has a far better safety record than the plant named by the commission of Conservative rabbis, with approximately sixty percent fewer citations.  The OSHA official further stated that, “a program addressing each and every one of the hazards recognized by OSHA inspectors "was working strongly at the plant" and further, that "Agriprocessors inspection history stands within normal parameters compared to other companies within this industry."  He ends his report by stating definitively: "Agriprocessors is committed to providing a safe work environment to their employees. They have the tools that allow them to improve the safety of their working environment." With the record straight, Zeilingold still hopes that a fair-minded Allen will take his hand in friendship once again.

The friendship issue. To call Asher Zeilingold and Morris Allen "friends" is a stretch. They worked together on to get kosher meat for their community. They didn’t party together, vacation together or study together. They didn’t see each other socially. They didn’t visit each others synagogues, give drashot there, or pray together. Their "friendship" was conditional, based on a achieving a specific, limited goal. When worker abuse allegations against Rubashkin surfaced, Allen’s attempts to clean up Rubashkin put him at odds with Zeilingold.

Further, Zeilingold has a business interest with Rubashkin. His supervision mark is on Rubashkin’s non-glatt product. He has a vested interest in freeing Rubashkin from the cloud that hangs over him. Kosher Today does not mention this business relationship, even though ethically it should have.

OSHA. I spoke with OSHA officials in  Washington, in the regional office that covers Iowa, and the officials in Iowa who administer the state’s OSHA-approved program. This is what I learned:

  1. No Federal or State OSHA inspection took place at Agriprocessors during the time frame set out in the Kosher Today article.
  2. Federal OSHA does not have jurisdiction over Agriprocessors, because Iowa is a State Plan state, and all OSHA work is handled locally.
  3. Mary Bryant, the woman who administers OSHA enforcement for the State of Iowa, told me no inspections or enforcement actions took place during that time. This is current through yesterday, the day of publication of the Kosher Today article.

So what could have happened? Perhaps this. OSHA has a consultancy program. A company can confidentially call OSHA (in this case, Iowa-administered OSHA) and get a consult. OSHA will look at a plant’s operations as it is on that day (not how it was the day before, not how it will be the day after) and give the company a report to help them get into compliance. But any plant can prepare for one of these consults, get into perfect working order, then have OSHA look, and then publicize this consult. Rubashkin did just this with Dr. Temple Grandin’s consult. Did Rubashkin do this with OSHA, too?

Maybe. Steve Slater, the man who  runs this program for the State of Iowa, can’t say, because he is bound by the consult program’s pledge of confidentiality. He did say that he, the most senior OSHA-related person in Iowa, did not make the statements quoted in Kosher Today and he is unaware of any other senior staff making them, as well.

For their part, Federal OSHA is clear. Charles "Chuck" Atkins, the head of OSHA for the region that includes Iowa, told me no Federal OSHA people had been in Iowa for the past year. "We have to be very careful about going in there, because Iowa is a State Plan state," Atkins said. Keven Ropp, OSHA’s spokesman in Washington, DC, could find no record of any Federal OSHA presence in Iowa or at Agriprocessors.

Who has more violations? On this, Kosher Today has a point, although it is very weak. Empire has more violations over the past two years than Rubashkin. But Empire’s violations are largely related to specific equipment. Rubashkin’s violations are fewer in number but more holistic. For example, Empire is often cited for a violation involving "powered industrial trucks." Rubashkin is cited for "respiratory protection," "hazard protection," "general requirements," and "general requirements for all machines." (Rubashkin also has a "powered industrial truck" violation.)

Additionally, State and Federal enforcement are not equal. While State Plan states must meet Federal requirements, enforcement of those requirements vary from state to state. Pennsylvania is not a State Plan state, and Empire’s enforcement comes from Federal OSHA, which is considered stricter than some State Plan enforcement.

The price of non-glatt meat. Kosher today wrote: "The irony of it all is that kosher meat in many markets is more expensive than "glatt kosher" meat." This is part of the Justice Department’s investigation into price-fixing in the kosher meat industry. Rubashkin is said to be a target of that investigation.

Rabbi Asher Zeilingold. Much of Rubashkin’s defense comes down to the trustworthiness and veracity of Rabbi Asher Zeilingold. For details on him, please read this.

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Haredim, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Price-Fixing

Gaza More Than One Year On

Ha’aretz reports on the evacuees from Gaza:

…The sequence of events at Givat Hazan amply illustrates the bureaucracy and official foot-dragging regarding the evacuees’ permanent residences. The families originally wanted to settle in Egoz, but the site was vetoed out of environmental protection considerations. Givat Hazan was proposed as an alternative, but it is next to a firing range that the Israel Defense Forces is loath to relinquish. The families have been waiting for months for an answer, and the issue has reached as far as the Prime Minister’s Bureau.…

The government was willing to settle these people in permanent homes; all the settlers needed to do was leave Gaza on schedule and without rioting. They did neither, because their rabbis told them not to. This does not excuse byzantine "bureaucracy and official foot-dragging," and it does not get the government off the hook. Those of you who supported the Gaza riots and who urged Jews to stay in Gaza, now need to find ways to financially help these people. They made their lives immeasurably worse by fighting Disengagement. You encouraged them to fight. It’s time for you – rabbis included – to pony up.

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Filed under Chabad Theology, Israel, Modern Orthodoxy