Category Archives: Rubashkin Worker Abuse

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."

6 Comments

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

The Campaign Against The Conservative Movement Begins

The campaign against the Conservative Movement’s new tzedek hechsher, a supervision that would attempt to ensure workers employed by companies getting kosher supervision from others are fairly treated, has begun in ernest. First, we had the Kosher Today smear of the Conservative Movement’s point man on this issue, Rabbi Morris Allen. Now Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum (affectionately known to several commenters on this site as "Gershon the Swindler"), the COO of Igud HaRabbonim (the so-called Rabbinical Alliance of America) has jumped in, using his Jewish Press column to threaten kosher food manufacturers who may be thinking of using the new tzedek hechsher:

In December 2006, a call came from outside the sphere of Orthodox kosher certifiers for a tsedek heckscher or justice certification that would ensure that kosher food producers “have met a set of standards that determine the social responsibility of kosher food producers, particularly in the area of worker rights.”

      The Orthodox Union issued a statement that labor issues were a matter for federal and local regulators, not kosher authorities. Rabbi Genack was reported as applauding the call to look at labor issues, given the weight of Jewish law dedicated to that topic. However, Rabbi Genack stressed that the effort cannot be allowed to blur the line between Jewish law regarding worker rights and Jewish law regarding the kosher standard of food.
Advertisement

      On January 2, the Hisachdus Horabbonim issued a kol koreh proclamation condemning any efforts to dilute or becloud kosher supervision standards, nor to allow any other supervision standards to be applied to kosher certification halachahs. The proclamation was signed by three members of its Kashrus Beth Din: Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heshel Bick, Mezebusher Rav; Rabbi Hillel Weinberger, Serdehaly Rav; and Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Menachem Eichenstein, Galante Rebbe.

      The Hisachdus kol koreh called upon all observant Jews to reject the introduction of any type of tsedek heckscher, something never previously heard of. The Hisachdus views the suggestion as an attempt by those outside the observant community to infiltrate and dilute the existing framework of kashrus certifications. Rabbi Yitzchok Yechiel Glick, rav of Khal Beis Avrohom and executive director of the Hisachdus, stressed that any injection of social or humanitarian considerations, especially by outsiders, would be an unallowable breach of the time honored halachic administration of kashrus standards.   

        Every kosher food producer must repulse any attempts of introducing such alien impositions. Tolerating such infringement would be a first step in destroying halachic kashrus standards. The kol koreh calls upon kosher food producers as well as kashrus certifiers to maintain vigilance against any effort to pierce protective barriers now in place.

      The universally highly-regarded HaEdah HaCharedis Kashrus Beis Din in Jerusalem as well as Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, author of Shevet Levi and leading posek, have been alerted to the suspicious machinations of those attempting to impose the so-called hekhsher tzedek.…

Note these haredim use the old haredi argument – everything new is prohibitied – to come out against enforcing the Torah’s mandates on treatment of workers.

I suspect the next move will be for various supervisors to refuse to have their supervison mark appear with that of the tzedek hechsher. This will put tremendous pressure on manufacturers and will force many to avoid using the tzedek hechsher, which is, of course, what the haredim want, even if the motives behind the new hechsher are pure.

24 Comments

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

How Accurate Is Kosher Today?

How accurate is Kosher Today? Not very. The same issue that reported on the broken "friendship" between Rabbis Morris Allen and Asher Zeilingold has this to say about why Saint Paul’s kosher meat market closed about one year ago:

Many Kosher Stores Close Due to Lack of Succession

New York… In many markets, the closing of a kosher grocery store or restaurant is immediate cause for blame. “It’s the fault of the large supermarkets,” is one often heard argument. “The community does not patronize the store,” is yet another frequently heard opinion as to why a kosher restaurant closes. But a deeper look at some recent closings in cities like St. Paul, Cincinnati, Kansas City and others points to an often neglected culprit: “succession.” Children may have moved away from the community or are in any case involved in other pursuits.…

The truth is the Saint Paul store had been in financial straits for years. Then, the building housing it was sold, and the new owners wanted more than triple the rent. The store owner could not pay the increase, so he negotiated a deal with a local supermarket to have a kosher meat concession. That deal was nixed (before it was signed) by Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, who wanted a different set up. (I’m told this had nothing to do with any kosher issues.) The owner of the kosher store simply closed up and went into another business. And, for the record, he had no children then old enough to take over the business.

Who, one might ask, was Kosher Today’s source for this story? My guess is Rabbi Asher Zeilingold, who certainly played a major role in Kosher Today’s smear of Rabbi Morris Allen and the Conservative Movement.

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

12 Comments

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

The OU’s Double Standard

DovBear notes something I meant to post on, but forgot due to a computer crash and other matters – the OU’s double standard. DovBear notes in a post about the Conservative Movement’s new Tzedek hechsher:

…If the halacha is more demanding then the law (as it, in fact is) don’t companies, in our view, have an obligation to go beyond the law? Who’s the posek that told the OU that companies don’t have to go beyond the secular law when it comes to choshen mishpat? Anyway, if the OU is so certain the government can be relied upon to enforce Jewish law, why do we need the OU’s kashruth division in the first place!?… [We really don’t – see here.]

The real problem, though, is this: R’ Genack’s boneheaded response opens the OU to the charge that they embrace a double standard by considering the government reliable for some questions of Torah law, and not others. Worse, it suggests us that ben adam l’makom laws are more important than the laws that tell us how to treat each other.…

Of course, that charge is true. Orthodoxy is far more concerned about rabbinic minutia and humrot of kashrut law than they are about breaking a biblical command about treatment of workers or cruelty to animals. That’s one major reason why you should not be Orthodox.

9 Comments

Filed under Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Modern Orthodoxy, Rubashkin Worker Abuse

Conservative Rabbis Release Report: Confirms Much Of The Forward’s Reporting On Rubashkin Worker Abuses; C-Rabbis To Set Up Own “Ethical” Supervision

Nathaniel Popper of the Forward writes that the Conservative rabbis report on Rubashkin’s (AgriProcessors’) worker abuses has been released:

The Conservative movement put together a commission to investigate the Forward’s allegations and made three trips to the plant. The report that came out of these visits said that the commission came across a number of concerns in speaking with workers and management.

The list of problems included: “Inadequate or non-existent worker safety training”; “concern about unsafe chemical use,” and “unclean and unsafe lunchroom conditions.”

Several members of the Conservative movement’s commission also visited the Empire Kosher Poulty plant in Pennsylvania, where they found “working conditions, safety conditions and general worker welfare and community relations not to be issues of concern.”

Other issues, like pay shorting, can only be confirmed by a criminal investigation. This may be happening as part of a wider Justice Department investigation into price fixing in the kosher meat industry. Sources claim Rubashkin is a target of that investigation.

The Conservative rabbis have also announced a “tsedek hekhsher,” or a justice certification, that would ensure kosher food producers “have met a set of standards that determine the social responsibility of kosher food producers, particularly in the area of workers rights.”

The head of the Conservative movement commission, Rabbi Morris Allen, said that any certification system would be a supplement — not a replacement — for current kosher supervision. Allen said the additional level of scrutiny is necessary for the religious bona-fides of the industry.

“We have reached a point where it not sufficient to teach and promote the whys of keeping kosher,” Allen said. “It is necessary to ensure we talk about how our kosher food is produced.”

Here is what the OU’s Rabbi Menachem Genack says about this:

“There are lots of social issues that are really important that could be subsumed under some sort of super certification,” Genack said. “But if we just move away from strict concerns about kashruth — if we talk about what they pay workers — these kinds of standards can be less than 100% clear.”

After rolling on the floor convulsed in laughter, my only response to this innane statement by Rabbi Genack is to note that ripping the throats out of live animals with a meat hook – a process Rabbi Genack defended as 100% kosher – is far from 100% clearly kosher, yet the OU sanctioned it. Why? Money, the same reason they will not deal with Rubashkin’s abuses or the abuses on the farming side of the meat industry. Making sure employees of kosher plants and the animals they slaughter are both (not to equate the two) treated humanely will raise the cost of kosher meat, which will drop sales, which will reduce the value of the OU’s supervision, which will reduce the amount of money the OU gets to provide that supervision. Rabbi Genack himself says:

Genack also said that a major priority for the Orthodox Union was to make kosher food more widely available. “For us to set up a new amorphous standard in certain plants,” Genack said, “parts of the kosher industry are very fragile and could be adversely affected by this.”

In other words, your Orthodox rabbis are willing to ignore tzaar ba’alei hayyim law and all the halakhot surrounding the treatment of employees so you can buy (relatively) cheap kosher beef.

Orthodox Jews, understand this well. These are your rabbis. Run away from them.

52 Comments

Filed under Jewish Leadership, Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Rubashkin Worker Abuse

What Will The Conservative Rabbis Do?

The Conservative rabbis met this weekend in NYC. Topic? Rubashkin. What will be? Perhaps we’ve waited a long time for nothing? We’ll see.

2 Comments

Filed under Kosher Business?, Kosher Meat Scandal, Rubashkin Worker Abuse

PETA Debates Rubashkin Flack Nathan Lewin – Lewin Plays Nazi Card

Bruce Friedrich of PETA debated Nathan Lewin, Rubashkin’s attorney, a couple of weeks ago at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in NYC. Lewin is a contemptible man. Don’t believe me? Listen. (You may have both parts playing at once. Simply stop part two and listen to part one. Then switch.)

The worst part of this is Lewin quotes "scientific evidence" that is 50 years old and that does not apply to the slaughter done at Rubashkin. Does Lewin know this? If he doesn’t, he’s a fool; if he does, he’s a liar. He also accuses the OU of cowardice and insists the animals getting up after shechita and trying to run away are unconscious and these are only reflex movements, something no scientist or veterinarian agrees with. What you see on this PETA videotape is kosher slaughter at its finest, Lewin says. He also tries to play the Nazi card. What a sick man.

Listen here or download below:

Download PETA_Lewin_Pt_1.mp3.

Download PETA_Lewin_Debate_Pt_2_1.mp3

UPDATE: If the above options are not working, try this link.

9 Comments

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