U.S. Supreme Court Concludes Arguments on Kosher Law Test

The New York State Kosher law is legislation in the public interest, declared Samuel H. Hoistadter, acting as Special Deputy Attorney General of New York State, before the United States Supreme Court when the constitutiality of the law was tested.

Arguments were concluded today in the group of cases involving the validity of the New York Statutes prohibiting the sale as “Kosher” of meat or meat products that are not “Kosher” as that term is understood according to Jewish rituals.

Five dealers in New York City challenged the constitutionality of the laws on the ground that what was Kosher was of so speculative a character that it was impossible of practical application; that Kosher had developed a secondary meaning of cleanliness which reflected unduly on meats labeled non-Kasher in accordance with the statute, that the regulation was not within the public power of the State, and that the legislation amounted to illegal interference with interstate commerce.

The cases came to the Supreme Court for a review on a writ of error. The appelants, the Hygrade Provision Co., Inc., Lewis & Fox Co., and Harry Statz, sued Carl Sherman as Attorney General of New York and Jacob H. Banton as District Attorney of the County of New York.

Mr. Hess said that it affected a large body of citizens of New York, who, following the religious convictions of their ancestors regarded the observance of the Jewish ritual requirements with respect to meat and meat products as a matter of conscience.

“Whatever violates these conscientious convictions, either by force or fraud, is a matter of public interest and affects the well-being and good order of the State”, Mr. Hofstadter said. “It is within the police power of the State to protect those who would be most cruelly deceived into the commission of what they believe to be sin.”

Mr. Hoistadter discussed the contention of the complainants that they had build up a large business in the sale of Kosher meat and that the State laws interfered with their liberty of action.

“They claim a constitutional right to the undisturbed continuauance of that business”, said Mr. Hofstadter. “The very cornerstone of that business is the belief on the part of the hundreds of thousands of people who patronize it that the word ‘Kosher’ has a meaning and that meat products which are Kosher are more desirable than those which are not Kosher. Yet in the very same breath these complainants ask this Court to hold the statutes unconstitutional on the ground that the word ‘Kosher’ is so indefinite as to be unintelligible, and deny the constitutional competency of the Legislature to hold them to the exercise of good faith in making the representation, which they themselves voluntarily make in the furtherance of their own business, that the products sold by them are Kosher.”

Mr. Hoistadter stated that in 1796, and again in 1905, the Common Council of the City of New York revoked the licenses of two butchers, Nicholas Smart and Caleb Vandenburg, for affixing a Kosher seal to meat that was not in fact Kosher, and that in 1813 there was, for a short time, in force in New York City an ordinance prohibiting the sale of meat as Kosher unless it was killed under license from a Jewish congregation.

NEXT STORY