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The Poultry Snarl

While a public made kosher-conscious by a deluge of publicity in the last few months grows increasingly bewildered over the complexities befogging an apparently simple problem, the poultry industry seems to be plunging swiftly into a state of hopeless chaos.

To clear, as much as possible, the cobwebs from the minds of the kosher-poultry consuming public as to just what is troubling the industry, the following nutshell summary of the situation to date is presented:

In the first place there is the religious issue involved.

And in the second place there is the labor factor in the problem.

As to the religious issue:

RABBIS FIND FAULT WITH SLAUGHTERERS

The Orthodox rabbinate, as represented by the Kashruth Association of Greater New York, charges that the word kosher as applied to poultry is, in many instances, a flagrant misnomer.

Since there is no central, effective supervision of the kosher laws (through which the State seeks to enforce adherence to the ancient Jewish ritual of slaughter), the rabbis charge that these laws are being constantly disregarded.

In effect, they say, the public is paying for kosher poultry that really isn’t kosher. In this charge they are supported by city officials, who have been engaged in trying to solve the intricate problem to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

To insure the public’s getting kosher poultry that is truly kosher, the rabbis, represented by the Kashruth Association, insist on strictest supervision of the poultry markets. This supervision, they demand, must be vested with the Kashruth Association as the only qualified body.

So much for the religious issue.

As to the labor problem:

Chiefly involved in this factor of the struggle are the retail and wholesale poultry markets and the shochtim, or slaughterers. The shochtim charge underpayment and over-working. They have, through their union, Shochtim Union Local 440, threatened on several occasions to strike unless they receive higher pay and improved working conditions.

DEALERS DENY RELIGION ENTERS THE PROBLEM

In combatting the attitude of the rabbis, the representatives of the poultry dealers have charged that the rabbis are trying to sabotage their industry by dragging the religious issue into a problem which they see as involving only labor difficulties.

However, in the opinion of such disinterested observers as Judge Otto A. Rosalsky, appointed by Mayor LaGuardia to mediate the industry’s troubles, the two problems are more or less of an interlocking nature.

Whether or not the two issues are really one, the fact remains that once they are solved the poultry industry will be enabled to concentrate on the business of selling poultry instead of limping along from one squabble to another.

This brings us to the question of what has been done to effect a permanent solution of the vexing problem.

AGREED TO SUBMIT TO MEDIATION

Both parties to the struggle, recognizing that nothing could be settled by the name-calling route, finally consented several months back to submit their arguments to mediation. Mayor LaGuardia thereupon appointed Judge Rosalsky as his mediator, with instructions and authority to settle the vexatious problem to the best of his ability.

Judge Rosalsky immediately conducted a series of hearings at which rabbis, shochtim and poultry dealers presented their arguments.

After hearing the pros and cons, which were sprinkled with sensational charges of coercion and racketeering, flung with equal facility and abandon by rabbis, shochtim and poultry dealers, Judge Rosalsky submitted the following decision (in substance):

1.—Establishment of rabbinical supervision under the Kashruth Association of Greater New York.

2.—Tagging of chickens certifying that they were killed according to strictest kosher ritual.

3.—Minimum of $45 a week for shochtim.

4.—Payment at rate of half-cent per pound of fowl slaughtered.

5.—Maximum production per shochet of 12,000 pounds a week.

6.—Tax of one cent per fowl to pay for the rabbinical supervision.

DEALERS ALONE FOUND CAUSE FOR LAMENTATION

Over this decision, both rabbis and shochtim were enthusiastic. The other party to the quarrel, however, greeted the Rosalsky edict with cries of consternation, in which the phrase “we’ll be ruined” was the dominant note.

The retailers and wholesalers have flatly refused to accept the Rosalsky decree. Their objection, they maintain, is not to the rabbinical supervision. This, they declare, they will welcome as they always have in the past. What they do object to, however, is the cost that the tagging will entail. This cost, which they estimate will run over a million dollars for the industry annually, will force them, they declare, into bankruptcy, since they will be unable to pass it on to the public. (More conservative estimates of supervisional costs approximate $400,000 annually).

On that issue, then, the battle is being waged. If some method could be worked out whereby rabbinical supervision could be established without cost to the poultry dealers, it is conceivable that the difficulties would be ironed out immediately and the industry would finally achieve peace and, possibly, its former state of prosperity.

RABBIS INVOKE RARE, AGE-OLD WEAPON

Judge Rosalsky, backed by the orthodox rabbis of the city and by the shochtim, declares he will force the poultry men to accept his decision in toto.

Immediately the dealers indicated their intention of rejecting the Rosalsky decision, the Kashruth Association took steps to bring into play an age-old weapon that has seldom if ever been used in this country, but is believed to have been invoked with success in other lands and in other times.

At a solemn assembly about two weeks ago, the association declared an “issur” or absolute ban on the consumption of poultry unless it was properly tagged as provided for in the Rosalsky edict. However, the date the ban was to go into effect was set for the following week in order to give the dealers sufficient time to reconsider their stand. When the deadline set by Judge Rosalsky came and passed without signs of a reversal from the dealers, the Kashruth Association called a general meeting of the entire Orthodox rabbinate.

‘ISSUR’ WILL TAKE EFFECT ON MONDAY

The rabbis, realizing the seriousness of the “issur” which, once proclaimed is irrevocable until the reason for it has been obliterated, came to the conclu-

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