We’re told that a few Conservative rabbis wanted their movement to declare a boycott of Agriprocessors. Instead, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism issued a “request”: “that consumers of kosher meat evaluate whether it is appropriate to buy and eat meat products produced by the Rubashkin’s label.”
Here’s the full statement:
“YOU SHALL NOT ABUSE A NEEDYAND DESTITUTE LABORER”
A Statement by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
And the Rabbinical Assembly Regarding Rubashkin’s Meat Products
New York, NY (May 22, 2008) – In response to the continuing disturbing
allegations of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the
Rabbinical Assembly are united in their request that consumers of kosher
meat evaluate whether it is appropriate to buy and eat meat products produced by the Rubashkin’s label.
Rubashkin’s produces kosher meat primarily under the Rubashkin’s, Aaron and David label at the Agriprocessors facility. It is a major producer of kosher meat and poultry in the United States. The allegations about the terrible treatment of workers employed by Rubashkin’s have shocked and appalled members of the Conservative Movement as well as all people of conscience. As Kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting any kind of human suffering.
The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will immediately release an advisory to its members and constituents asking them to evaluate whether it is appropriate to consume Rubashkin products until this situation is addressed. This advisory extends not only to products bought on the retail level but to meat and poultry bought at restaurants and for such private functions as weddings and bar mitzvahs.
As the month of Sivan approaches, Jews throughout the world are mindful of the Torah’s message of the power of kedushah, holiness as it applies to all aspects of our lives including the ethics of worker treatment and food production. It is hoped that Conservative synagogues, schools and summer camps engage in a study of this important topic in honor of the festival of Shavuot – beginning this year on June 8th – which commemorates the giving of the Torah.
A valuable source for such study is Hekshsher Tzedek Al Pi Din, a paper
written by Rabbi Avraham Reisner. It is a companion to the Hekhsher Tzedek Policy Statement and Working Guidelines. The paper is available on the websites of the Rabbinical Assembly (www.rabbinicalassembly.org) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (www.uscj.org).
By releasing this advisory, the Conservative movement endorses the vision and guidance of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. Hekhsher Tzedek is an initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue that seeks to create an ethical certification process for kosher food. Through its work, Hekhsher Tzedek seeks to strengthen the bond between halakha and social justice.
The reports of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant demonstrate the pressing need for the sort of ethical oversight which might be provided by Hekhsher Tzedek.