Prominent Jews join boycott threat

Several prominent Jews signed on to a boycott threat against the kosher meatpacker Agriprocessors.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Ruth Messinger and Rabbi Avi Weiss are among the 1,000 signers of a petition organized by Uri L’tzedek, according to its co-director, Shmuly Yanklowitz.

“We believe we have the right as consumers to be assured that Agriprocessors, a company that controls 60 percent of the kosher beef market, is committed to protecting its workers by upholding the law,” Yanklowitz said in a statement.

Uri L’tzedek, a group founded by students at the liberal Orthodox seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York, says the company must set up a transparent and accountable department to ensure compliance with the labor requirements of both Jewish and secular law.

If Agriprocessors does not, the group will begin to boycott the company and businesses that purchase from it on June 15.

Agriprocessors announced Wednesday that it is seeking to hire a chief compliance officer in addition to a new chief executive officer. The announcement was issued through a public relations person.

“We are fully dedicated and take full responsibility for ensuring that our company complies with all applicable immigration and state and federal laws,” said Heshy Rubashkin, the vice president of Agriprocessors.

Last week, Rubashkin’s father, Aaron, announced that he was replacing another son, Sholom, as manager of the Postville plant.

Heshy Rubashkin said Agriprocessors is cooperating with the government on the worksite enforcement action. “However,” he said, “we cannot respond to specific allegations until the investigation is completed and pending legal issues are resolved.”

The largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States, Agriprocessors has been under a hail of criticism since federal authorities arrested 389 of its workers in a May 12 raid at the company plant in Postville, Iowa.

Among the allegations leveled since the raid are that workers were underpaid, sexually harassed and forced to work long overtime shifts.

Agriprocessors owner Aaron Rubashkin denied the allegations last week in an exclusive interview with JTA.

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