The rabbi strikes back


Rabbi Moses Weissmandel, the supervising rabbi at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, called this morning to categorically refute every allegation made this week by government investigators – except the illegal worker business. “That’s not my department,” Weissmandel said.

What is his department is the rabbinical staff, some 40 rabbis responsible for the actual slaughter of meat and for supervising the plant to make sure everything’s kosher. He claimed his rabbis provide round-the-clock supervision, and that none of the allegations – among them that workers were producing drugs on site, and that rabbis abused the workers with meat hooks – are true.

“I categorically say it’s false, it’s not true, it’s a lie,” Weissmandel said. “I have my rabbis supervising 24/7. We supervise every inch of that place in order to be sure that the place is totally kosher.”

I asked if there might be an area of the plant where workers eat or get changed that is not supervised as scrupulously as the places where the meat is produced. Weissmandel acknowledged that there is such a place, but that it didn’t escape the hawk-eyed scrutiny of his rabbis.

“There is a lunch room over there where the workers eat, and changing room,” Weissmandel said. “My rabbis, the supervising rabbis, have instructions to go inside there every so often just to make sure everything is ok over there.”

The government document, a 60-page report on a six-month investigation that was used to get a search warrant for the plant, included allegations that rabbis at the plant had abused workers – taping their eyes shut, hitting them with meat hooks. Weissmandel said that was impossible, and even though he is only on site a few days a month, he said that he knows about everything that happens there.

“If it only happens that one of the rabbis gets in the smallest confrontation with a worker, has a problem, exchange of words, in the hour I know about it,” the rabbi said. “It’s reported to me right away, even the smallest confrontation. I can tell you that I’m 100 percent confident that such abuse never took place. No one ever taped a worker’s eyes with duct tape, it’s such a nonsense it’s impossible.”

Weissmandel further reported that the plant was close to approaching its further production capacity. Some 20 yeshiva students have been recruited from New York to come to Postville, and other workers have been hired through an employment agency.

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