Jewish groups urge new Postville partnership


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups and a Jewish congresswoman are urging the successors to Agriprocessors to forge a new partnership with the local community.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and the group of 15 Jewish organizations each sent letters to the new owner of the Iowa kosher meatpacking plant, SHF Industries and Agri Star Meat & Poultry, asking President Daniel Hirsch to meet and form a relationship with the Postville Community Benefits Alliance.

"Their leadership represents some of the town’s most active citizen leaders and trusted allies," said the Jewish groups, led by Jewish Community Action and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. "We urge you to meet with the alliance and form a partnership to create an agreement and working environment that will ensure the health and prosperity of the plant, its work force and the town of Postville."

"There is now the opportunity to usher in a new image for kosher meat production in Postville, free from violations of U.S. and Jewish law, and to create a mutually beneficial and transparent working relationship with the residents of Northeast Iowa," Schakowsky wrote.

SHF bought the plant for $8.5 million in July. The facility had been operating at a fraction of its capacity since a May 2008 federal government raid in which scores of workers were arrested for immigration violations.

Several officials of Agriprocessors, formerly the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, have faced criminal charges for their roles in employing the illegal workers and other alleged misconduct. The raid and fallout also forced the Jewish community to grapple with issues relating to the ethical treatment of workers at Jewish-owned businesses.

The 13 other Jewish organizations signing the letter were American Jewish World Service; Avodah, the Jewish Service Corps; Hazon; Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action; Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Labor Committee; Jews United for Justice; National Council of Jewish Women; Progressive Jewish Alliance; Uri L’ Tzedek; and Workmen’s Circle.

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