The junior rabbi in my synagogue wrote the following column in this month’s newsletter (for my synagogue) that very clearly states why the behavior of Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking facility in Iowa, is so, to be blunt, not only unkosher but actually sinful.
Then, today, the senior rabbi’s sermon explicitly called for a boycott of Agriprocessor products. It was one of the most ardent, forceful, blunt, actitivist and political sermons I think I’ve ever heard from him in the seven or so years we’ve been at this synagogue.
Here’s an article from Boston.com that explains more of what’s going on:
The raid on Agriprocessors’ Iowa plant has sparked debate in the Jewish community about the role of ethical considerations in the production of kosher food and sets the backdrop against which the moderate Conservative movement will issue guidelines Thursday for an ambitious new “hekhsher tzedek,” Hebrew for “certificate of righteousness.” The additional stamp would identify producers of kosher foods that meet its standards regarding working conditions, treatment of animals, and the environment.
In rolling out the new certification, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly, two national umbrella organizations, join a wave of socially conscious buying that has led many consumers to seek fair-trade coffee and sneakers not made by children.
To Conservative Jewish leaders, the new certification symbolizes the embrace of tradition and modern social concerns that defines the denomination.
“Hekhsher tzedek reminds us that kosher is not just about rituals,” said Rabbi Barry Starr of Temple Israel in Sharon, where Cetlin is a member. “That’s a very powerful niche for the Conservative movement.”
These actions are not of little consequence to the individuals and families and institutions that keep kosher (which I don’t) but also to those of us who expect our religion and its leaders to maintaint the highest standards.
I’m proud of my rabbi’s stand behind the boycott, but as someone who doesn’t keep kosher, I can’t say how powerful that really is.