Congressmen Take on Agriprocessors in Public Letter

By Marissa Brostoff

Published September 24, 2008, issue of October 03, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Twelve Jewish members of Congress sent a scathing letter to the owners of what was, until recently, the largest kosher meat packer, Agriprocessors, saying that the “company’s treatment of its workers and the animals raise serious questions about the company’s compliance with U.S. law and the highest standards of Jewish law and tradition concerning kashrut.”

Agriprocessors has been under scrutiny for the past three years, due to allegations of worker abuse and inhumane slaughter at its slaughterhouses in Iowa and Nebraska. The scrutiny has been particularly intense since last May, when the Postville, Iowa, slaughterhouse was the subject of a raid by federal immigration agents. While the company has been defended by many Orthodox rabbis and leaders, the letter from the representatives indicates how deep the distrust of Agriprocessors has grown within the Jewish community.

“We wanted them to know from whence this came — that they have conducted this offense and that we are particularly offended as Jews,” Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat who organized the letter, told the Forward. “As my mother used to say, it’s a shande to the goyim.”

Ackerman said that they had deliberately asked only Jewish members of Congress to add their signatures.

Last November, four U.S. representatives wrote to the Department of Agriculture, expressing concerns about food safety at the Postville plant. In May, after 400 undocumented workers at the plant were arrested in an immigration raid three members of Congress wrote to the Department of Labor, urging the department not to let the raid interfere with a pre-existing investigation into labor conditions at the plant.

The new letter, sent on September 23, is the longest, most detailed and most critical of the company. It stems from recent allegations against Agriprocessors from a number of agencies, including charges filed by the Iowa attorney general, that Agriprocessors employed child laborers.

On September 18, Agriprocessors moved to break from its history by hiring a new CEO, Bernard Feldman, who is not a member of the family that has owned and run Agriprocessors since the 1980s. The congressional letter was still addressed to the patriarch of the family, Aaron Rubashkin, who has been, and will continue to be, the president of the company. The members of Congress wrote that they “would appreciate a detailed explanation of the steps Agriprocessors will be taking under the leadership of Mr. Feldman to address the company’s systemic problems.”

Agriprocessors representatives were not available for comment.

Among the signatories to the letter, all of them Democrats, were Robert Wexler of Florida and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.






Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.