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!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • 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.