Agriprocessors Raid Made Us, Briefly, Rethink Kashrut

Where We Are on Fifth Anniversary of Postville Raid

Kosher Scandal: On the anniversary of the raid that started the Agriprocessors kosher meat scandal, a look at what has changed, and what is still the same.
Kosher Scandal: On the anniversary of the raid that started the Agriprocessors kosher meat scandal, a look at what has changed, and what is still the same.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published May 12, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Sunday, May 12, marks the fifth anniversary of the massive immigration raid that shook Postville, Iowa, in 2008.

Some 1,000 federal, state and local agents descended on the tiny town, population 2,200, and arrested 389 undocumented immigrants working at the town’s largest employer, Agriprocessors, then the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. To mark the anniversary, immigration rights activists in Iowa organized an interfaith commemoration in Cedar Rapids, the state’s second largest city, where the detainees were taken for processing.

Sunday being Mother’s Day, though, the organizers decided to assemble on Friday, May 10. The original starting time was 3:00 p.m., but it was moved to noon so that a key speaker, Rabbi Morris Allen, could get home to the Twin Cities before Shabbat. Allen was an early leader of the Jewish community’s response to Postville — his is the nearest community with a significant kosher consuming population — and a commemoration wouldn’t be complete without him.

The raid itself was a watershed event. It was the biggest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history to that date. It also marked the first mass use of criminal charges rather than simple deportation in immigration enforcement. Nearly 300 pled guilty to document fraud, based on fake IDs they used to get jobs, and served five months in prison before being deported to Guatemala and Mexico. Families were split up, the town was devastated and the company eventually went bankrupt. They’ve all recovered, more or less, but the wounds are still raw.

The plant’s practices also touched off a nationwide Jewish debate over the meaning of kosher laws. That’s progressed a bit more unevenly.

Speaking by phone before the event, Allen was fired up and ready to go, but there was a tinge of melancholy. Of course, he said passionately, what happened in Postville in 2008 was shocking. Of course it showed the need for immigration reform so that immigrant workers can come out of the shadows and “become part of the American tapestry,” he said. Reform is needed, too, to deter the human traffickers who supply American business with low-wage workers. All true, and he’s proud to be involved.

But that’s not what first brought him to Postville. He took notice two years before the raid — Memorial Day weekend 2006, he remembers — when the Forward published an investigative report about labor conditions at Agriprocessors.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • 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.