Magen Tzedek, Ethical Kosher Seal, Stalled Amid Orthodox Opposition

Four Years After Launch, Little Visible Progress Made

Little Change: The raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant spurred the launch of Magen Tzadek. But four years later, what is there to show for it?
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Little Change: The raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant spurred the launch of Magen Tzadek. But four years later, what is there to show for it?

By Seth Berkman

Published May 20, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
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Kaiser thought the excuses from Magen Tzedek so far were not acceptable. “It’s not sufficient,” he said. “I got so frustrated and disappointed by the way the whole kosher market dropped the ball on it.”

Timothy Lytton, author of the new book “Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food,” said consumers shouldn’t expect an overnight boom of Magen Tzedek certifications. Lytton said it took from the 1950s to the ’90s to build a reliable system of kosher certification of industrial food in the United States.

But Lytton said that for Magen Tzedek to get jumpstarted, there also needs to be an increase in consumer demand and also brand competition among similar-minded certifiers.

Hanau agreed. “The key is, we can only work with an organization like them if the entire Jewish world, from left to right, thinks that this effort is good for the entire Jewish people,” he said.

Allen did find encouragement in the fact that groups not carrying the Magen Tzedek seal had been influenced by the initiative’s standards in other ways. Empire Kosher’s website prominently features a section on its homepage that lists its “socially responsible” methods, which Allen said was influenced by Magen Tzedek’s standards.

Still, Allen was unsure if any company would have a Magen Tzedek seal by October, when he hoped to celebrate a partnership at the United Synagogue Convention, in Baltimore. He was adamant, though, that the standards in place were the right ones for Magen Tzedek.

“We are committed to the core to seeing this through… but people have to demonstrate this is something they care about,” Allen said. “It’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen on the timetable we wanted, but there’s no room for cynicism and despair.”

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com


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