Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld: Is Agriprocessors Meat Kosher?

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, the Modern Orthodox spiritual leader of Washington’s Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue, has penned a scathing op-ed for The New York Times about the growing controversy over labor conditions at the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse:

It’s no surprise that an article like this, written by a Modern Orthodox rabbi with a prominent pulpit, and appearing in the national newspaper of record, is making waves (and drawing fire). Indeed, it’s currently the third-most e-mailed and fourth-most blogged article on the Times Web site.

Herzfeld’s article is particularly noteworthy since, heretofore, many of the loudest voices raising concerns about conditions at Agriprocessors have been from outside the Orthodox community. But it’s Orthodox Jewry that is the main group involved in the supervision of kashrut, and, quite likely, the largest consumer base for Agriprocessors products. And Herzfeld’s argument — that working conditions can be taken into account in determining whether or not food products are kosher — in some ways goes even further than the Conservative movement’s Hekhsher Tzedek program, which itself has been criticized by some in the Orthodox world for bringing ethical considerations to bear on kosher food production. (The Hekhsher Tzedek initiative simply bills itself as an effort to “display a seal on already designated kosher foods that reflects production benchmarks consistent with Jewish ethical standards” — not to intervene in the process of certifying food kosher.)

Finally, it’s also significant that Herzfeld publicly calls out the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America — two organizations he’s a member of — for responding to the Agriprocessors mess in a way that he says has “fallen far short of what is needed to be done and have done little to diminish the extent of the desecration of God’s name.”

Read Herzfeld’s full article here.

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Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld: Is Agriprocessors Meat Kosher?

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