What Does “Kosher” Mean
I do not know if people have been following events out of Postville, Iowa, at Agriprocessors Inc., the largest kosher meatpacking plant in America. The deplorable working conditions at the plant were uncovered after an immigration raid, and are ably documented in The New York Times here and here. The situation was so bad, in fact, that The Times Op-Ed page had something to say. Today, The Times published yet another article about the plant on it’s Op-Ed pages, this time from a rabbi in D.C. The article is scathing, and worth a read.
We do not use Agriprocessors’ meat at Camp Ramah, and I would urge everyone to resist buying any products from Agriprocessors. Certainly, if kashrut means anything, it must also mean the ethical treatment of workers and the willingness, as Rabbi Herzfeld writes in The Times, to obey the laws of our nation, as well as the laws of our Torah.
Finally, The Conservative Movement has started a program called Heksher Tzedek, in an attempt to give kosher certification to products based on labor practices and ethical business practices, in addition to the strict observance of traditional kashrut laws. Here is the USCJ’s resolution on the topic. This is an area of importance, and I think we should support the Movement’s effort in this regard.