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New York - Morris Allen And His Hekhsher Tzedek Idea Have No Credibility

Published on: July 8, 2008 01:23 PM
By: Ynet - By Rabbi Levi Brackman
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Morris Allen is the founder of Hekhsher TzedekMorris Allen is the founder of Hekhsher Tzedek

New York - The new ethical certification for food products being promoted by Conservative Rabbi Morris Allen, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly seems like a great idea. Hekhsher Tzedek or Justice Certification will certify that food has been produced in an ethically correct manner and that no person was unfairly treated during the production process. It is an ethical seal of approval. Why should anyone object to such a noble cause?

The problem with this new initiative is not the concept it is the context. The slogan for Hekhsher Tzedek is “Keeping Kosher in the 21st century.” This implies that keeping Kosher today is somehow different than it was one hundred or one thousand years ago and therefore a new type of ethical kosher certification is needed.

The Justice Certification initiative was born mainly out of the very unfortunate saga involving the kosher meat manufacturer Agriprocessors Inc. where illegal immigrants were employed and workers were allegedly mistreated. At present these allegations remain unproven. Nonetheless we cannot excuse companies which mistreat their employees or act in an unethical manner; and yes companies that are owned and operated by religious Jews should be held to the ethical and moral standards that the Torah demands. If these allegations are proven to be true the Chassidic owners of Agriprocessors Inc. will have much to answer for and none of us should patronize them until they change their practices. However, all of this has nothing to do with whether the food is Kosher to eat according to Jewish law.

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Intellectual honesty demands that we delineate things properly. The requirements for food to be Kosher involves the laws of milk and meat, the types of animals, birds and fish that the Torah permits Jews to eat, the need for the animal to be healthy at the time of slaughter, the removal of the blood before eating and the humane slaughtering of animals. But kosher with regard food has nothing to do with the ethical treatment of workers or the morality of the company that produces the edible products. There are other Torah laws that deal with ethics and morality –laws which must also be followed with regards everything, not just food.

One wonders whether these do-gooders have looked into the way the plants in China and elsewhere that manufacture their everyday consumer items treat their employees. Can they tell us if health insurance is given to those foreign workers? Is Morris Allen and his cohorts sure that all the clothes they wear were made in factories where safety for the employees was taken into consideration? Are the maintenance workers at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Conservative Synagogues unionized? What level of health coverage they get would also be of interest.

If Morris Allen and the Conservative Movement were consistent they would demand these high ethical standards within their own organizations and for all the things they personally buy. If they are in fact redefining the concept of kosher to include ethical manufacturing standards why aren’t they applying this standard to all consumer items? The fact that kosher food manufacturers have been singled out for these “21st century” kosher standards seems rather arbitrary and suspicious and may indicate other less principled motives.

Hiding behind this moral and ethical indignation may be the desire to get a piece of the multibillion dollar kosher food industry. As long as kosher food is defined by a set of Torah laws, Morris Allen and his friends at the Rabbinical Assembly – many of whom do not themselves keep to those strict traditional kosher laws – have little credibility.

Once, however, they say that kosher food necessitates an ethical manufacturing standard they suddenly seem credible especially when a meat company run by Orthodox Jews has allegedly mistreated their workers. In order for this new Justice Certification to appear ethical and honest it must encompass all consumer products – until then it remains suspect.



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Read Comments (33)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 08, 2008 at 01:34 PM anonymous Says:

So wheres the same idea from the so called frum community???

2

 Jul 08, 2008 at 01:54 PM Pooke Says:

How can they profess ethical respect they don't treat the Torah with respect.

Or perhaps they will treat old employees as irrelavant like they consider the Torah.

3

 Jul 08, 2008 at 02:13 PM LeiderLeider... Says:

Oh. We can establish a group like this in the frum community. But then realize that all Yeshivas, grocery stores, butcher shops, etc. etc. (ad nauseam) will be subject to the same regulations and scrutiny as will Agriprocessors.


Are we prepared to face the facts as they are?

4

 Jul 08, 2008 at 02:38 PM usher buchwalter Says:

The whole idea of Heksher Zedek is sheer nonsense. Before giving a hechsher one has to examine the person and if he is not an upright [yosher] than the hechsher is worth nothing. In Vienna when I was a child it was the person's ehrlichkeit and his honest way of living which counted.

5

 Jul 08, 2008 at 03:08 PM anonymous Says:

LeiderLeider... Says:
Oh. We can establish a group like this in the frum community. But then realize that all Yeshivas, grocery stores, butcher shops, etc. etc. (ad nauseam) will be subject to the same regulations and scrutiny as will Agriprocessors.

Are we prepared to face the facts as they are?
07-08-2008 - 2:13 PM
*************************************
WE HAD BETTER FACE THE FACTS. DO WE WANT ANOTHER RABBI KOLKO INCIDENT HAPPENNING TO OUR CHILDREN?

What are we afraid of? THat we treat out workers properly? If we did this from the beginning, then we would not have the crap that came afterwards.

We don't need a seperate Hashgocho. We need Rabbonim who are in charge of the entire picture.

6

 Jul 08, 2008 at 03:32 PM Rabbi Morris Allan Says:

The fact that Uri L'Tzedek bowed out of this fight means nothing.

Clearly Uri L'Tzedek's motivations were not the same as ours. We're going to pursue this relentlessly, tirelessly. They can hire ten more compliance individuals, more PR firms and lawyers, but we know what we have to do.

Hekhsher Tzedek is not in this for the short haul - we have a goal, and that is to make sure that Tzedek is on kosher foods all over the country.

This doesn't rile us. This is a cause. Agriprocessors is the drive for us.

7

 Jul 08, 2008 at 03:45 PM LeiderLeider... Says:

Anon 3:08. I absolutely agree with you. I was being facitious.

8

 Jul 08, 2008 at 03:48 PM Anonymous Says:

this might work in every frum community except one conei island avenu between J and M.

9

 Jul 08, 2008 at 04:06 PM monsey chusid Says:

Instead of realising that there really is YES a problem we go ahead instead and shjot the messenger . So what if the Rabbi is not YOUR type . Who cares? They have a good thing going . If you think its a good idea which i know you do except that you dont like this RAbbi then why dont you do this yourself?? Hechsher tzedek doesnt catre who comes up with this idea as long as its done.

10

 Jul 08, 2008 at 04:49 PM Rabbi Morris Allen Says:

We care 100% about starting a kosher standard of our own. It has been controlled by orthodoxy and look what happens. Tzedek is the answer. You'll all see this some day.

11

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:07 PM Laibel Says:

Morris Allen does not even keep kosher. He eats out in non kosher restaurants and does Gay Commitment Ceremonies. How can he claim he stands for a Heksher based on Tzedek when he ignores Halacha and Shulchan Aruch.

12

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:10 PM A FRUM MINNESOTAN Says:

I live in St. Paul MN and I know the so called rabbi Allen, He is nothing but a fraud. Talk To Rabbi Zelingold of Adtah Israel @ adath.com and he will give you the run down....

Good luck Mr. (rabbi) Allen, you will never get the kosher supervision in MN and the rest of the world, kashrus belongs to FRUM WORLD NOT THE FAKES LIKE YOU............

13

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:11 PM Macky Says:

Morris Allen complains that Agri mistreats thier employees and therefore should be considered not kosher.
How do you suppose we trust an organization that mis-treats the Torah ,mis-guides his folk and perverts Halacha?

14

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:27 PM Hasdei Hashem Says:

This is an unabashed attempt to wrest control of kashrus from those most qualified to handle it. We have arba armos of shulchan arukh and we must not stray from it. There are laws which cover these ethical concerns and they need to be followed, but this has nothing to do with yiddishkeit and kashrus.

Kashrus - for those who need a primer - is a technical term. It is clearly spelled out in Halakha what is deemed kosher, and this is based on our mesora going back to Har Sinai. No one has the right in the 21st century to add additional criteria to what is kosher.

15

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:29 PM guy Says:

This allen fellow has absolutely ZERO following among rank and file conservatives. The eat triefe and care nothing about Shulchan Aruk. This is just a publicity stunt for a dying jewish movement. I know I was one many years ago. None of my old friends care about this guy. Maybe some camps for the summer time but nothing this baffon says will stop his members from wolfing tarfus. What a joke.

16

 Jul 08, 2008 at 05:50 PM TO: Morris Allen Says:

Doing gay commitment ceremonies is a moral transgression of your own. First clean house.

We're sick and tired of your kvetching! You want a piece of the multi-billion dollar industry and I can't blame you for trying but enough already!!

The only thing that your efforts will cause is the suffering of families that are already struggling to pay for kosher food.

17

 Jul 08, 2008 at 06:07 PM Anonymous Says:

True. This Hechsher Tzedek is nonsense.

But in Eretz Yisroel, the Badat"z pulls hechsherim from wedding halls where there is mixed dancing or even mixed seating. & tries to enforce other standards by threatening to withdraw hechsherim.

Why is that okay?

18

 Jul 08, 2008 at 06:29 PM Drill Here!! Drill Now!! Save Money!! Says:

All FRUM people as well as reputable kashrus professionals need to be shtark against this. If someone doesnt eat kosher, they have no right to say what "kosher" is.

19

 Jul 08, 2008 at 06:37 PM Babishka Says:

What industry is going to pay Morris Allen a fee for his fake "hechsher"? Companies seek kashrus certification because it is worth it for them to attract the kosher consumer. Morris Allen does not represent any kosher consumer base, he doesn't even have the influence to carry on a Jackson/Sharpton type "shakedown" operation.

20

 Jul 08, 2008 at 06:44 PM Anonymous Says:

kudos to anon 5:50! Wait, his community doesn't have that problem, they buy from A&P, Shoprite etc....
If you don't keep kosher 100% you can't redifine it! period. First, keep the other 612 mitzvos and then you'll (Rabbi hutzinplutz) understand how silly you sound.

21

 Jul 08, 2008 at 09:39 PM American Rabbi Says:

Rabbi Morris Allen should be more concerned that most most Conservative Jews do not keep a Kosher home.

22

 Jul 08, 2008 at 09:42 PM Anon1 Says:

This is no different than Al Sharpton claiming a company is racist, threatening a boycott, and then getting millions in donations from them to resolve the issue.
While we can all scream fraud, unfortunately many companies will pick this up. Its no different than a organic certification or a "green" initiative that companies certify. However, when the companies will realize that it does nothing to the bottom line, I am sure they will remove it.
I say that us frum people need to boycott any company that receives their "hechsher". That's the only way companies listen. When it hurts the bottom line.

23

 Jul 08, 2008 at 10:48 PM Matzahlocal101 Says:

Mr. Allen,
If you really want to make sure things get done according to YOUR version of kosher, let me make the following suggestion. Have one of your members put up millions of dollars to buy and equip a slaughterhouse. Train conservative shochtim for a few years so they know the difference between a chalaf and a challah. Hire hundreds of people that are:
1) Qualified:
2) Actually willing to work;
3) Citizens or documented aliens;
4) Unionized
And then try to sell a quality product, meeting all government requirements, in a competitive market at a profit, with whatever type of certification you care to put on it. Tzedek, petek, etc.
Do that and I'll salute you. If you prefer to just criticize Agri and demand a cut of the profits to publicize your commitment to American, liberal, social, Agendas while you walk all the Torah, then your "higher standard" is gornisht verd. The torah clearly identifies you as having nothing to do with kashrus as it says "nezem zahav b'af chazir."

24

 Jul 08, 2008 at 11:51 PM shtusim Says:

Matzahlocal101 Says:
Mr. Allen,
If you really want to make sure things get done according to YOUR version of kosher, let me make the following suggestion. Have one of your members put up millions of dollars to buy and equip a slaughterhouse. Train conservative shochtim for a few years so they know the difference between a chalaf and a challah. Hire hundreds of people that are:
1) Qualified:
2) Actually willing to work;
3) Citizens or documented aliens;
4) Unionized
And then try to sell a quality product, meeting all government requirements, in a competitive market at a profit, with whatever type of certification you care to put on it. Tzedek, petek, etc.
Do that and I'll salute you. If you prefer to just criticize Agri and demand a cut of the profits to publicize your commitment to American, liberal, social, Agendas while you walk all the Torah, then your "higher standard" is gornisht verd. The torah clearly identifies you as having nothing to do with kashrus as it says "nezem zahav b'af chazir."
07-08-2008 - 10:48 PM


--------------------------

While the problems with Agriprocessors are severe, there is more than just "briskets on Shabbos" that Uri L'Tzedek is responding to. The "middleman" is the one generally getting screwed. The restaurants and butcher shops have been supplied with cheap meat from Agri for a long time, and finding new suppliers for both the volume and anywhere close to the price has been difficult. The damage to Agriprocessors has already done, due to their lowered output combined with those refusing to buy their products-many establishments have switched away, not looking back, and they should be respected.
Boycotting Agriprocessor meat entirely has the potential, especially in today's economy, not just to force Jews to be vegetarians (not that it would be a bad thing) but to put MANY people out of business who have risked a tremendous amount to open up these places (kosher restaurants are considered successful if they can break even within 3 years!)..

25

 Jul 09, 2008 at 09:38 AM Anonymous Says:

its a great idea and shoukd be implemented. who cares where the idea comes from? we need this so badly!!!

26

 Jul 09, 2008 at 10:39 AM Yankl Says:

Anonymous Says:
kudos to anon 5:50! Wait, his community doesn't have that problem, they buy from A&P, Shoprite etc....
If you don't keep kosher 100% you can't redifine it! period. First, keep the other 612 mitzvos and then you'll (Rabbi hutzinplutz) understand how silly you sound.
07-08-2008 - 6:44 PM
===============================================
A&P and ShopRite are both regional NorthEast store operators and do not sell groceries in the North West where Allen is a Rabbi. So now that you have shown your ignorance, what are you trying to say about Jews who buy kosher food in supermarkets?

27

 Jul 09, 2008 at 01:43 PM micha Says:

A number of you wrote the following idea, typified by Macky's post of 8-Jul-08 5:11pm: "Morris Allen complains that Agri mistreats thier employees and therefore should be considered not kosher.
"How do you suppose we trust an organization that mis-treats the Torah ,mis-guides his folk and perverts Halacha?"

The piece you're missing is that if you treat Gautemalan human beings like they're cattle you are mistreating the Torah, misguiding your folk and perverting halakhah.

I think there is a huge problem with Hechsher Tzedek's attempt to conflate two distinct mitzvos. Particularly in front of a community that has strong emotional reason to play down the need for kashrus. But frankly, that's their problem.

OUR problem, and what we need to address, is why we're playing down how people treat others who possess tezelem E-lokim (an "Image" of G-d). As the Yalqut Shim'oni says (Bereishis #34) "melameid shederekh eretz qodmah la'eitz hachaim, ve'ein eitz elah Torah -- it comes to teach that proper behavior comes before the tree of life, and 'tree' is nothing other than Torah." (Or, as usually shortened: "derekh eretz qodmah laTorah".) We can't simply keep kosher and decide that derekh eretz is a minor side-matter.


You can continue harping on about how THEY're flawed, and feel good about yourself the easy way, or you can try to actually do good by addressing the things you actually can address, OUR own flaws.

-micha

28

 Jul 09, 2008 at 06:17 PM Shomer Torah Says:

In order to do things right let's not waste time and energy fighting the conservative non Torah people but clean up our act and do all things correctly as per halocho,not only the kosher end but the ethics too. Mitzva Ha'bo b'aveira laav mitzva,derech eretz kodmo laTorah.2 wrongs do not make a right.They are definitely wrong with their lack of mitzva observance,but it is wrong to make food kosher using illegal business practices and violating other,non-kashrus Torah laws.

29

 Jul 09, 2008 at 07:22 PM Meatloaf Says:

To Frum Minnesotan:

Are you referring to the same Rabbi Zeilingold who provides a hechsher on Agriprocessor products - and is legally blind?
Perhaps you can explain how someone who is legally blind can provide first hand close inspection of shechita? Does he inspect for glatt by braille? And, how often is Rabbi Zeilingold in the plant, or does he rely on others to do the inspections for him?
Inquirying minds really want to know!

30

 Jul 10, 2008 at 06:24 AM A FRUM MINNESOTAN Says:

To Meatloaf:

Do you do everything yourself, fix your plumbing, prepare your taxes, etc. you never rely on others to do stuff for you?

Inquiring minds would like to know?

31

 Jul 10, 2008 at 01:21 PM shtusim Says:

A FRUM MINNESOTAN Says:
To Meatloaf:

Do you do everything yourself, fix your plumbing, prepare your taxes, etc. you never rely on others to do stuff for you?

Inquiring minds would like to know?
07-10-2008 - 6:24 AM
---------------------------------------------
inmquring minds would like to know if you would hire a legally blind doctor to do a triple bypass on your heart .

32

 Jul 10, 2008 at 01:46 PM Meatloaf Says:

How lame...
Is this the best you can do?
I do not perform surgery on myself nor do I do plumbing repairs or taxes. On the other hand, I expect those who do, to be able to see what they are doing. I do not hire a CPA to subcontract my taxes, or hire a surgeon to subcontract surgery. With matters of my neshoma re rabbinic supervision, I expect the Rabbi who certifies a product as kosher actually sees what he is doing. Rabbi Zeilingold may be a fine Rabbi and human being. And it may actually be a wise thing that he hasn't stepped foot in the Agri plant in years. It is a dangerous place and if you can't see where you are going it is even more dangerous. But it is a reasonable expectation that a certifying Rabbi is able to actually see what happens in a plant.
Kashrut after all, is all about trust. If Rabbi Z isn't really certifying product but relying on someone else, then lets be honest with consumers and have the someone else put their plumba's on the chicken.

33

 Jul 11, 2008 at 08:08 AM Matzahlocal101 Says:

meatloaf,
The only one who really knows if the meat is kosher is the shochet. Even if we video tape the shechita at hi speed, and can determine there is no she'hiya, we don't if there was drasa. only the shochet holding the chalaf knows that. Therefore the Rav hamachshir tests shochet to see if knows the halacha, can sharpen a chalaf and is a yarei shamayim. You can have mashgichim standing there, but bottom line is, they all rely on the shochet. And yes, a blind man can check a chalaf and the bedika pnimis is done by reaching into the chest cavity - blind. So Rabbi Z is not far behind all the other mashgichim. If you don't understand any of the words above, you are clearly in no position to make a comment on shechitah or kashrus.

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