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Mendota Heights, MN - Conservative Movement Moves Into High Gear With Its 'Heksher Tzedek' Kosher Seal

Published on: September 5, 2008 08:56 AM
By: The Jewish Week
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Mendota Heights, MN - Leaders of the Conservative movement’s ethical-kashrut certification program are seeking to take their campaign to the next level.

They are inviting Conservative rabbis to sign onto the Hekhsher Tzedek initiative, are meeting with at least one Orthodox kosher certification agency and are making initial overtures to selected kosher food producers that might seek the new certification.

“We are moving this forward in the American Jewish community in a very powerful yet sensitive fashion,” said Rabbi Morris Allen of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, Minn., Hekhsher Tzedek’s project director.

“Doors have opened,” he said, since the Hekhsher Tzedek guidelines were released July 31, outlining five areas of ethical and environmental standards against which kosher food producers are to be measured. “People want to talkto us more.”


E-mails were sent the week of Aug. 25 to the 1,600 members of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional association of Conservative rabbis, inviting them to partner with Hekhsher Tzedek in a High Holy Days drive.

The e-mail asks rabbis to address Hekhsher Tzedek in their High Holy Days sermons, and includes a model sermon and teaching materials. It also commits those who sign on to buy products carrying the Hekhsher Tzedek seal once it is applied, a process that could begin as early as January, according to Project Co-Chair Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.
“There’s been a very positive response,” Rabbi Siegel said. “Rabbis have been looking for a way to get more involved.”

The materials are being made available to rabbis from other denominations, although the e-mail was sent only to Conservative rabbis.

Rabbi Barry Starr of Temple Israel in Sharon, Mass., received the appeal Aug. 29. Noting that he has already done “a lot of outreach” about Hekhsher Tzedek within his congregation, Rabbi Starr said he would “mention” it during the holidays, but it “will not be the sole theme of my sermon.”

“Many of my people are already not buying products from Agriprocessors,” he said, referring to the kosher meat company whose plant in Postville, Iowa, was the target of a massive immigration raid in May.

Rabbi David Glickman of Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas told JTA that while he supports Hekhsher Tzedek’s focus on the ethical dimensions of kosher food production, he does not know what his 1,200-member congregation will decide to do about the partnership invitation.

“We’ve come out publicly in support of the concept and for the need for ethical treatment of workers in factories,” he said. But, he added, “It’s important not to rush to judgment when accusing any particular company.”

The Hekhsher Tzedek guidelines are the result of two years of work by a Conservative-sponsored commission that came together after a 2006 investigation of workers’ complaints at Agriprocessors.
Since the guidelines were made public, Rabbi Allen said project leaders and colleagues from Jewish Community Action, a social justice group based in St. Paul, Minn., have been talking to “people inside the kosher industry,” including rabbis from Orthodox certification agencies and kosher food companies that might be the first candidates for the Hekhsher Tzedek seal. The seal’s design will be released soon, he said.

The commission is testing the metrics developed by KLD Research and Analytics, Inc., an independent investment research firm, to measure how companies behave in five categories: wages and benefits, employee health and safety, product development and animal welfare, corporate transparency and environmental impact. They are test-marketing the standards with one kosher food producer.

An unintended result of the Agriprocessors raid, Rabbi Allen said, was that it opened a national dialogue about what kosher means, and brought the politics and ethics of Jewish dietary laws to the front pages of secular newspapers across the country.

“People are really talking about Judaism and dietary habits and the importance of finding kosher food they’re comfortable buying,” he said. “It’s a very powerful thing that is happening.”

Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Calif., was happy to receive last week’s e-mail. “I was relieved to see that the talk has translated into action,” he said.
Saying he is “curious” to see how Conservative rabbis will respond, Rabbi Creditor wonders what the movement-wide effect will be if large numbers of synagogues refuse to join the effort. This,” he said, “may be a mirror moment for the Conservative movement.”


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Read Comments (24)  —  Post Yours »


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:06 AM David Says:

Baruch Hashem, now, maybe Kosher and Kashrut observance will be a model that will be admired by our fellow citizens instead of a byword of violation of government regulation and mistreatment of workers.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:09 AM m hatznioss Says:

Its moshiachs times the conservatives are going to start being makpid on hechsherim I hope they will be able to be omed on the nisoyon because there aren't too many products out there with that hechsher I guess its the 1st time pork will have a hechsher (I remember learning once chzal say that when moshiach comes chazir will be kosher )


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:12 AM murray Says:

This will Never be enough for PETA
They are against eating animals-period!
They attack kosher because it is one front in the battle. Ethical treatment of the animals (for slaughter) would never suffice. If you could get a permission slip or a suicide note from a cow begging to be slaughtered it would not be enough.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:16 AM anonymous NY Says:

Great, at least now the Rabbis will have what to say to their congregants who bought seats in shul for the High Holy Days. They can't exactly talk about keeping kashrus, Shabbos,and many other things that don't match the conservative movements interpreratatiops of the Torah , since that would offend too mant of their congregants. At least Mr. Allen has helped with the 'sermons'.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:18 AM NY Says:

Maybe they should look for some other fundamental jewish laws to be makpid on...Like Shabbos and Family Purity.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:18 AM Anonymous Says:

Now, if this goes indeed into effect, I beleive that all the CERTIFIED KOSHER rabbis from OU, Star K, OK, כK, CRC, and alike, will have to immediately unite and set the standard straight with the Food industry that it would have to be either or...

Maybe even a preemptive strike, shouldnt be out of the question....


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:30 AM Babishka Says:

Who exactly is going to buy this bogus hechsher? They have no established consumer base. Most of the Jews they represent don't keep any kind of kosher.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 09:54 AM Anonymous Says:

Who cares, let them add a "Hechsher Tzedek"
if there are people out there that want this kind of information about a product - This has no effect on our Kashrus Hecsheirim. Unless.. It's all about the MONEY $$$$$ to be made through certification and OUR Kashrus Orgs want ALL of it. If we come out against this it makes it look like the Orthodox are against honest and fair business practices - what do we need that for.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 10:03 AM Anonymous Says:

Very curious:

Why are they only concerned with food products. 4 out of the 5 areas that they will check are universal to all businesses. Will they make Mercedes get a Heksher Tzedek before they buy a car? Will a conservative Rabbi be required to check for a Heksher Tzedek before buying herself jewelry?


 Sep 05, 2008 at 10:11 AM Moishe -Willyburger Says:

Moshiach's zeiten! Chazir fressers are now in the hechsher business.
If ANY of the well known hashgochos collaborates with these kofrim b'toiras Moishe, they will have their name forever stained by the association.
No doubt, they know this too.
Hekhsher Zedek, will be good for Moslems, Environmentalists, and bleeding-heart liberals, BUT never ever for any Jew, with ANY level of Orthodoxy.
May this new Reformist attack on Am Yisroel, meet a speedy defeat.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 10:26 AM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

there should also be a hechsher on hechsherim. for one, the baal hamachshir has to keeep kosher himself (or herself, since we're talking conservative movement here).


 Sep 05, 2008 at 10:49 AM YANKEL Says:

Nothing at all wrong with them preaching about this new "hechsher", but more importantly they should outreach to their congregations about genuine long standing mitzvos that we've been obligated to since Har Sinai. Let them first preach about Shabbos, kashrus,Taras Hamishpacha, and once there observances are imbeded in their members, then they can go on to this new concept of hechsher tzedek.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 11:27 AM Anonymous Says:

Anon 10:03 - You are 100% right that "hechsher"
should and maybe will apply to all goods not just food.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 11:32 AM Anonymous Says:

I think only good can come of yidden holding themselves up as an example of a higher standard. Since we can't rely on these folks for kashrus, why not let them do something productive, as long as they can do it right? Agree that there is no reason to limit it to food.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 11:48 AM Anonymous Says:

NY Says:
comments - arrow Maybe they should look for some other fundamental jewish laws to be makpid on...Like Shabbos and Family Purity.

and maybe the frum community and the rabbis will find to be makpid Beain adom lachavera, like not cheating the customers in electronic stores, outing the slum lords, Yeshivas cheating the government like launch programs, laundering money for drug cartel.

Yes it is moshiachs when the frum community tries to tell the other Jews about ethics


 Sep 05, 2008 at 11:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Let them first preach about Shabbos, kashrus,Taras Hamishpacha, and once there observances are imbeded in their members, then they can go on to this new concept of hechsher tzedek.

why not the other way around. remember the gemorah states that g-d can forgive sins against him but not against a fellow man. So in essence, they have a better chance of olem habah, then a Shabbos observing Yid who is a slum lord.

I did not say that the gemorath did.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 12:21 PM S Says:

11:52 - you said it! that is the best thing I have seen on any comment!


 Sep 05, 2008 at 12:58 PM Nechamah Says:

First of all, every mitzva counts; each has a zchut and perhaps as mitzva goreret mitzva, keeping this will indeed lead to kashrut, taharat mishpacha, etc. (And I will add that when I ran a mikva for 7 years, some of the women were from conservative congregations whose rabbis actually did encourage all mitzvot; I don't understand fully how the rabbis reconcile some of their philosophies and actions, but I am happy for whatver mitzvot Jews keep).
Second, I was taught that one of the teachings we can take from the requirement for land animals to have 2 kosher signs, inner and outer, and that one is not enough, is to show us that both inner and outer mitzvot count, one is not enough. So ethics, relationship with Hashem, things others cannot see, the INNER mitzvot, comprise one aspect that must be coupled with the outer mitzvot, that which we can see, in order to be kosher. And we certainly can see that emphasizing the outer only, without the inner--that is, outer signs of observance without ethics, without ahavat yisrael,etc- is actually the worst, the attributes of a pig, who has the outer sign for establishing kashrut(split hooves) but not the inner.
So good for them that they are looking to establish a heksher of moral and ethics; good for those of us who look for heksher of actual halachic kashrut for eating, and may all of us get to the point where everything we eat (and do) is kosher in all aspects of halacha, including ethics and morals.
So let us all work on both aspects, and rejoice in whatever Jews are observing with the hope that we all constantly grow in Torah and mitzvot.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 01:04 PM Anonymous Says:

11:52 am - Your point is the very reason why when the conservative movement was established we the orthodox AKA originals have severed all ties wih them.

That is basically what Anon 9:18 am was getting at.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 01:31 PM Given Says:

Given a choice of 2 products with identical hekshairm and 1 having a Heksher Tzedek it would be an aveirah not to buy the product with the Heksher Tzedek.


 Sep 05, 2008 at 03:33 PM Anonymous Says:

Anonymous Says:
comments - arrow 11:52 am - Your point is the very reason why when the conservative movement was established we the orthodox AKA originals have severed all ties wih them.

That is basically what Anon 9:18 am was getting at.

I am not sure what you are trying to say


 Sep 05, 2008 at 03:43 PM Tzoorba Says:

We don't need any guidance or ethics from the corrupt and dying Conservative movement.

Our Torah provides all the kashrus and yashrus and ethical guidelines that we need. The Conservatives will only bring vile and despicable philosophies to bear on the issue and ruin it.

They should be totally ignored.

All the ignorami here who think that the Torah laws don't provide concern and care for animals at the highest levels need reeducation in Judaism.

Those among us who don't keep the high standards that they should, need to do teshuva but no good will ever come from degraded pseudo Jewish movements like the Conservative movement.


 Sep 08, 2008 at 08:38 AM Matzahlocal101 Says:

Any "orthodox" hechsher, that lowers it's standards to join together with RA-BANIM, that are`mechallei Shabbos, Boalei needos, machti'im es harabim should be boycotted.


 Sep 17, 2008 at 11:02 AM Anonymous Says:

1) if they are going to have this hechsher based upon work place environment it should apply to all business and not just the food industry
2)Will those in favor of this hechsher boycott all products coming out of China?


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