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New York - Agudath Israel: Jews Must Conduct Business Ethically, 'thanks, but no thanks' To "Hekhsher Tzedek"‏

Published on: September 24, 2008 04:26 PM
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New York - The Conservative movement has embraced a brand new certification for kosher foods, the “Hekhsher Tzedek,” which is designed to indicate a kosher food producer’s “compliance with a set of social justice criteria.”  Agudath Israel of America regards the Hekhsher Tzedek idea as misguided and misleading. It rests upon, and will likely foster, a distorted understanding of kashrus, and a corruption of the halachic process itself.

To be sure, Jewish producers of kosher food – like all Jewish businesses – are halachically bound by obligations regarding fair treatment of employees, maintenance of a safe and sanitary work environment, and a host of other strictures that might be called “social justice criteria.”  They are, in addition, bound by the principle of dina d’malchusa dina (the law of the kingdom is law), and must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.  More generally, Jews are called upon to uphold the highest ethical and moral standards in their personal and business dealings.


It is of utmost importance that these halachic mandates be observed scrupulously.  But it is also important to recognize that they have nothing to do with the laws of kashrus.

The halachic tradition defines the term “kashrus” as relating to the ritual suitability of food.  Jews insist on kosher food not because of ethical considerations, but because Hashem has commanded us to observe certain ritual dietary requirements.  Terms like “kosher,” “kashrus” and “hechsher” are, as a result, rightly associated with those requirements – those requirements alone.
The “Hekhsher Tzedek” blurs this fundamental distinction.  Its promoters may assert that the certification is not designed to expand the traditional meaning of kashrus, but that claim is belied by the certification’s very name – and by the fact that it is being offered exclusively to foods that are otherwise under kosher certification.  If its purpose is simply to assure consumers that the companies they patronize conduct themselves in accord with social justice ideals, why limit the “Hekhsher Tzedek” to kosher food producers?  Why not extend it as well to manufacturers of all goods, services and institutions?
It is further noteworthy, and telling, that the scope of the proposed “Hekhsher Tzedek” goes well beyond halachic requirements.  It speaks of such matters as transparency in corporate governance, generous maternity leave policies and pension plans – worthy objectives, to be sure, but not halachic mandates.  If the “Hekhsher Tzedek” is simply interested in ensuring that producers of kosher food comply with the requirements of Jewish law, why incorporate these types of extra-halachic factors into the certification?

The answer to these questions is clear, and deeply dismaying.  The Conservative movement, most of whose constituents do not keep kosher, is attempting with its “Hekhsher Tzedek” a subtle redefinition of the concept of kashrus.  As Conservative leaders have done time and time again in a variety of modern-day contexts, they are paying lip service to halacha while in fact seeking to reshape it.  The “Hekhsher Tzedek” is simply the latest manifestation of Conservative leaders’ tradition of exchanging Divine mandates for contemporary constructs.

Sadly, but decidedly, the Conservative movement is not a halacha-respecting movement.  Accordingly, any effort on its part to serve as an arbiter of halachic suitability – whether regarding a kosher food producer’s compliance with halachic mandates or anything else – has neither credibility nor legitimacy.

In summation, standing up for ethical practices is laudable, but not when it is done in a way that redefines a Jewish religious term like kashrus – and not when it is done under the auspices of a movement whose claimed fealty to halacha is in fact an exercise in distortion.  For these reasons, Agudath Israel of America emphatically rejects the “Hekhsher Tzedek.”

At the same time, we appeal to all our fellow Jews to rededicate ourselves to the highest standards of proper and ethical business conduct.  Jews are called upon to serve as a light unto the nations, people whose interpersonal dealings cause Hashem and His holy Torah to be loved by all (Tractate Yoma, 86a).  During this season of introspection, may we all resolve to strengthen ourselves in this respect, and thereby merit Hashem’s favorable judgment for a blessed new year.

Editors Note.

VIN News assumes that the above statement is coming on the heels of today’s news that the RCA is forming an orthodox business ethic guide.

More of today's headlines

Recklinghausen, Germany - A 91-year-old convicted German war criminal held up a Belgian pharmacy shop with a toy gun, a prosecutor told a German court Wednesday. The... New York - The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has today announced the formation of a high level Task Force that will produce a detailed practical guide to Jewish...



Read Comments (28)  —  Post Yours »


 Sep 24, 2008 at 04:34 PM oysh Says:

so what's their solutino for a viable alternative?
it must be eaiser to bash someone elses good idea than to make one of their own. this is what they do instead of going after molesters? agudath has no credibility anymore.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 04:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Playing catchup again. This poor irrelevant dis-organization is out of touch with those it purportes to represent and as usual comes in a dollar short and an eternity too late. You cant live off a legacy forever.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 04:54 PM Reb Yaakov Says:

Brilliant Artical!

As to "oysh", you have no idea what you're talking about. "someone elses good idea", you don't begin to comprehend the churbon this hechsher tzedek will cause.

AS to the molester issue, Agudah was not created to fix every problem in Kllal Yisroel.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 04:51 PM anon Says:

who funds the Agudah -- wondering how they continue their canard.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:03 PM Reb Moshe Says:

"Playing catch up" to who the RCA? The RCA is single handedly responsible for 60% of intermarriage in America. They are destroying yiddishkeit all across america. They are the symbol of a koshera chazer fesel. But how would you know what goes on outside your small world.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:07 PM aguda is becoming a shanda Says:

as to the milester issue
the biggest problem to face jewish children in all our years and agudas rabbonim are part of the huge coverup so they are part of the problem and turning a blind eye is disgraceful

call your congressman and tell them aguda doesnt represent me and dont give them a check


 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:19 PM Haver Tov Says:

What's the big deal. If their halachic kashrus standards are high, what's wrong with the "value-added" proposition of ethics and morals. Let the consumer decide! We are not a bunch of am haaretzim!


 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:28 PM anonymous Says:

It is again another case of Cultism and control which the Agudah and 'rabbis' are trying to have over you. Do not be suckered into the concert ban rabbi hysteria. Why is the Agudah afraid of people being culpable? Of answering to a higher authority as well as the common folk? Do not be blind and do not support this cult!


 Sep 24, 2008 at 05:53 PM Moishe -Willyburger Says:

Tell me please, heimishe people out there, who are so displeased with Agudah's well-reasoned defense of Orthodoxy; what pray tell do you want to do?
Do You think Hisachdus, or KAJ, or Nirbator or OK or any other organization would appear on the same label, the same hechser, with these apikorsim.
Agudah is merely explaining the obvious. If it isn't obvious to an Orthodox Jew, from what ever part of that limited spectrum he originates, then he needs to re-learn the history of the 200 year battle against Reform.
This is nothing new. It's the old war, on a different front.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 06:49 PM tzoorba Says:

The corrupt and dying Conservative Judaism movement has nothing of value for Torah Jews. The Torah is way ahead of their distorted PETA based animal treatment values.

Kashrus halachos cover any tsar baalei chaim issues.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 06:20 PM Moshe Klass Says:

The Agudah is 100% right on this. Having the Hechsher Tzedek involved gives them legitemacy and this is a slippery slope. While one is not allowed to eat something that isn't kosher, there is no Halacha that I know of against eating from a company that underpays, is not environmentally sound and so on. When extremly bad business practices take place it is up to the consumer to decide not to patronize a business. Rabbonim and agencies could and should speak out against them, but to include this as part of the certification process is bizzare (and the additional cost would be passed on to you the consumer). Some of the criteria that they are basing things on are debateble as well.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 06:20 PM Anonymous Says:

I actually think this new hechsher is brilliant!
Should we consider fit to eat an animal that has been slaughtered in accordance with halacha but that has been otherwise abused? I would much rather like to think that by eating kosher, I am eating an animal that has both lived its life and been killed in accordance with the Torah.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 06:05 PM Torah Yid Says:

Conservative Movement says Heksher Tzedek is NOT a Heksher so why do they call it "HEKSHER"? Anyone who is a defender of the conservative could you please answer this question? To me it is blatant deception established to add credibility to the conservative movement. What bothers is that this deceives unlearned tinok shenishba who dont know the definition of hehksher.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 07:15 PM mccain palin 08 Says:

I don't think we've learned anything new


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:00 PM Shaul in Monsey Says:

Write him or her a check, and a conservative or reform rabbi will allow you to marry a 5-months pregnant shiksah on yom kippur with pork chops for the main course and ice cream for desert. They could come out with a new book called "The 5 Books of Moses" and it wouldn't mean a thing. I do hear though that the gay haggada they came out with is very unpopular because the hiding of the afikomen is very painful.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:01 PM formely Says:

tzoorba Says:
comments - arrow The corrupt and dying Conservative Judaism movement has nothing of value for Torah Jews. The Torah is way ahead of their distorted PETA based animal treatment values.

Kashrus halachos cover any tsar baalei chaim issues.

09-24-2008 - 6:49 PM

no it does not it only covers tsar baalei chaim issues during the killing of the animal and not all the other stuff people are talking about.
remember when all these halachas were made they did not have large factory farming and slaughterhouses


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:32 PM YAAKOV Says:

If the conservatives are saying that the hechsher tzedeck is not a hechsher why didn't they decide to call it the "conservative seal of approval" or some similiar name. What do they know from hechshers anyway?


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:07 PM Anonymous Says:

If Agudah finds no need to take a stand against child molesting mechanchim what do they consider higher in priority then that. Banning Lipa? Banning Music? Banning Nuchem Rosenberg? How about they consider banning Agudah? The most irrelevant and ethicaly DEAD organization that represents only those who find the news in the historic articles in the yiddishe vort. Hijacked by corrupt balabatim and pompous pseudo rabbis, they now realize they are a bunch of "leaders" with no followers. Bloated and stuffed shirts braindead on current issues affecting klal yisroel.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:07 PM local navi Says:

Reb Yaakov Says:
Brilliant Artical!

As to "oysh", you have no idea what you're talking about. "someone elses good idea", you don't begin to comprehend the churbon this hechsher tzedek will cause.

AS to the molester issue, Agudah was not created to fix every problem in Kllal Yisroel.
09-24-2008 - 4:54 PM
Being that you seem to lnow more then most of us on this blog why dont you fill us in a bit .
1. why dont you give us some insight and tell us how this hechsher tzedek will cause a major churban?
2. Please tell us which problems the agudah is responsible for and which not??


 Sep 24, 2008 at 08:45 PM Drill Here!! Drill Now!! Save Money!! Says:

Nothing really to do with the RCA. They are only a few blocks from each other on Broadway (Aguda is 42 and OU is 11) and they do get together for the sake of the klal.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 09:35 PM shmiel glassman Says:

a few points:
rav sherer left a void that has yet to be filled

its not fair to blame the people at aguda who are trying to do their best without a general
(the novominsker rebbe shlita has been moser nefesh to keep the boat a float, but cant be in the office all day

the article is well written & the point is valid

as far as molesters : for years aguda has had a special " molestation hotline" & your call is returned within 24hrs by one of 3 rabbonim / not always can they solve it but have offered guidance
if you feel that aguda is not doing enough CALL RABBI ZWEIBEL & OFFER TO HELP!!!!


 Sep 24, 2008 at 09:53 PM LES Kid Says:

And this is another example of why the Moshiach has not come. Such vile hatred. Perhaps these Misnagdim and Chasidim should adopt a play book from Lubavitch and instead of attacking welcome others who are interested with open arms? It would give them more credibility in the process.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 10:12 PM Anonymous Says:

A special hotline for molestation, huh? And who knew of the hotline? 24hr response by which rabbi? The one who gave Kolko a free pass? The one who sent the kid to Jamaica Bay? The one who shipped a serial molester off to Baltomore? The one who refused to act on solid information received with regards to Dr Mondrowitz? Again, who was privy to the secret existance of this hotline? And how many times did they refer to the police? Yeah, what was or is the phone # of this coldblooded hotline? If it werent before Rosh Hashana I'd call you an outright liar!


 Sep 24, 2008 at 10:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Great, now its RAV Sherrer. Talk about revisionist history.


 Sep 24, 2008 at 11:49 PM political analyst Says:

shmiel, if no one knew or heard of this hotline, what's it worth?


 Sep 25, 2008 at 12:25 AM tzoorba Says:


Kashrus halachos intrinsically include whatever tsar baalei chaim issues there might be involved in the shechita and kashrus process.

You are correct in pointing out that there are other issues outside of the kashrus halachos but these are also covered by general tsar baalei chaim halachos. Conservative pseudo rachmonus and animal multiculturalism only detract from the proper treatment of the animals.


 Sep 25, 2008 at 12:50 AM Lover of Jews Says:

By the time Agri is done, shechita will be outlawed.


 Sep 26, 2008 at 12:09 PM shmiel glassman Says:

the hotline number was always published in the aguda calender & brochure for years /its true that it wasnt printed on the cover of the JO/ anyone who ever felt compelled to discuss a specific current allegation has always been able to talk to someone it just takes 5-6 calls to find someone who knows " something about the field" you can start with any rav thats involved in klal ,even if he cant help he can try to find out who can/ try a frum refferal org., maybe relief or nefesh ask a local frum therapist if he knows, last pt getting help for the victim is a lot easier than "treating the perpetrator /do you know that in the middle of flatbush there is a weekly support group for "frum adult molesters
as a head counselor ive done the research


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