The problems with the Lubavitch

Orthodox rabbis are in bed with Lubavitch od Agriprocessors
August 12, 2008, 4:39 pm
Filed under: Iowa Slaughter House | Tags: ,

Friday, August 08, 2008


Last week I published a story about Jews and others demonstrating at a Kosher slaughter house in Postville Iowa accused of mistreating its immigrant workers.

Now comes the news that a few days after that demonstration on July 31, a group of 25 Orthodox rabbis and community leaders visited the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa and declared the plant was clean and the workers happy.

One of those in the group, Chabad Rabbi David Eliezrie (pictured here), President Rabbinical Council of Orange County writes in a letter to the Indianapolis Star, “We found a state-of-the-art plant; workers receiving fair wage and benefits such as health, dental and vacation pay; great attention to worker safety; and the use of the e-Verification system to ensure all workers are legal.”

Give me a break. Everyone from other Rabbis, to the National Labor Relations Board, to a wide variety of Jewish publications, local Catholic Churches, immigrant rights groups, and on and on have found what Rabbi Eliezrie and his buds say to be a joke. Even a federal government warrant that paved the way for a notorious anti-immigrant raid on the plant in May detailed numerous abuses inside the plant.

As the Jewish Forward wrote this week, “…investigations have produced a long list of allegations against the company, including that it employed underage workers, that insufficient safety training led to workers being injured and maimed, and that workers were underpaid.”

Just days after the Orthodox Rabbis visited the plant the Iowa labor commissioner referred 57 allegations of child labor violations to the state attorney general, calling the violations “egregious” and recommending they be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.”

But somehow this group of Black Hats found everything A-Ok. Of course, I must point out, the entire junket was paid for by Agriproccessors.

Ben Harris of the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports:

“…In the eyes of the company’s critics, and even some Orthodox rabbis, the fact that Agriprocessors paid for the trip rendered the rabbis’ conclusions suspect. Neither of the national council’s two news releases regarding the trip disclosed that Agriprocessors had footed the bill for the rabbis.”

“If they’re going and being paid by Rubashkin (plant’s owner), then that should be forthrightly disclosed,” said Maury Kelman, a lawyer and Orthodox rabbi who has led congregations in Israel and New York.”

Kelman said Jewish law, or halachah, insists that rabbis involved in such matters do everything to avoid even the perception that their judgment could be compromised.”

“It’s very important if rabbis are going that things look totally above board, and that it’s 100 percent clear that the desire is to do the right thing and not just the expedient thing,” he said. “If somebody’s being paid, you’re beholden to them. Halachah is very clear about this.”’

As I said of the family who ran the plant in my last articles, I say about this group of Orthodox misleaders, “They should be ashamed.”‘

The Forward reports:

“Some in the Orthodox community are calling for a more rigorous investigation. On July 30, one day before the Orthodox leaders visited the plant, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Washington’s Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue, sent a letter to Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, which is the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis. Herzfeld demanded that the RCA commission “a transparent, independent investigation” into the charges against Agriprocessors.”

“We need a commission with incredible stature and with rabbis of great merit who can spend a few weeks or a month [in Postville] and can make recommendations,” Herzfeld told the Forward. Herzfeld, who is a member of the RCA, said that the recent trip to Postville was too short and that Agriprocessors’ sponsorship of the trip compromised the findings.”

Herring declined to comment on the letter specifically, saying that it was a private communication. He said that the RCA lacked the resources, expertise and powers to conduct an appropriate investigation into the allegations and that it made more sense to wait for federal investigations to run their course.”

Rabbi Herzfeldu wrote this week in an op/ed piece in the NY times,

“Unfortunately, the responses of the leading Orthodox organizations, the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, have, in my opinion, 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. I am a member of both groups, but I am dissatisfied with their stance, which asks us to sit back patiently and wait for the results of a federal investigation. On some level, this might be prudent, but on another it is unacceptable.”

“Hebrew National (the folks who made the hot dogs, etc) used to run a commercial that said: “We answer to a Higher Authority.” Well, we do. We need to express shame and embarrassment about the reports coming out of Iowa, and we need to actively work to change these matters. Then we should ask ourselves if our behavior and our values need improvement. Only if we truly think about these issues will we truly be keeping kosher.”


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