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Fit to serve? Socially conscious kashrut sweeps Jerusalemby josh • September 24 2008
Food, Environment, Municipal news, Shopping
The Social Seal: Because I care
Kosher certification is so passe. These days it seems every Ploni Almony with a deep fryer and some charif has a kashrut certificate (Tel Aviv's Kingdom of Pork excluded). But while rabbis worldwide have universally accepted a non literal translation of not bathing a kid in its mother's, or anyone's, milk, Kashrut certification generally ignores the idea behind those words. Over 100 years after everybody missed the point of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a small Jerusalem outfit is making waves by showing that eating by God's standards involves more than separating milk from meat and that guiltless gourmet has nothing to do with transfats and everything to do with treating people well.
A similar movement is growing in America, though one that would concentrate not on restaurants, but on kosher food suppliers. Their desire for change has nothing to do with Palestinians and instead stems from a number of concerns about how socially conscious kosher food is. Kind of like a Green movement for God with Rabbi Morris Allen, the project director, playing the part of Al Gore. One major target of the campaign has been the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world and a Chabad stronghold. The plant was recently raided by immigration authorities for employing illegal immigrants and making them work hours no God would be happy about, even if they aren't on Shabbat. The plant had already come under fire a few years earlier when a religious Jewish couple working for PETA taped animal abuse in the plant, which they said would render the meat unkosher by anyone's standards.
The American effort, being led by the Conservative Movement, has met with resistance from Orthodox leaders, including Chabad, and the kashrut powerhouse Star-K, who say it is not their job to monitor a plant's safety record. That job, they say, falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, that little agency founded 100 years ago after everybody misunderstood The Jungle. It seems when it comes to meat, kosher or not, it all goes back to Upton.
Photo of activist courtesy of Bema'aglei Tzedek
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