Below is Shmuly’s latest — and the last I’ll post. I encourage all those interested to continue the debate in the Comments section.
Dear Rabbi Shafran,
Thank you for your letter.
I am confused. You wrote “Our constituents, though, would indeed avoid a product were some kashrut problem be rumored about it, and certainly if there were some good reason to imagine that the product’s kashrut had been compromised.”
Would you write an op-ed in the JPost ensuring that your “constituents” don’t change their purchasing plans based on “rumors?” Why is it that when it is merely rumors you wouldn’t speak out but when there are substantive facts of injustices you do speak out for patience/passivity?
If there were ultra-orthodox Jews in your Agudah constituency would you speak out against them as you do against the progressive Orthodox? Why is it that when it comes to ritual kashrut you wouldn’t be against your constituents speaking out, but in a serious matter of ethical kashrut you condemn the prophetic voice?
The mitzvah to issue tochecha (rebuke) to a sinner that will respond is very clear in the Talmud (Yevamot 65b, Shabbat 55a). How is it justified to lead so passively and wait for secular legal certainty on all accounts when the dignity of hundreds of human beings is at stake? Do not our Torah’s halakhic requirements demand more in cases of chashash for an issur d’oreita of oshek (serious concern of the Torah law against worker oppression)?
You wrote that you were opposed to a “campaign that effectively pronounced and proclaimed guilt in the absence of compelling evidence.” I am also opposed to such a campaign but this is clearly not the case here. Uri L’Tzedek has worked to partner with the Rubashkin family and company to rebuild consumer faith in their practices and products. Thus far, the company has not fulfilled the requirements that its leadership committed to: to produce a document “within 48 hours” with their commitments to US and Jewish law for all workers.
We are still waiting for that and to be relieved of our concerns. They are also yet to respond to a communal request to make their new CCO’s (Jim Martin’s) attempts at reforms transparent to the public consumer. The voice of the ethical kosher consumers have not declared absolute guilt but have rather reached out for partnership while maintaining the pressure that matches our 0 zero tolerance policy for worker abuse in the kashrut industry as commanded from the Torah.
Have you urged that the company be transparent in their practices or will you let them off without making reforms when they negotiate their way out of federal indictment? Has Agudah issued a statement on the serious concerns of worker oppression (including non-Jews)? Has your constituency raised funds for the suffering broken immigrant families in Postville who have produced, under extremely trying situations, the American kosher meat for years?
Rabbi Shafran, would you speak out if it was the 13 year old ben Torah Moishe working in the factory under nasty conditions? If so, why not for the 13 year old Latino immigrant? As a Rav bÊ¼Yisrael, I am sure that you would be interested to fight for any victims of injustice so I would request a few examples where you or Agudah has taken up this cause.
I look forward to your response.
Shmuly Yanklowitz (Uri L’Tzedek, Co-Director)