Friday, June 22, 2007

Heksher Tzedek: Kashrut for the Next Generation (HECHSHER TZEDEK)

I grew up in a Kosher home. When I was 16 years old, and a camper at Ramah Wisconsin, Rabbi Samuel Dresner (z"l) came and spoke to many of us about the significance and importance of kashrut. He was the author of the "Jewish Dietary Laws-Their Meaning in Our Time." Rabbi Dresner continually promoted the importance of Kashrut throughout his lifetime, making it a central aspect of his rabbinate. Clearly that lesson some 36 years ago had impact on me. This coming week, I will be returning to Ramah Wisconsin to teach about Hechsher Tzedek. I will begin by stressing the importance of keeping Kosher. I will then explore with these 16 year old campers the importance of not relegating our ethical laws to the background in our pursuit of ritual obligation. Later this summer, these same campers will be making a visit to a kosher meat packing plant. Instead of being able to only address the laws of kashrut as it applies to slaughter and processing, they will also be able to address the meaning of Jewish law as it applies to human dignity and employee-employer relationships. I have no idea what the effect of my teaching will be on these campers--36 years from now. What I do know is that if one camper is particularly moved to make kashrut a more central aspect of their life and see in Hechsher Tzedek the meaning of kashrut for the next generation of Jews, then my visit will have been worthwhile. Yesterday, when being interviewed by a newspaper reporter, he suggested to me that this may be the first time a religious denomination has undertaken a campaign on behalf of workers( and where appropriate-animals) in food production. I think many people are beginning to understand that just as we must be concerned about how an animal is killed, so too do we need to be concerned about a how a worker lives.