Readers Response to Hechsher Tzedek Will Divide Conservative and Orthodox Jews
by Jeanine Lange
American Jewish World August 3, 2007
Hechsher Tzedek, the initiative to insure that ethical laws are given just as much consideration as ritual laws in the production of kosher food, has struck a chord across the Jewish world and beyond. Hechsher Tzedek is a ray of hope in a world where big business is king, where it seems workers, the environment and animals are just so many commodities to be used and discarded. Hechsher Tzedek shows the world that Judaism is about compassion for the stranger, caring for the other, treating people decently even if these people are used to a lower standard of living having come from countries poorer than our own; Hechsher Tzedek shows the world that Judaism is concerned about our environment and concerned about the treatment of animals. Hechsher Tzedek shows the world that religious people aren't just interested in their own personal observances but are also totally engaged with and concerned about the world around them.
Jews and non-Jews, from all backgrounds have come forward to say they support Hechsher Tzedek. Non-Jews are even talking about how they can incorporate justice, ethical standards, into their observances in ways that would be meaningful to them. Jews are speaking up, embarrassed to read in the papers about allegations of mistreatment of workers and animals. "What good does it do to follow kashrut if I do so at the expense of others, at the expense of the world around me, at the expense of my conscience?" Sweeping allegations under the rug, rushing in to try to squelch the story, trying to push the responsibility off on government agencies already understaffed and overworked, is not going to increase observance of kashrut. Combining ethics, letting us know that the food we are required to eat has been produced with consideration for the laws between one person and another as well as the laws between us and God, could well be the key to increasing the observance of kashrut.
Hechsher Tzedek is not driving a wedge between Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Hechsher Tzedek is instead bringing kashrut front and center to many of our lives, sometimes for the first time. Hechsher Tzedek is drawing people together across religious boundaries to say, we want to know which kosher food producers consider ethics to be just as important as all the details required by ritual. We can't pretend any longer that everything is fine, and will remain fine, in the world of kashrut. Allegations have been made and we want to know what is going on. If there are no problems in the world of kashrut, if all the allegations are false, then there will not be any problem affixing a Hechsher Tzedek to these products. We just want to know. We will not go back to quietly living our own lives, business as usual, nor should anyone ask us to do so. It is a sad thing that there are some who would try to keep all of us from being able to easily know the truth about the food we are purchasing and consuming. We're all on the same side. Hechsher Tzedek is a good thing, for the Jewish world and for the world around us.