Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Shall Not Abuse a Needy and Destitute Laborer (Deuteronomy 24:14)

A Statement by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
And the Rabbinical Assembly
Regarding Rubashkin's Meat Products

New York, NY (May 22, 2008)

In light of continuing disturbing allegations of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors Plant in Postville, Iowa, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly are united in calling for a thorough evaluation by kosher consumers of the appropriateness of purchasing and consuming meat products produced by the Rubashkin's label.

Rubashkin's produces kosher meat primarily under the Aaron and David label at the Agriprocessors facility. It is a major producer of kosher meat and poultry in the United States. The allegations about the terrible treatment of workers employed by Rubashkin's has shocked and appalled members of the Conservative Movement as well as all people of conscience. As Kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting human suffering.

The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will immediately release an advisory to its members and constituents to evaluate the appropriateness of consuming Rubashkin products until the current situation is addressed. This advisory extends not only to products purchased on the retail level but to meat and poultry consumed in restaurants and at private functions, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.

As the month of Sivan approaches, Jews throughout the world are mindful of the Torah's message of the power of Kedushah, holiness as it applies to all aspects of our lives including the ethics of worker treatment and food production. It is hoped that Conservative synagogues, schools and summer camps engage in a study of this important topic in honor of the festival of Shavuot which begins on the sixth day of Sivan -- commemorating the giving of the Torah.

A valuable source for such study is the paper written by Rabbi Avraham Reisner , entitled Hekshsher Tzedek Al Pi Din. This paper is a companion to the Hekhsher Tzedek Policy Statement and Working Guidelines. The paper is available on the websites of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism [and here].

By releasing this advisory, the Conservative Movement endorses the vision and guidance of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. Hekhsher Tzedek is an initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue that seeks to create an ethical certification process for kosher food. Through its work, Hekhsher Tzedek seeks to strengthen the bond between Halakha and Social Justice.

The reports of unacceptable worker conditions at the Agriprocessors plant demonstrate the pressing need for the sort of ethical oversight which might be provided by Hekhsher Tzedek.

For further information about the advisory being released by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly, or to request an interview with any member of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission, the Rabbinical Assembly or United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism please call or email: Shira Dicker (212.663.4643) or Steve Rabinowitz (202.265.3000).


United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism represents and supports the synagogues of the Conservative movement in North America. We work with lay leaders and Jewish professionals on the national, regional, and grassroots levels to teach, inspire, and motivate Conservative Jews to live lives increasingly filled with Jewish learning, ethical behavior, spirituality, and mitzvot.


Founded in 1901, the Rabbinical Assembly is the international association of Conservative rabbis. The Assembly actively promotes the cause of Conservative Judaism, publishes learned texts, prayer-books and works of Jewish interest, and administers the work of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for the Conservative movement.

Rabbis of the assembly serve throughout the world in congregations, on campus, as educators, hospital and military chaplains, teachers of Judaica and officers of communal service organizations. Its membership spans over 20 countries and numbers 1600 rabbis.

Creative Communication Consultants
438 West 116th Street, Suite 43
New York New York 10027
office: 212.663.4643 mobile: 917.403.3989 fax: 212.428.6762