Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Hekhsher Tzedek Commission Announces the Creation of Magen Tzedek

Conservative Movement's Ethical Certification Seal
To Be Introduced to Kosher Food Industry in Coming Months

Design Features Emanating Star of David

CONTACT: Shira Dicker 917.403.3989; Aliza Fried 202.265.3000

December 23, 2008 (New York, NY) - The Hekhsher Tzedek commission has announced the creation of Magen Tzedek, the new ethical certification seal that will be introduced to the kosher food industry in the coming months.

Designed as an emanating Star of David, Magen Tzedek is the symbol that will be featured on kosher foods whose companies successfully apply for ethical certification from the Hekhsher Tzedek commission.

Launched during the summer of 2007, Magen Tzedek is a joint project of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Though the initiative, as well as the actual seal, will now be known as Magen Tzedek, the group in charge will still be known as the Hekhsher Tzedek commission.

Credited with promoting the observance of kashrut within the Conservative movement and beyond, the Magen Tzedek seal is designed to coexist with other rabbinic kosher seals. Dr. Joe M. Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University, has been named an advisor for the project. A renowned consultant to the kosher food industry, he will help in the creation of Magen Tzedek's compliance application and procedure.

"Magen Tzedek is a proud product of Conservative Judaism but also a gift for the entire Jewish community," said Rabbi Michael Siegel, co-chair of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission. "It is a bold new symbol that signifies kosher food produced with the highest degree of integrity."

The Magen Tzedek seal will be awarded to kosher food companies based on a number of criteria having to do with such matters as employee health, safety and training; wages and benefits; the company's environmental impact; corporate transparency and product development, among others.

The creation of Magen Tzedek follows on the heels of the $100,000 grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation received earlier this month, the second grant the foundation awarded the Hekhsher Tzedek commission.

Awarded in a time of economic recession, the $100K Cummings grant expresses a vote of confidence in the power of Magen Tzedek to effect positive change within the American Jewish world. According to the commission's second co-chair Jerold Jacobs, the funds will be earmarked towards advocacy and education efforts to promote the ethical certification initiative.

"By introducing Magen Tzedek, we are inviting the public to be a part of the conversation about kashrut, justice and Judaism," said Mr. Jacobs. "Magen Tzedek draws together consumers of kosher food around the communal table to contemplate how to bring tzedek - justice - to the world."

The focus on the ethical aspects of ritual observance has won the support of the entire Conservative movement and ignited a movement that transcends denominational boundaries. "Magen Tzedek is an authentic expression of the Conservative rabbinate and our unflagging commitment to the integration of ethics and ritual," said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, incoming executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly. "It is an excellent representation of our philosophy."

Rabbi Siegel speculated that even non-Jews or Jews who do not keep kosher might select a product with a Hekhsher Tzedek certification as a way of expressing their commitment to social justice. "In this regard Hekhsher Tzedek assumes an important position in the broad social movement of ethical eating," he added.

The new Magen Tzedek seal will be introduced at the annual Hazon Food Conference this week, which features Rabbi Morris Allen, creator and founder of the Hekhsher Tzedek initiative. The conference will be held December 25-28 at the Asimolar Conference and Retreat Center in California.

"Our initiative has captured the hearts and minds of American Jews, reflecting deeply-held social and religious values," said Rabbi Allen. "Magen Tzedek presents an opportunity to deepen one's observance of kashrut alongside social responsibility."

For more information about Magen Tzedek or to set up an interview with any member of the Hekhsher Tzedek commission, please call Shira Dicker at 917.403.3989 or Aliza Fried at 202.265.3000. To view the new Magen Tzedek seal, please click here. If you intend to reproduce the seal, please use the black and white symbol. To learn more, please go to www.hekhshertzedek.org; www.magentzedek.org; www.rabbinicalassembly.org or www.uscj.org.

Rabbi Morris Allen's blog can be found at http://rabbimorrisallen2.blogspot.com/.


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.

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.

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