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What’s Wrong with Hecksher Tzedek?

We took up the question of the Conservative Movement’s Hecksher Tzedek a few months back and I am glad Rabbi Grossman brought it up again. At the time I was taken aback by the negative comments that some had posted opposing Hecksher Tzedek as an attempt to foist non-Jewish (ie, contemporary liberal American) values onto Jewish practice, as though Jewish practice were some timeless and monolithic institution that didn’t respond to changing values and mores. One of the reasons Judaism is as rich, varied, and resonant as it is, is that Jews were constantly adapting to changing circumstances and surrounding culture, and their practices adapted with them. It’s a point I’ve made many times before on this blog: Judaism is created by the Jewish people and evolves through time, rather than remaining static and fixed. Protesting that caring about the treatment of animals–or workers, or the environment–is somehow not a “Jewish” position is preposterous, especially because it doesn’t involve contravening any existing laws. I don’t see how one can possibly oppose the idea of this hecksher unless they have a vested interest in the current monopoly over kosher certification or believe that any innovation is wrong on its face.

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posted March 5, 2008 at 7:49 pm

What’s wrong with Kosher Tzedek? What’s wrong with selling snowmobiles in Mexico? Nothing really its just that Mexicans aren’t likely to buy snowmobiles. And most people who buy kosher meat will ignore a non-Orthodox hechsher. Meanwhile Agriprocessors will thrive as it is now.
But hey prove me wrong. Show me a non-Orthodox kosher slaughterhouse. For every one you show me (assuming one exists) I’ll show you far more solely Orthodox slaughterhouses.

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posted March 6, 2008 at 10:13 am

I fully approve of the Tzedek Hecksher as long as it is a supplement to kashrut practices, and not a replacement. I know some people who eat only organic, or only free ranged raised meats, but who don’t insist on kosher slaughter, and call this practice keeping ‘eco-kosher’. I guess ‘eco kosher-style’ is a bit of a mouthful, but the food they are eating is simply trief.
Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose a scientist invents a ‘cow death ray’ – point it at the cow and it drops dead, instantly and painlessly. Should we adopt slaughtering cows via the death ray instead of using shechita [kosher slaughter]? I think that would be unacceptable because it reduces the chok [command given for unknow reasons] of shechita to a mishpat [rational law].

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posted March 6, 2008 at 10:25 am

It is about time that the Conservative Movement stepped up to the plate and began to certify products as Kosher. The Orthodox movements have done a tremendous disservice to American Jewry, insisting on “Glatt” Kosher meat, when regular Kosher is just as Kosher under any body’s interpretation. This insistence has led to ever higher prices and lower availabilty of Kosher meat products, which has served as a disincentive for Jews to keep Kosher.
The Orthodox movements has done a great disservice in not insisting that thse business they certify follow basic Jewish teaching with regard to treatment of animals and people and that they follow “kosher” business practices.
The Kosher scandals just serve to emphasize the fact that the Orthodox movements are not necessarily the “authentic” branch of Judaism they like to pretend they are.
I completely approve of the Tzedek Hecksher as it more fully reflects the totality of Jewish law.

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Patricia Sawey

posted March 6, 2008 at 10:45 am

If you think the slaughter houses that say they are “kosher”, think again, I happened to watch a video of a “kosher” slaughter house in Iowa (I think that is where it was) and after they slit the throat, the cow is down, some of the workers kick it and they hang it up before it is dead. It made me think that “kosher” didn’t mean anything. If you don’t believe me, look it up for yourself, you will see how disgusting the workers are, they abuse those poor cows, who after having their throut slashed get up and walk, yes, they clean the knive after every slice but why are they cruel to the animals. Think again, it doesn’t mean a thing

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posted March 6, 2008 at 10:52 am


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Henry Jay Karp

posted March 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

While I wholeheartedly approve of Hecksher Tzedek, I am disturbed that so many discussions on this topic seem to skirt or avoid the fundamentals of this issue. Those fundamentals are simply that ideally speaking, there should be no need for a Hecksher Tzedek. The Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox who operate and supervise the existing kosher meat processing plants – if they truly consider themselves observant Jews who follow all of the 613 mitzvot – should by definition be maintaining the ethical principles of Hecksher Tzedek as well as those of the mechanics of what constitutes kosher slaughter. That these people ignore or reject the ethics of our faith and devote themselves solely to the mechanics of it constitutes a profound aberration of Judaism. Furthermore, that they profess themselves to be the most “authentic” of Jews while continuing to behave is such a manner is not only a gross perversion of the very essence of Judaism but also actually constitutes a frightening affirmation of so many of the barbs of antisemitism. If to be an “authentic” Jew means to engage in unethical business practices, to abuse those who work for you, and to engage in excessive cruelty to animals, then who can blame antisemites for their beliefs that Jews are a blight upon society? This is not true Judaism but some perverse form of pseudo-Judaism. It takes more than a kippah, a talit katan, a beard and peyot to make a true Jew. It takes a truly Jewish neshamah and such a neshamah ALWAYS walks in the presence of God, living a life of justice, compassion, and peace – not when it suits them economically, and not only directing such actions exclusively to their fellow Jews (or more precisely to their fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews) but at ALL times and with ALL people and with ALL of God’s creation.

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Gershon Caudill

posted March 7, 2008 at 11:19 am

I do indeed have a problem with the eating of food that is considered as “kosher” but has been subject to unfair labor practices in the picking of the fruits and vegetables; where animals are killed by a shochet in a inhumane manner and in a assembly line situation after having been abused and mistreated; and distributed to be sold at inflated prices to a captive community.It may be kosher but it is not “Eco-Kosher.”

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