Next post will be after Labor Day…

..or perhaps before. I refuse to post anything unless I think it adds something useful and original to the conversation about the Middle East and/or American Jews. That means I am probably not suited to this medium. At one point last year, this blog was picking up a good many visitors. But when posts appear very sporadically, both the fans and the abusers start to drift away. So I am grateful to Y Ben David, Zach Leiner, Richard Witty, Tom Mitchell and others who recently carried on an intriguing interchange about the meaning of The Land, the meaning of The Word, the nature of Orthodox Judaism and related matters.

I am still plugging away at my book and will be finished any day now. Tomorrow, I am going on vacation for a week with my family, who are commanding me to have fun and stop thinking. If anyone cares, I will pay more attention to realistic dovishness very soon. In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the summer.

12 thoughts on “Next post will be after Labor Day…

  1. I’m actually very interested in the new kosher suggestion for a “fair employment” heksher.

    My Lubavitch son and I spoke about, and he was reluctant to distract from the Chabad convention of considering the current halachic definition of kashrut as sufficient and the end of the story.

    I added that while the new kosher certification proposal exceeded the literal definition of kosher, it did not exceed the obligations of Jews towards their fellow men, and was useful and deserves support.

    I know many modern orthodox in particular that are simultaneiously assertively kosher, but also very much concerned with human effects of their actions.

    I actually think that it represents an opportunity to develop a humane kosher “brand” that others may rely on, as many rely on kosher certification for issues related to quality of meat and treatment of animals in meat processing.

    My mother-in-law in London told me that often she sees Muslim women shopping in the kosher meat markets, for the overlap of requirements.

    Maybe the sincere left would regard something about Judaism as of merit if this “brand” received widespread confidence.

  2. Richard,

    My understanding is that Islam demands that its followers eat “halal” meat which is meat slaughtered by a professing monotheist. Thus, Jewish kasher slaughtering would be permitted to them. I have no idea if meat slaughtered by a Christian would be permitted.

    Regarding the “ethical” aspects of determining kashrut, of course, it is important how the workers are treated….but the question is “where do you draw the line”. Many of the goods imported from China, other places in the Far East, Africa and Latin America are produced by exploited, underpaid workers. In fact, I suspect that even if the charges against this particular kasher slaughterhouse are true, and that their kashrut certification should be revoked on those grounds, the workers there were still probably treated better than many of the exploited workers in the places I mentioned above.

  3. I work as a financial executive in the food industry, so I agree that there are difficulties in the heksher certification process.

    Even conventional kosher certification is subject to much contreversy. For example, cashews aren’t grown in places where there are many competent certifying entities, but some orthodox do eat cashews from some source.

    With kosher products, it is the product that is certified, packaged often (though not always). There are bulk bin distributions.

    So, there would be no necessity of koshering the retailer, the distributor. There is inquiry into the source of ingredients on the other side of the manufacturer.

    There is a similar certification dilemma associated with organic certification. There are efforts within organic movement, to similarly insist on a “heksher” for fair trade and/or the equivalent of the tzedek mark.

  4. Kosher food is explicitly considered to be automatically halal, this is because Jewish dietary laws are stricter than Muslim dietary laws in all regards. Halal requirements are a watered-down version of kashrut requirements–in this they reflect the debt of Islam to Judaism.

  5. “Kosher food is explicitly considered to be automatically halal…in this they reflect the debt of Islam to Judaism”

    Perhaps one productive means to make good of this debt is to take their business to Kosher establishments!

  6. All of the questions raised in the article are resolvable.

    There will likely be a professional audit certification process for the heksher that will include both volunteered information and independant third party verification.

    Like kosher hekshers, participation would be voluntary and manufacturers could choose not to include it, but lose the population of customers that desire those characteristics reliably in products.

    Professionally, I’m a former CPA and have supervised the audit of moderately large institutions, as well as currently working within the food industry for an organization that is kosher and organic certified, as well as routinely audited by some of our large customers for quality systems and procedures.

    In ALL cases, including the kosher certification, there is a give and take. The relationship with the kosher certifier is often conditional. “You must by my next visit provide x documentation, or perform y procedure and document.”

    Similarly in certified audits. There is a negotiation. The certifier is staking their professional reputation on the reliability of the certification within a material range, not perfection. An auditor asserts the financial statements fairly represent.

    In practise, if an auditor is unwilling to certify a financial statement, they will define what modifications are required to achieve their confidence, same as kosher or other certification.

    An orthodox union heksher represents something different from a circle k heksher from other more specific hekshers.

    I expect that the tzedek heksher people will successfully define what the heksher means from both the customers’ and the suppliers’ perspective, suitable to provide real meaning to an important consumer and Jewish consumer criteria.

  7. “An orthodox union heksher represents something different from a circle k heksher from other more specific hekshers”

    For example?

    “I expect that the tzedek heksher people will successfully define what the heksher means from both the customers’ and the suppliers’ perspective, suitable to provide real meaning to an important consumer and Jewish consumer criteria”

    But so far they have not. The fact that this concept has caught on so strongly in some circles without thinking through all the criteria is not reassuring.

    What troubles me is that either side (but most likely the unions) could easily leverage and exploit the non-food heksher (NFH) as a PR tool. For example, if even a grievance report to the local NLRB could result in losing the NFH even before the other side states their case, then it could be a source of blackmail.

  8. My son won’t eat food with certain hekshers but will with others. (My wife knows which he considers ok. I don’t.)

    The absence of any disclosure is a far more unjust solution for those for whom it is an important concern.

    I take it that is not you.

    Its a concept long time in coming, is why there is talk. Its been needed for a very long time.

    It is definitely a valid concern in the world, and will likely take hold among many Jews and non-Jews alike.

    I’m excited about the prospect of union members looking for the tzedek heksher. And, I’m also excited about the prospect of the company that I work for including on its promotional literature the tzaddik (or whatever moniker they adopt).

    I’m hoping that a premium for fair employment practises results from the heksher.

    There will be correlation between product quality and fair employment practises, so there will be a tangible benefit to the tzeddek heksher beyond just the good conscience that Jews that aspire to lives of good conscience will incrementally realize (now that they are informed).

  9. Richard,

    Please, let’s not conflate questions towards the viability of the Heksher Tzedek with belief in the importance of fairness at the workplace and how it behooves those who represent the Torah to follow its practices.

    Is it fair to accuse those who question the workability of the Heksher Tzedek with indifference towards issues of fair practices towards employees? Is it manipulative to do so?

    I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the Rabbi who gave exhortations regarding the necessity of not just being Glatt Kosher but also Glatt YOSHER.

    As a father myself, perhaps I can sum it up through a theoretical question posed by a child

    “But Abba/Tati/Daddy, if the Torah is so important how come we only follow this but not that?”

    That proverbial child could come from any Jewish home; Orthodox or Heterodox.

    Whatever the outcome is with Agriprocessors’ day in court, I only hope it serves as a wake up call to any establishment representing the Torah to go the extra mile to keep things clean and transparent.

    On that note, I would like to wish you, Mr. Fleshler, Y. Ben-David et al a Shana Tovah u’metukah – A Happy and Sweet New Year.

  10. “I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the Rabbi who gave exhortations regarding the necessity of not just being Glatt Kosher but also Glatt YOSHER.”

    How does someone that desires that KNOW?

    The Tzedek heksher will be one way, same as the circle K heksher informs those that are concerned about kosher status.

    Its a good thing. There are harms to a firm’s reputation when the basis of their kosher certification basis is questioned. Its not an unresolvable ethical question in the slightest.

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