Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, the ethically challenged executive vice president of Igud HaRabbonim, the Rabbinic Alliance of America (see his Security and Exchange Commission record, etc.) devotes his weekly Jewish Press column (that's right, the Jewish Press, the 'voice' of Orthodox Jewry in America, gives a weekly column to a man with a 30-plus-year record of stock fraud and related endeavors) to the Brooklyn kapporot scandal publicized by PETA. Before we get to what seems to be the good news, let's deal with Rabbi Tannenbaum's grasp of fundamental Jewish history:
Rabbi Karo was born in Spain and, after the Spanish expulsion of 1492, settled in Portugal. In 1497, he moved to Greece and then to Turkey in 1520, settling in Safed in 1535. Rabbi Isserlis was born and lived in Poland and was consulted by the Mechaber (Rabbi Karo) to add a European perspective to the Shulchan Aruch.
This is sheer insanity. Both men wrote codes independent of each other and without each other's knowledge. Rabbi Karo (the Mechaber) got his into print first. Rabbi Issreles (the Rema) was saddened by this. He took his code and rewrote it as a commentary to Rabbi Karo's Shulkhan Arukh. Rabbi Karo did not "consult" with Rabbi Issreles to add a "European perspective" to his code – the Rema simply added that in on his own.
It does not take much to be a leader of Jews these days, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is a living example of that rule.
Now, on to the Kapporot controversy.
As I noted a couple of weeks ago, PETA sent letters to NYC's health commissioner and to the Brooklyn DA and other officials complaining about unsanitary conditions and poor animal handling at kapparot centers in Brooklyn, especially the center in Crown Heights which is especially dirty, poorly run, and practices extremely poor animal handling. PETA included pictures and a video.
Someone who received the letter leaked it to Brooklyn haredi rabbis who initially spouted off about PETA's alleged agenda to stop shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) in America. The rabbis organized a meeting and the leaders of Agudath Israel, Satmar and even Lubavitch (home to the Crown Heights kapporot fiasco) came.
What they were treated to was a presentation on many kashrut-related violations at these street kapporot centers, violations of other halakha (like reusing live chickens over and over again which defeats the purpose of kapparot), health and safety violations and tzaar baalei hayyim violations. The rabbis passed a resolution meant to govern this year's kapparot centers:
…The session directed that all kapparos centers be prohibited from allowing chickens to be in the sun all day, that the birds be protected by an awning or improvised roof, and that the birds be sprayed with ample water periodically. In addition, the session focused on health concerns.
Dr. Yitzchok (Richard) Cofsky of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center Brooklyn, reported that holding a chicken will not impart an infectious disease. However, if chicken feces somehow become embedded under one’s fingernails and are somehow ingested, severe stomach cramps are possible. However, Dr. Cofsky assured the session, chicken feces ingestion will not develop into an infectious disease. In response, the assembled rabbis regulated kapparos centers to have adequate supplies of surgical gloves as well as alcohol hand wipes.…
Will these directives be followed? Who knows. Until PETA's letter, nothing had been done to deal with the problem. Rabbi Tannenbaum notes:
…The KIS 2003 recommendations have been repeatedly circulated. Now is the time to finally heed their alarm. A continuation of kapparos kashrus abuses cannot be allowed to continue. The kosher consuming public must become sensitive to this issue and register its outrage.…
So why would PETA's letter work here but not work as well in dealing with Rubashkin?
Because most of the rabbis have no financial links to these kapporot operations, and receive little if any, money from them. Rubashkin, however, has many rabbis in his employ and he writes many checks that benefit various yeshivot, schools and synagogues. Trite as it is, follow the money. Money may not be able to buy you love, but it can buy you rabbis.
That said, let's hope these guys can stop kapporot abuses. If not, let's hope the government can do that, instead.
The list of participating rabbis, which includes Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Weireb of the OU, the Novominsker Rebbe and many others, is posted after the jump.
So, to is information on reports done by haredi rabbis in 2003 and 2005 which found multiple kashrut, tzaar baalei hayyim, and health violations at street kapparot centers. The report did not stop the violations.
Rabbis attending 2007 meeting
The session was chaired by Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberg and addressed by Rabbi Luzer Weiss:
The meeting of the rabbis, roshei yeshiva, and Chassidishe rebbes took place in the Novominsker Beis Medrash. Participants, in alphabetic order, were: Rabbi Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, Matesdorfer Rav; Rabbi Moshe Elefant, representing the Orthodox Union; Rabbi Eliyahu Fischer, Rosh Kollel Ger of Boro Park; Rabbi Yosef Frankel, Vyelopoler Rebbe; Rabbi Shraga Feivel Hager, Kosover Rebbe; Rabbi Yisroel Heller, of the Beth Din of Crown Heights; Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rosh Yeshiva Philadelphia; Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshiva Beis Medrash Govoha of Lakewood; Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, representing Agudath Israel; Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, Novominsker Rebbe; Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin representing Bobov; Rabbi Aaron Shechter, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin; Rabbi Menachem Mendel Teitelbaum, Williamsburg Satmar Rav; Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Orthodox Union Executive Vice-President; Rabbi Moshe Menachem Weiss, Boro Park Pupa Dayan; and Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Agudath Israel Vice- President.
2003 Recommendations from the Kosher Inspection Service of Borough Park
After having thoroughly investigated the kapparos situation – rather crisis – KIS issued their recommendations. First and foremost, each kapparos center must have a reliable and identifiable hashgachah (kosher certification). The kosher consumer would not purchase food from a butcher or take-out store that does not have an acceptable hashgachah; paying for kapparos at a center that does not have an acceptable hashgachah should be equally unthinkable.
The hashgachah must oversee that no tza’ar ba’alei chaim (abuse) of chickens takes place; that the shechitah is satisfactory, that a regular bedikah (examination review) takes place, that melichah (kashering) is performed, and that the ultimate disposition of the slaughtered chickens are to poor families or religious institutions.
Further, repetitive ceremonial uses of the same chickens must be prevented. In addition, separation of men and women at kapparos centers must be upheld.
The KIS 2003 recommendations have been repeatedly circulated. Now is the time to finally heed their alarm. A continuation of kapparos kashrus abuses cannot be allowed to continue. The kosher consuming public must become sensitive to this issue and register its outrage.
In advance of the kapparos 2005 season, KIS of Boro Park and the Kosher Information Center (KIC) of Flatbush, under the direction of Rabbi Moshe Y. Weiner, issued a number of announcements asking the public to patronize only those kapparos services that conform to total halachic strictures and provide humane handling of its chickens.
In its report to congregational rabbis following the kapparos 5764 season, it scathingly described an excess of violations as a warning for future activities. KIS repeated its warnings after the kapparos 5765 season. KIC compiled a report of the 5765 performances and expanded its cautionary announcements for kapparos 5766.
Tomchei Shabbos of Boro Park, a community crown jewel that distributes foods confidentially to needy families throughout the year, has for years declined accepting kapparos chickens as donations, specifically because of the unacceptable handling of the chickens before and after shechitah. In several kapparos centers KIS found that, in addition to chickens being reused repeatedly (literally deceiving the paying public) they were not provided enough room, not fed properly,if at all, were being schechted by unqualified and unsupervised shochtim and improperly disposed of.
Several situations were reported where proprietors left for Yom Kippur and the chickens were abandoned and died en masse. In several instances, outraged neighbors brought food and water to feed the unattended chickens. This inhumane treatment is clearly prohibited by the Torah (Mishnah Berurah 305:9 and Taz, Hilchos Yom Kippur 605).
KIS reported that mosdos such as Belz; Bobov; Munkatch; Satmar; Skver; and Vishnitz, adhering to the highest standards, ran reliable kapparos centers. In addition, kapparos centers located on 45th Street at 14th Avenue, 16th Avenue at 56th Street, and 18th Avenue at 52nd Street were found acceptable. However, many other locations were not.
At the unacceptable kapparos centers, KIS has found that once the chickens were used for kapparos and slaughtered, sometimes they are then distributed to organizations that dispense them to needy families. The chickens, however, are not processed or salted properly, or not at all, relying on recipients to do the kashering.
However, the recipients are highly unlikely to be familiar with kosher processing and salting and will either assume that the chickens, coming from religious organizations, are already fully kashered or will consume them regardless. That responsibility rests squarely upon the kapparos centers and the distributing organizations.