Plaintiffs Respond To Hebrew National-Con Agra Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit
The plaintiffs' response seems to be better drafted than the initial complaint they filed, which was largely laughable. But the response still makes false claims about how Jewish law works, how koshering meat works, and how kosher supervision works.
The American Jewish World has published a report on the latest court filings (I've posted those below) in the ongoing Hebrew National scandal.
Are there problems with Hebrew National's kashrut?
Are they as severe as the problems Agriprocessors had?
The initial shechita is certainly better at Hebrew National than it was at Agriprocessors, and Agriprocessors alleged mislabeling and glatt-non-glatt (and even occasional glatt-treife) mix-ups were legendary among people who worked there as shochtim and mashgichim.
The claims being made against Hebrew National originate primarily from one man, Moshe Gitt, who has consistently misrepresented Jewish law and even the facts on the ground in the South Saint Paul slaughterhouse in order to press this action against Hebrew National.
Hebrew National's kosher contractor, AER Services, Inc., fired Gitt a couple years ago for gross negligence.
Gitt sued AER Services over that dismissal and lost – resoundingly.
Because his own testimony proved both his negligence and his lack of competence.
That said, some of the claims Gitt makes in his affidavit are disturbing – if we can believe he's telling the truth. And that is by no means clear at this point.
But assuming he is, there are two claims he makes that have some potential merit.
Both concern how meat is washed as it waits to be shipped to Green Bay for koshering.
Gitt complains about the sprinkler system used to wash that meat, saying that only one side of the meat is reached by the spray and that the spray is sometimes very weak.
This isn't the way you would wash meat at home, no doubt. But it is an accepted way to wash meat in processing plants. There are several rulings from members of Agudas Harabbonim rabbinic executive going back decades that support this practice. Some of these rulings were made when Moshe Feinstein was the head of Agudas Harabbonim. But the rabbis who made these rulings – which were known publicly and which were debated in the industry at the time – were removed from that Agudas Harabbonim executive. None were thrown out of the organization. None were sanctioned or reprimanded.
In other words, like it or not, the practice is kosher, and Gitt's complaints could as easily be directed to Feinstein (who surely opposed the practice but who did nothing to stop it) as they are to Hebrew National.
The second washing complaint involves Gitt's complaint that at times the temperature of the water used to wash the meat was too hot, "cooking" the emat and therefore rendering it unkosher. And Gitt knows the meat was cooked because a non-Jewish plant employee told him that the gray color on the surface of the meat Gitt saw proves that the meat was, in fact cooked.
The problem for Gitt here is severalfold.
First, halakha (often unfortunately) does not define reality by what your eyes see. It defines it by what halakha sees.
In halakha, cooking cannot take place unless the temperature of the water is at or above yad soledet bo, a standard that is interpreted differently by different rabbis. Feinstein held that 110°F and above should be considered yad soledet bo as a matter of practice, but he also held that the actual temperature of yad soledet bo could be as high as 160°F. The term means that the water must be so hot that your hand recoils from it.
So if the use of hot water was accidental, and the water was less than 160°F, then there is room according to normative halakha to rule the meat kosher.
But Gitt is no halakha scholar and his arguemnts are disingenuous. And neither he or the attorneys pursuing the class action suit against Hebrew Nation-Con Agra make any mention of this or any other mitigating factors in Jewish law.
In fact, the class action continues to present Jewish law as a fixed, static set of rules that are either followed or broken, as if the Ta'aruvot section of Shulkhan Arukh and many other sections of Jewish law do not exist.
Moshe Gitt really doesn't know halakha, he knows basic, simple grade school halakha – which is like saying that a grade school kid knows the ins and outs of Constitutional law or torts because he read the Constitution and has a copy of it hanging on a wall in his room next to his Wrestlemania posters.
And he appears to be the halakha 'expert' the class actions attorneys are relying on.
Gitt also claims he saw AER Services, Inc. managers forging certificates certifying shochets' competence. Those certificates are primarily an Israeli government innovation in their bureaucratic sense.
A schochet is competent to shecht when a qualified rabbi says he is. If Rabbi Ralbag approved these particular shochtim, they're qualified unless otherwise proved not to be. The paper from Jerusalem means nothing in terms of kashrut – unless AER deceived Ralbag by claiming these schochtim had certificates when they really did not.
If this forgery did take place, why would it have been done?
The most likely answer (assuming Ralbag wasn't tricked) is that these certificates may have been used for immigration status purposes here or for tax purposes in Israel.
Either way, forging these documents is wrong and probably criminal. But that would not impact the kosher status of the meat slaughtered by these men.
Because there is no evidence that these schochtim lied to AER or Ralbag, the only thing that would impact the meat's kosher status would be mistakes made in slaughter and knife preparation by those shochtim.
But there is no evidence any such mistakes were made.
I think a stronger class action suit could have been filed against Agriprocessors, but even that would probably have failed because kosher is what the rabbi says it is – no more, no less. And in the end, as long as haredim refuse to "defrok" and expel corrupt or incompetent rabbis, no one can claim these rabbis are not rabbis in good standing.
All commercial kosher beef slaughter is flawed. All of them have problems. All of them push the kashrut envelope in some way – or in many ways.
Some are better than others, some are worse. None are perfect.
Gitt claims he he worked for Hebrew National through AER from 2000 through 2010. For those ten years, Gitt made a few internal complaints. But he did nothing past that to take any action until after he was fired and after he lost his wrongful dismissal suit against AER and Ralbag.
In the end, that may tell the real story of this class action lawsuit.
Here are the new documents as PDF files:
Gitt losing his suit against AER Services, Inc.: