In a joint statement, the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Association and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in effect punted.
Despite widespread calls within the movement for a boycott against Agriprocessors (Rubashkin), the rabbis decided to leave the decision of whether or not to consume Rubashkin meat up to the individual Jew, synagogue and organization.
Because, again, these rabbis are afraid Jews will stop keeping kosher.
In effect, what they have done is elevate kashrut to a status above bein adam l'havero laws like fair treatment of workers, turning the entire Torah on its head so Jews can fress on kosher rib steaks.
I once asked Conservative rabbis: What would Heschel do?
Increasingly, I believe my question was ill-phrased. I should have asked the rabbis this: Rabbis, do you even know who Avraham Yehoshua Heschel is?
All this said, what the C-rabbis have done is still progress, albeit slight, and it is certainly far more than any Orthodox rabbis have done.
[I should add there may be a move afoot to buy time for other, non-Rubashkin producers to ramp up production before serious Jewish communal action is taken against Agriprocessors and the Rubashkins.
I'd like to believe this is true, even though I currently have no evidence to support it.
Is this simply wishful thinking? Readers? Have you heard anything?]
Here's the entire JTA report:
The leadership of the U.S. Conservative movement is urging Jews to consider not patronizing AgriProcessors, the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse.
In a joint statement released Thursday evening, the movement's Rabbinical Association and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism declared themselves “shocked and appalled” at working conditions at AgriProcessors, which is under federal investigation for employing illegal aliens. The groups asked their members “to evaluate whether it is appropriate to consume Rubashkin products until this situation is addressed.”
The advisory extends not only to products bought retail but also to meat and poultry bought at restaurants and for private functions such as weddings and bar mitzvahs.
The statement falls short of the boycott hoped for by the more activist wing of the Conservative rabbinate, and leaves the decision in the hands of the individual consumer.
Still, Rabbi Morris Allen, head of the movement's hekhsher tzedek commission, said that "it is the first statement from the organized Jewish community that reminds people they need to evaluate the food they purchase and eat" from an ethical perspective.
No other Jewish movement has issued a statement on the issue.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union of Reform Judaism, said it was appropriate that the Conservative movement take the lead because unlike the Reform movement, the Conservative movement calls on its members to keep kosher.
Noting his own “deep distress” at the news coming out of Postville, Iowa, where AgriProcessors is located, Yoffie said it is “absolutely” time for the Jewish community to demand similar investigations into all kosher slaughterhouses, because the case “has raised suspicions about all kosher food.”
Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the Orthodox Union’s kosher department, the largest kosher certifier of AgriProcessors, said the O.U. is awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings against the company before coming to any decision. If AgriProcessors is found guilty of criminal charges, he said, the O.U. will withdraw its kosher certification.
Meat and poultry produced by AgriProcessors is sold under the following kosher and non-kosher labels: Aaron’s Best, Aaron’s Choice, David’s, European Glatt, Iowa Best Beef, Nevel, Rubashkin’s, Shor Habor, and Supreme Kosher.
[Hat Tips: Stephen M., Michelle and Arieh.]