…Uri L’Tzedek’s willingness to organize a boycott seems to have succeeded in persuading the often unreachable Agriprocessors leadership to sit down and talk. The meeting marked the first time since the raid that Agriprocessors has agreed to talk with any of the Jewish groups calling for reform at the plant.
In attendance on the Agriprocessors side were Menachem Lubinsky, a consultant to the company; David Oberman, director of operations and sales; Sholom Baer Minkowitz, a son-in-law of Aaron Rubashkin and director of New York operations, and another son-in-law, Milton Balkany, who has no official position within the company. Balkany, the first person affiliated with Agriprocessors to make contact with Uri L’Tzedek, is something of a public figure apart from his connection to the company. A prominent figure within the Brooklyn Lubavitch world, and a major Republican campaign donor, he made headlines in 2003 when he was charged by the federal government with embezzling $700,000 from an Orthodox girls’ school. [The grant was for educating disabled children. Balkany distributed the money among his family and used large chunks of it for his personal expenses.] After issuing an apology and making restitution, he was not prosecuted and remains dean of the school.
Shmuly Yanklowitz and Ari Hart, co-directors of Uri L’Tzedek and students at the Manhattan liberal Orthodox seminary Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, along with Jason Herman, a young pulpit rabbi, represented the organization.
According to both parties, the conversation was frequently acrimonious.
“They came in trying to intimidate us,” Yanklowitz said.
According to the rabbinical students, Balkany at one point made an ominous reference to “the last guy who went up against my father-in-law.” Balkany denies having made any sort of threat, maintaining that he had referred only to a business loss that a Rubashkin competitor had suffered.
In a conversation with the Forward, Balkany dismissed Uri L’Tzedek as being too far to the left for its positions to be relevant within the rest of the Orthodox community. Lubinsky invoked the Nuremberg Laws in his criticism of the calls for a boycott.
“As someone whose grandparents suffered greatly during the German boycotts, I don’t even like to hear that word,” Lubinsky said.
Lubinsky suggested that if company representatives had anticipated that Uri L’Tzedek would report to the media about the meeting, they would not have agreed to meet.
Whether anything will significantly change at Agriprocessors because of the meeting remains unclear. The company agreed to draft a document stipulating its workers’ rights policies and to send it to Uri L’Tzedek within 48 hours after the conversation. To date, the document has not arrived.…
Lubinsky has a long history of taking money from Rubashkin while at the same time "reporting" on Agriprocesors in his Kosher Today newsletter – all without any disclosure of his financial ties to Agriprocessors and Rubashkin.
Balkany US DOJ Indictment Press Release: