Yated Ne'eman has a very disturbing interview with Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. Genack has parsed his call for Agriprocessors to hire a new CEO so finely and so often it is now difficult to determine…
… what, if anything, that call means.
Like a charlatan's oracle, whatever ends up happening will be exactly what Genack and the OU intended.
Here's an example:
…The second thing we requested was that they appoint a new CEO, to manage the plant and put in place a management team. This did not and does not mean to exclude the Rubashkins by any means; they own the company. However, they have been besieged from all sides. Some of the allegations are wrong, some might be valid, and many are certainly not valid, but they were being paralyzed by all these things swirling around them and they didn’t have the capacity to move the company forward. They desperately needed someone to come in and present a new face to talk to the world, to deal with the public, to put procedures in place, and move forward past these allegations.
Since then, the OU has been talking to the Rubashkins on a constant basis to retain a new management team. We told them then that if criminal charges - state or federal – and the federal investigation is still in progress — are filed, we have to have a position in terms of kashrus generally, for the well-being of kashrus - not just the OU - that we are in control of the situation and that we can move forward. They’ve been looking for a new CEO, but, for whatever reason, haven’t put one in place yet.
Our goal in this is not, by any means, to close down Agri. Our goal is to make sure that people have a favorable view of what’s happening there and schechita in general. In addition, our goal is very much to be helpful to the Rubashkins to move from the status quo - where the company is now - to a new reality, which can only be helpful to them.…
We can’t just wait until the next charges come, and the Rubashkins themselves cannot wait until that happens. Therefore, as we said, this was meant to move them to the next stage to retain a new CEO, which I think they themselves acknowledge they need. I am quite confident that at the end of this period of a few weeks, we will see a new CEO in place, someone who will be mutually agreeable to everybody - to us, to the federal government, to the company - who can help them through what is obviously a very difficult period, not only for them, but for the perception of kashrus in general.
The story, unfortunately, has been playing out on the national level. It is a chillul Hashem and we have to try to mitigate it. The end result of the OU’s action is meant not to pull our supervision from Agri, but that Agri should have a new management team in place to confront all of the issues and to make sure they are moving ahead. The OU’s intention is only to preserve the prestige of kashrus and the dignity of the company.
Many of the charges written in the papers - especially the more lurid ones - are almost certainly untrue. There is no meth factory in the middle of the plant. We don’t believe that there was any rabbi or anybody involved in abusing a worker - someone charged that a worker’s eyes were duct-taped - as there are no medical records of any of that. [Perhaps Rabbi Genack has forgotten that workers were routinely refused medical treatment.] Many of these charges are completely untrue.
The fundamental issue is whether Agri was complicit in hiring illegal workers. We should understand that this issue has a national context. They are focusing only on this company, and of course we can’t ignore that, but the issue of illegal workers is not an Agri story, it’s a national story. The United States currently doesn’t have a clear national policy vis-à-vis illegal workers, and there are 13-1/2 million illegal immigrants in the country. Many of these companies - meat companies and others - have illegal workers and some of the companies don’t even know about it. Two years ago, the world’s second-largest meat processing company, Swift & Company, was raided by the federal government and they closed down six of their plants because of the many illegal workers there. So this is in no way unique to Agri and people are unfortunately viewing it as such. During the Swift raid, the government didn’t take any action against the workers, except for deporting them, and took no action against the company management. Agri has been caught in the vortex of a sudden change in federal immigration policy and enforcement.
We have to respond to these problems, however, because for us, at least for the OU, our constituency is not just frum families living within frum communities. We want to make sure that people have a good perception of kashrus beyond that. There is a movement, which is a positive but still in an early stage, of non-Orthodox Jews coming back to kashrus and the OU has been inundated with emails of the distress that they have with the disarray and the charges in relation to Agri.…
Genack's original demand for a new CEO was made four months ago. Genack's first deadline, imposed after more than 9000 counts of child labor violations were brought against Agriprocessors two weeks ago, was last Friday – this Friday at the latest. Then it was extended, and extended again. Now the deadline is so amorphous, the Rubashkin's could fulfill it next spring, if ever.
Just as I wrote months ago, the entire charade of bringing in a new CEO is spin. The point is not so much to bring change; the point is to look like it.
Genack also continues to downplay or ignore completely valid charges against Agriprocessors and the reams of evidence supporting workers' claims of abuse, extortion and fraud – something he would not do if those claims were made regarding kashrut.
Genack goes on to play the "shechita under attack" card. But he also goes out of his way to praise Dr. Temple Grandin:
…Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure that people view us - not the OU, but the Orthodox Jewish community - as the caring, responsible people we in fact are. So it is not something that we can simply ignore and say that it is unimportant, when it is a major national issue that we’ve been struggling with for a very long time. We can’t just deal with the world as we’d like it to be. We have to deal with the situation as it is.
Allow me to add that shechitah is under attack around the globe, in other areas as well. There are very few slaughterhouses that are available. One of the tremendous assets that we have is Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism in the world. She is known worldwide for her work on the design of livestock handling facilities. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. She was a friend of Agriprocessors and we brought her down to the plant. She came and gave advice to the plant, which quieted down the PETA attack at the time. Later, the company didn’t maintain that relationship or maintain her standards and she criticized the plant. That’s unfortunate, because she was not only an ally for us in terms of the shechitah at Rubashkin, but an ally for us in terms of shechitah in general, because she said that she thought that shechitah, when properly done, is a humane fashion of slaughter. This is a woman who has the most credibility in this area. It is regarding these kinds of things that we have to make sure that the situation doesn’t atrophy and that we are on top of it and maintain these relationships. For that, we need a new CEO to be on top of all these issues.
But, as we stated, our goal is not to have the OU leave the plant, but to have the plant running properly and be able to respond to the whirlwind around them.…
Rabbi Genack's unsolicited praise for Temple Grandin is, I believe, due to the widespread perception in the meat industry that the OU and Agriprocessors used and manipulated Grandin, taking advantage of her autism to trick her into appearing to endorse something she, in fact, was deeply ambivalent about. Once the OU did that, it went back to throat-ripping and gouging. Grandin, they thought, will never find out. But she did.
Three years ago, when interviewing Rabbi Genack, I strongly told him his manipulation of Grandin was evident, and that it had to stop. It did not.
Now Genack has no choice. If Grandin is called to a plant under OU supervision, what she sees is Rubashkin's meat hooks and carving knives gouging the throats of writhing cattle, and the OU's imprimatur on it. She doesn't see rabbis who are her allies. She sees rabbis who lie, cheat and abuse.
Now, when asked by governments if shechita is humane, her only answer now must be, "it depends." It depends if you have constant third party supervision to monitor the rabbis. It depends who those rabbis are. It depends…
Agriprocessors chillul Hashem is owned as much by the OU as it is by Agriprocessors. The Rubashkins did the crimes. The OU protected them for four years – and it still does today.
[Hat Tip: Steve.]