Briefly, this is what I believe we now know:
1. The class action suit against Hebrew National, filed by consumers who do not keep kosher, many of whom appear to be non-Jews, is based on one premise – that the beef used in Hebrew National products is not "100% kosher as defined by the most stringent Jews who follow Orthodox law."
2. It attempts to prove this by citing anonymous allegations of kashrut violations at slaughterhouses in which AER Services, Inc. acts as a contractor for Hebrew National and Triangle-K Kosher, slaughtering and processing beef.
3. AER Services, Inc.'s president Shlomoh Ben-David and Triangle-K's head Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag blame these anonymous allegations on former AER employees fired for cause.
4. One such former employee, Moshe Git, filed a lawsuit against AER. Git lost the suit and had a motion for a new trial rejected. (Please see the judge's ruling posted below.) The judge found Git was negligent when, fearing that halal non-kosher slaughter had been been mixed with the last small amount of kosher slaughter, Git left the South Saint Paul plant for a three day weekend, returning the morning after it with the unreasonable expectation that he could find the mixed up sides of beef and tag them all as non-kosher. Git wasn't able to find the suspect beef, so he told plant management all the beef produced on the previous working day was to be marked non-kosher, even though Git lacked the authority to do so. The plant followed Git's instruction, not knowing that it was unauthorized and not knowing that Ralbag was in the middle of investigating the mix up. Ralbag – unaware the meat was all now labeled non-kosher –ruled shortly after that the meat could, in fact, be sold as kosher.Git's behavior cost the plant and AER a huge amount of money, and it got Git fired. (See the lawsuit attached below.)
5. Git's lawsuit contains the primary allegations used by the class action lawsuit.
6. Ralbag apparently ruled that the majority of animals slaughtered that day were definitely kosher. Therefore the halakhic principle of rob, majority came into play and all the suspect beef was therefore kosher. The Shulkhan Arukh not only rules this way, but its commenters demand that a person in this situation eat some of the suspect beef to prove that he accepts the halakha.
7. The class action's attorneys appear to be unaware of that.
8. I called Git a couple days ago. He would not comment on the class action or on whether or not he is behind it.
9. Git has a law degree and is a frequent columnist for the American Jewish World, the paper that broke the news of the class action suit several weeks after it was filed.
10. Allegations of tax fraud made in the class action against AER were denied by AER's president in an interview with me last week.
11. But Shlomoh Ben-David promised to show me documents to back up his claim that the cash payments to AER employees via their families in Israel as an undeclared part of their pay were legal. He never did, despite my reminders to him and a request I made to his attorney.
12. AER also claimed that it did not sell meat to Hebrew National or Triangle-K. But the Git lawsuit notes that:
13. I asked Rabbi Ralbag about the kosher status of the pasteurization of meat before soaking and salting and the a question about stunning animals immediately after the schochet finishes slaughter. Ralbag did not respond in any way or answer the questions.
14. Both AER and Triangle-K have threatened to sue anyone they claim has defamed them.
15. AER sent a draft of a defamation suit to the AJW earlier this week.
So, here's what I think.
Ralbag has a well deserved reputation for being a thug.
AER claims to hold by halakha, Jewish law, but threatened to sue the AJW without citing any permit to do so given by a recognized beit din that is not a part of this scandal – itself a violation of Jewish law.
Based on the information we now have, there is no way to say that Hebrew National is treife, or that the meat it produces is not 100% kosher. Instead, Hebrew National is non-glatt meat, fully kosher unless and until proven otherwise.
But that does not clear the behavior of Ralbag, who sent me a statement on the scandal for publication but who would not answer the two questions I sent back in response to it.
And it doesn't clear AER.
Both Ralbag and Ben-David need to be completely transparent.
Until they are, the cloud of this scandal cannot be fully lifted from them – or from Hebrew National.
The Git v. AER lawsuit as a PDF file:
Rejection of Git's Motion For A New Trial:
The first version of this post incorrectly stated that Moshe Git lost his appeal. In fact, the appeal has not yet been heard. What Git did lose was a bid for a new trial. That rejection is posted immediately above as a PDF file.