Three men – Menachem Felman, Roie Basil and Yosef Ben Aroya – who once worked for AER Services, Inc., the contractor that provides shochtim and mashgichim for Hebrew National, have sued AER in a Brooklyn haredi beit din, alleging kosher fraud. The men also allege that they suffered monetary losses, because they could not continue to work for AER because they were unwilling to participate in the alleged fraud, and quit their jobs.
The American Jewish World reports that three men – Menachem Felman, Roie Basil and Yosef Ben Aroya – who once worked for AER Services, Inc., the contractor that provides shochtim and mashgichim for Hebrew National, have sued AER in a Brooklyn haredi beit din, alleging kosher fraud. The men also allege that they suffered monetary losses, because they could not continue to work for AER because they were unwilling to participate in the alleged fraud, and quit their jobs.
AER refused to go to that haredi beit din, Bais Din Tzedek Umishpot, but agreed to go to the Beit Din of Agudath Harabonim, which is run by Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, who owns Triangle-K, which provides kosher supervision services to Hebrew National. The Bais Din Tzedek Umishpot refused.
What the AJW does not report is that Bais Din Tzedek Umishpot was involved in a very bizarre caseof hidden conflict of interest very unlike Ralbag's very public involvement with the beit din of Agudas HaRabbonim. From a Brooklyn Supreme Court decision in 2009:
…The material facts are not in dispute. Rabbi Barash, an employee of the Beth Din, is married to an employee of Beth Jacob. Regardless of how the relationship was disclosed, it is undisputed that Bas Melech did not learn of the marital relationship between Rabbi Barash and Beth Jacob's employee until the second hearing at the Beth Din. This relationship was significant enough that it should have been disclosed by either the Beth Din or Beth Jacob prior to the agreement by Bas Melech to binding arbitration by this Beth Din.
The fact that the Beth Din's clerk, who was present during the entire arbitration hearing, was married to an employee of Beth Jacob in conjunction with the fact that the clerk informed the Beth Din of the results of a private telephone conversation he had with his wife during the hearing with respect to one of the issues in dispute which resolved this issue in Beth Jacob's favor creates more than the requisite inference of partiality and bias. Thus, this case is one where the Courts "general reluctance to disturb arbitration awards must yield...to the clear necessity of safeguarding the integrity of the arbitration process" (Goldfinger, supra at 232 -233)Conclusion
Based on the foregoing, the respondent's cross-motion to vacate the arbitration award pursuant to CPLR § 7511 is granted and the arbitration award is vacated. The petitioner's petition to confirm the arbitration award is denied and the petition is dismissed.…
The AJW also does not report that the beit din suit is most likely a desperate attempt by the people behind the failed class action lawsuit against Hebrew National and its parent Con Agra, which was thrown out of court in January largely because no US civil or criminal court can legally decide what is and what is not kosher or if foods meet a high standard of kosher or not.
However, in theory a US court might be able to rely on a beit din decision to say that food items are not kosher or do not meet the highest standards of kosher – although it is unlikely any such decision would survive appeal.
The men behind all of these suits are disgruntled former AER employees who have, some say, worked in concert to damage Triangle-K, AER and Hebrew National as revenge for various perceived injustices.
One of the men allegedly behind the class action suit, Moshe Gitt, was strongly reprimanded by a US civil court when he sued Ralbag and AER last year. He claimed to have been wrongly terminated but the court found copious evidence to the contrary, much of it provided by Gitt himself.
The reality is that unless there is no attempt to follow kosher laws related to slaughter and processing and that can be proved, anything an Orthodox or haredi rabbi says is kosher is koshet – at least under US law.
Consumers must decide if they trust the rabbis supervising a particular product or not.
Agriprocessors had the strictest kosher supervision available in the US, yet it regularly cut corners that would shock most consumers and its horrific humane slaughter violations – the infamous meat hook used to rip the trachea and esophagus out of live fully conscious animals – caused animals intense suffering. Veterinarians, large animal biologists and and animal welfare experts called the3 violations the worst they had seen in modern times. Every one of the many kosher supervisors and kosher supervision companies that endorsed Agriprocessors approved that horrific animal cruelty and ruled the meat from those tortured cattle to be glatt kosher.
Is the kashrut at Hebrew National significantly more lenient than the kashrut at glatt kosher plants ?
Do those leniencies make the meat non-kosher?
If Agriprocessors' throat-ripping and other behavior didn't make the meat produced non-kosher then the answer must be no.
The truth is that the kosher meat industry has been corrupt for more than 100 years – and so have haredi beit dins.
If you keep kosher, you eat what you eat based on trust of those same rabbis or you rely on food labels, US laws that make it costly and sometimes criminal to misrepresent food ingredients, and one halakha – the halakha of rov (majority).
Even if something was done wrong or a food was adulterated or treife meat was mixed up with kosher meat, the majority is kosher and, because the non-kosher meat or ingredient can't be identified – everything is kosher. That's how halakha works.
When Agriprocessors mixed up kosher and non-kosher meat, its kosher supervisors relied on the halakha of rov to rule everything kosher (unless, of course, they could identify the non-kosher meat and remove it from the mix).
Put simply, every kosher slaughterhouse and food manufacturer in the world at one time or another has to rely on the halakha of rov, but they don't want you to know it.
I don't think Aryeh Ralbag is a good man and I don't think some of the men who are trying to sue him, AER and/or Hebrew National are, either.
What I think is that the system of kosher food production and the beit din system are both broken and have been for decades (if not centuries), and what you eat or adjudicate in them you eat or adjudicate at your own peril.