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Agriprocessors names new CEO

September 23, 2008 | 11:15 pm

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Agriprocessors has named a New York attorney as its new chief executive officer.

The hiring of Bernard Feldman of Long Island as the kosher meat producer's new chief executive keeps the company in the good graces of the Orthodox Union, which said last week it would withdraw its kosher supervision if new management wasn't hired within two weeks.

During an interview on Sept. 18 with JTA, Feldman said he had no experience in the meat industry, but was qualified for the position due to his "extensive experience in reorganizations and assisting companies who are experiencing financial difficulties."

Feldman said he would spend "a major part" of his time at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, which was the site of a massive federal immigration raid on May 12, but would retain his New York residency.

"I believe that Agriprocessors serves a vital function to the Orthodox community and others who are in need of acquiring glatt kosher food," Feldman said, explaining why he had decided to take the position.

The threat by the Orthodox Union (OU), the best known of the agencies providing kosher certification to Agriprocessors, came after a criminal complaint was filed against five company officials on more than 9,000 counts of child labor violations. Among those named was owner Aaron Rubashkin and his son Sholom, the former manager of the Postville plant.

On Thursday, two of the five individuals named in the complaint -- both employees in the company's human resources department -- were indicted in U.S. District Court. Both face jail time if convicted.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, the OU's head of kosher supervision, said he had met with Feldman and was pleased with the decision, calling it "credible and wise."

"We will continue to monitor the situation," Genack said, "but we're pleased by the turn of events."

Feldman enumerated several goals he intends to pursue, including restoring Agriprocessors to "prominence," ensuring good record keeping, complying with government regulations and resupplying the company with "qualified productive employees." Feldman said he would stay "on board" as long as it takes to achieve those goals.

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