July 25, 2012
Rubashkin Revenge: Ethical Certificates at Center of Dispute
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For its part, Uri L’Tzedek is planning to push back nationally against the opposition. Rabbi Ari Weiss, the organization’s executive director, sent an email blast on July 4 urging supporters to “stand up for restaurant owners” enrolled in the Tav program by visiting a Tav-certified business or donating to an upcoming media campaign.
Meanwhile, the Tav’s opponents believe there’s momentum in their direction. In an email sent to The Journal on July 13, Menachem Cohen – who described himself as an Orthodox 26-year-old law student, and would not say what city he lives in or confirm whether he was emailing under his real name—said his “grassroots” boycott campaign was getting “mixed” responses from Tav holders.
Some businesses replied they had never been certified, some said they had taken down the Tav and, “most have told [sic] that they are deliberating if they should remove it,” Cohen wrote.
When Erica Tucker received an email that threatened a boycott of her bakery, Sweet E’s Bakeshop, located on Robertson Boulevard just south of Pico, she contacted Uri L’Tzedek.
The organization, Tucker said, pledged to support her against any such threats – but she said she was still watching for any negative impact the Tav might have on her sales.
“If I see that it is, then I’ll unfortunately have to take it down,” Tucker said.
In Los Angeles, the voices from Uri L’Tzedek’s opponents appear to be having an impact. Citing Uri L’Tzedek’s confidentiality agreement with Tav-certified businesses, Yanklowitz declined to say which three restaurants had removed the Tav in the face of the controversy.
The Journal found four kosher-certified businesses in Los Angeles that recently dropped the certification, among them Mexikosher.
Another is Schnitzly, a two-year-old restaurant on Pico Boulevard, where a portrait of the Lubavitcher Rebbe hangs near the soda cooler. The Tav certificate hung in the window for “a few days,” according to Menachem “Meni” Eliyahu, one of the restaurant’s owners. When his partner Yakov Brenenson, who is affiliated with Chabad, saw the Tav, he immediately called Uri L’Tzedek and dropped out of the program, Eliyahu said.
Nut House, a 15-year-old specialty food retailer on Pico, had displayed the Tav in his window facing the street for about six months, owner Amir Mehrian said. Mehrian said he removed the sign in mid-July after one large family – a man, his wife, and “seven, eight kids” – came into the store, but left when they saw the Tav.
Mehrian attributes the decline in sales of soft-serve ice cream this summer to the presence of the Tav. “All my customers, they run away because of this sign,” he said.
Tamy Amsellem said Cafe of Paris also no longer displays its Tav certificate.
“I just decided to not get involved with anybody, and keep it simple,” she said.