Jewish Journal

NYT learns of ethical kashrut

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 12, 2008 | 2:22 pm

The ethical kashrut story has been going around for a while now. Pegged to the Agriprocessors scandal, The New York Times sat in on a panel Wednesday at Yeshiva University about whether something is kosher if it wasn’t produced ethically. An excerpt from the story, which gives an uninspired he said he said, is after the jump:

“Is it still possible to consider something ‘kosher certified’ if it is produced under unethical conditions?” asked Gilah Kletenik, one of the organizers of the student group that arranged the session, which drew an overflow crowd of 500, most of them students.

In keeping with the Talmudic tradition embodied by the rabbis on the panel, the answer seemed to be yes and no.

“The basic underpinning of Jewish tradition is ethics,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, a Yeshiva dean and the chief executive of kosher certification for the Orthodox Union, the group that oversees kosher standards in 8,000 food manufacturing plants around the world, including about 25 meatpacking facilities in the United States.

But he said the process of producing food that is certifiably kosher according to Jewish law is one thing; the conditions in which that process is undertaken are another. “The issues are not obvious sometimes,” he said.

In a more pointed comment, Rabbi Avi Shafran, who has defended the prerogative of the Orthodox rabbinate against what he sees as well-meaning but misguided efforts to add social-justice protections to the criteria for the production of kosher food, said, “Lapses of business ethics, animal rights issues, worker rights matters — all of these have no effect whatsoever on the kosher value.”

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