Hechsher Tzedek and why the wrangling matters

Failed Messiah writes of the feud between the Orthodox (or in this case, Chabad Lubavitch) and Conservative movements over the Hechsher Tzedek in light of the Agriprocessor abuses, and also about the attempts to smear the name of Rabbi Allen.

Why does this matter? If the accounts are to be believed, Agriprocessors operated in a manner that put them among the worst of the slaughterhouse industry, an industry not at all noted for ethical or decent treatment of floor workers. Their behavior has been inexcusably corrupt, and a black mark on Jews because of the way society works – when a Jew does something bad and this act gets publicity, it serves as a told-you-so to everyone who believed these to be true of all Jews in the first place.

And so, the question becomes – why would I highlight, specifically, conflicts between the Orthodox and Conservative movements? To me, the Orthodox objection is very telling – specifically, it’s seen as an attempt to gain control of kashrut certification, specifically, away from the Orthodox. Given the abuses that have become undeniable under the umbrella of these kashrut certification, this speaks to the likelihood that these Orthodox organizations care more about their own power to label meat as slaughter a certain, specific way, than they do about, say, not holding their workers to modern-day indentured servitude and ensnaring them to be tried as criminals on charges they don’t understand.

In short, what the objection amounts to is an idea that having power to define what is and isn’t Jewish, and being able to singly monopolize that power, is more important to these people than any semblance of humanity or concern for the ethical treatment of plant workers. That is what is particularly heinous about the conflict here; it’s about power, pure and simple, and a complete abdication of the human element of Judaism, which advocates paying your workers fairly, not abusing them, and all the other things that should constitute basic decency and respect for humanity.


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