Conservative rabbis of New York recently gathered in an attempt to discuss the Conservative movement’s plans on an ethical seal of kosher certification. The seal will reportedly ensure ethical observation with regards to kosher food production.
The Hekhscher Tzedek Commission announced the hiring of a special auditing firm to compile standards on the seal’s representation. The Magen Tzedek certification has been in development for three years after several scandals occurred in Agriprocessors located in Postville, Iowa, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant.
According to an adviser to the Hekhscher Tzedek Commission and Joe Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell, the seal is intended to ensure ethics are observed in the following areas of kosher food production: wages and benefits, health and safety of workers, animal welfare, environment and sustainability, as well as corporate responsibilities including proper labeling of nutritional facts on products and overall moral practice.
Rabbi Michael Siegel of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, co-chariman of the Hekhscher Tzedek Commission, insisted at the convention panel where the certification was being discussed that rabbis must make the commission’s certification ventures known in their local Jewish communities.
The push for rabbis to include this certification has been so great that the commission has suggested that each synagogue appoint an informed socially active member of the congregation to work with the commission directly for a year.
Siegel expresses to JTA his passion in the commission’s efforts to ensure ethical standards of kosher foods are being looked after by members of Jewish synagogues.
“We have to set the right example in our own synagogues. It's a serious issue,” he said. “This will be our Achilles heel if we don't address it.”
The matter of ensuring ethical standards has been extended not only to kosher food production plants and the proper treatment of the animals and employees, but also to external catering companies and contractors.
Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) were hired for support in deciding which standards should be ascribed to food companies on behalf of the Magen Tzedek. These standards have been scribed and posted in online drafts on the Magen Tzedek website for three months. The standards have opened public dialogue with comments posted on the site and now the standards are in the process of being finalized.
Executive director of Social Accountability International, Eileen Kaufman, expressed her approval of the social justice measures of the Tzedek commission. She told JTA, “We think that social justice in the marketplace is something that we can make happen.”
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life