Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rabbi advocates for immigrant employees of Agriprocessors plant

Rabbi Morris Allen
link to photo

Rabbi Morris Allen takes a firm stand on the rights of undocumented immigrants. The ICE raid at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa has forced more of the American Jewish community to take notice of the immigration debate.

See dreamacttexas post "The meat hook story in Postville," June 11, 2008.
Raid Unsettles Kosher Beliefs
Wall Street Journal
July 1, 2008; Page A12

An immigration raid on the country's largest kosher meatpacking plant has fueled a nationwide debate in the Jewish community about what it really means to be kosher.

A federal investigation of the plant is under way and immigration officials declined to comment. No officials at Agriprocessors have been charged with wrongdoing, and management declined to be interviewed for this article.

...revelations [of employee mistreatment] at Agriprocessors have prompted [Rabbi Morris Allen] the conservative rabbi from Mendota Heights, Minn., to call on consumers to avoid the company's products. The 53-year-old is founder of a movement that advocates for animal and worker welfare in kashrut, food prepared in accordance with Jewish law.

Rabbi Allen ...formed a commission of inquiry and won Agriprocessors' permission to visit the plant.

Rabbi Allen led a five-man team that included a Spanish-speaking rabbi, labor and immigration activists and an official from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, representing Conservative congregations.

"We discovered things that were unbelievably painful," Rabbi Allen says. Among other allegations, he says pregnant women working on their feet all day were denied bathroom breaks; injured workers lacked proper medical care; and accounting machinations deprived workers of payment for all clocked hours.

After the raid, Rabbi Allen returned to Postville to meet community leaders, clergy and workers awaiting deportation. On May 22, the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, issued a statement calling on consumers to avoid Agriprocessors' products. It quoted Deuteronomy: "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer."

Reaction has been swift. Synagogues and blogs are rallying in support of the ban. Uri L'Tzedek, the Orthodox group, joined in with a boycott petition so far signed by 2,000 Jewish religious and political leaders. And this week, the Conservative movement is set to release guidelines for an initiative called Hekhsher Tzedek, Hebrew for "justice certification." Meant to supplement traditional kosher certification, it will attest that kosher food was produced at a facility that meets ethical standards in areas like wages and benefits, health and safety and animal welfare.

Rabbi Allen's BlackBerry is stuffed with angry emails accusing him of sowing discord among Jews. "It's not a matter of hurting Jews or non-Jews," says the rabbi. "It's a matter of finding the truth and what is acceptable according to whom we are as a people."

Write to Miriam Jordan at

for complete WSJ article click here

to see NYT article on Rabbi Allen and the Postville raid, click here

No comments: