Sunday, July 29, 2007

Let's Expand!

Canadian Jewish News has a current article, "Expanding the definition of 'kosher,'" picked up from American Jewish World and concerning the proposed "Hechsher Tzedek"--the Social Justice Hechsher! We learn:
Rabbi Morris Allen of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., is passionate about both kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) and social justice. These concerns have developed into the Hechsher Tzedek (justice certification) movement, which brings social justice in the workplace into the discussion of kashrut.

"I really do believe that kashrut is a central part of Jewish life," Allen told the AJW . . .
Despite Rabbi Allen's kashrus centrality convictions, the reproach against normal kashrus observance and certification is not slow in arriving, of course:
[...] "It is not enough anymore in the 21st century to say that a product is kosher according to the ritual debate," Allen said. "It is also necessary to ensure that a product matches our ethical debate."

The Hechsher Tzedek program will seek to certify foods that are produced in proper and healthy working conditions. Products that are certified will be stamped with the official seal.

To evaluate the social justice standards in the kosher food industry, the program will look at six areas: wages and benefits, worker health and safety, animal welfare, corporate transparency, employee training and environmental impact. [...]
The big question is why is he picking on kashrus? I understand that this all came about because of allegations of poor working conditions at Agriprocessors, but if existing labor laws are not adequate to insure good working conditions and if laws addressing evironmental and other concerns are also not adequate, why doesn't he just develop a social justice certification for any product? Why not bicycles as well? The trouble with expanding definitions is that they often develop into blob-like masses of all-devouring goo:
[...] "We are not interested in replacing traditional hechshers; our goal is essentially to supplement the fine work in determining the narrow definition of kashrut into something much broader," he said.

Both Rosenthal and Allen noted a growing spread of the scope of Hechsher Tzedek beyond the Conservative movement, and even beyond Judaism.

"We are capable of adding to the discourse in American religious life in general about what it really means to be a person of faith," Allen said. "Our goal is to demonstrate the holistic nature of Jewish life. All religions, Jewish and non-Jewish, are increasingly narrow in their focus." [...]
There you go--he's out to fight the increasing narrowness of "all religions." So again, why pick on kashrus? Judaism does not have nearly the membership of some other world religions. Perhaps Rabbi Allen would be happier inventing eco-halal.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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