Stocked full of kosher meat products from Iowa, an 18-wheeler lumbers across South Dakota en route to Seattle, lurching to a brief stop along Interstate 90 in central Montana. Under snow-capped mountains in Bozeman, a lone, sheitel-wearing redhead drives to a rest area on the highway, waiting for the semi to appear. When it does, she unloads what in Big Sky country is precious cargo — the kosher-certified meat and chicken that helps sustain the handful of observant Jews in this picturesque college town.
Tikkun olam,” the powerful Jewish concept of repairing the world, has long been heralded as the rallying cry of Conservative and Reform Jewry. But a growing number of Orthodox 20- and 30-year-olds are trying to revive social justice responsibilities among their Orthodox peers — not as a liberal, humanistic-driven concept, but as one steeped in Jewish tradition and halacha.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, a local shochet provides a sharp contrast to the big slaughterhouses.
Special to the Jewish Week
Walton, N.Y. — Andy Kastner rarely eats meat and wishes others would eat less, too.
So why, you might ask, was this man slaughtering kosher turkeys this week for Thanksgiving?
Kastner is a shochet, the fellow ordained to kill livestock according to Jewish law. But he also considers himself an educator. It’s his job, he explained, to remind the public about the cost of meat beyond the sticker price: in blood and emotion.
“It’s a profound experience that is generally written off as disgusting or brutal,” he said.
As liberal groups hope bank fraud conviction leads to better business practices, Orthodox ones question zeal of prosecution.
Sholom Rubashkin, the manager of the now-infamous Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa, has only completed one of two federal trials, and already — barring a successful appeal — he is looking at a life in prison.
The prospect of such severe punishment — for a man who many credit with making affordable kosher food available in previously underserved markets and for contributing generously to tzedakah, particularly to the Chabad community — has some Orthodox Jews complaining that the kosher meat tycoon is more victim than criminal.
At the same time, liberal Jewish groups that have been critical of the company’s practices — particularly its alleged mistreatment of workers — are hoping the conviction prompts better business practices in the kosher industry and Jewish nonprofit sector.
The world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and several other major kosher meat suppliers have been served with federal subpoenas in connection with a criminal antitrust investigation, The Jewish Week has learned.
AgriProcessors of Postville, Iowa, received its subpoena from a federal grand jury several weeks ago. At least two other kosher meat suppliers have also received subpoenas in connection with the probe, according to Washington, D.C., attorney Nathan Lewin, who represents the Iowa slaughterhouse.
The main organization urging a boycott against the embattled kosher meat giant Agriprocessors reversed course this week, issuing a statement praising “significant steps” taken by the manufacturer and lauding “early signs of reform.”
In announcing the end of its boycott, Shmuly Yanklowitz, director of Uri L’Tzedek (Awaken to Justice), told The Jewish Week, “There has been a victory in the last week.”
Fearing an onslaught of protestors, kosher meat giant Agriprocessors hastily changed a meeting planned for Tuesday afternoon in Midtown into a conference call.
Agriprocessors’ attorney, Nathan Lewin, and the company’s newly hired compliance officer, former U.S. attorney Jim Martin, spoke to about 20 listeners who had been invited to participate.
They included “distributors and community leaders,” said Juda Engelmayer, senior vice president of the public relations firm 5WPR, which was recently hired by the embattled kosher meat giant.
Jason Herman, a Manhattan Orthodox rabbi and kosher meat consumer, has stopped buying the beef and poultry sold by AgriProcessors. Now, when he shops at the Upper West Side’s Kosher Marketplace, he takes care to choose only products from its competitors.