Agriprocessors Statement





CONTACT:Heather Wolfson                     

New York, NY (June 27, 2008) In the wake of last month’s federal raid on the Agriprocessors meat processing facility in Postville, Iowa, where hundreds of illegal immigrants were arrested, a consortium of Jewish groups devoted to social justice have issued a statement calling for a response to the “human tragedy” of the raid and urging cooperation to work towards a “long term structural change,” within the kosher meat industry.

These groups include: Hekhsher Tzedek of the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Jewish Community Action, of St. Paul, MN; MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; Hazon; KOL Foods; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Jews United for Justice and the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

Kosher meat is processed at the plant under the Aaron and David label of the Rubashkin company. An investigation is currently pending against the company on a variety of charges including employing under-age workers, sexual harassment and worker abuse and others.

The Agriprocessors facility has long been the subject of investigation by watchdog groups concerned about the wellbeing of workers. Among this group are rabbis from the Conservative movement, including Rabbi Morris Allen, founder of the new kosher ethical certification initiative, Hekhsher Tzedek.

In releasing the following statement, the consortium reaffirms its commitment to comprehensive immigration reform and worker justice as well as an end to raids as an enforcement tool.

The group is also united in endorsing Hekhsher Tzedek, viewing it as an ethical guideline for companies that produce kosher food. The disturbing allegations against Agriprocessors and Rubashkin’s presents a compelling case for the necessity of certification process such as Hekhsher Tzedek.

The working guidelines for Hekhsher Tzedek will be released within the next few days.

Even prior to the federal raid in May, the appropriateness of consuming Rubashkin’s products had been questioned by those familiar with the allegations of unfair worker treatment. Following the raid, the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue issued a statement urging its constituents to seek kosher alternatives to Rubashkin’s and affiliated products.

The May 22nd statement read, in part:

The allegations about the terrible treatment of workers employed by Rubashkin’s have shocked and appalled members of the Conservative Movement as well as all people of conscience. As Kashrut seeks to diminish animal suffering and offer a humane method of slaughter, it is bitterly ironic that a plant producing kosher meat be guilty of inflicting any kind of human suffering.

Statement by the Consortium on the Federal Raid of Agriprocessors

On May 12th, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the federal government, conducted the largest single-site immigration raid in this country’s history.  The raid was at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, the nation’s largest kosher meat supplier.

We support efforts undertaken by a wide variety of Jewish groups to respond to the human tragedy of the raid and to work together for long term structural change.  We believe that kashrut can serve as a means for holiness only if the relationship between ritual and ethical law is understood.

During the raid, more than 390 people were detained, and more than 250 arrested and charged.  The majority of these people are immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico.  This raid, while not the first of its kind, was the first raid in which those arrested were convicted of felonies and sentenced to five months in prison before being deported.  This raid has torn families apart and has violated our own nation’s laws regarding due process of law and humane treatment of residents, whether citizens or non-citizens.

Immediate Response Needed

While many men are serving prison sentences, women with small children are serving five months of house arrest.  Unable to work, unable to support their families, and unable to leave Postville, they are desperate.  Postville’s church leadership and others are providing immediate relief to the affected families, but these families also need your financial support.  To help, send your check either to Hazon, Jewish Community Action or the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs:

Jewish Community Action
2375 University Avenue W., #150
St. Paul, MN 55114
attn: Postville

45 West 36th St, 8th floor
New York, NY 10018
“Postville donation”

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
610 S. Michigan Ave., Suite #500
Chicago, IL 60605
Attn: Postville

The full amount of your contribution will be sent to Postville.

Long Term Solutions Needed for Immigrants

By using raids as a mean of intimidation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to show that it is tough on those who violate U.S. immigration law.  Postville’s residents are seeing their community’s economic base suffer, even as new immigrants arrive to fill vacant jobs and in need of scarce housing.

Raids are not a solution to our broken immigration system.  Instead, Comprehensive Federal Immigration Reform (CFIR) is needed to protect the rights of people and to create a true and accessible path to citizenship. CFIR would provide a path to citizenship, emphasize family reunification, legalize future migration, protect human rights, ensure dignity and due process, and protect workers and employers.

As Jews, our history compels us to stand up for justice, whether it affects us directly or indirectly.  We stand by immigrant communities who—much like our own—have come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families, oftentimes escaping violence, war, and crushing poverty.  Together, we are organizing communities for comprehensive federal immigration reform and to avert future raids.

Long Term Solutions Needed in the Production of Kosher Food

Because of allegation of worker injustice, inhumane treatment of animals, and other concerns, many Jewish individuals and organizations have expressed concerns about Agriprocessors products and have suggested solutions.  Across denominational lines, Jewish people continue to demonstrate the significance of kashrut‘s ritual and ethical dimensions.

We urge Agriprocessors’ leadership to fulfill its stated desire to improve plant conditions.

We endorse Hekhsher Tzedek, a new initiative that is creating guidelines that would improve working conditions, treatment of employees, environmental standards, humane treatment of animals, and to ensure appropriate product development, corporate integrity, and appropriate business practices in kosher food-producing businesses.

Hekhsher Tzedek would bring certified kosher food into compliance with the Torah’s tradition of ethical laws and the Jewish community’s commitment to social justice..  Hekhsher Tzedek will seek endorsement from all producers of kosher food and will have its symbol serve as an indicator of a product’s acceptability.  Only food already certified as kosher would be eligible to receive a Hekhsher Tzedek.   We hope that this initiative will serve as an ethical model throughout the entire food industry.

We also endorse the continued creation and strengthening of local sustainable kosher food production, via food co-ops, Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers’ markets, and regional initiatives to increase the supply of pasture-raised, humanely-slaughtered kosher meat.

We encourage you not only to make a donation, to support people in need in Postville, but also to follow-up in your own families and communities. There will be a symposium on the future of the kosher meat industry at Hazon’s Food Conference in December 2008, to which you’re warmly invited.

For more information on the issues raised in this statement, please be in touch with one or more of the organizations listed below:

Hekhsher Tzedek
Beth Jacob Congregation
1179 Victoria Curve
Mendota Heights, MN 55118

Jewish Community Action
2375 University Avenue West, Suite 150
St. Paul, MN 55114

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
1990 South Bundy Drive
Suite 260
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
610 S. Michigan Ave., Suite #500
Chicago, IL 60605

45 West 36th Street
8th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Progressive Jewish Alliance
5870 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
323- 761-8350

KOL Foods
Devora Kimelman Block
Silver Spring, MD 20910
917- 864-7965

Jews United for Justice
1413 K Street. NW, 5th fl.
Washington, DC 20005
For further information about the consortium’s statement, please contact Heather Wolfson at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger at

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