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Hechsher Tzedek: What do you think?

Hechsher Tzedek definition

While hanging out with Y-Love last night he asked what I thought of the Hechsher Tzedek, I didn’t have such a good response because on first hearing about it my werewolf side of rabid right wing yeshiva guy sprang forth and I started ranting about how the Conservative movement doesn’t really care about kasharus but they are trying to jump on the backs of those that do and say that regular hechshers are not good enough. I also started thinking to myself about the economic impact of another kosher certification required on products and wondered what would happen to the price of kugel if we tried such insanity.

When I thought about it as a sane normal individual I came to the conclusion that its hard to argue against something that requires kosher food producers to treat their workers fairly and higher only documented workers and also comply with animal rights standards. Isn’t that all in the Torah anyway? Isn’t this something that the Charedim should have come up with? Seems like a mighty fine chumra to me.

But then on the flip side you can say the intentions are off, it has nothing to do with kasharus and eventually many of the reform and conservative movements members may take this to mean that a product is kosher when this doesn’t actually say a product is kosher, it just says that the company doesn’t hire undocumented Mexicans to make the pizza and bein hazmanim yeshiva guys to work the counters. I could not imagine all the stores in the Catskills suddenly paying on the books and not working the poor yeshiva guys to the bone for bubkus.

It really could go either way. The heksher tzedek website says that it will only be placed on already certified kosher products, what about things with unreliable hechsherim? What about cost? Is this just a way for the conservative movement to cash in on the lucrative business of kasharus?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • singleandjewish

    just to let you know that every time i load your site the avast anti virus pops up and tells me that a virus is trying to install in my laptop. when i click dont allow it stops the page loading properly!

  • Thank you- I am always having issues with the site

  • heimish in bp

    ha ha ha ha

  • The only good thing about it will be if they stop companies hiring illegal immigrants… but I doubt that.

    Liberals look at week and strong, not right and wrong – so generally they have no problem hiring illegal immigrants – they just want them to be paid more.

    Most conservative Jews don’t keep kosher anyways and Orthodox Jews (except the few communists like Y-Love) won’t care about the Heksher…… so who will use it as their standard of what food they will buy?

    There won’t be enough people that will make it a viable business.

  • Come on Heimishe I know you have something to spew

  • heimish in bp

    I holding myself back with “eisene keiten” (iron chains)

  • Texgator

    In reality, the ideals of Heksher Tzedek should be incorporated into OU or StarK…ideally both. Thereby eliminating the need for an additional heksher that isn’t going to be demanded by any large number of consumers, therefore it won’t be sought after by any product producers. The ONLY reason producers of goods seek heksher certification is becuase there is a defineable number of consumers that will buy only if the have the heksher. The same can’t be said for Tzedek. No one is claiming to buy only Tzedek products. It’s just a nice thing to have, I guess.

  • Heimishe the blog world is about not holding yourself back- just let it all loose my brother- I give you the go ahead.

  • Future Druggie

    Hechsher Tzedek is a perversion of the Torah. It reminds me of all those PETA people who protested when Arafat was sending suicide bombers on the backs of the poor donkeys. They were perfectly content with the suicide bombers who murdered innocent Jewish children without the use of donkeys.

    Eventually, they will change the meaning of Kosher to mean “not hiring illegal immigrants,” and that will be a higher standard than Kosher itself.

  • heimish in bp

    Hesh, honestly, I am still feeling the backlash, and the bad blood between some of the other commentors. Could be its all in my head, but I am trying to withhold another such an onslought. And my true opinion, on the above garbage, will definately invite one.

  • heimish – arent you just an entitled to free speech as anyone? you shouldnt have to censor yourself. while i don’t always agree with you, i always find your comments interesting and thought provoking. it would be a shame to miss out on your thoughts on this matter.

  • It’s okay, heimish. I know your opinion doesn’t represent mine. I do, however, commend your attempt at diplomacy. I think that sort of hechser has a purpose, as does the yiddele dot com network. It offers something people want to people who want it; if you don’t care, it’s meaningless. The right to judge another’s behavior as ethical is a far greater responsibility than being shomer shabbos or not (like yiddele), though. To each his own. I think HT may result in the cost of kosher meat going up, but who can afford kosher meat, anyway?

  • SUPERFRUM

    I firmly believe that all the members of HT hire illegal immigrants as live-ins themselves.

  • heimish, can you express your opinion in words you’d use to express it to your rav, or someone’s grandmother, or to a five-year-old? I think you’re intelligent enough to come up with words suitable for the adult audience that reads this blog. Your words reflect only you. Look in the mirror, what do you see? I hope you don’t see hatred, arrogance, condescension and anger.

  • Does that mean that all my friends who work as rent mashgichim and caterers will have to paid on the books? How in hells name are they going to get waiters for heimishe weddings.

  • heimish in bp

    s(b.), you said “The right to judge another’s behavior as ethical is a far greater responsibility than being shomer shabbos or not (like yiddele), though.”

    I really dont comprehend what you wrote. Can you please explain that sentence a little better.

  • straight up, I didn’t read yiddele or HT very thoroughly; my understanding is HT is a seal for ethical treatment of employees, product, business conduct, etc. Maybe I’m misunderstanding. I should read better before I reply, sometimes. As far as I’ve read (which isn’t very far — my mind is a thousand places today for as many reasons, never mind work being a brick wall right now), for yiddele, being shomer shabbos (your business is closed on shabbos) is the primary criteria.

    open vs. not open = very simple
    ethical vs. unethical on several levels = not as simple, if only due to multiple levels of gauging (sp?) ethical behavior.
    1 vs. more than 1
    more than 1 = more complex
    (sorry so brief, work beckons)

  • SUPERFRUM

    How many Hechsher Tzedek members pay their live-ins
    a) on the books
    b) with health benefits and
    c) with social security taxes deducted?

    They have this double standard.

  • a) practically, it is almost impossible to implement from the perspective of manufacturers and HTz supervisors

    b) it will never take off from the consumers’ side

    c) if it does take off, it will be a victory for hypocrisy. (if conservative rabbis are serious about workers’ rights, they could start with much easier initiatives, like giving sermons against illegal domestic help, construction labor, etc. and declaring their shuls to be illegal-employment-free zones)

    that having been said:

    a) there might be something to say for showing the “goyyim” (yeah, yeah) that rubashkin is not the face of the jewish world

    b) just because HTz is hypocritical (i.e., conservative individuals and institutions rely on illegal labor just as much as rubashkin does), does not mean that it is wrong in of itself.

  • Ex-wife of BT

    If a company receives its ingredients from several different vendors, will the HT certify that all the ingredients are manufactured in plants that treat its workers properly, too?

  • TRS

    As a proud Minnesotan, it pains me to see people putting down our attempts at a national Hechsher.
    To all those who say that HT is a Torah concept-were you aware that the Torah allows slavery? And don’t give me the garbage about how we’re all humane and whatever; fact is, the Torah permits us to treat humans as chattel.
    Does this bother me as a Frum Jew? Of course not. Some people feel the need to makme the Torah fit in with the latest politically-correct opinions; let’s appreciate it for what it is, American ingenuity at its best. Oh, sorry, was I mixing that up with the HT?

  • dovid

    Things like this are always bothersome because they represent everything bad about modern “judaisms”. It seems like a bizoyon to practice of HKBH’s perfect Torah to be mosif these ideas of “morality”. After all, as the Chazon Ish ztvk”l used to say (paraphrasing) halacha IS morality and ethics. all we need beoilam hazeh is arba amosayha shel halacha–nothing more.

  • and a glossary. 🙂

  • singleandjewish

    What a load of whatever! (promised my mamma no swearing)
    dont get me worng it is a noble cause. eco friendly food, good employees etc… but to make a all new hechsher? absolute madness!
    how about their cloth? i am sure the organisers of HT wear clothes that were made in some sweatshop somewhere in Thailand!
    does that mean that they are not alowed to read this blog since frum satire is working too hard to give us some reading material and is underpaid?

    i dont know why i am taking this so much to heart.. maybe because the normal hechsherim which is basically a big conspiracy to get jews buying from other jews and of course raise the prices so there are more people having a nice parnuse… while most of the time the places are without any mashgiach.. (i am generalising for arguments sake) or maybe it is just because i think frume jews already have hard enough, what is the point making thinks harder for poor families who cant afford the high prices to businessmen who have to fight as it is to keep their business going..
    maybe i am just pissed because i didnt think of it first…. could have gotten my second home.

    off topic to frum satire i have sent you an email with the virus i have seen and links on how to fix it. i thought you were joking when you said you have enough problems with the site than i got twice the message that the cpu bla bla… change your hosting!!!! and get a programmer to mabe clean the code a little bit. it will be a better investment than the 14$ you spent on shushi! hahah
    well i will donate 25$ twards your hosting!

  • YL

    Ha Ha Ha
    What a joke…
    Maybe we can ask “Rabbi” Jill Borodin from the HT for some clarity on this issue?
    Realistically speaking it is dangerous to call something a Hechsher (kosher certification) if the foods actual kosher-ness is not validated by what the said hechsher is checking and certifying.
    I agree with what was said above that this is the conservative version of jumping on the band-wagon to make some money….
    it is not different than Hebrew national hotdogs claiming to have to answer to a higher authority, only hear they claim to be “certifying”!
    this is a real bizoyone!!

  • Hi Hesh,

    I am definitely an oddball compared to most of your readers. First, I and my husband, and MANY of our Conservative friends keep kosher in AND out of the home. It’s true, we aren’t as specific at the type of Heksher, nor are we chalav Israel. But…we only eat hekshered food. We don’t take it for granted. We bring food when going places that we know aren’t kosher. Heck! We even rented a cabin in the mountains with a kitchen so that we could kasher the stovetop and microwave. We than bought all our own food and REAL plates and dinnerware of our own so that we didn’t use the cabin’s non kosher dishes nor did we waste tons of plasticware. I believe that you and many readers should get to know more serious conservative Jews before assuming that we don’t “really” care about it.

    I don’t think I’m prepared to go into super halachik depth of why HT is a good move because I am far from an halachik scholar. However, it seems so simple to me. As Jews we are to spread light amongst the nations. I think treating our fellow man humanely and respectfully is a basic tennet of Judaism. Someone mentioned how the Torah allowed chattle and such. Sure, but workers are NOT our slaves. Nor are workers less than us as Jews. If we are going to hire people to work for us it should be done honestly and fairly. I also believe that HT has something to do with the way animals are treated. We ALL know how messed up the kosher meat industry has gotten. I for one believe that in order for an animal to be considered kosher it needs to be respected; not JUST in the way it’s slaughtered and drained of blood.

  • Great post. I’m not familiar with this idea of a hecsher but I find it a bit comical. I’m not a Rabbi but I hate it when others assume they have all the facts and they know everything there is to know abut kashrus and what is against torah law. Torah law doesn’t always follow man’s logic. What is consider humane to one may not be to someone else and may not follow torah law’s ideas of what’s humane. Again I’m not a rav but I think these fine gentleman hechsher tzedek have their heart in the right place and I’ll leave it at that. The question is what’s next : If your company uses green energy we will give you the green kosher hechsher- this will let all the liberals know that it’s ok to buy this product. 🙂

  • Ari

    Tamara,

    Beautifully expressed. I’m with you on this one.

    The Torah was eons ahead of modern human and animal rights: no excessive cruelty to animals (Rivka fed the camels water before sitting down to dinner, Noach learned to do the same…separating the baby birds from their mother, etc.).

    Yes, there were animal sacrifices, but they were done humanely. Other cultures were sacrificing virgins and children during that time.

    Sure, an eye for an eye, etc., but the rest of the world was punishing people disproportionately.

    Yes, there was slavery, but it was for specific periods of time, and required humane treatment.

    If people want a HT, by all means. It certainly can’t hurt, and it appears well-intentioned. Hey, these days you can even invest in funds comprised of ethical companies.

    Let’s not let politics or perceived religious differences muddy the discussion here.

  • I’m going to start my own Hechsher and for me to be paid to endorse anything it must have the following standards…….
    1. They can not play Hashgacha Mafia.. ie… not saying that any store that carries kosher meat is trief unless they over see it. sorry safeway with kosher chicken half the price.
    2. They can not play Loshon Harah Hechsher politics.
    3. The Rabbis must eat from their own Hashgacha.
    4. The must use their charitable contributions for true charity and not $1000 coffee machines for their employees, i swear i’m not talking about the ou if any says i am i’ll DENY IT!!!!
    5.They can not exclude a certain Chasidishe Hashgacha from a community making impossible for any Chasid of this certain sect to buy meat in this community. If they would do such a thing i would not give them a star no star for them or even a K at that.
    6. They CAN hire illegals as long as they pay them at least minimum wage, house them, help them buy cars , provide them with insurance, etc etc. Hey i’ve seen this somewhere oh yah in Postville. Yah someone in Posville does this . Hmmmm
    The following guidelines must be met to receive my very special uber- humanitarian Hashgacha, but for some reason i haven’t been able to sign anyone up yet.

  • Ari,

    Thanks. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has this POV.

  • TRS

    “Let’s not let politics or perceived religious differences muddy the discussion here.”

    Holy smokes man, what discussion would there be without politics or religious differences? They are the very soul of the Jewish internet!

    As for the Kosher meat: please tell me where it says in a classical Halachic source where it mentions something about treating animals well while depriving them of their life. As far as I’ve learned, which admittedly isn’t a whole heck of a lot, Kosher meat has nothing to do with humane treatment, it has to do with following Halachic guidelines. Do we make people feel better by telling them that we’re humane when we slaughter innocent animals? Yeah, but that has nothing to do with anything.
    Think of Kashrus as the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture whose symbol can be found on many victuals. They don’t certify that the food tastes good, that it was produced humanely, or that it even has any nutritional benefit. What they do certify is that the food was tasted by some employee of the Penn. Dept. of Ag. and he or she survived the ordeal. Kosher is the same way. The L-rd knows that a lot of Kosher food tastes pretty terrible, that it’s not produced with the best interests of the employees at heart, and that it has less nutritional value than a used Yugo. But guess what? It’s still Kosher.
    You want to start an HT? People should feel good about themselves, they should think they’re making a difference in the world? Go ahead, you have my blessing; just please don’t call it Kosher. How about “White upper-class ditzy Jewish liberal Approved”? That has a nice ring to it.

  • Anonymous

    TRS 80:

    Maimonides (Rambam) wrote in his Guide to the Perplexed:

    “…the Law enjoins that the death of the animal should be the easiest. It is not allowed to torment the animal by cutting the throat in a clumsy manner, by poleaxing, or by cutting off a limb while the animal is alive. It is also prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day (Leviticus 22.08), in order that people should be restrained from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of the mother….”

    The Torah does not specifically lay out the laws for kosher slaughtering, however there is a passage in Deuteronomy 12:21 (“Then you will kill of your herd and your flock as I have commanded you.” ) from which it is interpreted that God had orally given specific rules for slaughtering animals.

    The laws were later codified by rabbis who attempted to ensure as much as possible that the animal is killed in a quick and humane manner. Of utmost importance is that it dies quickly and feels no pain.

    (Got this directly from http://everything2.com/e2node/Shechita)

    If you want to talk vegetarianism, that’s a whole different discussion, and no hechscher tzedek is gonna help.

  • Anonymous

    YOUR SITE IS SENDING TROJANS.

  • ConservativeSci Fi

    While I can’t argue that probably only about 10-15% of conservative Jews buy only kosher meat (and probably a much smaller fraction of reform), I think that the Hechsher Tzedek is a GREAT idea.

    I keep fairly strictly kosher by conservative standards (only kosher cheese, but not halav yisroel for milk, and of course only kosher meat and not hebrew national, etc.)

    While there is no halachic mandate in Kashrut for ethical treatment, there is no doubt that Halacha requires us to follow the laws of the country, so Kosher meat processors should not be hiring illegal aliens. There are also halachic requirements regarding the treatment of workers, and I think requiring that they be paid a living wage and work under safe conditions are likely supportable. (see Rambam, Mishneh Torah Shekalim 4:7)

    With regard to the treatment of the animals, there are two issues. First, any of the abusive treatment is a chillul hashem, since it makes gentiles see Jews as uncaring, instead of a merciful people who are the children of a merciful people.
    Second, for TRS, who is unaware of any source to treat animals well, under tzar baali chayim, we are clearly supposed to minimize the pain of the animals, as in the famous story of the talmudic rabbi, Rabbi Judah, who was punished for not being concerned with the calf on its way to slaughter. If this is not an express teaching on how to treat animals on their way to slaughter, I don’t know what is.

    So I would welcome a certification showing that meat was produced ethically. I am currently minimizing the beef that I purchase since at my local kosher butcher, they don’t tell it’s source, and rather purchasing Empire chicken, which won a labor award (on June 21, 2007) (Empire pays its lowest-ranking unionized employees close to $3 more an hour from the outset than AgriProcessors’ lowest employees, and provides full benefits.)

  • shtub, of course it’s not the OU. It’s called the office coffee service industry. Most locations do not buy their own machines. I’m being 100% serious.

    Thank you, Tamara, Ari, TRS. I eat meat, but I’m not going to kid myself that killing an animal is humane. And I think you’re spot on re: halachic vs. ethical. cscifi, ethical treatment of all involved on the animals’ way to production, as you so nicely put it, sounds good — all of that should go without saying.

  • Heterim are for Hippies

    It’s a nice idea in theory but it will never happen. No market for it and [most of]the people interested in it don’t keep kosher anyway.

    Dina dmalchusa doesn’t really apply either, because if the goyim themselves don’t enforce their laws, we definitely have no obligation to.

  • Xvi

    Ok, I agree with many of the points made here about the need for Jews and Jewish business to be a model of excellence and how it is our divine duty to keep fair business practices…

    But what does any of that have to do with kashrus? If we implement this, then we will need a HTz certification for EVERY Jewish business, regardless of whether its a food industry type or not. If a nursing home is owned by a Jewish guy (there are some of those… right?) then maybe it should have an HTz certificate that it dosent swindle the government? Or could I not utilize its services then?

    That truth is, its not an issue of kashrus. If it really was, then OU would have to enforce that aspect as well (regardless of your opinions of them). This just seems on par to a “going-green” certification/logo that companies are now pasting on their products, or the American Heart Association logo that you see on cereals.

    If this passes, then companies will soon start buying Hechsher Credits to help offset their inhumanity rating.

    Fooey!

  • heimish in bp

    Echoeing – FFOOOOOOEYYYYY!!!!!!!!

  • didn’t have a chance to catch up on all the comments yet, but to add my 2¢…

    doesn’t the government provide this service? it’s called the US Code of Law. how much better will a hechsher be? does everything we do have to be approved by Rabbis first?

  • XVI I always find it kind of weird for companies to be buying the green energy credits- either do it or don’t do it half assed.

    I like what Jiminey Peak in Mass did- they built their own wind turbine to power their ski mountain.

  • ConservativeSci Fi

    Xvi,

    While you are making a Swiftian argument, I actually agree with it. I think Jewish owned businesses should be expected (at least by us Jews) to live up to a higher standard and I think a “Hechsher” would be a wonderful tool to recognize businesses that act according to Jewish ethics. Aaron Feuerstein modeled kiddush hashem by his business practices in the Malden Mill, (even if it cost him control of the business), while the Rabbi who laundered money clearly was committing a chillul hashem.

  • Xvi

    yup hesh,

    saw a great satire of it here: cheatneutral.com

    Basically, if you cant stay monogamous in your own relationship, you can help fund a serious relationship and maintain your own cuckolding at a neutral level.

    And CSF,

    I wasnt claiming that Jewish businesses should or should not maintain ethical practices. I was merely wondering why this hechsher was only being applied to the food industry. Dont get me wrong. Im not implying that Im for bad business practices. Its just not the focus here.

  • –shua: does everything we do have to be approved by Rabbis first?–

    did you not get the memo? :facetious:

  • got to add here the following joke , sorry it is in hebrew and am too lazy to translate, but talking about prices of kosher stuff… enjoy.
    ????? ????
    ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? ?????, ??? ?????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???”?
    ???? ?? ????,
    ??????: ??? ???? ??? ??? ????? ???? ?????
    ?????: 20 ????

    ??????: ???? ???? ??? ???? ?????
    20 ???? !
    ??????: ?? ??????

    ?????: ??? ???? ???? ??? ???”? ?????? ???? ??? ?????…

    taken from http://israblog.nana10.co.il/tblogread.asp?blog=39424&month=5&year=2008

  • adina

    The purpose of kashrut is to determine that an animal is slautered the correct way based on torah law. End of story. Also, the allegations against Rubashkins have not been proven. If you are not willing to accept kosher meat as good enough, don’t buy it. Adding on laws because they are “trendy” may make you feel better, but has no halachic basis.

  • Adina,

    Without me looking it up as I am not a Torah scholar nor am I super learned on the topic. But…it seems to me that it is written in the Torah that we are to respect all life and animals are listed there. If someone knows the source for such a thing, please do share.

  • adina

    Of course respect for animals and people is mentioned many times in the torah. However, these issues are seperate from kashrut most of the time. One exception is probably not cutting off limbs from a live animal, one of the 7 noahide laws. If Jews are concerned about the way meat is handled, then they should inquire into recieving inspection records from the govt. Denying the kosher status of meat based on criteria different from the requirements of kosher meat does not make sense. I do agree that jewish businesses should produce kosher food by well paid workers in good conditions using legal buiness practices. I hope that any problems that exist are fixed and consumers have confidence in the kashrut status of food overseen by reliable kashrut organizations.

  • If it is not demanded by the frum community it will not happen period. And my guess is that if you asked 90% of those in the frum community whether they actually care about good working conditions, unions, health care etc… they will laugh in your face. All small business’s and some large ones thrive on illegal help, low wages and lack of good working conditions- its how the world works- doesn’t mean its not a bad thing to ask for- but it simply wont happen.

    Nearly my whole life I have worked at jobs that did not provide sanitary working conditions, benefits not even on the books pay. Work for the government if you want that stuff. But tell any kid working at a pizza store that he will have to pay taxes and be legal and he will hit the ground running.

  • Chris_B

    Heterim are for Hippies said “if the (snip) themselves don’t enforce their laws, we definitely have no obligation to.”

    Joke or fe real? If fe rea, ask yourself if you are obligated to follow civil/criminal laws or of you enjoy the thought of a stay at PMITA Correctional Facility.

    Heshman,

    You must have had a terrible employment history! In over 30 years that I’ve been working, only one summer job doing landscaping was off the books and that includes the crappy pizza joint job I had as a teenager.

  • CHRIS-B

    “Joke or fe real?”

    for real. dina de-malkhuta dina, according to some (all?) views does not apply when the law in question is only applied selectively

  • Eliyahoo William Dwek

    When ‘dayanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

    No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ – even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

    Therefore, the ‘rabbi’, ‘dayyan’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

    The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.

  • Zippo

    Who is going to provide the Hechsher Tzedek for the people providing the Hechsher Tzedek???

    I mean—if the Hechsher Tzedek is based on morality, then wouldn’t everyone agree that we will need morality police to police the morality police (and maybe even a third set of morality police to oversea the first two)??

    If a person who supervises the Hechsher Tzedek does a rolling stop at a stop sign or runs a yellow light at an intersection, surely they would have to be banned from providing a Hechsher Tzedek since they are committing a crime and potentially causing harm to others. If they do this in broad daylight when everyone is looking, what are they capable of doing when no one is looking???? Going even 1 mile per hour over the speed limit would also be a no-no and please don’t even get me started on cheating on your taxes!!

    If you base a Hechsher on morals instead of basing the Hechsher exclusively on Kosherus no one short of a Tzadik can provide a Hechsher Tzedek without being accused of being a hypocrite.

    The majority of people who want to create a Hechsher Tzedek don’t follow most halacha regarding Shabbos or Kosherus, let alone Federal, State and municipal laws. How can someone be trusted to certify that a product is moral if there are questions about their own observance of Torah and US laws???