By Gadi Capela
JCUA Rabbinic Fellow
On May 12, 2008, the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided AgriProcessors Inc., the kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. Nearly 400 undocumented immigrant workers, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala, were arrested in what became the largest raid of a workplace in U.S. history until then.
Most of those who were arrested were convicted for document fraud and identity theft. Correspondingly, several AgriProcessors employees and managers were convicted for conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants.
But there was more.
AgriProcessors was paying substandard wages and offering minimal safety instruction and health care to its 800 employees, and was hurting the animals and the environment. As a result, the Conservative movement reacted with a new initiative called Magen Tzedek.
By invoking the verse from Deuteronomy, “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger,” Rabbi Morris Allen advocated for an ethical certification for kosher food in addition to the current kosher slaughtering certification.
Magen Tzedek was founded on the principle that we are what we eat. It is an ethical seal signifying that kosher food has been prepared with the highest standard of integrity and care, including employee wages and benefits, health and safety, animal welfare, corporate transparency and environmental impact.
Magen Tzedek demonstrates that ritual and ethical commandments have an equal place at our tables.
To learn more about Magen Tzedek, join us for lunch with Gadi Capela on Tuesday, July 5 at noon at the JCUA office, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500. The event is free, but you need to RSVP on our website.