Thursday, May 05, 2011

Magen Tzedek Responds to Agudath Israel

So, earlier this week Agudath Israel invented a misrepresentation of the aims and goals of the new Magen Tzedek certification, and then proceeded to bash the new certification based on that misrepresentation. Classic Agudah.

Here's how MT answered the lies. I'm glad they came out swinging:

The misleading statement by Agudath Israel concerning Magen Tzedek is a misrepresentation of a very important development in kosher food production in America. Magen Tzedek is based on our assertion that Biblical and Rabbinic law mandate fair treatment of workers (לא תלין), humane treatment of animals ((צער בעלי חיים, and care of the earth (בל תשחית and שמירת הארץ) which can be translated into measurable standards applicable to commercial food production. These standards were developed in collaboration with SAAS, an organization acknowledged worldwide for its expertise in ethical certification programs.

We are appalled that Agudah Israel sees in ethical certification for kosher food an effort that "corrupts Halakhah." All Jews recognize that Judaism is a religion built upon ethical precepts. The ultimate purpose of Jewish observance is to make us more decent and moral people, more capable of carrying out God's vision of a just world.

We flatly reject Agudath Israel's false accusations that we "harbor no respect for the very concept of halakhah." We have always maintained that the Magen Tzedek would only be awarded to products already bearing kosher certification. Magen Tzedek maintains that Mitzvot bein Adam L'makom (commandments between humanity and God) do not take precedence over Mitzvot bein Adam l'havero (commandments between one person and another).

Maimonides stated said that in fulfillment of Jewish life "one must be strict in their behavior and still go beyond the letter of the law- lifnim mshurat hadin. We see our role as ensuring that such is the case in the production of kosher food. Just as we would never delegate to the government to determine what constitutes proper kashrut certification, neither should we leave to the government enforcement of Jewish norms regarding ethical behavior. Instead of dismissing the work of one another, we call on all Jews to work together to ensure that our actions are truly a Kiddush Hashem--a sanctification of God's name.

Magen Tzedek affirms the eternal wisdom of Torah by bringing the moral values of Jewish religious tradition to bear on the daily operations of industrial food production, bringing more Jews to value the beauty of kashrut and Jewish observance assuring that we feel truly fulfilled when we sit down around our tables for a meal.

Rabbi Michael Siegal
Magen Tzedek Co-Chair

Gerald Kobell
Magen Tzedek Co-Chair

Rabbi Morris Allen
Project Director

Bottom lineThere's room enough in Judaism for certifications based on different factors. Not every certification has to be about kashrus. Magen Tzedek, as everyone has made clear from the beginning, has nothing to do with kasrus. It's about another area of halacha, and one that Agudah, it must be said, characteristically ignores.  Having this blind spot pointed out by Conservative Jews, is a source of embarrassment for the agudaniks. After all, the party line is nothing conservatives Jews do is valid, authentic, or pleasing to the Creator, and here are these upstarts demonstrating to anyone with eyes and honesty that Orthodox Jews aren't perfect. Rather then admit these failings, and engage in something resembling tshuva, Agudath Israel has chosen to lie, distort and slander. Indeed, averia goreret aveira. 

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