Growing up, my father always expressed suspicion about kosher certification. As he saw it, a shochet (ritual slaughterer) was considered trustworthy, without need for supervision, unless he specifically did something to lose that trust. The Kashrut industry turns that presumption on its head, by insisting that nobody can be trusted without supervision, but even a non-Jew who never spent a minute learning the laws of kashrut can be trusted for many things, so long as the threat of an inspector coming exists.
What truly jaundiced my father to the whole business was when products like water and bleach began to receive the OU, and when chickens were sold as Glatt Kosher (a halachic category which does not apply to fowl). It was then that he realized that kashrut was a business, and had little to do with religious duties. At that time, perhaps twenty years ago, he said to me that a business like kashrut can only grow in one of two ways. The first is to increase the number of customers who keep kosher or are interested in buying kosher. This is relatively difficult, though the industry has had success in this area. The second, and far easier method, is to certify more goods, irrespective of the whether there is any halachic imperative to certify them.
Why do I bring all this up? Because, as The Wolf reports, there is a movement underfoot to create a Vaad Hatzniyut (Modesty Council) in Lakewood. In Israel, there already exist organizations that will give a ‘hechsher’ to clothing store. My father was right – the industry needs to grow (after all, proceeds from the kashrut business prop up the yeshiva world system).
What makes this even more bitter is the response to the Agriprocessors scandal from within the Orthodox community, and the hostility towards the Conservative movement’s Hecsher Tzedek, which would grant certification to businesses with ethical practices. The outcry from many corners in the Orthodox world has been that, for example:
The fact remains that no one has challenged AgriProcessors in terms of its conformity to the laws governing the production of kosher food. Rather, there have been attempts to graft onto those laws issues that, while important in and of themselves, simply do not relate to kashrut as it is properly and historically understood.
That from the Jewish Press. The stink of hypocrisy doesn’t only taint the Kashrut industry and its apologists, it is humiliating to the entire Kosher community. Here, the zealous guardians of my kashrut observance, who have made sure that I don’t eat non-kosher bleach, or lettuce, or even water, suddenly wake up to the ‘proper and historical’ understanding of Kosher to justify their cruelty to man and beast.
Where has this led us? Raids by the US government on the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the US. Exposes in leading magazines. Investigative articles in the New York Times. A Chillul Hashem. A Shande fun deGoyim, a black eye, a gift to antisemites, arrows in the quiver of those who seek to ban kosher slaughter entirely. A sickening, gut-wrenching parade of rabbis and community leaders lining up to defend a rotten conspiracy all in the name of cheap meat and easy money.
I’ve had it. I won’t touch a Rubashkin product again. Moreover, I will try to avoid purchasing products that have certifications when they are not required. That’s right. I will favor uncertified bleach! I will not drink OU water. I won’t even shy away from “untrustworthy” certifications. We all see exactly how far the trustworthy ones got me, whether with regards tot his scandal or the Monsey chicken scandal. At this point, if the old boys of the Kashrut industry don’t trust or like you, you must be doing something right.