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Saturday, December 04, 2004
From the Orthodox Union:
I am writing this letter to keep you informed about allegations made by
an animal rights group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) and what the Orthodox Union is doing in response to those
Earlier this week, PETA released an undercover video showing scenes of
cows staggering and bellowing in agony for several minutes after their
throats were cut by the shochet. PETA focused its attention on one
particular plant, AgriProcessors, Inc., but these accusations have
implications for all kosher shechita, particularly because the video has
received attention in the media world, beginning with an article in The
New York Times, on Tuesday, November 30th.
The Orthodox Union is very concerned about these accusations. We are
sensitive to the inhumane treatment of animals, and empathize with those
who are upset by the images of cruelty recorded on this video. As you
well know, the Jewish faith abjures cruelty to animals and enjoins us to
be as humane as possible in our legitimate utilization of animals. That
shechita is a very humane method of slaughtering animals has been
substantiated over the past century by numerous scholarly articles and
We are therefore carefully studying the video and reviewing the
procedures at the AgriProcessors plant. Meanwhile, an additional
supervisor has been put on duty at the facility in question, to monitor
that all proper kashrut and humane practices are being followed.
We wish to draw your attention to the following facts which help provide
a perspective on this matter for you and your congregants:
1. While unnecessary cruelty to even one animal is intolerable, one has
to look at the total picture before judging the matter. During the time
span that the video was taken, thousands of animals were slaughtered by
the plant in question. We have no way of knowing what percentage of
that number resulted in the kinds of scenes that were seen on the video.
Viewers of the video will note that it does show regular instances of
shechita where the animal expired rapidly, without the suffering
observed in other animals.
2. The United States Department of Agriculture supervises this
slaughterhouse and has found nothing amiss in its practices. We have a
very cooperative working relationship with the USDA, and know that USDA
officials visited the plant subsequent to the release of this video, and
were satisfied with the slaughtering that they scrutinized.
3. Slaughtering animals for human consumption is never a pretty sight.
An abattoir is obviously a place where one will see living, vibrant
animals transformed into meat. This is generally a bloody and
unpleasant experience, but this is universal. Indeed, PETA acknowledges
that the shechita process is better than most general slaughtering.
4. The Orthodox Union will not engage in maligning PETA in any way, nor
in questioning their motives. PETA and its adherents have a view of
animal rights to which they are entitled and which they can legitimately
espouse in a free and open society such as ours. We do, however, assert
that religious entities such as ours, or our Moslem cousins, also have
rights within a free society. Those rights, grounded in the U.S.
Constitution, include the ability to prepare animals for consumption in
the religiously prescribed manner.
5. We continue to vouch for the kashrut of all of the meat prepared by
AgriProcessors, which was never compromised. Like all the more than
6,000 plants-producing all kinds of foodstuffs-that are certified by the
OU, it has always been under our regular supervision.
At this point the Orthodox Union:
a) is committed to maintaining the highest ritual standards of shechita
without compromising the halacha one whit. That being said, we will
strive to the best of our ability to see to it that any cruel or
inhumane practices, which are by definition separate from the shechita
process itself, do not occur;
b) is coordinating with other kashrut agencies, and rabbinic and
communal organizations, to assure the most effective response to this
c) is preparing "talking points" which will be made available to members
of the Orthodox Union and the interested public;
d) will be placing educational materials regarding shechita on our
e) is proceeding with the good counsel of professional consultants and a
range of community leaders to effectively respond to the world-wide
concern about this matter.
Finally, we request that no one present himself to the press as an
expert on this matter, since several rabbinic figures have commented to
the press in ways that have confused the press and the public. Please
refer all such queries to Rabbi Menachem Genack, who heads OU Kashrut,
at 212-613-8125, or to my office, 212-613-8264.
Of course, we remain open to input and suggestions from each of you.
I close with best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Chanukah.
Watch the video here:
Best Web Log on the issue:
For Immediate Release:
December 3, 2004
USDA LAUNCHES CRUELTY INVESTIGATION AS ORTHODOX UNION & CHIEF RABBINATE OF ISRAEL ADMIT “INHUMANE” & “NOT KOSHER” PRACTICES AT OU & ISRAELI-APPROVED PLANT
PETA Vows to Push for OU Policy Commitment, Prosecution of Iowa Slaughterhouse
Things turned south for AgriProcessors yesterday as the United States Department of Agriculture sent inspectors to the plant to investigate charges of illegal cruelty to animals and top kosher authorities condemned the practices. The world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse and the only one in the U.S. certified to ship to Israel has been, for days, hiding behind the USDA and its kosher certifiers, both of which moved to distance themselves from the plant yesterday.
The USDA, which inspects and approves the plant, announced that it had launched what it said would be a comprehensive investigation, which will include investigation into the actions of its own plant supervisors.
PETA’s investigation found that standard practice at Agriprocessors includes shocking animals in the face with electric prods, ripping their tracheas and esophagi out of the throats within 5 seconds, and dumping them from the restraint, at which point some struggle to stand, bellow in agony, and attempt to flee, with the tracheas and esophagi hanging from their throats, some for as long as three minutes. PETA has arrayed veterinary, academic, rabbinic, and slaughterhouse inspector experts who say that these animals are fully conscious the entire time.
The chief rabbinate of Israel told the Jerusalem Post that meat from the animals in PETA’s video is “not kosher” and said, about animals stumbling and still conscious for minutes after their throats are slit open, that “it normally takes 30 seconds to a minute for the cow to lose consciousness if shechita [the cut] is done properly. . . he did not cut one of the jugular veins, so blood is still flowing… It looks as though the animal wasn't slaughtered properly.”
The Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kosher certifier, which had been defending the practices, reversed course yesterday, telling the New York Times (Friday edition), that “the video ‘raises all sorts of questions.’” Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, the OU’s executive vice president, “said he found the procedure ‘especially inhumane’ and ‘generally unacceptable’ but wanted to investigate how regularly it happened.”
Also yesterday, Iowa Department of Agriculture veterinary supervisor Mike Miller told the Waterloo Courier that kosher slaughter, done properly, is, in direct contrast to what PETA found to be standard at AgriProcessors, “‘fairly quick’… He estimated animals feel pain for 10 to 15 seconds and no more than half a minute.”
“Recognizing that there is a problem is better than denying it, of course,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “But these animals were treated in ways that would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if these were dogs or cats, and this was in gross violation of both Federal and kosher laws, as well as basic human decency, and all this happened on the OU's watch. The horrific cruelty that the OU permitted for so long requires serious corrective action and a policy from the OU to make sure these horrors never happen again.”
Part I: What the Experts Say About Animal Consciousness at AgriProcessors, Inc.
PETA’s investigation into an AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, revealed egregiously cruel slaughter methods being used—where cattle suffered after having their throats cut and being dismembered while still fully conscious. Many instances of prolonged consciousness were documented after animals had their tracheas and other internal organs gouged out with a hook and knife. Experts from academic, veterinary, meat industry, and religious disciplines had the following comments about the degree of consciousness demonstrated by animals in the footage:
Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University
Dr. Grandin is internationally regarded as one of the leading experts on farmed-animal slaughter, handling, and welfare. She has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Meat Institute and has visited 30 kosher slaughterhouses and countless nonkosher plants.
? “This tape shows atrocious procedures that are NOT performed in any other kosher operation. Removal of the trachea and other internal parts before the animal has become insensible would cause great suffering and pain. Many of the cattle on this tape had this dressing procedure performed when they were still fully sensible. Several cattle were walking around with the trachea and other parts hanging out of them.”
? “In conclusion, many of the cattle that had their trachea removed were fully conscious and fully sensible. The duration of complete sensibility was probably prolonged by the pain of having their inner tissues cut and pulled during this dressing procedure.”
Holly Cheever, D.V.M.
Voorheesville, New York
Dr. Cheever received her A.B. from Harvard and D.V.M. from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University with a class rank of #1. She has worked as a dairy practitioner and has vast experience with cattle, including in a slaughterhouse setting.
? “I have watched cattle die from a barbiturate overdose, from the use of firearms, from cardiopulmonary failure, from meningitis, and also from stunning and slaughter in a slaughterhouse. Therefore, I am well qualified to discuss the behaviors of the cattle depicted in this distressing film footage, which unequivocally and unarguably indicate that the cattle were conscious and suffering an agonal and inhumane death.”
? “There is overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that the majority of the cattle shown in these many incidents are fully conscious as they are dumped from the apparatus [with their throats cut and tracheas removed]. Some actually make conscious, directional attempts to escape … [one] actually manages to walk and crawl through a doorway, away from the killing area …. Some try to escape through the front of the restraint apparatus after their throats are cut and before they are dumped out …. While on the floor, many make very conscious attempts to stand and crawl forward, even with repeated attempts, but can’t due to the slippery bloody floor and their failing strength. Their thrashing is desperate and clearly directed at attempts to rise …, rather than the uncoordinated random neuromuscular firing of a dead animal. Others are too weak and in shock to attempt to stand, but struggle to right themselves and to adopt a sternal (i.e. lying on the chest) position with head thrusts and attempts to roll upright …. Some clearly react to stimuli: [one] startles in response to a blow from a worker, [another] resists the repeated attempts of a worker to push him/her over and re-rights himself/herself each time. Even more disturbing than the actual evidence of their consciousness is the length of time it can persist: [one animal] is still clearly alive after 3 minutes as the shackle is attached to its leg, and [another] lies immobile for one and a half minutes, then tries to struggle into the sternal position after almost 2 minutes.”
? “In conclusion, it is my professional opinion that these animals as cited above showed clear evidence of consciousness and therefore would experience terror, pain, and extreme suffering, some for as long as 3 minutes, after their throats are cut.”
Gary Dahl, Representative
U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Meat and Poultry Inspectors Union
(American Federation of Government Employees)
Mr. Dahl has worked as an inspector for the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service for 21 years, including 11 years in slaughter production. Mr. Dahl does not speak for the USDA, but for himself and those he represents.
? “Put it this way, most of the animals shown on the tape were so conscious and aware of what was happening that if the floor wasn’t slippery with blood and the door was open, they would have made a beeline for daylight in order to escape.”
? “I have reviewed the kosher slaughterhouse footage you sent me and the suffering of these animals was obvious, as was their consciousness after they had their tracheas removed. For animals to be allowed to remain mobile and be able to thrash around after this procedure is uncalled for and inhumane.”
? “The amount of time that [one particular] animal is fully conscious on the floor, partly dismembered, causes the animal pain and suffering.”
? “[One particular] animal was dumped from the restraining device totally conscious and aware, with his trachea hanging out. The animal was totally mobile. If an animal comes out of the device totally conscious and walking around in the manner of this one, then that animal should be desensitized through a knocking procedure. To be subjected to this kind of dismemberment while still fully aware and conscious is not fair to this animal.”
? “After being dumped from the [restraining device with his throat cut, one particular] animal then gets up and moves around. The animal is aware and alert to everything that is being done to her.”
Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen
Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel
? “I was surprised to see that immediately after the [religious slaughterer] makes the cut, a worker who is probably not Jewish jumps to the animal and tears away its entire throat. Also, I was surprised to see that even after that brutal act, the animal seems to still be alive and walked a few steps, and then it took about four minutes until it fell down and died … This procedure is not only cruel and therefore unacceptable by Jewish religious law. It also cannot be certified as Kosher, as the animal must die as a direct result of the ritual cut.”
Shimon Cohen, Shechita UK
?The New York Times, December 1, 2004
? “[A] spokesman for Shechita U.K., a British lobbying group that defends ritual slaughter against the protests of animal rights advocates, said after watching the tape with a rabbi and a British shochet that he ‘felt queasy,’ and added, ‘I don’t know what that is, but it’s not shechita.’ The spokesman, Shimon Cohen, said that in Britain an animal must be restrained for 30 seconds to bleed, and no second cut is allowed. Done correctly, Mr. Cohen said, a shochet’s cut must produce instantaneous unconsciousness, so AgriProcessors’ meat could not be considered kosher.”
Rabbi Ezra Raful, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate
?Jerusalem Post, December 2, 2004
? “Israel’s Chief Rabbinate … told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that it would not consider as kosher cows that appear in an undercover video of ritual slaughtering at the AgriProcessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa. . . .‘You see there, it looks like he ripped out the trachea and esophagus. We do not allow the animal to be touched after the shehita until the main part of the bleeding stops …’”
? “Raful, who has supervised kosher slaughterhouses all over the world, including at AgriProcessors, said he has never seen the ripped throat practice before … ‘Look,’ noted Raful, ‘he did not cut one of the jugular veins, so blood is still flowing. That’s another reason for not accepting that shehita. It looks as though the animal wasn’t slaughtered properly.’ Raful said it normally takes 30 seconds to a minute for the cow to lose consciousness if shehita is done properly.”
Rabbi David Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland
?The Forward, December 3, 2004
? “‘I certainly saw enough evidence of mobility on the part of the animal to conclude that it is not dead,’ said Rabbi David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland and one of the rabbis whose comments are used in PETA’s literature. Also troubling for Rosen was what he saw as the ‘pulling out of the trachea and esophagus by hand’ after the incision had been made. ‘I’ve been in many slaughterhouses in my time,’ he said, ‘and I’ve never seen anything like that.’ On the whole, Rosen concluded, what is shown in the video is a ‘flagrant violation’ of Jewish law, or halacha.”
Part II: What Science Says About Signs of Consciousness Demonstrated by Animals at AgriProcessors, Inc.
Science has conclusively established universally recognized signs of consciousness—including righting reflexes, head lifting, rhythmic breathing, blinking, and coordinated movement such as walking and standing. All of these were clearly demonstrated by animals in PETA’s footage from AgriProcessors. Below is just a small sample of the readily available literature from scientists about these indicators:
The European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare, made up of eight experts in the field, was asked by the European Commission to prepare a report on the welfare aspects of slaughter. In the document, “Welfare Aspects of Animal Stunning and Killing Methods,” the authors conclude that signs of consciousness include rhythmic breathing, corneal reflex, righting reflex, and attempts to raise the head.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has issued a document, “Guidelines for Humane Handling, Transport and Slaughter of Livestock,” which states that signs of consciousness in stunned animals include regular breathing, a blink reflex, and righting reflexes.
The National Assembly for Wales’ Agriculture Policy Division issued slaughter guidelines stating that if a stun to render an animal unconscious is effective, the animal “will not attempt to stand up” and “[n]ormal rhythmic breathing will stop.” It goes on to state that animals who deviate from this have not been rendered unconscious properly and must be re-stunned.
The Australian Department of Education, Training, and Youth Affairs discusses both ritual slaughter and slaughter with stunning and provides guidelines for operators in its document titled Oversee Humane Handling of Animals. It found that signs of consciousness include “blinking,” “rhythmic breathing,” and “any attempt by the animal to raise its head.”
The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry states in one of its “Code of Recommendations” that ineffective attempts at rendering an animal unconscious through stunning can be recognized if the animal demonstrates “persistent and rhythmic breathing” or attempts “to raise the head.”
The Danish Meat Research Institute found in 2001 that in a slaughterhouse setting, “behavioural and different physiological reflexes” to evaluate degrees of consciousness included “corneal reflex …, regular respiration, excitation …, spontaneous blinking of the eye …, and attempts to stand up” where “regular respiration” was defined as being “deep and having regular intervals, i.e., different from superficial and occasional gasps.”
The Institute of Meat Science and Technology and the Institute of Zoology at Universidad Austral de Chile’s Veterinary Science Faculty published an article in Archivos de Medicina Veterinaria in 2003 examining sensibility in cattle at the slaughterhouse and used the following “sensibility signs” to quantify their findings: “rhythmical breathing, vocalization, corneal reflex and eye movement, [and] attempt to stand up or head elevation.”
An article published in Research in Veterinary Science by D.K. Blackmore (1984) looked at the onset of insensibility during the slaughter of unstunned cattle and used “coordinated body movements” as a criterion in the study.
Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wrote that signs of sensibility in all types of stunning and for ritual slaughter include rhythmic breathing, spontaneous natural blinking, righting reflexes, raising of the head, and a tongue that “goes in and out.”
All of the behaviors discussed above (including animals who stand up or walk away) are demonstrated by cattle at AgriProcessors after having their throats cut and tracheas removed. This provides scientific confirmation that these animals were conscious for significant lengths of time, several minutes in some cases, resulting in prolonged agony.
I asked RCA executive vice president (aka CEO, the RCA's equivalent of Malcolm Hoenlein), rabbi Basil Herring, via email, about the RCA leak to rabbi Mordecai Tendler of its file on rabbi Mordecai Tendler (and the sexual misdeeds alleged against Tendler). He did not reply.
I sent him this question: "I'm curious why you leaked the Mordecai Tendler file to Mordecai Tendler?"
Rabbi Basil Herring is married to the niece of philanthropist Stella K. Abraham, writes ID in the comments below.
Who financed this RCA investigation of Mordecai Tendler because the RCA apparently did not have the funds to do this without special help?
Before the Tendler case happened, the Orthodox Union hired Praesidium for another case. Praesidium was extensively used by the Catholic church. There was a lot of controversy about the competence of the Praesidium. The OU was warned about the Praesidium. The RCA was warned about Praesidium but hired them anyway.
It has come to the attention of The Awareness Center that confidential information regarding individuals who have made allegations against Rabbi Mordechai Tendler has been handed over to him by a high ranking member of the RCA.
The alleged survivors of this case were not consulted prior to this incident. The alleged survivors did NOT have legal representation during the investigative period. There was no one representing each of their own personal interests. For more information regarding this please go to:
1) The Rabbi who gave the victims' confidential information to Tendler should be removed from the RCA publicly at once.
2) Rabbi Tendler should be immediately expelled as well for taking that information.
3) The RCA should publicly appologize for the damage they've done and take full responsibility. That means every Rabbi involved in this process, personally and publicly.
4) The RCA should immediately bring in an independent investigator to investigate the conduct of RCA officials in the Tendler affair. The outdside investigators should have the authority to produce a public report with recommendations.
5) Any alleged survivor of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, and of any other case being investigated by the RCA should be immediately notified. They should also consult with a personal injury attorney (of their choice) regarding this matter. Attorney fees should be payed by the RCA.
"This is really an excellent film containing an Oscar-worthy performance from Stellan Skarsgard as the discredited German conductor Wilhem Furtwengler. Consistently thought-provoking and challenging, and beautifully shot, it's one of the most satisfying movie experiences I've had in a while."
Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen has become a focus of the Schita controversy over the past days. To make the halachic declaration he made and then to retract it
seems reckless to me.
1) Mudslinging Mars Israel's Campaign For Chief Rabbis
by David Hoffman
Washington Post Foreign Service
20 February 1993
The Washington Post
Hardball elections have long been a feature of Israel's secular politics,
but the campaign that ends this weekend for the country's two chief rabbis
has been marked by an unprecedented bout of mudslinging.
The front-running candidate for Ashkenazic chief rabbi has been accused of
making romantic advances to a woman who was not his wife. Another candidate
is fending off charges that he was a coward during Israel's war of
independence. There have been allegations of wiretapping and of slander -
and a tone that many Israelis have found more than a little unsettling for
an institution that is supposed to carry high moral authority.
The contest became unseemly enough that this week an appeal was made to
Israel's high court to delay the election, but the court refused. On Sunday,
80 rabbis and 70 public figures, many of them secular, will choose the two
chief rabbis, who serve 10-year terms. One is for the Ashkenazic Jews, of
European origin; the other, for the Sephardic Jews, of Oriental extraction.
Lau's supporters have also blamed his chief rival, Shear-Yashuv
Cohen, for spreading the reports, a charge Cohen denied.
Cohen too has been in the spotlight. Cohen was wounded and captured by the
Jordanians in the 1948 war of independence. But a monthly magazine recently
quoted a letter from one of his commanders, written at the time, alleging
that Cohen had tried to avoid dangerous combat situations and once had to be
threatened with a gun to take part. Cohen is viewed as far more liberal than
Lau and recently stirred the ire of the ultra-Orthodox by suggesting the
possibility of scrapping the requirement that all Israelis be married
according to strict religious tradition.
DIRT FLIES IN ISRAEL'S RABBI CAMPAIGN
by CLYDE HABERMAN - New York Times News Service
21 February 1993
3) One focus of this story that hasn't been addressed is the financial impact on
Agriprocessors. The articles below indicate that there may be liquidity problems.
1) Bank employee pleads guilty to fraud
23 March 2004
Associated Press Newswires
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A former employee of Citizens State Bank in
Postville has been sentenced on her guilty pleas to two counts of bank
fraud, U.S. Attorney Charles W. Larson Sr. said Tuesday.
Teresa Downing, 43, of Postville, pleaded guilty last May, admitting in
federal court that, in 1998, she made false entries in the bank's records on
behalf of a customer.
Downing said she hid the fact that $1,140,000 in checks written on
Agriprocessors Inc.'s accounts in New York and deposited in the company's
account in Postville were not sufficient to cover the deposits.
She hid the insufficient fund checks by not debiting Agriprocessors'
account, resulting in unauthorized loans to the company.
The kosher meat plant is one of the largest employers in Postville, a town
of 2,273 people about 80 miles north of Cedar Rapids.
Downing also admitted to embezzling over $78,000 from the bank's accounts
for her own personal use, from 1992 to 1999.
4) Jewish Telegraphic Agency. New York: Apr 01, 2004.
A woman who worked at one of the country's largest kosher meat-packing
plants was sentenced to prison for bank fraud. Teresa Downing, 43, of
Postville, Iowa, who worked for Agriprocessors, one of the largest kosher
meat-packing plants in the country, was jailed this week for five months
after pleading guilty last May to hiding $1.14 million in bad checks from
the company's New York bank to its Postville accounts, which resulted in
unauthorized loans to the company, The Associated Press reported. She also
admitted to embezzling more than $78,000 from Agriprocessors, which is owned
by a Chasidic family.
There is currently a controversy raging about the practice of one particular
slaughterhouse. I have intentionally ignored the e-mails I've received about
this for the following reasons:
1. I don't know enough about the facts in this case. Even a legitimate video
put out by a respected non-partisan organization (and no one can honestly
call PETA respected or non-partisan) needs to be analyzed and considered.
Knee-jerk reactions by either side are rarely a good thing.
2. I know the people at the OU and they are good people. They are not going
to pass non-kosher meat off as kosher, regardless of the amount of money or
the number of jobs at stake. On the other hand, if they think there is a
problem they will do more than just say that there is a problem. They will
look to fix it if possible or find other alternatives.
3. I have broached the subject with my contacts and they are being wisely
cautious. When I hear something and I get permission to post it, I will.
Right now, all I've got is what the journalists have written and they are
not to be believed on complex matters of halakhah, particularly in defaming
people who have earned (not they need to earn it) the benefit of the doubt.
Who? Daniel Halevi Bloom, a freelance editor and reporter, invented these Jewish grandparents (the names are Yiddish for Grandma and Grandpa) in 1983 to bring Hanukkah alive for children, particularly those without living grandparents. Back then the medium was snail mail, but Mr. Bloom reckons that today's Bubbie and Zadie are e-mail users.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Bubbie and Zadie Enliven Hannukah!
WHAT: Jewish kids are invited to write special Hannukah letters to a
special, magical (and maybe imaginary, who knows?) pair of Jewish
grandparents named Bubbie and Zadie. Yes, the Bubbie and Zadie of us
all! Kids can write, adults can write, anyone may write!
FREE PROGRAM. ALL LETTERS WILL RECEIVE A REPLY... FREE OF CHARGE.
WHEN: Hannukah is Dec. 7-15, 2004 this year. Letters can be written
anytime from now on, .....before, during and after Hannukah.
EMPHASIS:: Children can write about their wishes and dreams
forHannukah, not so much about presents, please, but about family
get-togethers, feelings about relatives near and far, anything they
want. To life, to life, l'chayim!
IN RETURN: Bubbie and Zadie (the sort of imaginary, fictional
creations of a middle-aged Jewish dreamer) will reply with an Internet
email letter of their own. FREE OF CHARGE. This is NOT and NEVER WILL
BE a commercial site. Never will be. [This is not about making a
profit. This is about honoring our prophets.] Money does not fuel this
engine. Naches does. Not nachos, NACHES!
WHY? Why not! -- Jewish kids have been writing print letters to Bubbie
and Zadie since 1983, when the New York Times first "discovered" the
program in a feature article by Times reporter Nadine Brozan. Over
10,000 letters have been mailed to Bubbie and Zadie by Jewish children
in all 50 USA states, as well as from Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Europe
and around the world. The letters are priceless, heartwarming, amazing
artifacts of modern Jewish culture.
ALWAYS FREE. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CHARGE FOR THIS PROGRAM AND NEVER
WILL BE. [The founder of this project is a silly young man who has no
sense of making money or business acumen. His head is always in the
clouds. He is a pure luftmensch. Go figure.]
WHO: The founder/creator of this program created Bubbie and Zadie as
fictional characters for Jewish children in 1983. Subject of 1983,
1984, 1985 major newspaper stories by New York Times, NewYork Daily
News, Washington Post, LA Times, Miami Herald, AP, Reuters,UPI, Jewish
Week, and Chicago Sun Times, Montreal Gazette, Toronto Sun, Jerusalem
Post -- over 400 media outlets worldwide reported on Bubbie and Zadie
in 1985. Kids still write letters to them each year, in print. But
now, in the Age of the Internet (who knew?) here we are on-line!!!
Yes, Bubbie and Zadie online. Read about us in the New York Times for
December 2, 2004. Google us there. [We made the Times that day, thanks
to some savvy PR juggling by our longtime benefactor, Danny Howie
Bloom. That guy sure knows how to plant stories, doesn't he!]
WHY NOW: 2004, 2005, 2006....forever and a day! -- The founder/creator
of this program said he wants to give Bubbie and Zadie a second life
online, using the Internet as a communication tool between Jewish kids
and their beloved"Bubbies and Zadies" nationwide, worldwide. The
Internet makes this possible. And now ... Bubbie and Zadie have an
WHERE: everyWHERE! CyberSPACE is Global. Cosmic. E-ternal.
EMAIL: email@example.com (This is GMAIL, also known as Gefilte Fish Mail)
FREE OF CHARGE. repeat: FREE OF CHARGE. The founder of this project is
doing this out the goodness of his heart. He doesnot need money.
Childen will sometimes receive a letter similar to the one below.
BUT...changes can also be made to tailor the letter replies to each
child. (Zadie is a retired tailor. Bubbie is a former typesetter for
the Brooklyn Eagle.) Some letters will be very personal and folksy.
Let us know what you want, what you need! We can work miracles! (and
we get lots of help from You Know Who! -- the name that cannot be
FOR EXAMPLE, the letter might look like this:
An online letter (what else?) from Bubbie and Zadie,
As Hannukah approacheth, December 2004
Dear ___________ ,
It is almost time for Hannukah again this year, and Bubbie and Zadie
are getting ready to visit you and your family -- through the power of
loving imagination, of course!
Are you ready?
As you know, Bubbie and Zadie love you and think of you often. Even
though we are getting up there in age, we still remember what it is
like to be young and excited about the coming of Hannukah -- the
family playing games together, spinning the dreidel, eating the
special Hannukah foods and, yes, those lovely little presents each
night of this wonderful holiday!
But the main thing about Hannukah, at least as far as Bubbie and Zadie
are concerned, is the love and compassion for others that emanates
from the glow of the candles on the menorah.
Yes, Hannukah is about Jewish culture, Jewish history, but it is also
about love -- the love that continues to go around the world year
after year, from parents to children, from brothers to sisters, and
from grandparents to everyone! So, dear children, have a very Happy
Hannukah this year, and please remember us to your folks, too. They
were once children, too -- as were we!
1) This is a processing issue, not a kashrut or halachic issue.
There is no indication the initial schita was not done properly. Quite the
contrary, it appears by all indication to be acceptable.
>Rabbis Menachem Genack and Yisroel Belsky, the chief experts for
>the Orthodox Union, which certifies over 600,000 products as kosher
>- including Aaron's Best meats - said the killings on the tape, while
>"gruesome," appeared kosher because the shochet checked to make sure he had
>severed both the trachea and esophagus.
The chief Rabbanute:
>"Technically, the shehita is kosher, but some of the things they do
>deviate from the rabbinate's guidelines," said Rabbi Ezra Raful, head
>of the rabbinate's international shehita supervision department, who
>watched the PETA video together with the Post.
Without inspection of the knife in person, it's impossible for any person
viewing this tape to make a determination of any problem.
At this point the animal is dead, at least halachically. No Tzar b'alei
chaim issues remain. Once the schita is done the animal is considered
dead/unconscious. While Peta/the US government or even other experts may
still consider the animal alive or conscious for a period of time,
halachically we don't.
Thus, the problem comes at this point. You can see there are differences in
processing attitudes (Australia they stun the animal at this point, in
Israel they don't speed up the bleeding process). These are not
halachic/kashrut issues. All the meat is fine at this point as long as it is
now koshered properly.
2) But clearly the way meat is processed is different at this plant than
many other plants (I'm not going to go into all the differences):
A. rotating drum so it can be killed while upside down
B. "You see there, it looks like he ripped out the trachea and esophagus. We
do not allow the animal to be touched after the shehita until the main part
of the bleeding stops."
It seems that A is as required by Orthodox rabbis in Israel (which is likely
why this was the only American plant allowed to export to Israel).
It's not clear to me why B is being done. I can only speculate:
a. this speeds up the process (time and money consideration).
b. gets more blood out
c. to remove the tongue immediately so that workers do not accidentally
spray it with warm water as they clean up the blood/animal/area (which would
make it impossible to kasher)
I suspect a combination of a and c is the real reason. Basically, to kill
the animals quickly. Kill one, clean up, kill the next.
Clearly I understand why some are upset about the way schita is done here.
If you consider the animal is still alive after schita for a few seconds or
minutes or accept the movement described as proof of life you should be
angry. But halachically, again, we consider the animal dead.
For some this is a scientific question, for some this is a religious
question and for others it's a mix of the two: When does life cease? When
does consciousness cease?
As people and groups differ on the answer, the debate and differences
between groups are both understandable and proper.
I don't think any party is doing anything wrong here.
Peta and others believe that life has not yet ended. Thus what they see is
cruel. They would prefer other methods to reduce the pain to the animal.
The problem is that others believe that the animal is dead. Thus there is no
cruelty. Further, halachically we believe that the stunning before schita
causes pain to the animal. As such we are against such cruelty.
Let me make it clear, Halachically, no unnecessary suffering can be caused
to the animal in the schita process. Anything, such suffering would render
the meat to be unusable.
The problem is Halachic Judaism differs from Peta in when death occurs and
what constitutes suffering. These are legitimate differences.
I would note that Halachically the unnecessary cruelty to animals without
purpose is forbidden (obviously the use of animals for a purpose of food /
clothing is not unnecessary cruelty). Whether it is a biblical or Rabbinic
prohibition is an open question. Regardless, it is prohibited.
Further, as noted above, in the use of animals for food we have very strict
laws that do not allow for causing pain to the animals prior to schita.
After that point, it is just a slab of food. We don't have the same attitude
towards animals as Peta and others do.
We believe that God has given us the right to use animals as a source of
food (now that we no longer live in Gan eden). Peta obviously takes a much
3) It is troubling that Rabbinical leaders are making reckless statements
outside of their competence without proper consideration. For example:
>More than a week ago, Ronnen showed the video to Rabbi
>She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa, who issued a
>statement that "the procedure of this shehita is definitely
>unacceptable by halachic standards. This procedure is not
>only cruel and therefore unacceptable by Jewish religious
>law. It also cannot be certified as kosher, as the animal
>must die as the direct result of the ritual cut."
>But in a telephone interview with the Post, Cohen
>(who is a vegetarian) was much more equivocal. "I'm
>not an expert on the laws of cruelty to animals in Halacha,"
>he said. "AgriProcessors' kosher supervisor, Rabbi Haim
>Cohen, claims that tearing out the windpipe reduces the
>suffering of the animal," he added. "If that is true, the
>shehita is kosher."
This is very troubling. First it wasn't kosher, now it may be? Such
recklessness is unacceptable.
4) Claims of anti-semitism here are reckless and not helpful. It really
shows how poor our approach to dealing with the media and public concerns
5) It is clear to me that Rubashkin is acting properly here. He is simply
relying on what the Rabbinical supervisors/experts are determining should be
6) Despite my belief that halachically the schita is OK (or at least, I
don't see evidence of a halachic/kashrut problem), there is room to
institute processing changes that make animal slaughter more acceptable to
groups that differ as to when an animal is no longer alive/conscious. This
can be done without compromise to halacha or kashrut. The advantage as well
is that in the long run schita will be more acceptable publically.
We all have the same ends, reduce the suffering of the animal. We simply
differ on methods and definitions.
7) The above analysis is based on my assumption that the schita has been
done properly. Without inspecting the knife or watching it up close, I have
no choice but to rely on the schochtim/rabbonim involved. Actual schita
takes a split second and it is impossible to make any determination from a
mere video. There is nothing that I have seen or read that indicates to me
I don't believe the movement of the animal after schita proves
life/consciousness (at least from a halachic standpoint).
Once the shochet has used the single slice of his razor-sharp knife, the
animal is food not a baal chyim that feels pain or suffers. No matter how
grotesque or sickening the scene appears.
As I noted, I understand how others legitimately feel and believe otherwise.
8) I am open to other's opinions and criticism of my evaluation. But if you
disagree with me please base it on something and please be aware that not
everyone has the same beliefs as you. These are theological questions and I
believe there is room for differing opinions here.
9) I have not addressed more (what I consider) minor points in this
controversy. But I think my approach gives a basic overview of the
10) Everyone needs to take a step back here and more closely evaluate the
issues and seperate them out. This is a processing issue not a
kashrut/halachic issue. This is not a matter of treifut, this is an
arguement concerning when animals are no longer alive/conscious and how meat
All are valid issues. But stop confusing them with kashrut.
Kashrut deals soley with the schita and kashering processes (and seperation
of meat and milk). Processing of the meat beyond that is a seperate
non-halachic, non-kashrut issue.
Tamara, in turn, is just one of a growing number of Jewish women writing about their inner lives, their families, their passions and their Judaism in such diaries, commonly known as ‘web logs’ – or, more simply, as ‘blogs’. Together they offer an unprecedented insight into a sector of the Jewish population which has traditionally been under-represented in conventional media.
By means of blogging many women, particularly more Orthodox ones, have found a way to circumvent restrictions placed on them by their social circles, and gain a strong public voice. They are communicating directly with their peer group and with others, forming online communities and gaining personal followings. As blogging moves further into the mainstream, this can only increase; yet another indication of changing social structures within the Jewish community, the more assertive tendencies of women within today’s society – and a significant phenomenon with the power to change the way Jewish women of all walks of life perceive and are perceived.
Where does the notion come from that women's voices are not being heard in Jewish life? They have as much secular education as the men. They comprise half the students at Reform and Conservative seminaries. They work as rabbis at hundreds of synagogues.
posted by LukeFord |
1:26 PM |
The plant, run by Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, is being denounced as inhumane by the group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and by several experts on animal science and kosher practice.
Luke says: I'm a vegetarian. Never eaten meat in my life thanks to my Seventh Day Adventist upbringing. I think it is what God wants (see Garden of Eden, prophetic prophecy in Isaiah).
Shmarya writes: "This may turn into the biggest rabbinic scandal of our times. I've
worked in slaughterhouses. I've seen shechita. But I NEVER saw anything like that PETA video. And dismembering the animal while it's still alive – disgusting!"
i have a big paper to write and no motivation. my body is tired.
you're really helpful.
its funny because if i were telling this to my boyfriend, and he gave me practical ideas, id be like "i dont need a solution! just listen to me!"
Luzdedos1: bask in god's love
i had an hour long conversation with a girl today over dinner about getting married with no money and having emunah
im exhausted and cant even go to sleep because there are no sheets on my bed and im too tired to put some on
is this sleepaway camp, why are people singing in the halls
Luzdedos1: sounds snuggly
it angers me.
i want quiet where i live.
Luzdedos1: cherish what you have, you will look back on it fondly
no i will not
i will look back on living with my roommate
i will not look back on anything else about it
other than being in the city
not only are they singing, but its someone who thinks she has a good voice
shes gettinig all trill-ish
do you read chez miscarriage?!
her surrogate is pregnant!
Can we as Jews do more of that God love you stuff that Christians pull off so well? Should we try to guide people into having a personal relationship with God and to feeling that the Almighty cares deeply about their life? I think some rabbis can pull this off (Avraham Twersky, Mordecai Finley, Mordecai Gafni, Hershy Worch) but most can't and it is important for Jews to construct good solid communities where people know who they are and what is expected and they can socialize with fellow Jews who observe similarly and can make deep bonds with their fellow Jews.
From: Steven I. Weiss
To: Mickey Kaus, Juan Cole
Subject: Memri Budget
Juan & Mickey -
As a 501 (c) 3, their 990 filings are public information.
In fiscal '02:
keep it good,
Steven I. Weiss
From: Juan Cole
To: Steven I. Weiss
I think they are getting very substantial in-kind donations of labor and services in Israel, possibly from Israeli military intelligence.
Think about it. How do you buy hundreds of Arabic newspapers every day? How do you ship them quickly to a central place to be scanned for content and translated? How do you warehouse them? How do you translate them quickly.
This couldn't be done from Washington, DC, frankly, and couldn't be done by 6 employees there. We are seeing a tip of an iceberg.
From: Steven I. Weiss
To: Juan Cole
I don't have a lot of familiarity with MEMRI, but in taking a cursory look at their site, it seems they only actually produce an item a day or less (sometimes, rarely, two). It strikes me as highly plausible that an organization with six employees could pull that off; indeed, I imagine it could fairly easily be done with fewer.
As to buying, reading and translating many papers every day, given the scale of their operation, it doesn't look like they do that; if they did, they'd probably have more content. It doesn't take a lot to wake up every morning in D.C. with tips in your e-mail/fax from whomever in the Middle East is already reading these papers and is supportive of your organization, and then act on them.
Frankly, if I were a donor, I'd wonder just how it costs $1.5 million to keep six employees on-board (I'm working on your number; I haven't seen anything else to tell me how many employees they have). I'm assuming the costs are primarily associated with distributing their content via Web & fax, as it wouldn't seem to take all that much to produce it. It appears their financial statements back up this assumption.
keep it good,
Steven I. Weiss
From: Juan Cole
To: Steven I. Weiss
Thanks for your further reflections.
My point was only that if you counted the "tips" in the fax machine as part of the labor of the organization (and I suspect it is something much more organized), they would be worth lots of money in time etc.
It seems to me that rather than people who 'know sin close up' wanting to prevent it in others, they probably need to proclaim those higher standards loud and clear in an effort to restrain their own urges.
Shmarya was correct in the Protocols comments section: my late father in law, Chaim Bermant, was a columnist for the JC for almost 40 years. Indeed, he was their star columnist and a virtual British Jewish institution, whose name was perhaps better known than almost any other British Jew (as my husband once said, the most miserable looking people at his funeral were the JC publishers, who realized that their sales were about to drop). It would have been interesting for you to write about him in your journalism book as he was, imho, the rare embodiment of all the qualities you find so lacking in Jewish journalism today. He was witty, engaging, and always amusing, attacked hypocrisy wherever he saw it in the Jewish community and always pursued justice, qualities which made him very controversial in some circles. The bain of his life, I believe he once said, were the JC's lawyers who censored him because of British libel laws. As a result, he was alternately loved and loathed by British Jewry (who all enjoyed reading his articles nonetheless). You may find it
interesting to read some of the obituaries written about him (links below): how many writers in Jewish newspapers today would get obits in the national press?
"Etz Hayim Hi, as the ex used to say," I mumbled as I fought my way through a cold piercing wind to shul Sunday morning.
No matter how brutal the weather becomes in Los Angeles, with temperatures (adjusted for wind chill) sometimes dipping into the 30s, I always like to live up to the obligations of the Torah (unless I have a better offer or am just feeling lazy).
While I piously made my way through the Shacharit service, I came to meditate on a particular portion of my Artscroll Siddur which says that there is reward in the world for particular mitzvos, including arriving early to the House of Study morning and evening.
This immediately brightened my mood. As the closing of Protocols December 8 exemplifies, my life in this world has largely been a vale of tears. But in the next world, due to my punctilious observance of the Torah, things will be much much better.
Then my mood darkened when I thought about all the people I like to schmooze with during davening Saturday morning, and how rarely, if at all, they come to the House of Study. I thought about my many Protocols readers who, because of their sins, will not be with me in the world to come.
I practically rent my garments and feeling the cut of the tefillin into my flesh, I cried out with renewed vigor, "Etz Chaim Hi as the ex used to say."
Jenni Frazer's article on blogs in the Jewish Chronicle (London):
This week it was announced that "Protocols," the controversially named, American-based Jewish "blog" - short for "weblog" - was being closed down by its founder, Steven I. Weiss, the latest dramatic event within a mushrooming phenomenon of the Internet age.
Part on-line diaries, part stream-of-consc-iousness musings, blogs have achieved an extra-ordinary popularity world-wide - and have found particular resonance among Jews. Blogs have allowed anyone with access to a computer to express his or her own specific take on Jewish life. And in Protocols - tagged "A group of Jews endeavours towards total domination of the blogosphere" - hot Jewish issues of the day have been freely and fiercely debated.
Where Jewish blogs are not single-issue pro-Israel sites, they are, as in the cases of New York-based JewSchool, JewLicious, or Jews-Week, simply on-line magazines which draw attention to ventures of Jewish interest.
Protocols, however, was different - an opinion site which drew comments from around the world. Steven I. Weiss began it while a freelance journalist with good Jewish community connections. He parlayed these into a staff job at the New York Jewish weekly, the Forward, where he also ran a blog in the on-line edition of the paper. Now freelance again, he says he's "figuring out my next move in the blogging world. I'm trying out a religion blog at Canonist, a food blog at Kosher Bachelor, and a New York blog at The Metro Section." He also has a "home blog" called Iatribe. (As a measure of the impact blogging has had, some American groups have begun to award blog "Oscars," or Bloggies, for best foreign news blog, best sports blog etc.)
When Weiss went to the Forward, he passed the reins of his blog to one of Protocols' most frequent guest bloggers, Luke Ford. Ford, author of an analysis of American Jewish journalism, "Yesterday's News Tomorrow," is one of the most controversial figures in the blogging world. Once a writer about pornography, he is a 38-year-old, California-based convert to Judaism. Protocols' posted items, under Weiss, were short and snappy: Ford began writing much longer pieces, often documenting the progress of his latest book. More recently, the site appears to have become a campaigning blog for attacking rabbis, specifically those in America, who are suspected of sexual impropriety. Indeed, the Protocols seems increasingly to have brought any and all rabbis within its gunsights - including at least one British-born minister whom the blogsite has accused of falsifying academic credentials. The tone and content, particularly in the comments section, became more and more salacious.
Weiss has said he will announce the reasons for closing the blog on December 8 - in, literally, the last post. Ford, for his part, says: "We remain friends. This is not the result of a falling out between Steven and I. He's never told me what stories to write or not to write."
Cecile du Bois, Cathy Seipp's 15yo daughter, calls Friday morning and leaves this message: "Hey Luke. My mom and I were discussing weddings. And um..."
Cathy speaks up.
Cecile: "OK, maybe I was discussing weddings because I miss going to many weddings. I was thinking that of all the people we know, you seem to be the one most likely to get married next. Could you do us a favor and propose to your girlfriend. I know it sounds crazy but she likes you a lot. She's pretty. She's young. She's fertile. She could easily be Jewish. I think you should propose to her. That way we could go to your wedding because I miss going to weddings. Ok. Happy Thanksgiving. Bye."
On July 27, 1992, Alan J. Horowitz of Schenectady, New York was sentenced to ten to twenty years in prison for sodomizing a nine-year-old psychiatric patient the previous year. Allegedly, he has assaulted a string of children from California to Israel to New York in the past twenty years. Alan J. Horowitz is an Orthodox rabbi, magna cum laude, M.D., Ph.D. A graduate of Duke University, and was a writer for NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).
"The most oft-updated site shop for Jewish kitsch and personal commentary in the blogosphere." -- Jewsweek Magazine "If you only have time for one Jewish blog, make it this one." -- Jewish Journal North of Boston
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