Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Rubashkin's Raid and the Reform Jew

First, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can get up to speed by reading the details of the raid at the the Heksher Tzedek blog.

I've kept an eye on Rubashkin's ever since reading Postville. The latest is just another event in a long string of issues that have included kashrut violations (caught on tape by PETA) and food safety violations.

But I'm Reform, and I don't seek a Heksher on my meat. As long as it comes from a healthy animal, killed under controlled circumstances for human consumption in a manner that ensures rapid brain death, I'm fine. So why should I care about what happens in Postville? They're not part of my food stream, so what's my dog in this fight?

It's simple - what is happening there is a chillul haShem, a desecration of the divine name. When Jews are seen to be exploiting workers for profit, or breaking rules of the land, it often has implications for all of us, it can feed stereotypes that lead to problems. Moreover, despite the fact that I do not require a heksher on my meat there are other Reform Jews who do - after all, Reform theology, taken at its word, admits of a very wide scope of praxis. Finally, for the sake of klal Yisrael, the Jewish community as a whole, it is incumbent on me to do what I can to ensure that the Jew who does keep heksher-kosher has the freedom to do so. The chillul haShem in Postville has the capacity to endanger this freedom by creating the impression that kosher slaughter is linked with cruelty or corrupt business practices.

These are the stakes that a Reform Jew, regardless of whether or not he seeks a heksher, has in this issue.

To those ends I support Rabbi Allen's efforts with respect to making heksher tzedek into a reality.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Yom HaShoah

Many years ago the father of a friend gave me a gift. I don't know that he ever trusted his son with it, but he trusted me.

He was a survivor. His wife too. Don't know the details, but the PTSD was something his wife never let go of. One day, I delivered him food, because he was in need and he gave me the gift of this story. I only remember its climax, its crux, and I figure there is no day better than today to record it.

He was on a train headed for a camp. It was summer's peak and they were packed in. Stopped. Without water they would die. They drew lots. It fell upon my friend's father to escape the train and bring back water. People gave them what valuables they had so that he could pay.

He left the train, acquired the water, and returned with it. It seemed odd to me that he would return to the train, but people were depending on him, and the Hungarian countryside would not necessarily be a hospitable place for a lone Jew.

People were grateful and the train moved on. Death was postponed, but it only ever is anyway. They were alive then, and that was what mattered.

He survived. Sired a son. Told me this story, and I'm sharing it because that's what was wanted.