Thursday, December 02, 2004

Jewish Links

Miriam Shaviv writes:

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.


OU Caught Red-Handed on PETA vs AGRIPROCESSORS?


The Prophet Joel and his Vision for RIETS


Simha writes:

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.


In an alliance of thoroughly improbable bedfellows, Israel's Chief Rabbinate is effectively backing an outspoken US animals' rights group and opposing a leading Orthodox kashrut supervisor in a much-publicized fray over practices at a US slaughterhouse.
Me writes:

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.

The OU:
>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
different view.

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
is processed.

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.