Plant sets a poor example

Regarding the recent raid and allegations against AgriProcessors in Postville, Iowa,(Jewish Light Aug. 6, 2008, “Fallout Continues From Postville Raid”), Rabbi Hyim Shafner is quoted as saying, “They made kosher meat affordable in a way that it never was before.” They certainly did. With all due respect to Rabbi Shafner, I question whether the AgriProcessors way is how the Jewish community wants to make kosher meat affordable.

Among the more egregious allegations are employing child labor in dangerous conditions, violating Iowa’s strong child labor laws, unpaid overtime, withholding wages, assisting in falsifying the documents of illegal workers, failing to provide safe working conditions, turning a blind eye to what they must have known or should have known was wrong, and in general taking advantage of the fact that their employees were too afraid to complain to the authorities for fear of being deported. Sadly, the deportation fears of the employees came true. Many will serve time in a detention facility; afterwards they will be deported.

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The most recent allegations are not the first against AgriProcessors since they arrived in Postville. Within the past few years, leaders in the Conservative Movement have held talks with AgriProcessors about their conduct (covered by The Light). Complaints had been filed with the Iowa attorney general’s office which held numerous conversations with AgriProcessors. Sadly, nothing changed. The newest charges have added to the distrust between the Lubavitcher community who operate the company and the non-Jewish community of Postville. That distrust was there from the beginning as the Lubavitchers deliberately isolated themselves from this small rural community, thus increasing the suspicion which greeted them upon their arrival. I, and my father’s family, lived for many years in small Iowa towns like Postville, so trust me, I know from whence I speak.

The actions of AgriProcessors do not reflect well on the Jewish community. They are a “shanda.” They are not my concept of what Judaism teaches us about how we treat each other. Our tradition teaches us to not exploit the weak, the helpless, the poor, the stranger, that includes undocumented workers.

If the end result of what AgriProcessors is doing is more affordable kosher products, then I say we should raise the price of the product. It isn’t worth the shame. Whether their employees were legal, illegal, Jewish, Hispanic or anyone else is besides the point. AgriProcessors should be prosecuted.

Rosalyn Borg

St. Louis