In Israel, kosher extends beyond the kitchen
A kosher 'social seal' on nearly one-third of Jerusalem restaurants conveys ethical, not just dietary, standards.
(Page 2 of 2)
"I like my job and I am treated well, but I know other chefs, friends, who tell me about how they are taken advantage of," he says. "When we hang out, I try to talk to them about new recipes and share tips on sauces, but all they want to do is discuss discrimination," he says. "It would be good if we could push beyond that."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Bemaaglei Tzedek has moved out of Banner's living room into a cramped office, taken on 14 paid workers, and has dozens of volunteers and a budget of $500,000, all from private donations. The organization – whose name translates as Circles of Justice – is having a ripple effect. Two satellite offices have opened, and, in total, 380 seals have been awarded – spread across seven cities, two university campuses, and several kibbutzim.
Staff and volunteers from the organization recruit new restaurants, check up on them on a monthly basis, and do outreach in the larger community to explain the significance of the project. A media campaign to convince people not to patronize businesses that don't have the seal further drives home the message. One commercial shows diners happily eating, but when the camera pans out, it becomes apparent the tables are actually other people on all fours. "Don't eat on the backs of others," a voice intones.
"I don't know if it's huge, but I do believe there has been a shift in the last few years," says Micha Odenheimer, a social activist who runs Tevel Btzedek, a program that gets hundreds of Israeli travelers in Nepal and Kathmandu to do volunteer work while backpacking and studying Jewish texts. "There is a shift toward looking for new horizons for young Israeli idealism."
In the US, meanwhile, a similar seal is being created, spearheaded by Morris Allen, a rabbi in Mendota Heights, Minn. In the US version, the seal will not be awarded to eating establishments, but rather to kosher production facilities that also comply with ethical requirements.
"Our orientation and that of the Israeli seal are different, but ethical norms are at the heart of both initiatives," says Rabbi Allen, who began his campaign for the US seal two years ago after looking into allegations of mistreatment of laborers at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa – America's largest kosher meat plant.
"Deuteronomy tells it straight out," he says, citing the Bible verse: " 'You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger.' "